Study Guide: Manifesto of the Communist Party

Manifesto of the Communist Party
Study Guide

Preparatory Reading:
An earlier draft: Principles of Communism (November 1847)

I: Bourgeois and Proletarians

People: Metternich, Guizot, Morgan.
Terms: Class & Class struggle, Feudal Society, Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Free Trade, Market, Commodification, Capital, Productive Forces.

Questions for discussion:
1. Why and how do Marx and Engels praise capitalism in this chapter?
2. The word “commodification” was not invented until recently, but do you think that this chapter is talking about commodification?
3. What does the Manifesto tell us about the how the proletariat changes as capitalism develops and in making the revolution?
4. What are Marx and Engels saying about “globalisation” in this chapter?

II: Proletarians and Communists

Terms: Party, sectarianism, State, Property, Private Property, Freedom, Wage Labour, Individualism, Women's Liberation, Democracy, Socialism.

Questions for discussion:
1. What do Marx and Engels mean by the Communists not forming a separate party?
2. What do Marx and Engels mean by abolition of private property and how do they answer the various refutations of this program
3. What does the Manifesto mean by “winning the battle of democracy”?
4. Stalin claimed that the 10-point program had been achieved in the Soviet Union by the mid-1930s. Do you think this claim is valid?
5. How many of point in the 10-point program have been achieved by the working class in your country? If some of the points have been achieved under capitalism, what does this fact tell you about the Communist Manifesto? Why is it that some have been at least partially achieved, and yet some seem as far away as ever?
6. What do you think an anarchist or a reformist would make of the last part of this chapter? Do you think they would agree, and if not why not?
7. How would you describe the concept of Freedom put forward in this chapter?

III: Socialist and Communist Literature

Terms: Reformism, Middle Class, Petit-bourgeois, Utopia, Division of Labour.

Questions for discussion:
1. What sort of criticism were "feudal socialists" making of capitalism, and do you know anyone like that today?
2. What sort of "socialism" is envisaged by "petty bourgeois socialists" and do you know of any parties like this today?
3. What is wrong with "true socialism" and do you know anyone like that today?

IV: Position of Communists in Relation to Various Parties

Terms: Chartists. Social Democracy.
Questions for discussion:
1. Can you recite the last paragraph of the Manifesto?

Prefaces to Various Editions

Questions for discussion:
1. What important change was made in the Manifesto in 1872 and what event brought about this amendment?
2. How did Marx and Engels rate the chances of communism in Germany, England, America and Russia?

Further Reading:
When the Manifesto was written: The June (1848) Revolution.
The early working out of the historical perspective: The German Ideology.

Andy Blunden, 2002