Self Help

Communist Manifesto in Plain and Simple English (A Modern Translation and the Original Version), The - Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

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Matheus Puppe

· 26 min read

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Here is a summary of the key points of The Communist Manifesto in plain and simple English:

  • The Manifesto describes the history of society as a struggle between social classes (the ruling class vs the oppressed class). In the past these included things like nobles vs peasants, masters vs slaves.

  • In modern times, society has split into two main opposing classes - the bourgeoisie (the owners of capital/ Means of production) vs the proletariat (the working class who must sell their labor to survive).

  • The bourgeoisie emerged from the declining feudal system as commerce and industry developed. They overthrew the old feudal systems of guilds and emerged as the new dominant class.

  • The Industrial Revolution with factories and machinery greatly accelerated the rise of the bourgeoisie. A few wealthy capitalists now control large industries and employ many workers.

  • The growing world market and global trade have contributed greatly to the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism. As their wealth and power grow, they squeeze out all other older social classes.

  • The Manifesto is a call for the proletariat of the world to unite against the oppression of the bourgeoisie and to overthrow capitalist society through a proletarian revolution. It outlines communism as the goal to replace private ownership with common ownership.

  • The bourgeoisie has historically progressed from an oppressed class under feudal nobility to gaining exclusive political control in modern representative states. Each step saw a corresponding political advancement.

  • Originally an armed and self-governing group in medieval communes, they eventually became the “third estate” under monarchies or served monarchs to counter nobility power.

  • With the rise of modern industry and global markets, the bourgeoisie has conquered exclusive political sway in modern states. The executive branch now simply manages the interests of the bourgeoisie class.

  • The bourgeoisie has revolutionized social and economic relations by tearing down feudal ties and reducing all human relations to self-interest and monetary exchange. It has transformed occupations into wage labor.

  • It has transformed family structures and constantly revolutionized production through technological advancement, creating instability and changes in all social conditions.

  • The bourgeoisie’s need for expanding markets drives it globally to establish new industries and connections worldwide, disrupting traditional national industries and boundaries.

  • It has made production and consumption cosmopolitan in nature and created universal interdependence between nations through trade and intellectual exchange.

So in summary, it traces the political ascent and revolutionary social/economic impact of the bourgeoisie class over history leading to its dominant position today.

The passage argues that the bourgeoisie has worked to advance civilization globally through economic means. It uses the low prices of its commodities as a powerful force to penetrate even the most barbarian nations and break down barriers to trade. All countries are compelled to adopt the bourgeois mode of production and values of civilization on pain of ruin.

The bourgeoisie has also transformed society internally. It has subjected the countryside to rule by urban towns and cities. It has centralized populations, production, and property into larger units. This required corresponding political centralization into nation states.

In just over a century, the bourgeoisie has developed immense productive forces through technologies like machinery, chemistry, railways, and more. However, these new productive capacities now strain against the existing capitalist property relations and system of production. Periodic commercial crises demonstrate that society’s productive abilities have outgrown the bourgeois frameworks containing them. Unless new markets are constantly found, overproduction leads to apparent barbarism as industry and trade seem destroyed, when in fact the issue is that there is now too much civilization and wealth.

The passage discusses the development and exploitation of the working class (proletariat) under capitalism and the rise of modern industry. It argues that as capitalism has developed, it has simultaneously called into existence the proletariat as the modern working class.

As machinery and division of labor advanced, work became monotonous and dehumanizing. This drove wages down to just the cost of subsistence. Workers were increasingly subjected to the discipline and control of factory owners.

Women and children also entered the workforce as skill requirements diminished. Class differences blurred as small businesses declined and were absorbed into the proletariat.

The proletariat’s struggle against the bourgeoisie began with individual and localized resistance against exploitation. Workers initially attacked machinery and production tools rather than capitalist social relations. Their early actions benefited the bourgeoisie more than themselves.

