HOW SOLIDARITY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD
THE PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNISM [a]
1. What is Communism?
Communism is a theoretical statement of the conditions for the emancipation
of the proletariat.
2. What is the proletariat?
The proletariat is that class in society which obtains its livelihood
wholly and solely from the sale of its labour, and not from the profit of
any capital[b]; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose whole
existence depends upon the demand for labour, and therefore upon the
variations of anarchical competition, with its alternations of good and bad
periods of trade. The proletariat, in a word, is the working class of the
19th century. [And also of the present time].
3. Has there not, then, been a proletariat always?
No. There have always been poor and working classes - and the working
classes have usually been poor. But never before have there been poor men
or workers living under such condition as those just mentioned; and there
has not, therefore, been a proletariat always, any more than there has been
free and unchecked competition.
4. How did the proletariat originate?
The proletariat originated with the Industrial Revolution, which began in
England in the later half of the 18th century, and which has since been
repeated in every civilised country in the world. The Industrial
Revolution was caused by the invention of the steam engine, the various
spinning machines, the mechanical loom, and a whole host of other
mechanical contrivances. These machines, which being very expensive could
only be purchased by men with considerable capital, changed the whole
method of production; and supplanted the workers of that day, because they
could produce commodities much more cheaply and efficiently than the
workers, with their imperfect spinning wheels and looms. The machines,
therefore, placed industry entirely in the hands of the capitalists, making
the former property of the workers - tools, hand-looms, etc., - useless,
and thus leaving them propertyless. The factory system had first been
introduced in the textile industry. Work was more and more divided among
individual workers, so that he who formerly had completed a whole piece of
work, now worked at only one part of it. This division of labour made it
possible for products to be turned out more rapidly, and therefore more
cheaply. It reduced the activity of each worker to a very simple operation,
constantly repeated, which could therefore be performed as well, or even
better, by a machine.
Once the impulse was given to the factory system by
the installation of machinery, this system quickly assumed the mastery of
other branches of industry, e.g. printing, pottery, metal ware. In this
way, various branches of industry, one after the other, were dominated by
steam power, machinery, and the factory system, as had already happened in
the textile industries. But at the same time these industries necessarily
passed into the control of capitalists. In addition to actual
manufactures[c], handicrafts also gradually came under the domination of the
factory system; since here as well capitalists supplanted the small
producers by the establishment of the greater workshop, which saved time
and expense, and permitted an increasing division of labour. Thus, in
civilised countries, all branches of work and manufacture were replaced by
the great industry.
The former status of the workers was entirely
revolutionised, and the middle class of the period - particularly the
master-craftsmen - ruined; and thus arose two new classes, gradually
absorbing all the rest, namely: (i) the capitalist class, which everywhere
is in possession of the means of subsistence - the raw materials and tools,
machines, factories, etc., necessary for the production of the means of
life. This is the class of the bourgeois, or the bourgeoisie; (ii) the
working class who, being propertyless, are compelled to sell their labour
to the bourgeoisie, in order to obtain the means of subsistence. This
class is called the proletariat.
5. Under what conditions does the proletariat sell its labour to the bourgeoisie?
Labour is a commodity, and its price is therefore determined by the same
laws as other commodities. Under the system of large-scale industry or of
free competition - which, as we shall see, amount to the same thing - the
price of a commodity is, on the average, determined by its labour-cost of
production. The cost of production of labour, however, is in reality just
as much of the means of subsistence as is necessary to keep the worker
physically fit, and to enable him to reproduce his kind. The worker will
thus receive for this work no more than is necessary for this purpose. The
price of labour, or wage, will therefore be the lowest, the minimum,
necessary for subsistence[d].
But trade being at one time good, at another
bad, the wage of the worker will vary accordingly, just as the manufacturer
receives more or less for his commodities. Just as the manufacturer,
however, receives on the average neither more nor less for his commodities
than the equivalent of their cost of production, so the worker will, on the
average, receive neither more nor less than this minimum of wages. And the
more large-scale industry conquers all branches of industry, the more
definitely will this economic law of wages assert itself.
6. What was the position of the working classes before the Industrial Revolution?
At different stages of the evolution of society, the working class has
occupied different positions in relation to the owning and ruling classes.
