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Synopsis of The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto is too long to be a concise declaration of principles and too short to be a book. It is composed of about 17,000 words including various introductions by Friedrich Engels.

It is arranged, basically, in four sections. The first section introduces the Marxian idea of history as a class struggle. It juxtaposes the conditions and development of various strata of society, "freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf...in a word, oppressor and oppressed." It hypothesizes how the development of each of these in history gave rise to the next step in an inevitable historical process culminating ultimately in the rise of one working class.

Marx and Engels put forward the notion that the working class is exploited by the bourgeoisie. Positing a labor theory of value where the value of goods and services is based strictly on the amount of labor that is put into them, The Manifesto, says that all the surplus that goes to the capitalist as profits is in reality the "property" of the working class who created that wealth.

The second section of the Communist Manifesto addresses the nature of the new working class which he calls the proletariate. He reviews its implications for the advancement of society, including the abolition of property and family. This section also stresses a kind of Utopia that can only be brought about by violence and conflict with the working class wresting power from the bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production). This conflict is projected also to bring about the end of nation-states and, ultimately, all forms of government, resulting in a worker's paradise.

Parts 3 and 4 of the Communist Manifesto are more arcane and relate more with the politics of the age and geographic region in which the document was written (1848). Section 3 discusses the various forms of socialism, feudal socialism, petty-bourgeios socialism, and "true" socialism. Part 4 goes on to show how these various groups inter-relate.

The document ends with a stirring cry, "Working men of all countries, unite!"

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