Social Scientist. v 27, no. 308-311 (Jan-April 1999) p. 49.


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HAROLD J. LASKI

Introduction to The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto was published in February, 1848. Of its two authors, Karl Marx was then in his thirtieth, and Friedrich Engels in his twenty-eighth, year. Both had already not only a wide acquaintance with the literature of socialism, but intimate relations with most sections of the socialist agitation in Western Europe. They had been close friends for four years; each of them had published books and articles that are landmarks in the history of socialist doctrine. Marx had already had a stormy career as a journalist and social philosopher; he was already sufficiently a thorn in the side of reactionary governments to have been a refugee in both Paris and Brussels. Engels, his military service over, and his conversion to socialism completed after he had accepted the view of Moses Hess that the central problem of German philosophy was the social question, and that it could only be solved in socialist terms, had already passed nearly fifteen months of his commercial training in his father's firm in Manchester by the end of 1843. He had gained a deep insight into English conditions. He had come to understand the meaning of the conflict between the major political parties, the significance of Irish nationalism, then under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell, and all the stresses and strains within the Chartist Movement; he appreciated the meaning of Chartism, and he had joined its ranks. He realised how great had been both the insight and the influence of Robert Owen. He had been an eager reader of the Northern Star, and had been on friendly terms, after the summer of 1843, with George Julian Harney, then, under Feargus O'Connor, the main influence on the paper, and one of the few Chartists aware of conditions and movements on the European Continent. He had written a good deal in Owen's paper, The New Moral World, among his contributions

Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 1- 4, Jan. - April 1999



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