By Frederick Engles
Published for Study in 2009 by
The FreeCapitalist Project
This text, Principles of Communism, was among the earliest drafts of Engels’ attempt to outline his philosophy. It was written when by Engels when he was only 27-years-old, and just prior to the European revolutions of 1848.
This work is the precursor to the world-famous Communist Manifesto and several other founding documents of the Socialist / Communist movement.
In the beginning, as Engles and Marx wrote back and forth describing their ideas and planning their efforts, this text was originally referred to by them as a “confession of faith” and as a “catechism.” For example, in one letter to Marx, dated 23-24 November 1847 Engles remarks:
“Think over the Confession of Faith a bit. I believe we had better drop the catechism form and call the thing: Communist Manifesto. As more or less history has got to be related in it, the form it has been in hitherto is quite unsuitable. I am bringing what I have done here with me; it is in simple narrative form, but miserably worded, in fearful haste….”
It outlines their critique of capitalism, which at the time was understood by them to mean the social, religious, political, and economic systems spreading across the globe in the “modern” post-enlightenment, post-reformation age-ultimately culminating in its most visible form in American Revolution. The text is the most significant and longest surviving influence on modern day movements that reject individual rights, religious rationality, private property, free enterprise / free competition, limited government and the political philosophy of republicanism.
[ NOTE: Questions 9 and 22 never had answers written; they have not been omitted herein. ]
The Principles of Communism
By Frederick Engles
– 1 –
What is Communism?
Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the
– 2 –
What is the proletariat?
The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the
sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital;
whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends
on the demand for labor — hence, on the changing state of business, on
the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of
proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.
– 3 –
Proletarians, then, have not always existed?
There have always been poor and working classes; and the working class
have mostly been poor. But there have not always been workers and poor
people living under conditions as they are today; in other words, there
have not always been proletarians, any more than there has always been
free unbridled competitions.
– 4 –
How did the proletariat originate?
The Proletariat originated in the industrial revolution, which took
place in England in the last half of the last (18th) century, and which
has since then been repeated in all the civilized countries of the
This industrial revolution was precipitated by the discovery of the
steam engine, various spinning machines, the mechanical loom, and a
whole series of other mechanical devices. These machines, which were
very expensive and hence could be bought only by big capitalists,
altered the whole mode of production and displaced the former workers,
because the machines turned out cheaper and better commodities than the
workers could produce with their inefficient spinning wheels and
handlooms. The machines delivered industry wholly into the hands of the
big capitalists and rendered entirely worthless the meagre property of
the workers (tools, looms, etc.). The result was that the capitalists
soon had everything in their hands and nothing remained to the workers.
This marked the introduction of the factory system into the textile
Once the impulse to the introduction of machinery and the factory
system had been given, this system spread quickly to all other branches
of industry, especially cloth- and book-printing, pottery, and the metal
Labor was more and more divided among the individual workers so that the
worker who previously had done a complete piece of work now did only a
part of that piece. This division of labor made it possible to produce
things faster and cheaper. It reduced the activity of the individual
worker to simple, endlessly repeated mechanical motions which could be
performed not only as well but much better by a machine. In this way,
all these industries fell, one after another, under the dominance of
steam, machinery, and the factory system, just as spinning and weaving
had already done.
But at the same time, they also fell into the hands of big capitalists,
and their workers were deprived of whatever independence remained to
them. Gradually, not only genuine manufacture but also handicrafts came
within the province of the factory system as big capitalists
increasingly displaced the small master craftsmen by setting up huge
workshops, which saved many expenses and permitted an elaborate division
This is how it has come about that in civilized countries at the
present time nearly all kinds of labor are performed in factories —
and, in nearly all branches of work, handicrafts and manufacture have
been superseded. This process has, to an ever greater degree, ruined
the old middle class, especially the small handicraftsmen; it has
entirely transformed the condition of the workers; and two new classes
have been created which are gradually swallowing up all the others.
(i) The class of big capitalists, who, in all civilized countries,
are already in almost exclusive possession of all the means of
subsistance and of the instruments (machines, factories) and
materials necessary for the production of the means of
subsistence. This is the bourgeois class, or the bourgeoisie.
(ii) The class of the wholly propertyless, who are obliged to sell
their labor to the bourgeoisie in order to get, in exchange, the
means of subsistence for their support. This is called the class
of proletarians, or the proletariat.