In ancient times the workers were the slaves of the landowner, as they
still are in many backward countries, and even in the Southern part of the
United States. In the Middle Ages they were the serfs of the landowning
noble, as they are yet in Hungary, Poland and Russia. In the Middle Ages
also, and until the Industrial Revolution, there were handicraft guilds in
the towns under the control of small masters, out of which developed
manufacture, the factory system, and the wage-worker employed by a
7. What distinguishes the proletarian from the slave?
The slave was sold outright. The proletarian must sell himself daily and
hourly. It is to the interest of the slave-owner that his property, the
slave, should have an assured existence, however wretched that may be. The
individual proletarian, the property, so to speak, of the whole capitalist
class, has no assured existence; since his labour will only be purchased
for just the period when someone has need of it. Existence is only assured
to the workers as a class. The slave stands outside competition; the
proletarian stands within it and suffers all its variations. The slave is
regarded as a thing, and not as a member of society; the proletarian is
regarded as a human being, and is acknowledged as a member of bourgeois
society. The slave may enjoy a more assured existence, but the proletarian
belongs to a higher stage of the development of society - stands indeed on
a higher level than the slave. The slave can free himself because, of all
the private property relations, he need only abolish the single relation of
slavery - in this way, indeed, becoming a proletarian; the proletarian, on
the other hand, can only free himself on condition that he abolishes
private property in general.
8. What distinguishes the proletarian from the serf?
The serf has the possession and use of a means of production - a piece of
land - in exchange for a tribute of a part of the produce, or for the
performance of work for his lord. The proletarian works with another's
implements of production, for the benefit of this other, in exchange for a
part of his produce. The serf, therefore, pays; whereas payment is made to
the proletarian. The serf has an assured existence; the proletarian has
not. The serf stands outside competition; the proletarian within it. The
serf frees himself either by running away to the town, and there becoming a
handicraftsman; or by making payments in money to his lord instead of
labour or payments in kind, thereby becoming a free farmer; or by forcibly
ridding himself of his feudal lord, and becoming himself a private owner;
in short, by one or other of these means, entering either the ranks of the
owners or of the competing workers. The proletarian can only free himself
by abolishing competition, private property, and all class distinction.
9. What distinguishes the proletarian from the handicraftsman?
In the old handicraft industries, the workman, after his apprenticeship was
served, became a wage worker for a time, but only in order that he might
become an employer later. The proletarian is almost always a wage-worker
all his life. The handicraftsman who had not yet become an employer was
the companion of his master, lived in his house, and ate at his table. The
proletarian stands solely in a money relation to his employer. The
handicraftsman was a member of the same class of society as his master, and
shared the same mode of life. The proletarian is separated from his
master, the capitalist, by a whole world of class distinctions; he lives in
a totally different environment, and his outlook is totally different. The
tools used by the handicraftsman were usually his own property, and he
could carry them with him. The machine worked by the proletarian is
neither his own property, nor is it ever likely to become such. The
handicraftsman usually made a complete object, and his skill in the use of
his tools was always an important factor in the making of the product. The
proletarian as a rule makes only one part of an article, or even
contributes only to one process in the making of a single part, and his
personal skill is in inverse ratio to the work done by the machine. The
handicraftsman, like his master, was secured throughout his life against
hurtful competition by means of guild regulations and trade customs. The
proletarian must combine with his fellows, or seek the aid of legislation,
in order to avoid being crushed by competition; if he is outbid by other
sellers of labour-power, he - and never his employer - is crushed. The
handicraftsman, like his master, had a narrow outlook, was thrifty, and
disliked new inventions or ideas. The proletarian becomes daily more
convinced that the interests of his class are fundamentally opposed to
those of his employer; thrift gives place to class-consciousness and the
conviction that an improvement in his position can come only by general
social progress. The handicraftsman was a conservative even when he
rebelled - it was indeed his desire for reaction that usually made him a
rebel. The proletarian must inevitably be a revolutionary. The first step
in social progress to which the reactionary handicraft spirit opposed
itself was manufacture - the subjection of handicraft, master as well as
worker, to mercantile capital, which developed later into commercial and
10. What distinguishes the proletarian from the early factory worker?
The factory worker of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries had usually some
implement of production as his own property - his loom or spinning wheels,
or a piece of land which he cultivated in his leisure time. The
proletarian has none of these things. The factory worker usually lived on
the land, in more or less patriarchal[f] relations with his landlord or
employer. The proletarian lives mostly in large towns, and stands to his
employer solely in a money relation. The factory worker's more personal
relations with his master were destroyed by the coming of large-scale
industries; he lost what little he still had, and became the first
11. What were the immediate consequences of the Industrial Revolution and
the resulting division of society into bourgeoisie and proletariat?
