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The Communist Manifesto | Study Guide

Karl Marx

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Karl Marx

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At a Glance

One of the most influential documents in modern history, The Communist Manifesto is simultaneously a theoretical treatise, a political program, and a revolutionary call to arms. Its purpose was to serve as the primary political document for the newly formed Communist League, an international party that was established in London in 1947. However, Karl Marx, the primary author, used the document to do even more. Most significantly it is a call for "workers of the world" to unite to overthrow the bourgeois (middle class) social order, for in the proletarian (working class) revolution, the workers have "nothing to lose but their chains." The Manifesto states that the exploitation of the many by the few is unjust and that the proletariat has a historic role to fulfill in bringing about the era of communism, thus ending class struggle.

The Communist Manifesto also lays out some fundamental principles of Marxist philosophy, including the following:

  • historical materialism: the theory that class and material factors shape history
  • alienation: the theory that workers are distanced from their products, their labor, and themselves
  • class struggle: the theory that workers' and capitalists' interests are permanently antagonistic
  • base-superstructure: the theory that the economic base of society determines its political, ideological, and cultural "superstructure"

Perspective and Narrator

The Communist Manifesto is written in the present tense.

About the Title

Originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party, written in its original German, The Communist Manifesto is the main political creed of the Communist League, a revolutionary political party whose members were, for the most part, German and English workers and intellectuals. The Communist Manifesto spells out the continuing issues of class struggle and the doctrines of communism—an ideology whose followers believe the capitalist system (in which private owners control production of goods) is harmful and should be overthrown.


This study guide and infographic for Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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