– 5 –
Under what conditions does
this sale of the labor of the proletarians to the bourgeoisie
Labor is a commodity, like any other, and its price is therefore
determined by exactly the same laws that apply to other commodities. In
a regime of big industry or of free competition — as we shall see, the
two come to the same thing — the price of a commodity is, on the
average, always equal to its cost of production. Hence, the price of
labor is also equal to the cost of production of labor.
But, the costs of production of labor consist of precisely the quantity
of means of subsistence necessary to enable the worker to continue
working, and to prevent the working class from dying out. The worker
will therefore get no more for his labor than is necessary for this
purpose; the price of labor, or the wage, will, in other words, be the
lowest, the minimum, required for the maintenance of life.
However, since business is sometimes better and sometimes worse, it
follows that the worker sometimes gets more and sometimes gets less for
his commodities. But, again, just as the industrialist, on the average
of good times and bad, gets no more and no less for his commodities than
what they cost, similarly on the average the worker gets no more and no
less than his minimum.
This economic law of wages operates the more strictly the greater the
degree to which big industry has taken possession of all branches of
– 6 –
What working classes were there
before the industrial revolution?
The working classes have always, according to the different stages of
development of society, lived in different circumstances and had
different relations to the owning and ruling classes.
In antiquity, the workers were the _slaves_ of the owners, just as they
still are in many backward countries and even in the southern part of
the United States.
In the Middle Ages, they were the _serfs_ of the land-owning nobility,
as they still are in Hungary, Poland, and Russia. In the Middle Ages,
and indeed right up to the industrial revolution, there were also
journeymen in the cities who worked in the service of petty bourgeois
masters. Gradually, as manufacture developed, these journeymen became
manufacturing workers who were even then employed by larger capitalists.
– 7 –
In what way do proletarians differ from slaves?
The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself
daily and hourly.
The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence,
however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The
individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois
class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no
secure existence. This existence is assured only to the _class_ as a
The slave is outside competition; the proletarian is in it and
experiences all its vagaries.
The slave counts as a thing, not as a member of society. Thus, the
slave can have a better existence than the proletarian, while the
proletarian belongs to a higher stage of social development and,
himself, stands on a higher social level than the slave.
The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property,
he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a
proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private
property in general.
– 8 –
In what way do proletarians differ from serfs?
The serf possesses and uses an instrument of production, a piece of
land, in exchange for which he gives up a part of his product or part of
the services of his labor.
The proletarian works with the instruments of production of another, for
the account of this other, in exchange for a part of the product.
The serf gives up, the proletarian receives.
The serf has an assured existence, the proletarian has not.
The serf is outside competition, the proletarian is in it.
The serf liberates himself in one of three ways: either he runs away to
the city and there becomes a handicraftsman; or, instead of products and
and services, he gives money to his lord and thereby becomes a free
tenant; or he overthrows his feudal lord and himself becomes a property
owner. In short, by one route or another, he gets into the owning class
and enters into competition. The proletarian liberates himself by
abolishing competition, private property, and all class differences.
– 9 –
In what way do
proletarians differ from handicraftsmen?
– 10 –
In what way do
proletarians differ from manufacturing workers?
The manufacturing worker of the 16th to the 18th centuries still had,
with but few exception, an instrument of production in his own
possession — his loom, the family spinning wheel, a little plot of land
which he cultivated in his spare time. The proletarian has none of
The manufacturing worker almost always lives in the countryside and in a
more or less patriarchal relation to his landlord or employer; the
proletarian lives, for the most part, in the city and his relation to
his employer is purely a cash relation.
The manufacturing worker is torn out of his patriarchal relation by big
industry, loses whatever property he still has, and in this way becomes
– 11 –
What were the immediate consequences of the industrial revolution
and of the division of society into bourgeoisie and proletariat?
FIRST, the lower and lower prices of industrial products brought about
by machine labor totally destroyed, in all countries of the world, the
old system of manufacture or industry based upon hand labor.
In this way, all semi-barbarian countries, which had hitherto been more
or less strangers to historical development, and whose industry had been
based on manufacture, were violently forced out of their isolation.