Early labor movements were scattered and disorganized. Workers united out of necessity under the leadership of the bourgeoisie to fight common political enemies of both classes, like absolute monarchy or landed interests. But victory for the proletariat still meant victory for the bourgeoisie at this stage.

  • As industry develops, the proletariat (working class) not only grows in numbers but becomes more concentrated and organized. Their shared economic interests make class solidarity stronger.

  • Machinery reduces job variety and often wages, making the workers’ livelihood more precarious. Conflicts between individual workers and employers take on the character of class conflicts.

  • Workers form trade unions to negotiate wages and prevent wage cuts. Strikes and riots break out occasionally in clashes between the classes.

  • Improved transportation brings workers from different places into contact, allowing local struggles to be centralized into a national class struggle between workers and bourgeoisie. Every class struggle is inherently political.

  • Unions are often disrupted by competition between workers but always reconstitute in a stronger form and compel political recognition of workers’ interests by taking advantage of divisions within the ruling class.

  • Collisions between old ruling classes further the development of the proletariat, as bourgeoisie seeks workers’ help against aristocracy and other economic threats. This pulls workers into the political arena.

  • In revolutionary times, some ruling classes or intellectuals may defect and join the proletariat that holds the future.

  • Of all current anti-bourgeois classes, only the proletariat is truly revolutionary as the essential product of modern industry, while others fight only to preserve their status and are therefore conservative or reactionary.

The passage discusses the relationship between Communists and the proletarian movement as a whole. It states that Communists do not form a separate party against other working-class parties. Their interests are not separate from the proletariat. They do not set up their own principles to shape the movement.

The Communists are distinguished from other working-class parties in two ways. First, in national struggles they point out the common interests of the entire proletariat across nationality. Second, in different stages of the working class struggle against the bourgeoisie, they represent the interests of the movement as a whole. The overall message is that Communists stand with and represent the interests of the proletarian/working class movement and do not form a separate group with their own agenda.

  • Communists are the most advanced and theoretically informed section of the working class movement in each country. They push the movement forward.

  • The immediate goal of communists is the same as other proletarian parties - formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois rule, conquest of political power by the proletariat.

  • Communist theory is based on actual existing class struggles and movements, not ideas invented by reformers.

  • The distinguishing feature of communism is the abolition of bourgeois private property, not the abolition of property in general.

  • Modern wage labor does not create property for workers, it creates capital for capitalists through the exploitation of workers.

  • Private property and capital are social, not just personal powers. When converted to common/social property, they lose their class character but not their social character.

  • Workers only appropriate enough from their labor to maintain a bare existence and reproduce themselves as laborers to increase capital. Communism aims to widen and enrich the existence of laborers.

  • In bourgeois society, past capital dominates the present and living people. In communism, the present dominates the past and living people have individuality.

  • The abolition of bourgeois individuality, independence and freedom is the goal of communism, as these things only exist in contrast to the restricted individuals of the past.

  • The bourgeois concept of “freedom” under capitalism refers to free buying and selling. But communism will abolish buying and selling altogether, along with private property and the bourgeois conditions of production.

  • Private property has already been done away with for the vast majority of people under capitalism. Only a small minority actually own private property, and this is only possible because most people have no property.

  • Communism aims to abolish the bourgeois form of private property that allows some people to live off the labor of others. It does not abolish an individual’s right to own their own possessions or the products of their labor.

  • Objections that communism will lead to laziness are unfounded, as bourgeois society itself relies on most people being paid to work for others. Communism removes the ability to earn money from other people’s labor, but not people’s ability or incentive to work.

  • Claims that communism will destroy culture only make sense from the bourgeois viewpoint that sees culture as class-based. In reality, most workers receive only enough education to serve as machines for the bourgeoisie.

  • The bourgeois conception of concepts like freedom, culture, law etc. only make sense within the constraints of capitalism and private property. Communism aims to move beyond those constraints.

  • The bourgeois family is based on private property and capitalism. It will disappear along with them. Communism aims to rescue children from exploitation by parents and provide socialized education instead.

