The “Communist Manifesto” was a product of the social, political and economic conditions that prevailed in the world 175 years ago, when capitalist relations of production were consolidated and experienced galloping development.
After the founding of the “Union of the Right” by German political exiles in 1836-1837 as a first attempt at political organization of the working class, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels took the initiative to reorganize the “E.D.” and renaming it to “Union of Communists”.
The 2nd Congress of the Communist League took the decision in 1847 to commission the two German philosophers to work out the Union’s program. Thus emerged the Communist Manifesto as its theoretical and political guidance.
Capitalism, within the then historical conditions and succeeding the feudal mode of production, was considered as a more progressive system, compared to the previous one. This new economic system established its dominance mainly in the developed countries of Europe such as France, Germany and England. Through the great technological development that came after the industrial revolution, as well as the scientific and engineering discoveries of the time, the productive forces were greatly assisted as there was a heavy influx of workers into the urban industrial centers and the economy made significant strides.
But inequalities were by no means eliminated by the development of the new, more “progressive” system. On the contrary, the tradition of the previous system of production continued, that is, the exploitation of the working class and the large part of society by the few bourgeois who owned the means of production.
This ongoing social injustice has pushed the less favored and the wronged to demand better living conditions. In the countries where capitalism was highly developed, there were uprisings to assert the demands of the people, such as the Chartist movement in England and the Weavers’ Revolts in Lyon, France in the 1830s and 1840s. Now the working class had shown that it entered the foreground of historical becoming and was not limited to a passive role. Tounantion, the assertion of her demands had begun, however the political force that would guide these struggles was absent.
Along with the development of industrial capital, groups of philosophers and other “enlightened” people who criticized the capitalist mode of production came to the fore. After the French Revolution, for example, this criticism took the form of “utopian socialism” and a system of ideas developed based on the notion that the upgrading of the educational level of the people, technological development, the moral regeneration of people and the rational organization of production and society, were sufficient by themselves to eliminate social inequalities.
However, this was far from reality. The two philosophers, Marx and Engels, saw clearly beyond the utopianism of the particular socialists and raised the question of the organization of the working class and the struggle against the exploitative capitalist system, on a new and scientific basis.
However, what is mentioned in the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, cannot be realized if first of all the working class does not assume its historical role. As they wrote: “Proletarians of all countries unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.’
The Communist Manifesto, by extension, is a product for the purposes of outlining a political program and as such, its messages are condensed and deal with a series of issues. Some of these are the description of the conditions of the time and the dynamics created for the future, the aims and objectives of the movement and others. In this text, we will be concerned with the part of the book that relates to the duties of communists.
The framework within which the communists must act can be read in the previous texts. For better coherence, here we briefly quote the general trends that this (framework) analyzed by Marx and Engels. Most basic of all is that history evolves through the transition from one economic system (“lower”, e.g. feudalism) to a “higher” one (e.g. capitalism) and this happens when the productive forces evolve into such extent that the production relations of the economic system limit them. The basic driving force of history is the class struggle, at every historical stage, where the rising class overthrows the previous relations of production and puts them on the higher stage.
The class which in the framework of the capitalist economy is characterized as the rising, therefore the revolutionary agent of change, is the working class – the workers. Those who do not own the means of production but operate them, thereby producing surplus value from which the owner of the means of production, the employer-bourgeois, makes his profit. Thus in the capitalist economy there are two main social classes which are in opposition. In order to solve the opposition and to develop the society as a whole to a new stage of development, that of the socialist-communist, at the level of the economy, the ownership of the means of production must pass from individual to social.
“Communists are working everywhere for the connection and understanding of the democratic parties of all countries.”
Priority is the awareness of the working class as such. The task of the communists, as the most conscious, pioneering and revolutionary part of this class, is to organize and actively participate in the process of realizing the workers as a class, putting forward the common interests, the common exploitation that exists and crystallizing the common enemy.
At the same time, they intend to lead the struggles of their class, participating as pioneer fighters and not as professors. These struggles are not limited only to the strategic goal, which is to build another economic base for society. On the contrary, it is simultaneously a struggle for the immediate, daily problems faced by workers, a struggle for democracy, for the capture of political power and the end of economic power. For this purpose, communists must openly state their goals, always based on the theoretical elaboration that makes them (these goals) not wishful thinking but historical necessities.