Firstly, in consequence of the universal cheapening of all the products of
industry following on the use of machinery, the old system of manufacture,
depending on hand labour, was completely destroyed. Semi-barbaric countries
which had previously remained more or less outside the influence of
historical development were now forced out of their seclusion. They
purchased the cheaper commodities from England, and allowed their own hand
workers to be ruined. So countries which for centuries had made no
progress, e.g., India, were completely revolutionised; and even China now
advances towards revolution. It has thus come to pass that a new machine,
invented today in England, results in less than a year in millions of
workers in China being without bread. In this way have large-scale
industries brought all the peoples of the earth into close touch with one
another; small local markets have been lumped together into a great world
market. The path has been prepared for civilisation and progress, since
whatever takes place in civilised countries nowadays must react on all
other countries; and if today the workers of France or England were to free
themselves, revolutions must inevitably follow in other lands.
Secondly, the Industrial Revolution has developed the wealth and power of
the bourgeoisie to the greatest possible extent, making it the most
powerful class everywhere. It proceeded to get political power into its own
hands, superseding the classes which had been predominant previously - the
aristocracy, the townsmen of the guilds, and the absolute monarchy
representing both. It destroyed the power of the aristocracy by abolishing
the right of primogeniture[g], or the unsaleable character of real property,
as well as the various privileges of the nobility. It destroyed the power
of the townsmen of the guilds by abolishing all the guild and handicraft
privileges. In place of these it established free competition - i.e., a
state of society, in which any individual is free to carry on any branch of
industry agreeable to him, and in which there is no hindrance to his so
doing but the need of the required capital. With the introduction of free
competition, therefore, the individual members of society are only unequal
in so far as their capitals are unequal; capital is the determining factor,
and the capitalists, the bourgeoisie, have become the real ruling class.
Free competition is necessary for the establishment of large-scale
industry, since it is the only state of society in which large-scale
industry can develop. The bourgeoisie, after it had thus abolished the
social privileges of the aristocracy, and the guildsmen, next abolished
their political power. Since it had raised itself to the position of the
chief class in society, it proceeded to proclaim itself, in political form,
as the chief class. It accomplished this by the introduction of the
representative system, which depends on civic equality and the legal
recognition of free competition. This was bound up in European countries
with a constitutional monarchy. In these countries, electors had to possess
a certain amount of capital - and were therefore confined to the
bourgeoisie. These bourgeois voters elect bourgeois representatives; and
these in turn ensure a bourgeois regime[h].
Thirdly, the Industrial Revolution has developed the proletariat to the
same extent that it has developed the bourgeoisie. Just in the same ratio
as the bourgeoisie has become richer, the proletariat has grown more
numerous[i]. The proletariat could only come into being through the power of
capital, and capital only increases when it is increasing the number of
workers. An increase of the proletariat has therefore gone hand in hand
with the increase of capital. At the same time, bourgeoisie and
proletariat have both been concentrated in large towns, and this massing of
the workers in large numbers has given them a consciousness of their power.
Further, the more this process develops, the more labour-saving machines
are invented and utilised, and in this way, as has already been pointed
out, wages are reduced to a minimum, and the position of the proletariat
becomes more and more unendurable. Thus, by means on the one hand of the
growing discontent, and on the other of the increasing consciousness of the
proletariat, the way is made ready for a revolution of society.
12. What were the wider consequences of the Industrial Revolution?
By means of the steam engine and other machines, large-scale industry
created the means of indefinitely increasing the industrial output, at a
diminishing cost both of time and money. The free competition which
followed this accelerated production soon produced definite results; a
crowd of capitalists seized upon industry, and in a short time far more was
produced than was actually needed. The commodities manufactured could not
be sold, and a so-called trade crisis occurred. Factories had to be closed,
employers became bankrupt, and the workers starved. After a time the
surplus products were sold, the factories opened again, wages rose, and
trade gradually became more prosperous than before.
But this could not last
long. Again, too many commodities were produced, and another crisis
occurred, with all the effects of the first. Thus, since the beginning of
the 19th century the condition of industry has constantly fluctuated
between periods of prosperity and periods of crisis. Such crises have
recurred almost regularly every five or seven years; each time resulting in
the greatest misery for the workers, and each time stimulating
revolutionary tendencies and threatening shipwreck of the whole existing
state of society.
