Introduction by Pluto Press

Principles of Communism was Engels' first draft of what was to be the Communist Manifesto. The final manifesto, worked on by Marx, differs considerably from this first draft, which Engels commented on in the following way in his letter to Marx of 23-24 November 1847:

"Think over the Confession of Faith a bit. I believe we had better drop the catechism form and call the thing: Communist Manifesto. As more or less history has got to be related in it, the form it has been in hitherto is quite unsuitable. I am bringing what I have done here with me; it is in simple narrative form, but miserably worded, in fearful haste...."

Despite Engels' reservations, Principles of Communism remains an excellent introduction to Marxism, in many ways more immediately approachable than the Manifesto itself.

The first English translation by Max Bedacht was published by the Daily Worker Publishing Co., Chicago, around 1925. Another by Eden and Cedar Paul was included as an appendix to Riazanov's edition of the Communist Manifesto (International Publishers, 1933). A third was issued by Guido Baracchi in Australia (Melbourne, 1933).

This edition is based on the text produced by Monthly Review as a pamphlet in 1952. It was translated by Paul M. Sweezy, and the following is an extract from the editors' note to that edition:

Principles of Communism was written in late October 1847, and was first published (from Engels' handwritten script) by Eduard Bernstein in 1914 in Vörwarts!, the central organ of the German Social Democratic Party. It has since appeared in a number of German versions, the definitive edition being that in the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, published by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Moscow. The present translation is from the text of the Gesamtausgabe, First Division, Volume 6, pages 503-522.

The editors go on to point out that Engels often uses the term Manufaktur, and its derivatives, which have been translated by their exact English equivalents, "manufacture", "manufacturing", etc. They are used in their literal sense to denote production by hand, not the factory production of modern capitalism, which Engels generally refers to with the term "big industry". However, manufacture differs from handicraft, which refers to the pure guild production of the mediaeval towns, carried out by independent artisans, assisted perhaps by journeymen and apprentices who hope some day to acquire independent status. Manufacture is carried out either by homeworkers working for the account of merchant capitalists, or else by groups of craftsmen working together in large workshops belonging to capitalist employers. It is therefore a transitional form between guild production and modern factory production.

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Aug 5 2005 17:44


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