Frederick Engels

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 capitalist.

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 industrial capital[e].

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 proletarian.

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:
  1. 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

  2. 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 development.

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 proletariat[h].

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. The confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels against the majority of the people.
  4. 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.
  5. The compulsion of every member of society to work, and the organisation of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. The education of every child in national institutions at the national expense.
  9. The erection of large buildings on national estates as communal dwellings for groups of citizens following industrial as well as agricultural pursuits.
  10. The destruction of all insanitary and badly built slums and dwellings.
  11. Equal opportunities for all children.
  12. The concentration of all means of transport in the hands of the State.
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.

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 discovered.

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 further development.

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 end."[k]

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 communist movement."

"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 disappearance."

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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