13 What is apparent from these regularly recurring business crises?
In the first place, that large-scale industry - although in its earlier
stages it had itself given birth to free competition - has now reached a
stage at which free competition, so far from being useful to it, is
actually a hindrance - a fetter from which it must break free. So long as
it is organised on this basis of free competition, large-scale industry can
only exist at the cost of a general upheaval every few years, an upheaval
which each time threatens the whole fabric of civilisation, thrusting not
only the proletariat into misery, but also ruining some section of the
bourgeoisie itself. It is plain, therefore, either that large-scale
industry must be abolished - which is an absolute impossibility - or that
it must develop into a new organisation of society, in which industrial
production shall no longer be in the hands of individual owners all
competing one against the other, but shall be owned and controlled by
society as a whole and shall satisfy the needs of all.
In the second place, it is apparent that large-scale industry, and the
tremendous increase in the production made possible thereby, now makes
practicable a new order of society in which such a sufficiency of the
necessaries of life will be assured, that every member of that society will
have leisure and opportunity to develop his natural powers and abilities in
comparative freedom: in fact, that those same qualities or aspects of
large-scale industry which under our existing social organisation result in
misery and instability, could, under another social system, have exactly
opposite consequences. It is obvious, therefore:
- That from now onwards all our social problems and evils are simply the
result of a social system which is no longer adapted to social needs; and
- That the only means by which these evils can be abolished, viz., a new
order of society, is now close at hand.
14. Of what nature must this new order of society be?
First and foremost, it will take all industry and all branches of
production out of the hands of individual competitive owners; carrying on
industry by the active participation of all the members of society. It will
abolish competition, and put association in its place. Further, since
production for individual profit is based upon private property, this
latter must also be abolished, and its place taken by the use of all
instruments of production, and the division of all products - by communism,
in short. The abolition of private property in itself sums up the new
order of society, which in itself is the inevitable result of industrial
15. Was not the abolition of private property possible at an earlier date?
No. Every change in the social order, every revolution as regards property
relations, has been the necessary consequence of new productive powers,
which could no longer be adapted to the existing property relations.
Private property itself arose in this way. For private property has not
always existed; towards the end of the Middle Ages a new means of
production - manufacture - was evolved, which could not be adapted to
feudal or guild relations, and which accordingly outgrew and overwhelmed
them, producing a new form of property - private property. But for the
first stages of development of large-scale industry, no other form of
property but private property was possible - no other order of society than
one based upon private property. So long as the productive powers only
produce enough to satisfy the needs of a given time, without a surplus
being available for the augmentation of social capital and the further
development of the forces of production, so long must there inevitably be a
ruling class controlling and an oppressed class subject to the social
productive powers. The creation of these classes depends upon the
development of these productive powers. The Middle Ages - the period of
agriculture - gave us the baron and the serf; the towns of the later Middle
Ages, the guild master, the journeyman, and the day-labourer; the 17th
century evolves the manufacturer and the mechanic; the 19th century, the
great manufacturer and the proletarian. Up to that time the productive
powers were not so widely developed that private property in them were a
fetter or restraint upon them. But now, when, owing to the development of
large-scale industry, the powers of production are constantly increasing by
leaps and bounds; when, moreover, these powers are in the hands of a
constantly decreasing number of bourgeois owners, while the great mass of
the people become ever more firmly fixed as proletarians, and their
condition becomes ever more unbearable; when, finally, these colossal
productive powers have grown so far beyond the control of the bourgeois
private property owners that they threaten to over-balance the whole social
order, now surely, the abolition of private property has become not only
possible, but absolutely necessary.
16. Will the abolition of private property be achieved by peaceful means?
That it may be is much to be wished, and the Communists are certainly the
last people likely to wish otherwise. But they know that revolutions are
not planned arbitrarily and deliberately, having always been the inevitable
results of circumstances, and to that extent independent of the will and
guidance of individuals or even of whole classes. They see the growing
oppression of the proletariat in all civilised countries, and they foresee
that sooner or later the proletariat will be forced into active revolution.
And in that day Communists will be prepared to defend the interests of the
proletariat with deeds as well as with words.
17. Will it be possible to abolish private property at one stroke?
No. Since the existing mode of production must be allowed to develop to a
degree at which it can meet the demands of the whole community, it is more
probable that even after the revolution has begun the proletariat will only
be able to transform society gradually. It can only abolish private
property entirely when the mode of production is sufficiently developed to
make this possible.
