The Communist Manifesto Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Many students have heard of 'The Communist Manifesto', but few have read or analyzed it. These discussion questions can help your students engage with this influential pamphlet on a deeper scale.

The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto (1848) is a historical pamphlet written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and published originally in London. It is continually recognized as one of the most influential political and social commentaries in the modern era and remains today a constant source of debate. The following questions can help your students delve deeper into the Communist Manifesto, the intent of its authors, and its place in history. While these discussion questions do contain several that focus on historical context, those can be amended depending on your students' grasp of history.

Questions about Historical Context

  • What do you know about Europe in the mid-19th century? What were the major issues that people were facing? What were some of the major changes that had occurred over the last century?
  • What was the Industrial Revolution? How did this change people's daily lives? How did it change society as a whole? What were some issues that people had during the Industrial Revolution? What were some of the solutions they were proposing?
  • Why is it important to understand the historical context around a document like The Communist Manifesto?

Questions about Content

Section I

  • Try to capture the intent of this pamphlet in one sentence.
  • What is the purpose of The Communist Manifesto? How do the authors of this pamphlet answer this question in the preamble? What does this tell us about the state of communism and socialism at the time? What do each of these terms mean? Are they the same thing? How do Marx and Engels address this?
  • What is the focus of the first section of The Communist Manifesto? How is this established? If you could pinpoint a single sentence or passage as being the thesis of this section, what would it be?
  • How do the authors use history in their analysis of communism? What do they see as the most important factor driving human history as we know it? What evidence do they provide? What does it mean for history to be defined by the concept of class struggle? What are the classes struggling over? How does capitalism fit into this? Why does history have to lead to class revolution?
  • What are the classes throughout history, according to Marx and Engels? What are the bourgeoisie and proletariat? How do they interact with each other?
  • What do you think about Marx and Engels' analysis of human history? Does any of it make sense? Consider their time and worldview; how would this understanding of history make sense in 1848? What problems do you see with this analysis of history? What evidence do you think you would need in order to prove that this theory is either right or wrong?

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