  • The bourgeoisie criticizes communists for wanting to introduce communal ownership of women and destroy the family. However, communal sharing of women already exists through bourgeois marriage and prostitution under the current system.

  • Communists do not actually want to introduce communal women, they want to abolish women’s status as mere instruments of production and end prostitution that stems from the present system.

  • The bourgeoisie also criticizes communists for wanting to abolish countries and nationality. But the proletariat has no real country or nationality under the current system. As class antagonisms are removed, national divisions will also fade.

  • Religious, philosophical and ideological criticisms of communism do not merit serious examination. Ideas and consciousness change based on material conditions and relations. Ruling ideas reflect those of the ruling class. Communism aims to abolish the conditions that created class divisions and antagonisms throughout history.

This section discusses reactionary socialism, specifically feudal socialism. Feudal socialism arose from the aristocracies of France and England writing pamphlets against modern bourgeois society after losing political power in the French and English revolutions. They could no longer directly attack the bourgeoisie from a political stance, so they turned to writing criticisms in literature instead.

However, to gain sympathy for their critiques, the aristocrats had to portray themselves as advocating for the exploited working class rather than their own interests. In this way, they took revenge by mocking their new bourgeois masters through satirical songs and poems predicting coming catastrophe.

Feudal socialism was thus a half complaint and half comedy that both echoed the past and threatened the future. While its critiques sometimes struck at the heart of the bourgeoisie, it was always ridiculous due to its total inability to comprehend the march of modern history from a reactionary perspective. In summary, it discussed the rise of reactionary socialist literature from displaced aristocrats after they lost political power.

  • The passage discusses different forms and critiques of early socialism that emerged in response to the rise of capitalism and the bourgeoisie.

  • It covers Feudal Socialism, which saw aristocrats attempt to ally with workers by co-opting socialist rhetoric, while still clinging to their feudal privileges. This was a failed and reactionary form.

  • It then discusses Petty-Bourgeois Socialism, championed by writers like Sismondi, which criticized capitalism from the perspective of peasants and small proprietors being displaced. While accurately identifying problems, it aimed either to restore the old order or constrain modern production within outdated property relations.

  • The passage criticizes both of these early forms of socialism as either reactionary or utopian. It suggests they ultimately recognized the impossibility of turning back progress and ended in “miserable fits of the blues.”

  • It sets up German or “True” Socialism asemerging from a different tradition than the French literature, implying it avoided the issues of the prior approaches. Overall it provides historical context on the early development and shortcomings of different socialist schools of thought.

The Socialist and Communist literature of France was introduced to Germany at a time when the German bourgeoisie had just begun its struggle against feudal absolutism. German intellectuals enthusiastically embraced this French literature but failed to understand that the social conditions in France had not transferred to Germany as well. As a result, the practical significance of this French literature was lost in Germany, where it came to be viewed purely from a literary perspective. The demands of the French Revolution were seen by German philosophers simply as demands of “Practical Reason” rather than the desires of the revolutionary French bourgeoisie.

When applying this French literature, German intellectuals merely sought to reconcile it with their existing philosophical views or annex the ideas without altering their own perspectives. They translated the French works but ultimately rendered them useless by overlaying them with philosophical concepts that obscured the class struggle. While initially rather innocent, German Socialism grew more reactionary over time by opposing liberalism and the bourgeois movements in Germany. It served the interests of absolute governments seeking to resist the bourgeois threats, as well as the petty-bourgeois class wishing to maintain the status quo against capital concentration and a revolutionary proletariat. “True” Socialism thus spread widely as a weapon against liberalism and driver of reactionary interests in Germany.

The passage criticizes different forms of socialism. It argues that German socialists wrapped their ideas in flowery language to appeal to the petty bourgeois public, rather than addressing material realities.

It then criticizes “conservative or bourgeois socialism,” where parts of the bourgeoisie advocate reform to maintain their dominant position. This includes things like charity work or piecemeal reforms. The goal is preserving capitalism while removing its challenges.