18. What course of development will the revolution have?
First and foremost, it will set up a democratic political constitution,
thereby ensuring, directly or indirectly, the political sovereignty of the
Directly in England, where the proletariat already form the
majority of the people. Indirectly in France and Germany, where the
majority consists not wholly of the proletariat proper, but also of
peasants and small bourgeois, whose political interests, however, must
depend more and more upon those of the proletariat, and who must therefore
inevitably submit themselves to the proletarian will. This may indeed
involve a second struggle, but the ultimate victory of the proletariat
would not be long delayed. A democratic constitution, of course, would be
entirely useless to the proletariat if it did not immediately take further
measures aimed directly at private property and thereby making the
existence of the proletariat more secure. The most important of these
measures, as suggested by existing relations, are as follows:
Obviously, all these measures cannot be carried through at once. But one
will necessitate another. Once the first attack on private property has
taken place, the proletariat will find itself compelled to go ever further,
until finally all capital, all agriculture, all industry, all transport,
and all exchange are in the hands of the State. All the above measures
inevitably lead in that direction, and will be practicable enough as they
are proceeded with. Then, if all capital production, and exchange are in
the hands of the State, private property has not so much been abolished as
been enabled to disappear of itself, money has become superfluous,
production so far changed, and mankind so far altered that all remaining
forms of the old society can also be permitted to perish.
- The gradual limitation of private property by means of progressive
taxation, heavy estate duties, the abolition of inheritance by collaterals
(brothers, nephews, etc.), forced loans, and so forth.
- The gradual expropriation of ground landlords, manufacturers, railroad
and ship owners, partly through the competition of State industry, partly
directly in exchange for assignats (state paper money).
- The confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels against
the majority of the people.
- The organisation of work for all the proletariat upon national estates
or in factories and workshops, in order that the competition of the workers
amongst themselves may be abolished. Private owners, so long as they are
allowed to remain so, will be compelled to pay the State rate of wages.
- The compulsion of every member of society to work, and the organisation
of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
- The centralisation of the credit system and the money market under the
control of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital; and
the suppression of all private banks and bankers.
- The extension of State factories, railroads, and shipping; the bringing
into cultivation of all waste land; and the improvement of all land already
cultivated in proportion to the increased capital and greater number of
workers at the disposal of the nation.
- The education of every child in national institutions at the national
- The erection of large buildings on national estates as communal
dwellings for groups of citizens following industrial as well as
- The destruction of all insanitary and badly built slums and dwellings.
- Equal opportunities for all children.
- The concentration of all means of transport in the hands of the State.
19. Will this revolution be confined to a single country?
No. Large-scale industry, by creating the world market, has already brought
the people of every country (and particularly of civilised countries), into
such close touch with each other, that each separate nation is affected by
events in any other one. It has further so far levelled social development,
that in every country the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat has become the most important matter of the day. The communist
revolution will not merely be national: it will take place simultaneously
in every civilised country, that is, in England, France, America, and
Germany, at least. It will develop in each country more quickly or more
slowly according as that country possesses a more highly developed
industry, greater wealth, or more perfected productive forces. It will,
therefore, probably come about most slowly in Germany, most quickly and
easily in England. It will at once have an important reaction on other
countries, altering or accelerating their development. It is a universal
revolution, and must have, therefore, a universal sphere of action.
20. What will be the consequences of the abolition of private property?
First, that as society will have taken out of the hands of the capitalists
the entire forces of production and means of transport, administering them
according to the actual needs of the whole community, all the evils which
are at present inseparably bound up with large-scale industries will be
done away with. Crises will end; an increased production, which under the
existing order would mean overproduction - a very fruitful source of misery
- will then not even be adequate, and would need to be increased yet more,
since production over and above the immediate necessities of society would
assure the satisfaction of the needs of all, and also beget new necessities
and the means of satisfying them. It will be the condition and occasion of
further stages of progress, and it will bring about their accomplishment
without, as hitherto, society having to go through a period of disorder and
disorganisation at every new stage. Large-scale industry, freed from the
shackles of private ownership, will develop to an extent compared to which
its present development will appear as feeble as does the stage of
manufacture compared to large-scale industry of today. Agriculture, too,
which is hampered by private ownership and the accompanying parceling-out
of land, will be improved and developed by the scientific methods already
Society will be able to regulate production so that the needs of all its
members will be satisfied. The division of society into classes with
antagonistic interests ceases automatically. The existence of classes has
resulted from the division of labour, and the division of labour to which
we are accustomed today will come to an end. For in order to raise
industrial and agricultural production to the standards already suggested,
mechanical and chemical forces will not of themselves be sufficient. The
capacities of the men setting those forces in motion will have to be
developed in corresponding measure. Just as the peasants and artisans of
the past century altered their whole mode of life, and became quite other
men, when they were forced into large-scale industry, so will the common
pursuit of production throughout the whole of society, and the new
developments of production following thereon, necessitate - and produce - a
new type of man. Today men are confined to a single branch of production;
they are forced to develop one talent at the expense of all the rest, and
know only one process, or even one part of a process. But an industrial
commonwealth presupposes men whose talents have been developed on all
sides, men who will have an intelligent knowledge of the whole business of
production. That division of labour which now makes one man a peasant,
another a shoemaker a third a mechanic, and a fourth a stock-market
speculator, will entirely vanish. Education will aim at enabling young
people to go through the whole system of production, so that they can be
transferred from one branch to another according as the necessities of the
community demand. A communist society will in this way give far more scope
for individual development than does the capitalist society of today.
