A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcize this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police spies. . .
Originally published on the eve of the 1848 European revolutions, The Communist Manifesto is a condensed and incisive account of the worldview Marx and Engels developed during their hectic intellectual and political collaboration. Formulating the principles of dialectical materialism, they believed that labor creates wealth, hence capitalism is exploitive and antithetical to freedom.
Born in Trier in the Rhineland in 1818, Karl Marx was the son of a Jewish lawyer, recently converted to Christianity. As a student in Bonn and Berlin, Marx studied law and then philosophy. He joined with the Young Hegelians, the most radical of Hegel’s followers, in denying that Hegel’s philosophy could be reconciled with Christianity or the existing State. Forced out of university by his radicalism, he became a journalist and, soon after, a socialist. He left Prussia for Paris and then Brussels, where he stayed until 1848. In 1844 he began his collaboration with Friedrich Engels and developed a new theory of communism to be brought into being by a proletarian revolution. This theory was brilliantly outlined in The Communist Manifesto. Marx participated in the 1848 revolutions as a newspaper editor in Cologne. Exiled together with his family to London, he tried to make a living writing for the New York Herald Tribune and other journals, but remained financially dependent on Engels. His researches in the British Museum were aimed at underpinning his conception of communism with a theory of history that demonstrated that capitalism was a transient economic form destined to break down and be superseded by a society without classes, private property or state authority. This study was never completed, but its first part, which was published as Capital in 1867, established him as the principal theorist of revolutionary socialism. He died in London in 1883.
Born in Westphalia in 1820, Friedrich Engels was the son of a textile manufacturer. After military training in Berlin and already a convert to communism, Engels went to Manchester in 1842 to represent the family firm. A relationship with a mill-hand, Mary Burns, and friendship with local Owenites and Chartists helped to inspire his famous early work, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. Collaboration with Marx began in 1844 and in 1847 he composed the first drafts of the Manifesto. After playing an active part in the German revolutions, Engels returned to work in Manchester until 1870, when he moved to London. He not only helped Marx financially, but reinforced their shared position through his own expositions of the new theory. After Marx’s death, he prepared the unfinished volumes of Capital for publication. He died in London in 1895.