It also critiques “critical-utopian socialism and communism” from the early 19th century, exemplified by thinkers like Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen. While recognizing class conflicts, they saw the proletariat as immature and incapable of independent political action. Their proposed utopian systems were not grounded in material conditions and failed to seriously address overthrowing the bourgeois social order.

In summary, the passage critiques different strands of early socialism for failing to adequately address the real class struggles and economic underpinnings of the capitalist system, and for largely serving to maintain bourgeois dominance rather than emancipating the proletariat.

  • Historical conditions have not yet created material conditions suitable for the emancipation of the proletariat. Some socialists therefore try to invent new social theories and laws to create these conditions.

  • They want to replace historical class organization with their own specially designed plans for society. They see future history as the propagation and implementation of their social plans.

  • They claim to care most for the interests of the working class as the most suffering class. But the underdeveloped class struggle means they think they are superior to all class antagonisms.

  • They reject political and revolutionary action, wanting to achieve their goals through peaceful means like small experiments.

  • Early socialist/communist writings contain valuable critiques of society but their proposed measures like abolishing private property and the state are utopian given the nascent state of class antagonisms at the time.

  • As class struggle develops, fantastic proposals detached from the real contest lose value. Disciples form reactionary sects clinging to original theories against proletarian development.

  • They attempt to reconcile class antagonisms through isolated experiments and appeal to the bourgeoisie. They oppose all political action by the working class.

  • The Communists ally with existing working class parties like the Chartists but maintain their independence and right to a critical position.

The phrase refers to traditional ideas, values, and rallying cries that were handed down from the original French Revolution in the late 18th century. The passage indicates that the Communists reserve the right to take a critical stance toward such “phrases and illusions” when allying themselves with other left-wing groups in France. So it’s referring to revolutionary slogans or ideals from 1789 that may no longer be entirely applicable or may need to be updated or revised.

The passage discusses the role of the bourgeoisie (the middle class) throughout history. It notes that in monarchies, the bourgeoisie served as a balance against the nobility. With the rise of industry and global trade, the bourgeoisie gained political control and modern states serve their economic interests.

Historically, the bourgeoisie played a revolutionary role in dismantling feudal systems and relationships. They reduced all human relations to self-interest and monetary exchange. They transformed occupations into paid labor and reduced the family to a financial arrangement.

The bourgeoisie constantly revolutionizes production through technology and market expansion. This creates unrest but also greater interconnectivity between nations through trade and spread of ideas. The bourgeoisie pushes other nations into capitalism through inexpensive goods and by making industrialization necessary for survival.

The bourgeoisie consolidated populations and wealth into cities and made rural areas dependent on urban centers. They centralized political power over larger territories with common legal and trade systems. They harnessed nature and resources on a massive scale through machinery, infrastructure, and industry.

However, the productive forces they developed now conflict with the existing capitalist system of private property and markets. Periodic economic crises threaten the existence of the whole bourgeois social order. The bourgeoisie addresses crises by destroying wealth and resources while expanding into new markets, but this is a temporary solution that prepares the way for deeper problems later.

  • The development of industrial capitalism and modern industry has led to the rise of the modern working class, or proletariat. Workers have become dependent on selling their labor to survive but find work only when it benefits capital.

  • Under capitalism, work has become specialized and mechanized, reducing workers to limbs of the machine. This cheapens the cost of labor and increases exploitation, as wages decrease while workload increases.

  • Factories organize workers like soldiers, subjecting them to tight control and the demands of production. Workers are slaves to both capital and the machines.

  • The less skill needed in work, the more women replace men. Age and sex distinctions no longer matter - all are exploited instruments of labor.

  • As workers receive wages, other parts of the bourgeoisie also exploit them through taxes, landlords, shops, etc. Small producers sink into the proletariat under competition from large capitalists.

  • The proletariat develops through individual and localized struggles against bosses, then against the tools and conditions of production itself before recognizing their shared interests and centralizing struggles nationally against the broader bourgeois class.

