Marx and Engels contextualize the Communist party with other working-class parties existing at the time, like the Chartists in England and the Agrarian Reformers in America.
This short chapter Marx and Engels’ attempt to make their manifesto practically useful. Here, they seek to build bridges between the communists and working-class parties worldwide that mostly share their commitments.
Marx and Engels set out which national parties in various countries might align with the interests of the Communist party. They also offer examples of when they might disagree with these parties. Generally, the Communist parties aim to both fight for the immediate needs of the proletariat and to empower them with the recognition of their oppression by the bourgeoisie.
Marx and Engels firmly believe that, if communism is to succeed in empowering the proletariat, it must fight the bourgeoisie on both intellectual and practical ground. The proletariat needs to see that it is oppressed before it can summon the collective power to rise up against its oppressor.
Marx and Engels say their primary focus (in 1848) is Germany, as it is about to undergo a bourgeois revolution that will ultimately result in a more developed proletariat; this proletariat will immediately retaliate with their own revolution. Marx and Engels state that communists support “every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.”
In light of Marx and Engels’ criticisms of certain literature in the previous chapter for being too idealistic, here they try to show that they are thinking on a country-specific level. At the same time, they seek to broaden the applicability of communism by offering this wide definition of what the political group supports.
Marx and Engels are unafraid to admit that what they are calling for can only come about by the “forcible overthrow of existing social conditions.” They say, “let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution,” and declare that the proletarians have “nothing to lose but their chains.” The manifesto ends with Marx and Engels imploring the “WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES” to “UNITE!”
Marx and Engels have no faith in the capitalist system to offer the proletariat a route to empowerment. Therefore, they believe, “forcible overthrow” is necessary. The bourgeoisie will never willingly give up its dominant position or its accumulation of wealth and property. This final line, written in all caps, is intended to excite the reader, to make them feel that change is possible, and to urge them to start fighting for that change.