The Communist Manifesto Notes – January 31st
* In the spring of 1847, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels agreed to join the League of the Just (Bund der Gerechten), an offshoot of a revolutionary secret society formed in Paris in the 1830s. * The League offered to publish a Manifesto drafted by Marx and Engels as its policy document, and to modernize its organization along their lines. * In the summer of 1847, the League was renamed League of Communists, and committed to the object of “the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the ending of the old society which rests on class contradiction, and the establishment of a new society without classes or private property. * The objects and new statues were accepted in November-December 1847, and Marx and Engels were invited to draft the new Manifesto outlining the League’s aims and policies. * Although both Marx and Engels prepared drafts and represents joint views of both, it was clearly written by Marx. * The virtual absence of early drafts suggests that it was written rapidly. * The resulting document was twenty-three pages, entitled Manifesto of the Communist Party (more generally known since 1872 as The Communist Manifesto), and was published in February 1848. * It was printed in the office of the Worker’s Educational Association in London. * This small pamphlet is by far the most influential single piece of political writing since the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. * It hits the streets only a week or two before the outbreak of the revolutions of 1848. * Its initial impact was exclusively German.
* Karl Marx was an editor of the newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49). * The first edition of the Manifesto was reprinted three times in a few months, serialized in the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung, corrected and resent in thirty pages in April or May 1848, but dropped out of sight with the failure of the 1848 revolutions. * By the time Marx settled down to his lifelong exile in England in 1849, the Manifesto had become sufficiently scarce for him to think it worth reprinting Section III in the last issue of his london magazine. * A small new edition was privately issued in London by a German printer 1864 and in Berlin in 1866. * Marx’s prominence in the International Working Men’s Association and the emergence, in Germany, of two important working-class parties, both founded by former members of the Communist League who held him in high esteem, led to the revival of interest in the Manifesto. * Marx’s defense of the Paris Commune of 1871 (The Civil War in France) gave him considerable notoriety in the press as a dangerous leader of international subversion, feared by governments. * The treason trial of German Social-Democratic leaders, Wilhelm Liebknecht, August Bebel and Adolf Hepner in March 1872 gave the document unexpected publicity. * The prosecution read the text of the Manifesto into the court record, and thus gave the Social-Democrats their first change of publishing it legally, and in a large print run, as a part of the court proceedings. * Because it was in need of some updating and explanatory commentary, Marx and Engels produced the first of the series of prefaces which have since usually accompanied new editions of the Manifesto. * For legal reasons the preface could not be widely distributed at the time, but in fact the 1872 edition became the foundation of all subsequent editions. * Between 1871 and 1873, at least nine editions of the Manifesto appeared in six languages. * Before the Russian Revolution of 1918 it had been issued in several hundred editions in 30 languages * Its main region of influence was the central bet of Europe, stretching from France in the West to Russia in the East. * This uneven geographical distribution did not only reflect the uneven development of the socialist movement, and of Marx’s own influence, as...
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