- 1 -
What is Communism?
Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of
the liberation of the proletariat.
- 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?
No. 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 world.
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 industries.
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 of labor.
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. These are:
- (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
- 5 -
Under what conditions does this sale of the
labor of the proletarians to the bourgeoisie take place?
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
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
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
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
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 whole.
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
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
[ ... ]
- 10 -
In what way do proletarians differ from
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 these
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 a
- 11 -
What were the immediate consequences of the
industrial revolution and of the division of society into bourgeoisie and
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 time.
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
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
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
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 in society.
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
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
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
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 predecessor.
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
- 13 -
What follows from these periodic commercial
- 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
- 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
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 complete freedom.
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 catastrophic depressions.
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
- (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
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
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?
No. 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
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
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
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
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
- (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 bonds.
- (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) Education of 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
- (xi) Equal inheritance rights for children born in and out of
- (xii) Concentration of all means of transportation in the hands of
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
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?
No. 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
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 range.
- 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 corresponding development.
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 material.
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
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 entirety.
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 other.
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 further development.
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 occassion 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
[ ... ]
- 23 -
What will be its attitude to existing
- 24 -
How do communists differ from socialists?
The so-called socialists are divided into three
[ 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 following reasons:
- (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 adherents 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
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 proletariat.
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
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
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 Reformers. 
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 class;
- (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.