They bought the cheaper commodities of the English and allowed their own
manufacturing workers to be ruined. Countries which had known no
progress for thousands of years — for example, India — were thoroughly
revolutionized, and even China is now on the way to a revolution.
We have come to the point where a new machine invented in England
deprives millions of Chinese workers of their livelihood within a year’s
In this way, big industry has brought all the people of the Earth into
contact with each other, has merged all local markets into one world
market, has spread civilization and progress everywhere and has thus
ensured that whatever happens in civilized countries will have
repercussions in all other countries.
It follows that if the workers in England or France now liberate
themselves, this must set off revolution in all other countries —
revolutions which, sooner or later, must accomplish the liberation of
their respective working class.
SECOND, wherever big industries displaced manufacture, the bourgeoisie
developed in wealth and power to the utmost and made itself the first
class of the country. The result was that wherever this happened, the
bourgeoisie took political power into its own hands and displaced the
hitherto ruling classes, the aristocracy, the guildmasters, and their
representative, the absolute monarchy.
The bourgeoisie annihilated the power of the aristocracy, the nobility,
by abolishing the entailment of estates — in other words, by making
landed property subject to purchase and sale, and by doing away with the
special privileges of the nobility. It destroyed the power of the
guildmasters by abolishing guilds and handicraft privileges. In their
place, it put competition — that is, a state of society in which
everyone has the right to enter into any branch of industry, the only
obstacle being a lack of the necessary capital.
The introduction of free competition is thus public declaration that
from now on the members of society are unequal only to the extent that
their capitals are unequal, that capital is the decisive power, and that
therefore the capitalists, the bourgeoisie, have become the first class
Free competition is necessary for the establishment of big industry,
because it is the only condition of society in which big industry can
make its way.
Having destroyed the social power of the nobility and the guildmasters,
the bourgeois also destroyed their political power. Having raised
itself to the actual position of first class in society, it proclaims
itself to be also the dominant political class. This it does through
the introduction of the representative system which rests on bourgeois
equality before the law and the recognition of free competition, and in
European countries takes the form of constitutional monarchy. In these
constitutional monarchies, only those who possess a certain capital are
voters — that is to say, only members of the bourgeoisie. These
bourgeois voters choose the deputies, and these bourgeois deputies, by
using their right to refuse to vote taxes, choose a bourgeois
THIRD, everywhere the proletariat develops in step with the bourgeoisie.
In proportion, as the bourgeoisie grows in wealth, the proletariat grows
in numbers. For, since the proletarians can be employed only by
capital, and since capital extends only through employing labor, it
follows that the growth of the proletariat proceeds at precisely the
same pace as the growth of capital.
Simultaneously, this process draws members of the bourgeoisie and
proletarians together into the great cities where industry can be
carried on most profitably, and by thus throwing great masses in one
spot it gives to the proletarians a consciousness of their own strength.
Moreover, the further this process advances, the more new labor-saving
machines are invented, the greater is the pressure exercised by big
industry on wages, which, as we have seen, sink to their minimum and
therewith render the condition of the proletariat increasingly
unbearable. The growing dissatisfaction of the proletariat thus joins
with its rising power to prepare a proletarian social revolution.
– 12 –
What were the further consequences
of the industrial revolution?
Big industry created in the steam engine, and other machines, the means
of endlessly expanding industrial production, speeding it up, and
cutting its costs. With production thus facilitated, the free
competition, which is necessarily bound up with big industry, assumed
the most extreme forms; a multitude of capitalists invaded industry,
and, in a short while, more was produced than was needed.
As a consequence, finished commodities could not be sold, and a
so-called commercial crisis broke out. Factories had to be closed,
their owners went bankrupt, and the workers were without bread. Deepest
misery reigned everywhere.
After a time, the superfluous products were sold, the factories began to
operate again, wages rose, and gradually business got better than ever.
But it was not long before too many commodities were again produced and
a new crisis broke out, only to follow the same course as its
Ever since the beginning of this (19th) century, the condition of
industry has constantly fluctuated between periods of prosperity and
periods of crisis; nearly every five to seven years, a fresh crisis has
intervened, always with the greatest hardship for workers, and always
accompanied by general revolutionary stirrings and the direct peril to
the whole existing order of things.
– 13 –
What follows from these periodic commercial crises?