  • Competition and economic crises further unite and organize the proletariat into a political class through unions and alliances to fight for legislative changes, drawing some bourgeois elements to the cause as decay hits ruling classes.

This passage summarizes several key points made in The Communist Manifesto:

  • Modern industrial labor has removed national character and subjected workers to capital universally across countries.

  • Previous ruling classes strengthened their status by imposing conditions on society, but the proletariat cannot become masters without destroying private property.

  • Historical social movements were by minorities, but the proletarian movement represents the immense majority.

  • The proletariat’s struggle with the bourgeoisie is initially national, settling with each country’s bourgeoisie.

  • Bourgeois society inevitably produces its own grave-diggers as the proletariat through modern industry.

  • Communists represent the interests of the entire proletarian movement, not just their country’s workers. Their goal is the same as other worker’s parties - overthrow of bourgeois rule and conquest of political power.

  • Communists distinguish themselves by emphasizing the shared interests of workers internationally and theoretically understanding the situation overall.

  • Private property is historically changed by new conditions, and communism calls for abolishing bourgeois private property which exploits wage labor, not personal property.

The author responds to criticisms of communism from a bourgeois perspective. They say the bourgeois view property rights as sacrosanct, but communism only seeks to abolish the ability to subjugate others through private property. It is not against individual appropriation of products.

When the bourgeois say individuality will vanish without private property becoming capital, they really mean the individuality of the bourgeois owner will vanish. But communism does not deprive people of the fruits of their labor.

Objections that work will cease due to laziness without property incentives are refuted - under capitalism, many do not work and acquire nothing while a few do not work but acquire everything.

Criticisms of the abolition of the family, women’s role, culture, nationality are addressed. The family and roles are based on current economic conditions, not eternal natural laws. As conditions change, so do ideas and social structures. Communism develops new bases for these instead of just destroying the old.

In general, the ruling ideas of any age serve the interests of the ruling class. As exploitation ends, so will antiquated social forms and the ideas that justified them. The communist revolution marks the most radical break with the past yet.

  • The passage outlines different types of socialist and communist literature that emerged in reaction to the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalist society.

  • Feudal socialism criticized capitalism from the perspective of aristocrats trying to rally support. It sang songs lamenting the old order and predicted disaster under the new bourgeois class. However, it couldn’t comprehend modern history and ultimately just wanted to defend old aristocratic privileges.

  • Petty-bourgeois socialism emerged from the declining middle classes like peasants and artisans. Writers like Sismondi criticized the contradictions of capitalism from the perspective of these intermediate classes. However, their positive goals were either reactionary or utopian like restoring the old modes of production.

  • “True” or German socialism arose later when French socialist literature was introduced to Germany still under feudal absolutism. German philosophers appropriated this literature but removed from its original French context and revolutionary significance, gave it more of a literary aspect. Overall it outlines the emergence and limitations of different early socialist critiques of capitalism.

The German intellectual class attempted to reconcile new French revolutionary ideas with their traditional philosophical views by translating and copying the French ideas while keeping their own philosophical perspective. However, this resulted in them just writing philosophical nonsense under the French original works and critiques.

They applied philosophical phrases to the French historical criticisms, calling it things like “Philosophy of Action” or “German Science of Socialism.” This made the French socialist and communist literature useless. The Germans portrayed themselves as representing philosophical truth and humanity in general rather than the interests of any class.

As the liberal and bourgeois movements in Germany grew stronger in their fight against feudalism and absolutism, “True Socialism” confronted liberalism by criticizing bourgeois competition, freedom of the press, legislation, liberty and equality. However, they had ignored that the French critiques assumed the existence of modern bourgeois society.

This “True Socialism” served the interests of absolute governments against the bourgeoisie threat, while also directly representing the petty bourgeois class interests in Germany. Various socialist publications circulated that embraced this ideology and the interests of the petty bourgeoisie.

