On this day in 1848, amidst a series of anti-monarchical revolutions sweeping Europe, The Communist Manifesto was published in London. Commissioned by the Communist League, the manifesto was written by Germans Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In their work, Marx and Engels presented a historical analyses of the causes of “class struggles” (conflict between the upper-class bourgeois and the lower-class proletariat), and predicted an overthrow of the capitalist system, which they believed was inherently unfair to the majority of the world’s population. To Marx and Engels, a truly just society would be communist: private property would be abolished, a proper welfare state established, and all citizens would take part in the governance of their new, classless society. At the end of their work, the authors called for a “…forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” in order to reform the capitalist system.
The revolutions of 1848, known as the Springtime of Nations, were largely defeated by loyalist forces and the Manifesto faded into obscurity. Towards the end of the 1800s, however – a period of rising nationalism – the Manifesto gained a new following amongst socialists and other elements of the political left-wing. The first real-world manifestation of Marx and Engels’ ideas took place in 1917 in Russia and soon, communism was very much a reality in much of Eastern Europe and Asia. Although the merits of the Communist Manifesto are still hotly debated, there is no doubt of its influence. For a short, 30-page document, Marx and Engels’ work provided ideological justification for some of the greatest reforms in human history – and unprecedented human suffering.