And along with antagonistic classes, the opposition between town and
country will disappear[j]. The pursuit of agriculture and industry by the
same men, instead of by two different classes, is already a necessary
condition of communistic association. The dispersion of the agricultural
population, side by side with the growth of the industrial population in
the great towns, is the result of an incompletely developed stage both of
agriculture and industry, and is, moreover, an obstacle in the way of
The association of all the members of society in a regulated system of
production; the increase of production to an extent at which the needs of
all will be satisfied; the cessation of a state of things in which the
needs of one are satisfied at the cost of another; the abolition of
classes; and the full development of the abilities of all the members of
society by the abolition of the present division of labour, by industrial
education, and by the blending together of town and country - these will be
the results of the abolition of private property.
21. How will Communism affect the family?
It will make the relation of the two sexes a purely private relation, which
concerns the interested parties and them alone. It can do this because it
puts an end to private property and cares for all children alike, thereby
doing away with two fundamental characteristics of present-day marriage -
the dependence of the wife on the husband, and of the children on their
parents. This is the answer to the shrieks of those highly moral
philistines who rave about "community of wives." Community of wives is a
relation pertaining to bourgeois society, and exists today, in
prostitution. Prostitution, however, is based on private property, and
falls with it. Communism, therefore, so far from introducing community of
wives, abolishes it.
22. How will Communism affect existing nationalities?
"National differences and antagonisms between peoples," says the Communist
Manifesto, "already tend to disappear owing to the development of the
bourgeoisie, the freedom of commerce, the world market, and uniformity in
the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.
The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to disappear still more
quickly. United action, on the part of the leading civilised countries at
least, is one of the primary conditions for the emancipation of the
proletariat. In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another
is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be
put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the
nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an
23. How will Communism affect existing religions?
"Does it require deep intuition," asks the Communist Manifesto, "to
comprehend the fact that man's ideas, views, conceptions, in a word, man's
consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material
existence, in his social relations and in his social life?.. When the
ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome
by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th century to
rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then
revolutionary bourgeoisie. The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of
conscience merely proclaimed the sway of free competition in the realm of
knowledge. The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with
traditional property relations; no wonder, then, that its development
involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas."[l]
24. How do Communists differ from Socialists?[m]
The so-called Socialists are divided into three classes.
The first class consists of hangers-on of that feudal and patriarchal
society which has already been largely abolished by the development of
large-scale industry, and the consequent creation of bourgeois society.
This class, pointing to the evils of existing society, declared that the
feudal, patriarchal form of society must be re-established, since it was
free from these particular evils. All their proposals are aimed, directly
or indirectly, at this object. And these reactionary "Socialists," in spite
of the hot tears they shed over the misery of the proletariat, will always
be energetically opposed by the Communists, because (1) they strive for
something absolutely impossible; (2) they seek to establish the sovereignty
of the aristocracy and the guildmasters, with all their retinue of absolute
or feudal kings, officials, soldiers and priests - a form of society which
was certainly free from the evils of present-day society, but had just as
many evils of its own, and held out, moreover, much less hope for the
proletariat; and (3) because they reveal themselves in their true colours
every time the proletariat revolts, by immediately uniting themselves with
the bourgeoisie against the forces of revolution.
The second class of so-called Socialists consists of hangers-on of
present-day society, who, being fully alive to the evils of that society,
are full of fears for its stability. Accordingly they try to strengthen
and maintain the existing form of society by getting rid of its more
obvious evils. Their watchword is Reform. And these bourgeois Socialists
will also be constantly opposed by the Communists, since they seek to
defend the society which the Communists aim at overthrowing.
