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The Communist Manifesto

Workers of the world unite!

By Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
12-minute read
Audio available
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto is the result of a meeting of international communists in London. It vividly portrays the first common position of political communism regarding the class struggle between the working class and the capitalist bourgeoisie.

  • Anyone who works for someone else
  • Anyone who’s wondered why wealth seems to concentrate at the top
  • Anyone remotely interested in politics

Karl Marx was a German philosopher who lived from 1818 to 1881. He is one of the main thinkers in communist political thought and established his own socialist tradition, Marxism, in his seminal work Capital.

Friedrich Engels was a writer and social scientist who lived from 1820 to 1895. He was one of Marx’s political companions and helped co-author several of his works.

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The Communist Manifesto

By Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Synopsis

The Communist Manifesto is the result of a meeting of international communists in London. It vividly portrays the first common position of political communism regarding the class struggle between the working class and the capitalist bourgeoisie.

Key idea 1 of 7

The class that controls the economy controls society.

Why is it that we never see poor people in Congress or wealthy landowners sweating in factories? The wealthy always seem to inhabit positions of power while the rest of us are at their mercy. But how did this come to be? The answer lies in economics.

Changes in the economy drive changes in society. Every change in social relationships is triggered by a change in the mode of production, i.e., the method by which the necessities of life (food, shelter, transportation, etc.) are created.

The mode of food production in the age of hunter-gatherer societies, for example, was such that humans could only provide for their immediate communities. As a result, there were hardly any class distinctions within a community; people were more or less equal.

However, with the advent of farming, a more efficient mode of food production emerged. Suddenly there was an abundance of food, enough for farmers to sell to other people.

This change in the mode of production caused a hierarchy to develop between those who controlled the food supply and those who had to work for them. And so the first class system was created: the class that held economic power also held the political power.

Historically, all societies have organized into complicated hierarchies of conflicting classes. The lines that separate these classes can be traced back to their degree of control over the modes of production. In essence, the class that controls a society’s wealth controls that society by using its position to subjugate the other classes.

In the Roman world, for example, slaves were not allowed to hold property, which amplified their oppression.

Things were similar in the feudal societies of medieval Europe: poor serfs were tied to their land and indebted to wealthy landowners. In other words, these landowners actually owned them and forced them to work the land.

The relationship between these oppressive and oppressed classes, i.e., the class struggle, is what has driven history.

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