I thought it would be good to kickstart the reading group with a back-to-basics text, namely, Marx and Engels Manifesto of the Communist Party. I'll be using the online translation found here, but I have another translation (from The Portable Marx) that I may use for comparative purposes.
The text is relatively short, and I'll be lingering much longer on some points than others. At any time, my interlocuters here are most welcome to make suggestions, or even contribute a guest post on all or part of the text.
There are multiple versions of this text around, and many are accompanied by lengthy essays explaining the background to the manifesto. Anybody who has some points that they would like to share in this regard is more than welcome.
For a brief outline of the context: the Manifesto was written in 1847, and published the following year. By this stage, Marx had gone from being a mere philosopher to moving in revolutionary circles. The piece was written specifically for the Second Congress of Communists in London, in November 1847.
The year 1848 was marked by failed proletarian revolutions throughout Europe. If some find the Manifesto somewhat 'undemocratic' in tone, it should be remembered that continental Europe did not, at that time, have anything resembling a modern day 'liberal democracy'. This latter entity is a relatively recent (and unstable) invention.
The text is important for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the most famous 'Marxist' texts, and, whilst it certainly is not Marx's magnum opus (this title belongs to Das Kapital), it is one of his clearest and most programmatic.
Secondly, Marx and Engels use the text to clarify specifically what 'communism' is, or ought to be: trolls should take note that it does not involve Stalinism, Pol Pot, or the eating of babies. Significantly, the Manifesto outlines what communism is not, and we shall see that Marx was at pains to differentiate his own communism from various competing contemporaneous strands.
Finally, the text is at once revolutionary but also, it should be said, 'moderate', in many important senses. These shall hopefully become clear as we proceed through the text.
So, happy reading friends, and I hope to provide you with the first installment fairly shortly.