The third class consists of "democratic" Socialists, who, along with the
Communists, are in favour of certain of the reforms outlined in the answer
to Question 18; but regard these, not as means of transition to Communism,
but as measures adequate in themselves to abolish poverty and misery, and
all the other evils of present-day society. These democratic Socialists
are either proletarians who have not yet realised the conditions necessary
to the emancipation of their class, or they are members of the petty
bourgeoisie, a class which, up to a certain point, has the same interests
as the proletariat. The Communists will therefore avail themselves of the
assistance of this class for the moment, but will not lose sight of the
difference of interests which will prevent that assistance being depended
upon when the time for action comes.
25. Where do the Communists stand in relation to the other political
parties of our times?
The relationship varies in different countries. In England, France and
Belgium, where the bourgeoisie is in power, the Communists have many
interests in common with the various democratic parties - with the
Chartists [n] in England, for instance, who stand much nearer to the Communists
than do the democratic petty bourgeoisie, the so-called Radicals.
In America, where democratic conditions already exist, the Communists will
work with the party which applies these conditions against the bourgeoisie
- i.e.., with the Land Reformers[o].
In Switzerland there are various Radical parties, some of which have
progressed further than others, and with which, although they are still
somewhat confused in their aims and interests, the Communists can
temporarily ally themselves.
Finally, in Germany, a determined struggle between the bourgeoisie and the
absolute monarchies is imminent; and since the Communists cannot make their
reckoning with the bourgeoisie until the latter has attained power, it is
thus to their interest to assist the bourgeoisie in the struggle in order
to attack them again as soon as possible on their own account. The
Communists will therefore side with the Liberals in opposition to the
Government, remembering, however, that the only advantages which the
victory of the bourgeoisie would win for the proletariat are (1) greater
freedom of discussion and propaganda, thus facilitating the organisation of
the proletariat, and (2) the fact that on the day when absolutism fails,
the struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat takes front place. From
that day onwards the policy of the Communists will be the same as in the
countries where the bourgeoisie already rules.
In 1847 Engels wrote two draft programmes for the Communist League in the form of a catechism, one in June and the other in
October. The latter, which is known as Principles of Communism, was first published in 1914. The earlier document, Draft of the
Communist Confession of Faith, was only found in 1968. It was first published in 1969 in Hamburg, together with four other
documents pertaining to the first congress of the Communist League, in a booklet entitled Gründungs Dokumente des Bundes der
Kommunisten (Juni bis September 1847) (Founding Documents of the Communist League).
At the June 1847 Congress of the League of the Just, which was also the founding conference of the Communist League, it was
decided to issue a draft "confession of faith" to be submitted for discussion to the sections of the League. The document which has
now come to light is almost certainly this draft. Comparison of the two documents shows that Principles of Communism is a revised
edition of this earlier draft. In Principles of Communism, Engels left three questions unanswered, in two cases with the notation
"unchanged" (bleibt); this clearly refers to the answers provided in the earlier draft.
The new draft for the programme was worked out by Engels on the instructions of the leading body of the Paris circle of the
Communist League. The instructions were decided on after Engles' sharp criticism at the committee meeting, on October 22, 1847,
of the draft programme drawn up by the "true socialist" Moses Hess, which was then rejected.
Still considering Principles of Communism as a preliminary draft, Engels expressed the view, in a letter to Marx dated November
23-24, 1847, that it would be best to drop the old catechistic form and draw up a programme in the form of a manifesto. At the
second congress of the Communist League (November 29-December 8, 1847) Marx and Engels defended the fundamental scientific
principles of communism and were trusted with drafting a programme in the form of a manifesto of the Communist Party. In writing
the manifesto the founders of Marxism made use of the propositions enunciated in Principles of Communism.
In their works written in later periods, Marx and Engels substituted the more accurate concepts of "sale of labour power", "value
of labour power" and "price of labour power" (first introduced by Marx) for "sale of labour", value of labour" and "price of labour".
By "manufacture" Engels means hand-production in capitalist workshops,
or by home-workers employed by a merchant capitalist, as distinct from both independent handicrafts and factory production.
