Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto
It is one of history’s incongruities that The Communist Manifesto should have been written and published in Victorian London, a city dedicated to capital and an epoch of wealth creation and (largely) of political conservatism in Britain.
The document, though the text states it was produced by a group of communists, was in fact the work of Karl Marx, probably with an earlier draft produced by Friedrich Engels informing the eventual publication. Engels also had some limited input into the final version.
Beginning with an explanation of why the document was prepared – essentially to counter myths about communism – it moves on to give Marx’s analysis of history – best summed up in a sentence from the manifesto ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,’ identifying the inexorable rise of the bourgeoisie as the moving force of history thus far – ‘The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.’
The future for Marx would involve the seizure of power by the proletariat: ‘All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.’ The world would therefore move to socialism, a society where the workers were in control, and from socialism to communism, a society with no class distinctions where all would work for the common good.
Marx in the manifesto gave 10 conditions for the transition to communism, a vision part utopian – free universal education and the breakdown of distinctions between town and country for instance - and part authoritarian, with central control of credit, capital, communication and transport, and the confiscation of property belonging to opponents.
Though Marx’s analysis of history proved flawed – he expected the developed economies to move to communism, rather than as proved the case the less developed such as Russia and China – the manifesto remains thought provoking. It provided the intellectual basis for much of the progress of history for a century and more, sadly too often taken as holy writ rather than as a framework and a theoretical starting point.
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