— That, though big industry in its earliest stage created free
competition, it has now outgrown free competition;
— that, for big industry, competition and generally the
individualistic organization of production have become a fetter
which it must and will shatter;
— that, so long as big industry remains on its present footing, it
can be maintained only at the cost of general chaos every seven
years, each time threatening the whole of civilization and not
only plunging the proletarians into misery but also ruining
large sections of the bourgeoisie;
— hence, either that big industry must itself be given up, which
is an absolute impossibility, or that it makes unavoidably
necessary an entirely new organization of society in which
production is no longer directed by mutually competing
individual industrialists but rather by the whole society
operating according to a definite plan and taking account of the
needs of all.
SECOND: That big industry, and the limitless expansion of production
which it makes possible, bring within the range of feasibility a social
order in which so much is produced that every member of society will be
in a position to exercise and develop all his powers and faculties in
It thus appears that the very qualities of big industry which, in our
present-day society, produce misery and crises are those which, in a
different form of society, will abolish this misery and these
We see with the greatest clarity:
(i) That all these evils are from now on to be ascribed solely to a
social order which no longer corresponds to the requirements of
the real situation; and
(ii) That it is possible, through a new social order, to do away with
these evils altogether.
– 14 –
What will this new social order have to be like?
Above all, it will have to take the control of industry and of all
branches of production out of the hands of mutually competing
individuals, and instead institute a system in which all these branches
of production are operated by society as a whole — that is, for the
common account, according to a common plan, and with the participation
of all members of society.
It will, in other words, abolish competition and replace it with
Moreover, since the management of industry by individuals necessarily
implies private property, and since competition is in reality merely the
manner and form in which the control of industry by private property
owners expresses itself, it follows that private property cannot be
separated from competition and the individual management of industry.
Private property must, therefore, be abolished and in its place must
come the common utilization of all instruments of production and the
distribution of all products according to common agreement — in a word,
what is called the communal ownership of goods.
In fact, the abolition of private property is, doubtless, the shortest
and most significant way to characterize the revolution in the whole
social order which has been made necessary by the development of
industry — and for this reason it is rightly advanced by communists as
their main demand.
– 15 –
Was not the abolition of private property possible
at an earlier time?
Every change in the social order, every revolution in property
relations, is the necessary consequence of the creation of new forces of
production which no longer fit into the old property relations.
Private property has not always existed.
When, towards the end of the Middle Ages, there arose a new mode of
production which could not be carried on under the then existing feudal
and guild forms of property, this manufacture, which had outgrown the
old property relations, created a new property form, private property.
And for manufacture and the earliest stage of development of big
industry, private property was the only possible property form; the
social order based on it was the only possible social order.
So long as it is not possible to produce so much that there is enough
for all, with more left over for expanding the social capital and
extending the forces of production — so long as this is not possible,
there must always be a ruling class directing the use of society’s
productive forces, and a poor, oppressed class. How these classes are
constituted depends on the stage of development.
— The agrarian Middle Ages give us the baron and the serf;
— the cities of the later Middle Ages show us the guildmaster and
the journeyman and the day laborer;
— the 17th century has its manufacturing workers;
— the 19th has big factory owners and proletarians.
It is clear that, up to now, the forces of production have never been
developed to the point where enough could be developed for all, and that
private property has become a fetter and a barrier in relation to the
further development of the forces of production.
Now, however, the development of big industry has ushered in a new
period. Capital and the forces of production have been expanded to an
unprecedented extent, and the means are at hand to multiply them without
limit in the near future. Moreover, the forces of production have been
concentrated in the hands of a few bourgeois, while the great mass of
the people are more and more falling into the proletariat, their
situation becoming more wretched and intolerable in proportion to the
increase of wealth of the bourgeoisie. And finally, these mighty and
easily extended forces of production have so far outgrown private
property and the bourgeoisie, that they threaten at any moment to
unleash the most violent disturbances of the social order. Now, under
these conditions, the abolition of private property has become not only
possible but absolutely necessary.
– 16 –
Will the peaceful abolition of private property
It would be desirable if this could happen, and the communists would
certainly be the last to oppose it. Communists know only too well that
all conspiracies are not only useless, but even harmful. They know all
too well that revolutions are not made intentionally and arbitrarily,
but that, everywhere and always, they have been the necessary
consequence of conditions which were wholly independent of the will and
direction of individual parties and entire classes.
