Preface of the Comunist Manifesto Simplified Icon

April 30, 2022

The 1872 German Edition

History of the Manifesto

The Communist League is an international association of workers. It could only be secret one, under conditions at the time.

It has commissioned us, at the Congress held in London in November 1847, to publish a detailed theoretical and practical programme for the Party.

This led to the following Manifesto.

It was printed in London in German a few weeks before the February [French] Revolution [in 1848]. First published ,

It was published in English for the first time in 1850 in the Red Republican, London, and in 1871 in at least 3 different translations in America.

The french version first appeared in Paris shortly before the June insurrection of 1848, and recently in Le Socialiste of New York.

Karl Marx & Frederick Engels June 24, 1872, London

The 1882 Russian Edition

History of the Russian Manifesto

The first Russian edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, translated by Bakunin [A], was published early in the ’sixties by the printing office of the Kolokol [reference to the Free Russian Printing House].

Then the West could see in it (the Russian edition of the Manifesto) only a literary curiosity. Such a view would be impossible today.

What a limited field the proletarian movement occupied at that time (December 1847) is most clearly shown by the last section: the position of the Communists in relation to the various opposition parties in various countries. Precisely Russia and the United States are missing here.

It was the time when Russia constituted the last great reserve of all European reaction, when the United States absorbed the surplus proletarian forces of Europe through immigration. Both countries provided Europe with raw materials and were at the same time markets for the sale of its industrial products. Both were, therefore, in one way of another, pillars of the existing European system.

How very different today.

Precisely European immigration fitted North American for a gigantic agricultural production, whose competition is shaking the very foundations of European landed property — large and small.

At the same time, it enabled the US to exploit its tremendous industrial resources with an energy and on a scale that must shortly break the industrial monopoly of Western Europe, and especially of England, existing up to now. Both circumstances react in a revolutionary manner upon America itself.

Step by step, the small and middle land ownership of the farmers, the basis of the whole political constitution, is succumbing to the competition of giant farms; at the same time, a mass industrial proletariat and a fabulous concentration of capital funds are developing for the first time in the industrial regions.

And now Russia! During the Revolution of 1848-9, not only the European princes, but the European capitalist as well, found their only salvation from the proletariat just beginning to awaken in Russian intervention. The Tsar was proclaimed the chief of European reaction. Today, he is a prisoner of war of the revolution in Gatchina [B], and Russia forms the vanguard of revolutionary action in Europe.

The Communist Manifesto had, as its object, the proclamation of the inevitable impending dissolution of modern capitalist property. But in Russia we find, face-to-face with the rapidly flowering capitalist swindle and capitalist property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants.

Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.

Karl Marx & Frederick Engels January 21, 1882, London