Principles of Communism (German: Grundsätze des Kommunismus) is a brief 1847 work written by Friedrich Engels, the co-founder of Marxism. It is structured as a catechism, containing 25 questions about communism for which answers are provided. In the text, Engels presents core ideas of Marxism such as historical materialism, class struggle, and proletarian revolution.
Principles of Communism served as the draft version for the Communist Manifesto. Principles of Communism was composed during October–November 1847, and was preceded by the Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith, a very similar but distinct text which Engels had previously written in June 1847. Like Principles, the earlier Confession of Faith also used the catechism convention, but with only 22 question-answer pairs. On Engels’ recommendation, the catechism format was ultimately rejected in favor of a historical prose narrative, which was used by Karl Marx to compose the Manifesto. All three documents were attempts to articulate the political platform of the newly-forming Communist League, a political party which was being created through the merger of two ancestors: the League of the Just, and the Communist Correspondence Committee, the latter led by Marx and Engels. The Manifesto emerged as the best-known and final version of the Communist League’s mission statement, drawing directly upon the ideas expressed in Principles. In short, Confession of Faith was the draft version of Principles of Communism, and Principles of Communism was the draft version of The Communist Manifesto.
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