PART 4: Preface to the German Edition of 1890

Since the above was written, a new German edition of the Manifesto has again become necessary, and much has also happened to the Manifesto which should be recorded here.

A second Russian translation – by Vera Zasulich – appeared at Geneva in 1882; the preface to that edition was written by Marx and myself. Unfortunately, the original German manuscript has gone astray; I must therefore re-translate from the Russian which will in no way improve the text. It reads:

“The first Russian edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Bakunin’s translation, was published early in the ‘sixties by the printing offices of the Kolokol. At that date a Russian edition of the Manifesto had for the West the significance, at most, of a literary curiosity. Today such a view is no longer possible. How limited the area of the spread of the proletarian movement was at the time the Manifesto was first published (January, 1848) is best shown by the last section, The Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Opposition Parties. Russia and the United States above all are missing. It was the time when Russia constituted the last great reserve of European reaction and when emigration to the United States absorbed the surplus forces of the European proletariat. Both countries provided Europe with raw materials, and served at the same time as markets for the sale of its industrial products. Both appeared therefore, in one way or another, as pillars of the European social order.

“What a change has taken place since then! Precisely European emigration has made possible the gigantic growth of agriculture in North America, which through its competition is shaking the very foundations of great and small landed property in Europe. At the same time it enabled the United States to begin the exploitation of its abundant industrial re-sources, and with such energy and on such a scale that in a short time it must put an end to the industrial monopoly of Western Europe. These two circumstances react in turn upon America in a revolutionary sense. More and more the small and middle land ownership of the independent farmers, the basis of the whole political system of America, is succumbing to the competition of giant farms, while simultaneously a numerous proletariat is emerging for the first time in the industrial regions alongside a fabulous concentration of capital.

“Let us now turn to Russia. At the time of the Revolution of 1848-49, not only the European monarchs, but the European bourgeois as well, looked upon Russian intervention as the only salvation from the proletariat, then for the first time becoming aware of its own strength. The Tsar was acclaimed the leader of European reaction. Today he sits in Gatchina, a prisoner of war of the revolution, and Russia forms the vanguard of the revolutionary movement in Europe.

“The object of the Communist Manifesto was to claim the inevitable impending downfall of present day bourgeois property. But in Russia we find – side by side with the feverishly growing capitalist system and the bourgeois land ownership just beginning take shape – more than half the land owned in cor mon by the peasant.

“Now the question is: can the Russian peasa community, this form of primaeval common ownership of land, although already very much disintegrated, pass directly to a higher communist form land ownership or must it first pass through the same process of dissolution represented in the historical evolution of the West?

“The only answer to this question possible today is the following. If the Russian Revolution become the signal for a workers’ revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russia common ownership of land may then serve as starting point for a communist development.
“London, 21 January 1882.”

At about the same date, a new Polish version appeared in Geneva: Manifest Kommunistyczny.
Furthermore, a new Danish translation has appeared in the Socialdemokratisk Bibliothek, Copenhagen, 1885. Unfortunately it is not quite completed certain essential passages, which seem to have presented difficulties to the translator, have been omitted and in addition there are signs of carelessness here and there, which are all the more unpleasantly conspicuous since the translation indicates that had the translator taken a little more pains he would have done an excellent piece of work.

A new French version appeared in 1886 in Le Socialiste of Paris; it is the best published to date.
From this latter a Spanish version was published the same year in El Socialista of Madrid, and then reissued in pamphlet form: Manifesto del Partido Communista por Carlos Marx y F. Engels, Madrid, Administracion de El Socialista, Hernan Cortes.

As a matter of curiosity I may mention that in 1887 the manuscript of an Armenian translation was offered to a publisher in Constantinople. But the good man did not have the courage to publish something bearing the name of Marx and suggested that the translator set down his own name as author, which the latter however declined.

After one and then another of the more or less inaccurate American translations had been repeatedly reprinted in England, an authentic version at last appeared in 1888. This was by my friend Samuel Moore and we went through it together once more before it was sent to press. It is entitled: Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Authorised English translation, edited and annotated by Frederick Engels, 1888, London, William Reeves, 185 Fleet Street, E.C. I have added some of the notes of that edition to the present one.