Within this framework, insofar as the struggle is for the immediate, on a tactical level, the communists are allied with forces which at this stage have to some extent common or complementary goals.
“In France, the communists side with the socialist-democratic party against the conservative and radical bourgeoisie, without, however, renouncing the right to criticize the phrases and delusions that have their origin in the revolutionary tradition” […] In Germany, every time the bourgeoisie manifests itself in revolution, the Communist Party fights together with the bourgeoisie against absolute monarchy, against feudal landlordism and petty bourgeoisie”.
The purpose is to win victories for the workers, to politicize the climate and the masses by increasing their consciousness as a single class and the sharpening of relations with the bourgeoisie. At the same time, they should remain faithful to the strategic purpose of the revolutionary process and the socialist transformation of society, always clearly defining the class enemy. To do this it is necessary that they maintain their independence.
It is clear that in addition to the conflict with the immediate class enemy, an ideological struggle is necessary with concepts and practices that are attempted to be introduced into the workers and are foreign to their interests.
As we mentioned before, Marx and Engels focus on the two basic classes, the struggle between which will solve the current opposition that characterizes the capitalist system and will open the further development of the productive forces, within the framework of socialism-communism. Thus, the classics described in the chapter “in every Nation”, there are two “nations”: the oppressor and the oppressed. In what it oppresses, its ruling class tries to reduce its interest to a national and unified interest, supposedly of the whole people.
“The struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, if not in content, in form, is national in origin. Of course, the proletariat of each country must disentangle itself, first of all, from its own bourgeoisie.”
It is becoming clear, especially nowadays, that the supposed differences between “A” and “B” nation or state are no more than the differences between the bourgeoisie of “A” nation or state and “B”.
The oppressed “nation” suffers the same exploitation as all nations within the capitalist relations of production. Therefore, in addition to the struggle in their own country, the workers should be in coordinated and solidarity action with other “nations” who are oppressed in other countries, since they do not identify with the predatory interests of “their” bourgeoisie. Instead, they share the same class enemy and strategic goal. Internationalism has a central character in the action of the communists.
In closing, we should underline the use of the basic tools of the Marxist-Leninist worldview and especially the materialist dialectical approach. We must approach the phenomena in their historical context and within their particular circumstances.
“Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political situation.”
Nothing is static and detached from the other. Thus, even the tasks as described above do not stand alone and independently from each other. The struggle for the “immediate” develops the degree of solidarity of the working class and the workers. The more workers realize themselves as such, the more acute these struggles become. At the same time, it brings about quantitative changes that make qualitative change, the revolutionary leap, more possible.
The importance of the Communist Manifesto becomes more apparent if we consider the events it inspired, the milestones in popular and labor history that were influenced by the book’s messages, and the political, ideological and social impact it had on human history.
Literally, in the years that followed the writing and publication of the book and the dissemination of Marx and Engels’ revolutionary ideas about the role and tasks of the Communist Party, we find scattered throughout history events of great popular mobilizations and revolutions. The content of the book gave the impetus to the communists and the working class in general to realize their leading role in society.
The first example of the consciousness of the working class and its organization with the aim of establishing worker-popular power was the Paris Commune in 1871. The Commune was born out of the ashes of the Franco-Prussian war and the proletariat for the first time in the history of mankind succeeded to take, even for a short time, the power in his hands. The French insurgent people faced with the economic and social impoverishment and the national humiliation of the war, occupied the Paris City Hall and raised the red flag. On March 28, the Paris Commune was solemnly elected, which lasted only 70 days but offered the world proletariat important lessons, which illuminate its theory and action to this day.
“You accuse us, then, because we want to abolish a property which presupposes as a condition the lack of property for the vast majority of society.”