But they also see that the development of the proletariat in nearly all
civilized countries has been violently suppressed, and that in this way
the opponents of communism have been working toward a revolution with
all their strength. If the oppressed proletariat is finally driven to
revolution, then we communists will defend the interests of the
proletarians with deeds as we now defend them with words.
– 17 –
Will it be possible for
private property to be abolished at one stroke?
No, no more than existing forces of production can at one stroke be
multiplied to the extent necessary for the creation of a communal
In all probability, the proletarian revolution will transform existing
society gradually and will be able to abolish private property only when
the means of production are available in sufficient quantity.
– 18 –
What will be the course of this revolution?
Above all, it will establish a _democratic constitution_, and through
this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat. Direct in
England, where the proletarians are already a majority of the people.
Indirect in France and Germany, where the majority of the people
consists not only of proletarians, but also of small peasants and petty
bourgeois who are in the process of falling into the proletariat, who
are more and more dependent in all their political interests on the
proletariat, and who must, therefore, soon adapt to the demands of the
proletariat. Perhaps this will cost a second struggle, but the outcome
can only be the victory of the proletariat.
Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not
immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed
against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat.
The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing
relations, are the following:
(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation,
heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through
collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.
(ii) Gradual expropriation of landowners, industrialists, railroad
magnates and shipowners, partly through competition by state
industry, partly directly through compensation in the form of
(iii) Confiscation of the possessions of all emigrants and rebels
against the majority of the people.
(iv) Organization of labor or employment of proletarians on publicly
owned land, in factories and workshops, with competition among
the workers being abolished and with the factory owners, in so
far as they still exist, being obliged to pay the same high wages
as those paid by the state.
(v) An equal obligation on all members of society to work until such
time as private property has been completely abolished.
Formation of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
(vi) Centralization of money and credit in the hands of the state
through a national bank with state capital, and the suppression
of all private banks and bankers.
(vii) Increase the number of national factories, workshops,
railroads, ships; bringing new lands into cultivation and
improvement of land already under cultivation — all in
proportion to the growth of the capital and labor force at the
disposal of the nation.
(viii) Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their
mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost.
Education and production together.
(ix) Construction, on public lands, of great palaces as communal
dwellings for associated groups of citizens engaged in both
industry and agriculture and combining in their way of life the
advantages of urban and rural conditions while avoiding the
one-sidedness and drawbacks of each.
(x) Destruction of all unhealthy and jerry-built dwellings in urban
(xi) Equal inheritance rights for children born in and out of wedlock.
(xii) Concentration of all means of transportation in the hands of the
It is impossible, of course, to carry out all these measures at once.
But one will always bring others in its wake. Once the first radical
attack on private property has been launched, the proletariat will find
itself forced to go ever further, to concentrate increasingly in the
hands of the state all capital, all agriculture, all transport, all
trade. All the foregoing measures are directed to this end; and they
will become practicable and feasible, capable of producing their
centralizing effects to precisely the degree that the proletariat,
through its labor, multiplies the country’s productive forces.
Finally, when all capital, all production, all exchange have been
brought together in the hands of the nation, private property will
disappear of its own accord, money will become superfluous, and
production will so expand and man so change that society will be able to
slough off whatever of its old economic habits may remain.
– 19 –
Will it be possible
for this revolution to take place in one country alone?
By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the
peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such
close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens
to the others.
Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized
countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and
proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between
them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist
revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place
simultaneously in all civilized countries — that is to say, at least in
England, America, France, and Germany.
It will develop in each of the these countries more or less rapidly,
according as one country or the other has a more developed industry,
greater wealth, a more significant mass of productive forces. Hence, it
will go slowest and will meet most obstacles in Germany, most rapidly
and with the fewest difficulties in England. It will have a powerful
impact on the other countries of the world, and will radically alter the
course of development which they have followed up to now, while greatly
stepping up its pace.
It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal
– 20 –
What will be the consequences of
the ultimate disappearance of private property?
Society will take all forces of production and means of commerce, as
well as the exchange and distribution of products, out of the hands of
private capitalists and will manage them in accordance with a plan based
on the availability of resources and the needs of the whole society. In
this way, most important of all, the evil consequences which are now
associated with the conduct of big industry will be abolished.
