The Communist Manifesto
"The Communist Manifesto" summarises Marx and Engels' theories concerning the nature of society and politics. It also briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism.

Chapter I: Bourgeois and Proletarians

Society has split into two classes: bourgeoisie and proletariat.

The bourgeoisie are those who own property, land, businesses, capital - those who survive from the extraction of value rather than through selling their labor power (i.e. the working class).

The proletariat are workers or working-class people - those who survive with the means of wage labor.

There is no bridge between the two classes other than self-interest and cash payment. It has converted us into wage laborers. The need of a constantly expanding market chases the bourgeoisie across the surface of the world. It penetrates not only material but intellectual production.

The bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death itself, and likewise has called into existence the men and women who are to wield those weapons: the working class. We are a class that lives only if we find work, and we only find work as long as our labor increases capital.

Because of the division of labor, the work we do has lost individual character. We have become an "appendage of the machine". What we receive in wages is restricted to the means of subsistence required to keep us working.

We direct our attacks not against the conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves: imported wares, machinery, factories, etc.

It has become evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit to be the ruling class in society. Its existence is no longer compatible with society. What the bourgeoisie produces above all, are its own grave-diggers.

Chapter II: Proletarians and Communists

Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interests apart from those of the proletariat.

We are distinguished from other working class parties because:

  • We bring the common interests of the entire working-class, independent of nationality.
  • We represent the interests of the movement as a whole, in various stages of development in the struggle of the working class.

We seek to develop a clear understanding of the conditions of the proletarian movement.

Theoretical conclusions of communists are not based on principles that were invented or discovered by reform. They express actual relations from an existing class struggle going on before our eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.

To be a capitalist is to have a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, only made possible by the united action of all members of society.

Communists seek to abolish private property, wage labor, and the family.

Why is the abolition of private property necessary?

Private property is already a fiction for nine-tenths of the population. Its existence for the few is due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.

If private property no longer exists, won't people be less motivated to work and we will be overtaken by laziness?

According to this sentiment, the bourgeoisie society should have collapsed long ago. Its members who work acquire nothing and those who acquire anything do not work.

Why is the abolition of labor necessary?

Once labor can no longer be converted to capital, money or rent, our social power becomes incapable of being monopolized.

Communism does not deprive anyone of the power to appropriate the products of society. All it does it deprive one of the power to exploit the labor of others by means of such appropriations.

In advanced countries, the following is generally applicable.

When class distinctions disappear and all production has been concentrated into the hands of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power is the organized power of one class for oppressing another.

In place of the bourgeois society we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

Chapter III: Socialist and Communist Literature

Reactionary Socialism

    A. Feudal Socialism: French and English aristocrats who wrote against modern bourgeois society. They complained bourgeois society will lead to the proletariat revolution (which they didn't want to happen).

    B. Petty-Bourgeoisie Socialism: A class that saw it would lose its separate status and become part of the proletariat. They suggest 'alternatives' such as restoring the old means of production or using the framework of outdated property relations.

    C. German or "True" Socialism: German socialists who adopted French socialist ideas, without realizing that Germany did not share the same social conditions as France. These supported the aristocracy and feudal institutions against the rising bourgeoisie, forgetting that the rise of the bourgeoisie is a necessary step.

Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism

Conservative Socialism is the attitude embraced by countries like the United States toward the plight of workers. Welfare, Social Security and a minimum wage are all measures that Marx would dismiss as attempts to preserve the capitalist system by making the situation of the proletariat tolerable.

Followers of this idea include "economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity and members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals" They want the advantages of the social conditions generated by Modern Industry, without the struggles and dangers that necessarily accompany them. "They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat." These bourgeoisie believe that the best society is the society in which they have power; they want the proletariat to keep its weak role, but to stop hating the dominant bourgeoisie.

A second form of this kind of Socialism recognizes the fact that only changes in economic relations could help the proletariat. However, the upholders of this kind of socialism do not accept that such changes necessarily consist of a destruction of the relations of production. Rather, they wish to make administrative reforms, which decrease the cost and amount of administrative work for the bourgeois government.

Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism

Critical-utopian socialism originated with the first attempts of the proletariat to achieve their own ends. The attempts were reactionary, and the proletariat had not yet reached the maturity and economic conditions necessary for emancipation. These socialists looked for new social laws to create the material conditions necessary to free the proletariat. Their writings are important because they attacked every principle of existing society, and are thus useful for enlightening the working class. However, they are of a Utopian character: although their vision did reflect authentic proletariat "yearnings" to reconstruct society, it was ultimately a "fantastic" vision, providing no basis for practical action. The Critical-Utopian Socialists become less significant as the modern class struggle takes shape. While the founders were in many ways revolutionaries, their followers are mere reactionaries. They oppose political action by the proletariat.

Chapter IV: Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties

Communists fight for the immediate aims of workers, but always in the context of the entire Communist movement. They work with those political parties that will forward the ends of Communism, even if it involves working with the bourgeoisie. However, they never stop trying to instill in the working class a recognition of the hostile antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and to help them gain the weapons to eventually overthrow the bourgeoisie.

Thus, "the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things." They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by forcibly overthrowing all existing social conditions. The Manifesto ends with this rallying cry: "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!"