In 1947 the Labour Party decided to reprint the Communist Manifesto, with an historical introduction by Harold Laski, to mark the document's centenary. We're reprinting the foreword to reflect just how significant Marxism has been within the British labour and trade union movement. The Labour Party didn't see the Manifesto as just another historical document, as can be seen clearly in the text. It was a document vitally relevant to the policies of the 1945 Labour government.
This month marks a key anniversary in the development of scientific socialism. One hundred and fifty years ago the most famous document of the Marxist movement was produced: The Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.
At first sight it may seem that the republication of The Communist Manifesto requires an explanation. How can one justify a new edition of a book written almost 150 years ago? Yet in reality the Manifesto is the most modern of books.
On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep - but forever.
"I have come from the heart of Germany to express my love and gratitude to my unforgettable teacher and faithful friend. To my faithful friend! Karl Marx's greatest friend and colleague has just called him the best-hated man of this century. That is true. He was the best-hated but he was also the best-loved. The best-hated by the oppressors and exploiters of the people, the best-loved by the oppressed and exploited, as far as they are conscious of their position. The oppressed and exploited people love him because he loved them. For the deceased whose loss we are mourning was great in his love as in his hatred. His hatred had love as its source. He was a great heart as he was a great mind. All who knew him know that.
It is hard to believe that the centennial of the Manifesto of the Communist Party is only ten years away! This pamphlet, displaying greater genius than any other in world literature, astounds us even today by its freshness. Its most important sections appear to have been written yesterday. Assuredly, the young authors (Marx was twenty-nine, Engels twenty-seven) were able to look further into the future than anyone before them, and perhaps than anyone since them.
Section II has made clear the relations of the Communists to the existing working-class parties, such as the Chartists in England and the Agrarian Reformers in America. The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement. In France, the Communists ally with the Social Democrats1against the conservative and radical bourgeoisie, reserving, however, the right to take up a critical position in regard to phases and illusions traditionally handed down from the Great Revolution. In Switzerland, they support the Radicals, without losing sight of the fact that this party consists of antagonistic elements, partly of Democratic Socialists, in the French sense, partly of radical bourgeois.
a. Feudal Socialism Owing to their historical position, it became the vocation of the aristocracies of France and England to write pamphlets against modern bourgeois society. In the French Revolution of July 1830, and in the English reform agitation, these aristocracies again succumbed to the hateful upstart. Thenceforth, a serious political struggle was altogether out of the question. A literary battle alone remained possible. But even in the domain of literature, the old cries of the restoration period had become impossible.
In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.