There will be no more crises; the expanded production, which for the
present order of society is overproduction and hence a prevailing cause
of misery, will then be insufficient and in need of being expanded much
further. Instead of generating misery, overproduction will reach beyond
the elementary requirements of society to assure the satisfaction of the
needs of all; it will create new needs and, at the same time, the means
of satisfying them. It will become the condition of, and the stimulus
to, new progress, which will no longer throw the whole social order into
confusion, as progress has always done in the past. Big industry, freed
from the pressure of private property, will undergo such an expansion
that what we now see will seem as petty in comparison as manufacture
seems when put beside the big industry of our own day. This development
of industry will make available to society a sufficient mass of products
to satisfy the needs of everyone.
The same will be true of agriculture, which also suffers from the
pressure of private property and is held back by the division of
privately owned land into small parcels. Here, existing improvements
and scientific procedures will be put into practice, with a resulting
leap forward which will assure to society all the products it needs.
In this way, such an abundance of goods will be able to satisfy the
needs of all its members.
The division of society into different, mutually hostile classes will
then become unnecessary. Indeed, it will be not only unnecessary but
intolerable in the new social order. The existence of classes
originated in the division of labor, and the division of labor, as it
has been known up to the present, will completely disappear. For
mechanical and chemical processes are not enough to bring industrial and
agricultural production up to the level we have described; the
capacities of the men who make use of these processes must undergo a
Just as the peasants and manufacturing workers of the last century
changed their whole way of life and became quite different people when
they were impressed into big industry, in the same way, communal control
over production by society as a whole, and the resulting new
development, will both require an entirely different kind of human
People will no longer be, as they are today, subordinated to a single
branch of production, bound to it, exploited by it; they will no longer
develop one of their faculties at the expense of all others; they will
no longer know only one branch, or one branch of a single branch, of
production as a whole. Even industry as it is today is finding such
people less and less useful.
Industry controlled by society as a whole, and operated according to a
plan, presupposes well-rounded human beings, their faculties developed
in balanced fashion, able to see the system of production in its
The form of the division of labor which makes one a peasant, another a
cobbler, a third a factory worker, a fourth a stock-market operator, has
already been underminded by machinery and will completely disappear.
Education will enable young people quickly to familiarize themselves
with the whole system of production and to pass from one branch of
production to another in response to the needs of society or their own
inclinations. It will, therefore, free them from the one-sided
character which the present-day division of labor impresses upon every
individual. Communist society will, in this way, make it possible for
its members to put their comprehensively developed faculties to full
use. But, when this happens, classes will necessarily disappear. It
follows that society organized on a communist basis is incompatible with
the existence of classes on the one hand, and that the very building of
such a society provides the means of abolishing class differences on the
A corollary of this is that the difference between city and country is
destined to disappear. The management of agriculture and industry by
the same people rather than by two different classes of people is, if
only for purely material reasons, a necessary condition of communist
association. The dispersal of the agricultural population on the land,
alongside the crowding of the industrial population into the great
cities, is a condition which corresponds to an undeveloped state of both
agriculture and industry and can already be felt as an obstacle to
The general co-operation of all members of society for the purpose of
planned exploitation of the forces of production, the expansion of
production to the point where it will satisfy the needs of all, the
abolition of a situation in which the needs of some are satisfied at the
expense of the needs of others, the complete liquidation of classes and
their conflicts, the rounded development of the capacities of all
members of society through the elimination of the present division of
labor, through industrial education, through engaging in varying
activities, through the participation by all in the enjoyments produced
by all, through the combination of city and country — these are the
main consequences of the abolition of private property.
– 21 –
What will be the influence
of communist society on the family?
It will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private
matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society
has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with
private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this
way removes the two bases of traditional marriage — the dependence
rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children
on the parents.
And here is the answer to the outcry of the highly moral philistines
against the “community of women”. Community of women is a condition
which belongs entirely to bourgeois society and which today finds its
complete expression in prostitution. But prostitution is based on
private property and falls with it. Thus, communist society, instead of
introducing community of women, in fact abolishes it.
– 22 –
What will be the attitude
of communism to existing nationalities?
– 23 –
What will be its attitude to existing religions?
– 24 –
How do communists differ from socialists?
