On the 21st February 1848, The Communist Manifesto was anonymously published in London although the text by Karl Marx, supported by Friedrich Engels, was in German. Officially called The Manifesto of the Communist Party, the original pamphlet was just 23 pages long but went on to become a highly influential political document alongside the more substantial Das Kapital.
Marx was born in Prussia in 1818, but was living in Brussels when the Communist League’s Second Congress commissioned him and Engels to write the League’s manifesto in December 1847. However, it wasn’t until the League’s Central Committee sent him an ultimatum to submit the completed manuscript by 1 February that he did any significant work on it. It was modelled on Engels’ 1847 Draft of the Communist Confession of Faith but Engels had little input to the manifesto itself.
Ending with the now-iconic words, “Workers of the world, unite!” publication of the Manifesto coincided with the outbreak of the 1848 revolution in France the next day. The revolution spread across Europe, but the Manifesto had little connection to this: only in Cologne did the Communist League play any major role.
The Manifesto gradually drifted into obscurity until its resurgence in the 1870s after Marx formed the First International. An updated edition was printed in 1872 and translated into six languages. The standard English text was first published in 1888 with a translation by Samuel Moore, although Marx himself had died penniless four years previously. However, his ideas lived on and directly led to 1917’s Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the world’s first socialist state to be founded according to Marxist ideology.