The summary then outlines three forms of socialism - Conservative or bourgeois socialism, which wanted reforms within capitalist society; Critical-Utopian socialism and communism, which were early attempts by founders like Saint-Simon and Fourier to address class antagonisms but lacked understanding of the proletariat’s role in advancing socialism.

Here is a summary of the provided passage:

The passage outlines the views of certain early socialists and communists known as “Critical-Utopian Socialists and Communists.” These socialists had an idealistic view of being able to reform society and abolish class divisions through peaceful means and small experiments. However, their proposals were unrealistic given the undeveloped state of class struggle at the time.

While their early writings raised critical ideas that were valuable for working class education, their followers tended to form reactionary sects that tried to oppose and deaden the growing class struggle. They dreamed of isolated socialist communities but had to appeal to the bourgeoisie to realize these utopian ideas.

Over time, these Critical-Utopian socialists sank into being reactionary conservatives similar to those they originally opposed. They violently opposed any political action by the working class, seeing it as “blind unbelief” in their ideological gospel. As historical development brought clearer class divisions, their perspectives lost practical and theoretical justification.

The passage describes the evolution of industrial systems and the rise of the bourgeoisie class. It states that the old guild system could no longer meet growing market demands, so the manufacturing system replaced it. This system was further revolutionized by the use of steam power and machinery, giving rise to modern heavy industry.

This modern industry established global markets and stimulated commerce, navigation, and transportation networks. It caused the bourgeoisie class to grow significantly in terms of capital and political power. The bourgeoisie overthrew the old feudal system and introduced capitalist relations based on self-interest and the exchange of goods for money rather than personal ties.

The bourgeoisie accelerated technological progress and constantly revolutionized production. It created a cosmopolitan consumer culture and drew other nations into adopting capitalist modes of production. The bourgeoisie also increased urbanization and economic interdependence between nations. It centralized power, production, and property into larger nation states and corporations. Overall, the passage asserts that the bourgeoisie played a revolutionary role in transforming social, economic and political systems on a global scale.

The passage discusses the emergence and development of the working class/proletariat as capitalism continues to evolve. It notes that economic crises are an inherent and recurring feature of capitalism, as the productive forces created by the system periodically destroy existing products and capital. These crises reveal the limits of private property under capitalism.

As machinery and the division of labor advance, work becomes more fragmented and less skilled. This drives wages down and the exploitation of workers upwards. The craft workshops are replaced by large factories where workers are organized like “soldiers” under managers. More workers are drawn from all social classes into the newly forming proletariat.

The proletariat begins to organize and resist the bourgeoisie through individual and then collective action. Their struggles initially aim to restore pre-capitalist conditions but eventually recognize the bourgeois nature of their enemies. Improved transportation and communications help coordinate local struggles into a national movement between classes. The bourgeoisie itself advances the education and organization of the proletariat through ongoing political battles and crises. Overall the passage outlines how capitalism creates its own gravediggers in the modern working class.

  • Class struggles and tensions within society are intensifying, causing some members of the ruling class to join the revolutionary class (the proletariat).

  • The proletariat is the only truly revolutionary class, as other classes will disappear with modern industry or try to roll back progress to save their positions.

  • Previous ruling classes sought to strengthen their status by imposing their conditions on society. The proletariat cannot become the ruling class this way, as their mission is to destroy all previous forms of private property.

  • All previous social movements empowered minorities, but the proletarian movement empowers the vast majority. Overthrowing the bourgeoisie will lay the foundation for proletarian rule.

  • The struggle starts nationally but has broader, international implications. Depicting its development shows an escalating civil war within societies.

  • No previous ruling class could ensure the basic existence of the oppressed class. Similarly, the bourgeoisie is unfit to rule as it cannot prevent the proletariat from sinking into pauperism.

  • The conditions for capital accumulation (wage labor) will be replaced by the revolutionary combination of associated laborers, undermining the bourgeoisie’s basis of production and appropriation. Their downfall and the victory of the proletariat are inevitable.