The most brilliant example of the power of the working class with the Communists in the vanguard of its struggles took place in Czarist Russia in 1917 with the Great October Socialist Revolution. On the evening of October 25, 1917, November 7 in the new calendar, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, rising to the podium of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, proclaimed: “The socialist revolution that the Bolsheviks always talked about has been accomplished!” That declaration was the notarial act of the birth of a new era for the entire world. The era of humanity’s transition from capitalism to socialism. The revolution freed the working class from the shackles of exploitation. It paved the way for meeting the needs of the people and further improving the standard of living, for public free medical care and education for all, for the provision of housing for all the people, for full access to intellectual and cultural creation, for the elevation of the role the woman’s. The revolution in Russia and the creation of the first worker-peasant state in the history of mankind was the stark confirmation of what Marx and Engels wrote in the Manifesto:
“The Communists are the most determined section of the labor parties of all countries, the section that always moves them forward.”
The flame of the October Revolution spread to Germany with the Spartacist Uprising in 1918. The German people, who counted one hundred and two dead and experienced economic impoverishment as a result of the imperialist World War I, broke out in strike movements. The reactions quickly grew, around which millions of soldiers and workers rallied across the country. The leaders of the popular protests were the “Spartakists”, led by the communists Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. In many German cities revolutionary nuclei and soviets were created, projecting labor and anti-war slogans. However, after the treacherous collaboration of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, in which the “Spartacus Union” acted as a faction, along with the bourgeoisie and a portion of reactionary officials, the counter-revolution regrouped and launched a counter-attack against the revolted people. The betrayal of the social democrats has matured the objective need for the creation of an independent and militant communist party in the country, which will be the genuine expression of the interests of the German people. Liebknecht and Luxemburg led this effort, but the counter-revolutionary action that was menacingly tightening the cord against the vanguard fighters of the communist movement, succeeded a few months later in arresting the two people-born leaders. In the cavalry division staff prisons, officers murdered Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Once again, despite the tragic outcome of the Spartacist uprising, what Marx-Engels wrote years before was confirmed. Only the communist party can lead the masses of the people on the path of rebellion and liberation from the shackles of economic and social impoverishment entailed by capitalism.
Marx and Engels, through the Manifesto, outlined the basic tasks of the Communist Party as the vanguard of the working class. Armed with the vanguard of communist theory, the Party constitutes the revolutionary subject of society. The knowledge of social development and the material conditions of production, combined with the perception of the need to organize the masses, impose on the Party its guiding character – they define it as the heart and mind of the working class, as the only part of society , capable of leading the struggle for conflict with historically outdated capitalism.
In this course, the communist party does not follow a lonely path, separate from the rest of society. On the contrary, communists are a cornerstone of society and economic production – participating, leading and influencing the political and social development of their time.
Their action goes beyond the limits of simple theorizing and develops a broad intervention in social events. Even when conditions do not impose the immediate task of socialist revolution, communists do not cease to put forward the daily needs and small and large demands of the workers. They never stop having the improvement of society’s material living conditions at the forefront of their struggle. As the two theorists clearly describe:
“They fight to achieve the immediate goals and interests of the working class, but in today’s movement they also represent the future of the movement.”
Precisely because of this deeply radical character of the communist party, the Marxist worldview continues to this day to receive tons of mud and questioning. The relevance of Socialism-Communism and its necessity in the current conditions that humanity is experiencing, however, will not be judged by its reasonable opponents, let alone their arbitrary and misleading conclusions. Its topicality has already been judged by the objective development of history and everyday life.
Capitalism remains capitalism. 175 years to the day that our theorists described the tasks of the communist party, the working class continues to drive economic production, continues to produce surplus value that is reaped by those who own the means of production, and labor-capital antagonisms have sharpened to an even greater degree . At the same time, inflationary trends continue to squeeze the middle and weaker social strata downwards, the social and labor safety net is disappearing, and more and more people, all over the world, are being pushed to the brink of economic impoverishment.
“This little booklet is worth entire volumes. The entire organized and fighting proletariat lives and moves with his spirit.” – Vladimir Lenin
In the face of this modern brutality, a fundamental dilemma appears in the global labor movement: to maintain the existing stifling living conditions or to fight to improve living standards while creating the conditions for building a more just society.
Marx and Engels analyzed the exploitative nature of capitalism and bequeathed to humanity a wealth of scientific understanding of how it works. At the same time, by outlining the role of the militant vanguard of the working class – the communist party – they lit the way to rid society of rotten capitalist structures.
They revealed humanity’s radiant way into the future: Socialism-Communism.