The Manifesto has had a history of its own. Greeted with enthusiasm, at the time of its appearance, by the not at all numerous vanguard of scientific social-ism (as is proved by the translations mentioned in the first preface), it was soon forced into the back-ground by the reaction that began with the defeat of the Paris workers in June, 1848, and was finally excommunicated “by law” in the conviction of the Cologne Communists in November, 1852. With the disappearance from the public scene of the workers’ movement that had begun with the February Revolution, the Manifesto too passed into the background.

When the European workers had again gathered sufficient strength for a new onslaught upon the power of the ruling classes, the International Working Men’s Association came into being. Its aim was to weld together into one huge army the whole militant working class of Europe and America. Therefore it could not set out from the principles laid down in the Manifesto. It was bound to have a programme which would not shut the door on the English trade unions, the French, Belgian, Italian, and Spanish Proudhonists and the German Lassalleans. This programme—the considerations underlying the Statutes of the International—was drawn up by Marx with a master hand acknowledged even by Bakunin and the anarchists. For the ultimate final triumph of the ideas set forth in the Manifesto, Marx relied solely upon the intellectual development of the working class, as it necessarily had to ensue from united action and discussion. The events and vicissitudes in the struggle against capital, the defeats even more than the successes, could not but demonstrate to the fighters the inadequacy of their former universal panaceas and make their minds more receptive to a thorough understanding of the true conditions for working-class emancipation. And Marx was right. The working class of 1874, at the dissolution of the International, was altogether different from that of 1864, at its foundation. Proudhonism in the Latin countries and the specific Lassalleanism in Germany were dying out, and even the then arch-conservative English trade unions were gradually approaching the point where in 1887 the chairman of their Swansea Congress could say in their name: “Continental socialism has lost its terrors for us.” Yet by 1887 continental socialism was almost exclusively the theory heralded in the Manifesto. Thus, to a certain extent, the history of the Manifesto reflects the history of the modern working-class movement since 1848. At present it is doubtless the most widely circulated, the most international product of all socialist literature, the common programme of many millions of workers of all countries from Siberia to California.

Nevertheless, when it appeared we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. In 1847 two kinds of people were considered socialists. On one hand were the adherents of the various Utopian systems, notably the Owenites in England and the Fourierists in France, both of whom at that date had already dwindled to mere sects gradually dying out. On the other, the manifold types of social quacks who wanted to eliminate social abuses through their various universal panaceas and all kinds of patch-work, without hurting capital and profit in the least. In both cases, people who stood outside the labour movement and who looked for support rather to the “educated” classes. The section of the working class, however, which demanded a radical reconstruction of society, convinced that mere political revolutions were not enough, then called itself Communist. It was still a rough-hewn, only instinctive and frequently some-what crude communism. Yet it was powerful enough to bring into being two systems of Utopian communism in France the “Icarian” communism of Cabet, and in Germany that of Weitling.

Socialism in 1847 signified a bourgeois movement, communism a working-class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, quite respectable, whereas communism was the very opposite. And since we were very decidedly of the opinion as early as then that “the emancipation of the workers must be the task of the working class itself,” we could have no hesitation as to which of the two names we should choose. Nor has it ever occurred to us to repudiate it.

“Working men of all countries, unite!” But few voices responded when we proclaimed these words to the world forty-two years ago, on the eve of the first Paris Revolution in which the proletariat came out with the demands of its own. On 28 September 1864, however, the proletarians of most of the Western European countries joined hands in the International Working Men’s Association of glorious memory. True, the International itself lived only nine years. But that the eternal union of the proletarians of all countries created by it is still alive and lives stronger than ever, there is no better witness than this day. Because to-day, as I write these lines, the European and American proletariat is reviewing its fighting forces, mobilised for the first time, mobilised as one army, under one flag, for one immediate aim: the standard eight-hour working day to be established by legal enactment, as proclaimed by the Geneva Congress of the International in 1866, and again by the Paris Workers’ Congress in 1889. And to-day’s spectacle will open the eyes of the capitalists and landlords of all countries to the fact that today the proletarians of all countries are united indeed.

If only Marx were still by my side to see this with his own eyes!

London, 1 May, 1890.

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