  • Communists and other proletarian parties share the immediate goal of overthrowing bourgeois supremacy. Communists uniquely advocate the global, long-term interests of the working class movement and understand its overall direction and consequences.

  • Wage labor allows workers to only earn enough for a bare existence to reproduce their labor. Their labor primarily exists to increase capital for the ruling class.

  • In communist society, accumulated labor (capital) would serve to widen and enrich workers’ existence, rather than the present dominating the past as in bourgeois society.

  • Bourgeois individuality, independence, and freedom refer to things like private property and free trade, which would be abolished under communism.

  • Private property already does not exist for the vast majority in current society due to being subjugated by the few property owners. Communism aims to abolish this unequal form of property.

  • Objections that work will cease under communism are invalid - work is necessary now only to produce capital, not under a system without capital.

  • The bourgeois conceptions of family, culture, law, etc. are based on capitalist modes of production and property relations, not universal or eternal standards.

  • The bourgeois family exists to exploit children’s labor and in modern times family ties are torn apart for proletarians. Communism aims to abolish this exploitation, not the family itself.

  • National differences will vanish as exploitation between people and nations is abolished under proletarian supremacy and united international action of workers.

This passage summarizes Marx’s views on how intellectual production changes with material production and the ruling ideas of different eras. Some key points:

  • The ruling ideas of each age reflect the ideas of the ruling class of that time. As the economic base changes, so do the prevailing ideas and ideologies.

  • When new social elements emerge within the old society, it leads to dissolution of old ideas and emergence of new ones. For example, Christian ideas replacing ancient religions as feudal society emerged, and rationalism replacing Christianity as capitalist society developed.

  • The most radical rupture with traditional ideas comes with the Communist revolution, which aims to overthrow private property and existing social relations.

  • Past societies have all been based on class antagonisms and exploitation of one class by another. This shapes the common framework of social consciousness across different ages and forms of society.

  • As class antagonisms are removed under Communism, political power will lose its character as organized power of one class over others. Class divisions will disappear along with the conditions that produced them.

So in summary, it presents Marx’s view that intellectual production and ruling ideas are shaped by and change with the material/economic base of society and the dominant modes of production. The Communist revolution aims to decisively break from previous ideas through abolishing class divisions altogether.

This passage summarizes the development of early forms of socialism according to Marx:

  • Petty-bourgeois socialism arose, advocating for the interests of the peasant and petty bourgeois classes against the bourgeoisie. It hoped to reform or constrain modern production within old property relations. However, it was ultimately reactionary and utopian.

  • German or “true” socialism appropriated French socialist literature but divorced it from its revolutionary class struggle context. It presented socialist ideas through an idealist philosophical lens rather than recognizing class interests. It served the interests of the German petite bourgeoisie and reactionary governments against the rising bourgeois class.

  • Conservative or bourgeois socialism sought to address social grievances to preserve bourgeois society. It included economic and social reformers who wanted modern advantages without struggle or disruption. They wanted a harmonious bourgeoisie without antagonist proletariat. Alternatively, it aimed to discourage revolutionary politics and push only administrative and economic reforms within existing bourgeois relations.

So in summary, it traces the early development and shortcomings of different early socialist schools according to Marx’s theory of historical materialism and class struggle.

  • Critiques forms of utopian and communist socialism that emerged in the early 19th century, seeing them as reactionary for proposing unrealistic perfect societies detached from the real class struggle.

  • Says these early socialists did not understand the developing class antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat and sought to appeal to all of society rather than focus on the emancipation of the working class.

  • Over time, the followers of these early socialists sank into reactionary positions opposing all political action by the working class.

  • Outlines how communists should support existing working class parties and revolutionary movements wherever they occur, bringing attention to the property/class question and pushing for proletarian revolution after bourgeois revolution.

  • States communists will openly advocate the forcible overthrow of the existing social order and establishment of communism, as the proletariat has nothing to lose but their chains. Calls all working men to unite internationally.

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