The idea of an "iron law" forcing wages down to starvation level was
widespread at the time among both radicals and conservatives. After Marx's
economic studies he and Engels concluded that the commodity sold was
labour-power - ability to labour - not labour. They argued that
exploitation arose from the peculiar nature of the exchange between worker
and capitalist, formally equal but really unequal. The worker sells a
commodity, labour-power, for a limited price, while the capitalist gets,
when he "consumes" that commodity, command over the general, open-ended,
human power to create new wealth. Marx and Engels then rejected the "iron
law of wages". Marx wrote that it was "as if to inscribe on the programme
of [a slave rebellion]: Slavery must be abolished because the feeding of
slaves in the system of slavery cannot exceed a certain low maximum!" See
also Marx's pamphlet Wages, Price and Profit on this question.
In the Draft of the Communist Confession of Faith, the answer to the same question (Number 12) reads as follows:
"In contrast to the proletarian, the so-called handicraftsman, as he still existed almost everywhere in the past (eighteenth)
century and still exists here and there at present, is a proletarian at most temporarily. His goal is to acquire capital himself
wherewith to exploit other workers. He can often achieve this goal where guilds still exist or where freedon from guild
restrictions has not yet led to the introduction of factory-style methods into the crafts nor yet to fierce competition But as
soon as the factory system has been introduced into the crafts and competition flourishes fully, this perspective dwindles
away and the handicraftsman becomes more and more a proletarian. The handicraftsman therefore frees himself by
becoming either bourgeois or entering the middle class in general, or becoming a proletarian because of competition (as is
now more often the case). In which case he can free himself by joining the proletarian movement, i.e., the more or less
"Patriarchal" here means a family-type relationship, with the worker
being tied to the employer like a child to a father.
That is, legal requirements that land could pass only to the owner's
oldest son. It could not be freely bought and sold.
Property qualifications for voting were universal in Europe before 1848,
and common well into the 20th century. The demands of the Chartist
movement, the world's first mass workers' political party, which flourished
in England between 1838 and 1848 were for universal suffrage (for men, and,
its more radical elements, for women too), for payment for MPs so that
workers could be MPs, and for new elections to Parliament each year. At
that time, when the permanent, unelected state machine was far less bulky
than it is today, and the bourgeoisie had no mass media or mass political
parties dominating the working class, such democratic demands meant - to
friend and foe alike - working-class power. See Lenin's State and
Revolution and The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.
Marx later corrected this view, arguing that capital tended to increase
faster than the number of workers: see Capital, volume 1, chapter 25.
The abolition of the opposition between town and country was an idea
very widespread among radicals of many sorts at the time. The Garden
Cities in Britain were a bourgeois-reformist attempt to put it into
practice. For the city conditions that provoked this idea, see Engels, The
Condition of the Working Class in England in 1845.
Engels' notation in the manuscript here, "unchanged", obviously refers to the answer in the June draft under No. 21 which read as follows:
"The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled
to mingle with each other as a result of this association and thereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and
class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property."
Similarly, there is a reference here to the answer to Question 23 in the June draft which reads:
"All religions so far have been the expression of historical stages of development of individual peoples or groups of peoples.
But communism is the stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and brings about their
In the 1890 preface to an edition of the Communist Manifesto, Engels
wrote: "When it appeared we could not have called it a Socialist Manifesto.
In 1847 two kinds of people were considered Socialists. On the one hand
were the adherents of the various Utopian systems, notably the Owenites in
England and the Fourierists in France, both of whom at that date had
already dwindled to mere sects gradually dying out. On the other hand, the
manifold types of social quacks who wanted to eliminate social abuses
through their various universal panaceas and all kinds of patchwork,
without hurting capital and profit in the least. In both cases, people who
stood outside the labour movement and who looked for support rather to the
'educated' classes. The section of the working class, however, which
demanded a radical reconstruction of society... Then called itself
Communist. It was still a rough-hewn, only instinctive, and frequently
somewhat crude communism. Yet... since we were very decidedly of the
opinion as early as then that 'the emancipation of the workers must be the
act of the working class itself', we could have no hesitations as to which
of the two names we should choose."
The Chartists were the participants in the political movement of the British workers which lasted from the 1830s to the middle
1850s and had as its slogan the adoption of a People's Charter, demanding universal franchise and a series of conditions guaranteeing
voting rights for all workers. Lenin defined Chartism as the world's "first broad, truly mass and politically organized proletarian
revolutionary movement" (Collected Works, Eng. ed., Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Vol. 29, p. 309).
Probably a references to the National Reform Association, founded during the 1840s by George H. Evans, with headquarters in
New York City, which had for its motto, "Vote Yourself a Farm".
How Solidarity Can Change the World was first published as a double issue of Workers' Liberty magazine, numbers 46 and 47, in April 1998.
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