The Communist Manifesto Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 30 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Communist Manifesto.
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The Communist Manifesto Summary & Study Guide Description

The Communist Manifesto Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party, informally the Communist Manifesto, was authored in 1847 by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels at the request of the Communist League. As established by latter writings of Engels, Marx provided the dominant philosophy and performed the bulk of the writing. The document so produced summarized the philosophical platform of the Communist party and was originally published in German in 1848.

The document is divided into four major parts; the third major part is further subdivided into smaller units. The first authorized printing featured a brief preface entitled 1848; subsequent authorized printings carried this tradition forward and featured preface text by one or both of the original authors. The document was intended to be brief but authoritative and, it was hoped, would circulate amongst many nationalities and languages. The success of the document was great but proceeded slowly. It was published in so many translations, editions, and revisions that from time to time the authors were compelled to issue 'authorized' printings—usually in the German language.

The first part of the document considers the antagonistic relationship of the bourgeois and the proletariat. The philosophy is somewhat abstracted but also features historical examples and presents a brief but intelligible recounting of the socio-economic forces which led to the dissolution of feudalism and the establishment of the bourgeoisie. The second part of the document considers the supportive relationship of the proletariat and Communism. This section is predominantly concerned with apologizing to many of the theoretical attacks against Communism then obtaining. It also seeks to establish as fact the benefits to the proletariat of wholesale adoption of Communist thought. This second part of the document concludes with a list of demands espoused by Communists. It is the contemporaneous segment of the document and many later prefaces expanded or clarified the principles discussed.

The third part of the document focuses on an examination of socialist and Communist literature, or theory and philosophy. It is itself divided and subdivided into sections that very briefly analyze then-current socialist movements. The eventual successes of Communism and the widespread adoption of Communist thinking led to the utter collapse of systems and theories herein deemed insufficient or wrong-headed. This is singularly interesting when one reviews the gradual fusion of Communist and elements of socialist theory from a historical retrospective. This part of the document rapidly became dated and many of the groups or associations described are today virtually unknown. Many modern editions of the Manifesto of the Communist Party feature extensive explanatory notes regarding several of the people and associations critiqued. The fourth and final part of the document examines the relationship between the Communists and the then-existing opposition parties. The document suggests that Communism might function as a sort of umbrella under which other opposition parties could merge to achieve greater and more-durable successes. At the time of the document's publication this probably appeared laughable due to the relative insignificance of Communist thought—the ensuing century and a half, however, have proved instructive.

Over the ensuing decades a handful of 'authorized' printings of the document in various languages were performed. These included preface text written issued jointly by the original authors until the time of Marx's death whereupon they were issued solely by Engels. Most modern printings of the document include all of these 'authorized' edition prefaces.

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