The so-called socialists are divided into three categories.
[ REACTIONARY SOCIALISTS: ]
The first category consists of adherents of a feudal and patriarchal
society which has already been destroyed, and is still daily being
destroyed, by big industry and world trade and their creation, bourgeois
society. This category concludes, from the evils of existing society,
that feudal and patriarchal society must be restored because it was free
of such evils. In one way or another, all their proposals are directed
to this end.
This category of _reactionary_ socialists, for all their seeming
partisanship and their scalding tears for the misery of the proletariat,
is nevertheless energetically opposed by the communists for the
(i) It strives for something which is entirely impossible.
(ii) It seeks to establish the rule of the aristocracy, the
guildmasters, the small producers, and their retinue of absolute
or feudal monarchs, officials, soldiers, and priests — a society
which was, to be sure, free of the evils of present-day society
but which brought it at least as many evils without even
offering to the oppressed workers the prospect of liberation
through a communist revolution.
(iii) As soon as the proletariat becomes revolutionary and communist,
these reactionary socialists show their true colors by
immediately making common cause with the bourgeoisie against the
[ BOURGEOIS SOCIALISTS: ]
The second category consists of adherent of present-day society who
have been frightened for its future by the evils to which it necessarily
gives rise. What they want, therefore, is to maintain this society
while getting rid of the evils which are an inherent part of it.
To this end, some propose mere welfare measures — while others come
forward with grandiose systems of reform which, under the pretense of
re-organizing society, are in fact intended to preserve the foundations,
and hence the life, of existing society.
Communists must unremittingly struggle against these _bourgeois
socialists_ because they work for the enemies of communists and protect
the society which communists aim to overthrow.
[ DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS: ]
Finally, the third category consists of democratic socialists who favor
some of the same measures the communists advocate, as described in
Question 18, not as part of the transition to communism, however, but as
measures which they believe will be sufficient to abolish the misery and
evils of present-day society.
These democratic socialists are either proletarians who are not yet
sufficiently clear about the conditions of the liberation of their
class, or they are representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, a class
which, prior to the achievement of democracy and the socialist measures
to which it gives rise, has many interests in common with the
It follows that, in moments of action, the communists will have to come
to an understanding with these democratic socialists, and in general to
follow as far as possible a common policy with them — provided that
these socialists do not enter into the service of the ruling bourgeoisie
and attack the communists.
It is clear that this form of co-operation in action does not exclude
the discussion of differences.
– 25 –
What is the attitude of
the communists to the other political parties of our time?
This attitude is different in the different countries.
In England, France, and Belgium, where the bourgeoisie rules, the
communists still have a common interest with the various democratic
parties, an interest which is all the greater the more closely the
socialistic measures they champion approach the aims of the communists
— that is, the more clearly and definitely they represent the interests
of the proletariat and the more they depend on the proletariat for
support. In England, for example, the working-class Chartists are
infinitely closer to the communists than the democratic petty
bourgeoisie or the so-called Radicals.
In America, where a democratic constitution has already been
established, the communists must make the common cause with the party
which will turn this constitution against the bourgeoisie and use it in
the interests of the proletariat — that is, with the agrarian National
In Switzerland, the Radicals, though a very mixed party, are the only
group with which the communists can co-operate, and, among these
Radicals, the Vaudois and Genevese are the most advanced.
In Germany, finally, the decisive struggle now on the order of the day
is that between the bourgeoisie and the absolute monarchy. Since the
communists cannot enter upon the decisive struggle between themselves
and the bourgeoisie until the bourgeoisie is in power, it follows that
it is in the interest of the communists to help the bourgeoisie to power
as soon as possible in order the sooner to be able to overthrow it.
Against the governments, therefore, the communists must continually
support the radical liberal party, taking care to avoid the
self-deceptions of the bourgeoisie and not fall for the enticing
promises of benefits which a victory for the bourgeoisie would allegedly
bring to the proletariat. The sole advantages which the proletariat
would derive from a bourgeois victory would consist
(i) in various concessions which would facilitate the unification of
the proletariat into a closely knit, battle-worthy, and organized
(ii) in the certainly that, on the very day the absolute monarchies
fall, the struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat will
start. From that day on, the policy of the communists will be
the same as it now is in the countries where the bourgeoisie is
already in power.