The Communist Manifesto

by Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx

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Why did Marx and Engels advocate communism in The Communist Manifesto in 1848?

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Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) were German philosophers who had a profound impact on the course of twentieth-century history. Although Marx became more famous than Engels, their collaboration was a real and epochal partnership.

Prior to meeting Engels in 1844, Marx was a vagabond who moved a lot. An average student, he did not do well at the University of Bonn, where he got into trouble from drinking and dueling. He then studied at the University of Berlin and became involved with the Young Hegelians. In 1842, Marx received a doctorate, but he could not obtain a permanent position. Engels came from a well-off family, and he was not as itinerant as his future partner. Engels supported Marx and his large family after the 1840s.

A series of events in the 1840s led to the publication of The Communist Manifesto. First, in Paris, Marx published the short-lived German-French Annals. Engels contributed an article to the Annals, and a life-long partnership began. Second, the two men came under the influence of Moses Hess; Hess introduced the two men to socialism. Finally, in 1847, the London-based Communist League asked Marx and Engels to write their manifesto. The result was The Communist Manifesto of 1848.

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The Communist Manifesto was written by Marx and Engels to provide a political platform for an organization called the Communist League. As well as being intellectuals and theorists, Marx and Engels were also practical political figures and wanted to spur the working-classes and their representatives into action. The year in which the Manifesto was written, 1848, was a time of great revolutionary turmoil throughout Europe, with numerous uprisings challenging the prevailing political order. Although few of these revolutions were explicitly socialist, Marx and Engels were keen to channel the disruptive energies they unleashed in a decidedly radical and socialist direction.

They saw the time as ripe for a full-scale socialist revolution across the length and breadth of the European continent. Industrial capitalism had advanced rapidly, generating enormous wealth as well as grinding, degrading poverty. In writing their Manifesto, Marx and Engels sought to exploit capitalism's evident contradictions to overthrow the existing economic system and replace it with one that they believed would allow working men and women to recover their fundamental humanity.

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The reason for this is that the Industrial Revolution was intensifying and changing the lives of workers all over Europe.  By the middle of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution had taken hold all over Europe.  This lead to a negative impacts on the lives of workers.  Workers lost their control over when and how hard they worked.  Instead, they worked when and how their bosses told them to.  Increasingly, the bosses and factory owners got the lion's share of the wealth created in the factories.  Because of these changes, Marx and Engels were inspired to write The Communist Manifestoin an effort to promote a system that, they thought, would treat the workers more justly.

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