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Demands of the Communist Party

Demands of the Communist Party in Germany The so-called seventeen demands provided the political program for the 18 48 revolutions for the League of Communists. Drawn up by the central authority of the League of Communists, which was set up in 1847 as a result of the transformation of the League of the Just into an independent, yet hardly effective organization during the 1848-49 revolution. The document was drafted in late March 1848 in Paris, undoubtedly heavily edited by Marx and Engels, but signed by all members on the central authority of the League of Communists present in Paris and thus confirmed as the official political concept of the party. Printed by the end of March as a leaflet, the document was communicated to the members of the league who had returned to Germany from emigration and was distributed to other politically committed German workers as a guideline for their political work. At the beginning of April it was reprinted in several German newspapers.

The demands were a concrete reflection of the general political strategy developed by the proletarian party in the Communist Manifesto published just a month earlier and were a reaction to the situation in the now-revolutionary Germany. The demands had taken the March revolution as the starting point and, therefore, were aimed at pushing ahead the initially successful civil revolution and crowning it with a victory, i.e. to dismantle fully the old power relations based on the supremacy of the nobility, to smash the economic foundations of the rule of the nobility, to overcome the partition of Germany into a number of states, and to create a unified German state of a decidedly democratic character, with the possibilities of an unimpeded unfolding of the productive forces in a modern industrial-capitalist society, including a politically independent development of classes to replace the old social strata. The authors of the demands wanted to elicit and protect the interests of the "German proletariat, the lower middle classes and the smaller peasants" in a democratic order. In implementing their demands it was intended that the "million of people who in Germany had so far been exploited and oppressed by a minority shall be given their rights and thus achieve the power which is due to them as the producers of all the wealth." Their aim was to bring about a radical-democratic transformation of civil society in the interests of urban and rural workers, in line with the degree of democratization reached during Jacobite rule of the great French Revolution. These considerations were linked to the view - though it soon proved to be an erroneous one - that in this way a starting platform could at the same time be built for a continuation of the civil democratic revolution that should lead to a radical socialist transformation.

With its first claim, "All Germany is declared to be a united indivisible republic," the program was directed against liberal constitutionalism and against a moderately democratic federal system, thereby upholding the revolutionary democratic principle of French Ja cobinism of the "nation une et undivisible." Several demands, such as 'the arming of the people,' active and passive franchise for all men, abolition of the monopoly to learning and education for the wealthy, separation of church and state, were aimed at reaching a rigorous democratization of the state order and gaining a greater influence of the working people on public life. Such claims, as the free-of-charge abolition of all feudal burdens, the compensation-free expropriation of big landowners and the nationalization of loans were aimed at liberating the peasantry from feudal pressures and, at the same time, protecting them against capitalist extortion. This was the most decisive democratic agrarian concept in the German revolution. The claims for a nationalization of private banks, the means of transport, pits and mines, and even of feudal country estates suggested already anti-bourgeois measures of nationalization through which the revolution could be advanced further into a socialist direction. Finally, the authors had included claims from the working-class movement with a view to improving the social situation of workers, such as the maintenance of a subsistence level, aid for those incapable of work, and the abolition of the consumer tax. Although these central ideas provided the general basis for the policies pursued by the Communist wing around Marx and Engels in the revolution, notably for the work in Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the all-out propagation of some of the demands deminished in the course of the revolution. Already by the end of April 1848, Engels had to realize that many demands would overtax political possibilities and stretch too far the general atmosphere among the population, especially among the middle and lower classes. Within progressive workers' associations, especially in Cologne, however, they were repeatedly the subject-matter of political discussions. In addition, the leaflet was reprinted several times. The social programmatic platform adopted by the Second Congress of Democrats in November 1848 was perceptibly influenced by these demands.

Walter Schmidt


"Demands of the Communist Party in Germany" Marx/Engels, Collected Works, Moscow 1977, VII, 3-7.

S. Z. Leviova. "Razrabotka Marksom i Engel'som programmy proletariata v germanskoj revoljucii 1848 -49 godov (Trebrovanije kommunisticeskoj partii v Germanii)" Iz istorii marksi zma i mezdunarodnogo rabocego dvizenia Moscow, 1964.

Martin Hundt. "Die 17 'Forderungen der Kommunistischen Partei in Deutschland' vom März 1848: Zur Geschichte des Revolutions-programms des Bundes der kommunisten" (With a text-critical appendix), Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung,II (1968), 203-280.

Gerhard Becker "Die "Soziale Frage" auf dem zweiten demokratischen Kongress 1848" Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissen schaft, 1967, II, 260-280.

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