Everybody should read The Communist Manifesto, and read it more than once. Short, fast-moving and written to be understood by a wide audience, it's a gripping read, a huge intellectual accomplishment, and a way of thinking about the world that has shaped almost everything that came after it. It was once said that the second edition of Rousseau's Confessions was bound in the skins of those who had laughed at the first; The Communist Manifesto has had the same kind of impact on our world.Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels dashed it off in the second half of 1847 and published it early in 1848 as revolutionary fervor was sweeping Europe. As the first copies of The Manifesto began to circulate, King Louis-Phillipe of France felt his throne begin to shake; by the end of February he had abdicated and fled to Britain. The next month, revolutions broke out in one small German state after the other (Germany would not be unified until 1871). The revolutionary excitement spread into the Austrian Empire; for a few months it looked as if every king and emperor on the European mainland would be packing his bags. Even the Pope, who at that time still ruled much of central Italy, was forced to flee Rome as the Romans proclaimed a Republic after 1900 years of imperial and papal rule.But Marx and Engels weren't interested in anything as trivial as making propaganda for a European revolution. They believed that they had found the key to all history, the magic decoder ring that made sense out of everything: philosophy, religion, the rise and fall of empires, culture, art. To this day there are millions of people all over the world who think they were right, and there are hundreds of millions more whose worldview has been shaped at least in part by this explosive little book.
top of page
bottom of page