The Communist Manifesto is a document by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels describing the goals and methods of the struggle of communist organizations against the capitalist class society. This work emerged in a collaboration between the two authors, culminating in the publication of the first version of the Manifesto in 1848 in London (Marx and Engels 2). It was intended for a broad audience interested in socialism or Marxism and directed at the working class. The purpose of the Manifesto was a detailed analysis of the society’s structure and the presentation of communist ideas in the authors’ vision. Under the slogans expressed by Marx and Engels, the proletariat had to gather and repulse the bourgeois system. This document is one of the most important and influential historical documents of the 19th century. However, it must be viewed in the context of the appropriate time and other sources. This paper aims to prove this thesis by analyzing the corresponding source.
The Communist Manifesto document was written during a time of political turmoil. In the middle of the 19th century, Europe’s monarchies were being replaced by “liberal democracies,” governments administered by elected officials. This movement set out to improve the systems that had ruled before them. However, Marx and Engels believed these governments failed to address society’s fundamental problems. They continued to exist since more workers were willing to be exploited by capitalists who demanded their services.
These problems were one of the main reasons why Marx and Engels wrote this Manifesto. The class struggle, which is an integral part of society, according to the authors, was not abolished with the advent of capitalism. As Marx and Engels wrote (15), “It has merely established new classes, new conditions of oppression.” Despite the absence of slavery per se, the workers under capitalism were not allowed to advance or better themselves. They still lived in poverty, never having enough money, even for the necessities of life.
The novelty of Marx’s and Engels’ ideas was that while most people wanted minor reforms within capitalism, the two authors believed that only a violent revolution could bring about massive changes. Such statements are clearly expressed in their call at the end of the Manifesto: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution” (Marx and Engels 37). This sentence does not necessarily imply destroying everything. Instead, this revolution would give an opportunity of creating equal conditions for living and working. The authors wanted to change the views that had been rooted in contemporary society on capitalism.
One flaw identified within this argument is that Marx and Engels’ idea of violent revolution is vague. They were not given a chance to see their vision come to fruition, and the ideas of outside people were not considered when drafting this document. It is difficult for people who did not live in those times to comprehend how thousands of individuals could be so committed to something they are willing to fight for violently. Because of this, independently, the Communist Manifesto is not the most reliable source for researching the past. It is necessary to study other sources from this period to form a fuller picture.
The Manifesto was an informative pamphlet for people who wanted to know more about socialism and related to other systems. It provides more theoretical information, which could help someone get a clear view of each system’s possible advantages and disadvantages. However, this source is not entirely reliable since it was published by someone who wholly supported socialism and the communist revolution. The authors did not detail why they believed in their views, even though the reader can feel they seemed genuinely interested in helping people and how different types of governments worked. Nevertheless, it makes this source less neutral without regard to biases.
This document is highly significant from a historical perspective since it is one of the first statements about the active struggle against capitalism. Marx and Engels saw the possibilities of another system, socialism, that would give equal opportunity to all citizens. It essentially meant government control over production and capital would provide the workers with equitable distribution and end class distinctions. By examining primary source documents such as the Communist Manifesto, historians may understand why some individuals thought as they did. This source provides the most detailed set of guidelines for communist organizations that many other politicians have used. Thus, using the Manifesto, one can trace the stages of the formation of the communist movement in its various manifestations based on existing statements and ideas.
On the other hand, analyzing these sources requires reading multiple related pieces about a given topic or time frame to understand the documents’ contexts. The need for a comprehensive analysis imposes significant restrictions on a detailed study of this source, making examining communism’s origins difficult. Finally, the Communist Manifesto alone cannot help researchers and historians understand why Marx and Engels advocate these views. To do this, one will have to delve deeper into history, studying the details of the interaction of these two characters and their paths.
Thus, although the Communist Manifesto is an outstanding historical document, its separate study can be complex and not valuable enough. A critical analysis of this source further confirms the materials and topics studied in the courses. History is not a finished product, and it cannot be analyzed based on one document. There are many people and interactions behind every historical event. In this context, the Communist Manifesto links to the course materials, demonstrating how cultures from different worlds merge and form a new movement. Thanks to this source, I better understood the principles of the relationship between various historical elements and the need for historical analysis for a deeper understanding of past events.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition. Edited by Mark Cowling, Edinburgh University Press, 1998.