Translation by Red Phoenix staff
Innumerable are Karl Marx’s contributions to humanity. Frederick Engels, his companion and inseparable friend in the joys and sufferings of life, affirmed, in his funeral speech that Marx was the greatest genius in history in that: “Just as Darwin organically discovered the law of the development of nature, Marx discovered the law of the development of human history … he also discovered the specific laws of capitalist production, and development of bourgeois society. (…) But not only that; Marx was, before anything else, a revolutionary. Battle was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity, a success, like few others. “¹
In this sense, among the immense contributions of Karl Marx to the cause of the liberation of the working class and the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, we must highlight his struggle for the construction of an independent political party of the working class, the Communist Party, and the elaboration of the theoretical foundations of this party.
During the 40s of the 19th century, a serious economic crisis reached the main countries of Europe, in particular France and Germany, but also affecting the United States of America. Workers organize strikes in France, and various riots for bread were occurring in Germany. In 1847, Karl Marx was 29 years old and worked firmly with Engels to unite the main leaders of the labor movement, aiming at the creation of a workers’ political party in line with his doctrine of the historical role that fitted the proletariat in the revolutionary transformation of society and in the construction of a new world.
Already at that time, Marx and Engels understood the need for the proletariat to act independently of the bourgeoisie and build its own political organization. The experiences of the organizations of the English workers and the formation of the Chartist party inspired Marx, but also led him to understand that these were organizations that were still far from what the proletarian class really needed to fight and defeat the power of the bourgeoisie.
For Marx, however, the formation of an authentic revolutionary proletarian organization would only be possible if a large and widespread diffusion of the ideas of communism had occurred beforehand, as well as a greater development of the revolutionary actions of the working class. With that objective, Marx and Engels founded, at the beginning of 1846, the Communist Correspondence Committee of Brussels, aiming to propagate the ideals of communism. They intended to form new committees in all the major cities of Europe, and developed a great correspondence for that purpose.
At the same time, they understood that it was necessary to act and intervene in the existing workers’ organizations and decided to contact, and coordinate their actions with, the members of the League of the Just, an organization founded by Germans who emigrated to Paris. This decision was extremely accurate and was responsible for, soon thereafter, the convening of a congress of the League of the Just, from June 2 to 9, 1847, in London, where it was decided to adopt the name the Communist League. For his part, Engels, in this same year, writes down the ideological principles of the new organization, which he did with great mastery in his well-known work The Principles of Communism, initially titled A Sketch of a Profession of Communist Faith. On a proposal by Marx and Engels, the League, which until then had the slogan “All men are brothers”, went on to adopt a communist principle of appeal to the working class of the whole world: “Proletarians of all countries, unite! “
The revolutionary movement was growing throughout Europe and it was urgent that the working class develop its program, and its ideology, and present them openly to society. The Communist League decides, thus, to hold its 2nd Congress with the aim of streamlining its statutes and its program. Marx and Engels once again acted together to develop the ideological conceptions and tactics of a proletarian party. The 2nd Congress of the Communist League was held from November 29 to December 8, 1847. At the Congress, Marx and Engels intervened firmly in favor of the principles of scientific communism, and their proposals were enthusiastically approved by the delegates present at the Congress, which established, then, in the first paragraph of the League’s program, the “objective of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the overcoming of the old bourgeois society that rests on class oppositions and the founding of a new society without classes and without private property.”
The Congress then appointed Marx and Engels to draft the League’s program in the form of a manifesto for wide dissemination. When writing the manifesto, Marx and Engels placed all their revolutionary fervor into it and explained with clarity and depth the scientific theory that they had been elaborating. They did not know that they were writing a work that would survive for centuries, as, as brilliantly stated by V. I. Lenin: “This little pamphlet speaks entire volumes: it inspires and animates to this day the organized and combative proletariat of the world”.
In spite of seeing, in several other writings and interventions of Marx, a clear position in defense of the constitution of a revolutionary party of the working class, there is no doubt that in the Manifesto of the Communist Party he presents, in a precise way, the bases of the doctrine of the proletarian party as the leading vanguard organization of the working class. It clearly states for, communist revolutionaries, that without the creation of that organization, of the vanguard party, the conquest of political power by the proletariat and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible.
Therefore, one must read those deeply current lines of Marxist thought written in the Manifesto:
” The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried on by individual laborers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. (…)
(T)he workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.
Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry (…) It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. (…) This organization of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. (…)
Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product. (…)
(…) In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat. (…). The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class. “
In other words, the party of the working class represents and defends its immediate rights, but it must also fight for its strategic interests, its struggle must have the objective of conquering political power; to put an end to all kinds of exploration and oppression, to put end to private ownership of means of production and achieve the true emancipation of humanity.
Beyond defining the bases of the need for the revolutionary party of the proletariat, its tactics and its objectives, Marx and Engels also make it clear that the communists and their party must act in a way to always be the vanguard, the conscious and advanced detachment of the proletariat : “The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”
With the development of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, and its widespread diffusion in the working class, the conscious workers knew exactly what they needed to do: build their own party, and even what the party’s program should be. The bourgeoisie tried in many ways to prevent the dissemination of the Manifesto, and declared as a crime the mere printing of it. This dying class knew that the Manifesto, besides expressing a revolutionary conception of the world and emphasizing that the proletariat could play the role of gravedigger of capitalism, was also capable of “infecting” all wage slaves, all those exploited and oppressed by capitalism. It acted, therefore, exactly as Marx and Engels foresaw in the last words of this great work:
“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!”
Long live Karl Marx!
Long live Marxism-Leninism!
Long live the communist revolution!