Communist League (German: Bund der Kommunisten) was an
international political party established on June 1, 1847 in London,
England. The organisation was formed through the merger of the League
of the Just, headed by
Karl Schapper and the Communist Correspondence
Committee of Brussels, Belgium, in which
Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels were the dominant personalities. The
Communist League is
regarded as the first Marxist political party and it was on behalf of
this group that Marx and Engels wrote the
Communist Manifesto late in
Communist League was formally disbanded in 1852, following
the Cologne Communist Trial.
1 Organisational history
1.2 Creation of the Communist League
3 Other 1848–1849
4 See also
6 External links
During the decade of the 1840s the word "communist" came into general
use to describe those who hailed the left wing of the
Jacobin Club of
French Revolution as their ideological forefathers. This
political tendency saw itself as egalitarian inheritors of the 1795
Conspiracy of Equals
Conspiracy of Equals headed by Gracchus Babeuf. The sans-culottes
Paris which had decades earlier been the base of support for Babeuf
— artisans, journeymen, and the urban unemployed — was seen as a
potential foundation for a new social system based upon the modern
machine production of the day.
The French thinker
Étienne Cabet inspired the imagination with a
novel about a utopian society based upon communal machine production,
Voyage en Icarie (1839). The revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui
argued in favor of an elite organising the overwhelming majority of
the population against the "rich," seizing the government in a coup
d'état, and instituting a new egalitarian economic order.
One group of Germans in Paris, headed by Karl Schapper, organised
themselves in the form of a secret society known as the League of the
Just (Bund der Gerechten) and participated in a May 1839 rebellion in
Paris in an effort to establish a "Social Republic." Following its
failure the organisation relocated its centre to London, while also
maintaining local organisations in
Zürich and Paris.
Revolution was in the air across many of the monarchies of Europe.
Creation of the Communist League
The year 1846 found
Karl Marx and his close friend and co-thinker
Friedrich Engels in Brussels, establishing a small political circle of
radical German émigrés called the Communist Corresponding Committee
and writing for the German-language Deutsche Brüsseler Zeitung
Brussels German Newspaper"). Also important in this early circle
was Wilhelm Wolff, a talented and radical writer hailing from the
Silesian peasantry who had been forced to emigrate due to his
agitation against the Prussian autocracy.
Brussels Communist Corresponding Committee had at the same time
small counterparts located in
London and Paris, composed of a handful
of radical German expatriates living there. Relations between these
small groups were not close, with petty jealousies and ideological
disagreements preventing the participants from functioning as an
effective political unit.
Be that as it may, in the latter part of January 1847 the disparate
parts of the fledgling German Communist movement began to congeal in a
single organisational entity when the
London center of the League of
the Just first broached the idea of organisational unity with the
Communist Corresponding Committee. A letter of 20 January 1847 by
Schapper requested that Marx join the League in anticipation of a
London congress at which a new set of principles would be
adopted based upon the ideas previously expressed by Marx and
Engels. Both Marx and Engels were persuaded by the appeal and they
both joined the
League of the Just shortly thereafter, followed by
other members of the Communist Corresponding Committee.
In June 1847 the
London congress took place and the League of the Just
adopted a new charter formally changing the group's name to the
Communist League. The
Communist League was structured around the
formation of primary party units known as "communes," consisting of at
least 3 and not more than 10 members. These were in turn to be
combined into larger units known as "circles" and "leading circles,"
governed by a central authority selected at regular congresses. The
League's programme called for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and
establishment of the rule of the proletariat and the construction of a
new society free both of private property and social classes.
The initial conference was attended by Engels, who convinced the
League to change its motto to Karl Marx's phrase, Working Men of All
Countries, Unite!. At the same conference, the organisation was
Communist League and was reorganised significantly.
In particular, Marx did away with all "superstitious
authoritarianism," as he called the rituals pertaining to secret
societies. The conference itself was counted as the first congress
of the new League.
Communist League had a second congress, also in London, in
November and December 1847. Both Marx and Engels attended, and they
were assigned the task of composing a manifesto for the organisation.
This became The Communist Manifesto.
The League was not able to function effectively during the 1848
revolutions, despite temporarily abandoning its clandestine nature.
The Workers' Brotherhood was established in Germany by members of the
League, and became the most significant revolutionary organisation
there. During the revolution Marx edited the radical journal the Neue
Rheinische Zeitung. Engels fought in the Baden campaign against the
Prussians (June and July 1849) as the aide-de-camp of August Willich.
Communist League reassembled in late 1849, and by 1850 they were
Neue Rheinische Zeitung
Neue Rheinische Zeitung Revue journal, but by the end
of the year, publication had ceased amid disputes between the managers
of the group.
In 1850, the German master spy
Wilhelm Stieber broke into Marx's house
and stole the register of the League's members, which he sent to
France and several German states. This caused the imprisonment of
In 1852, after the Cologne Communist Trial, the organisation was ended
Mathilde Franziska Anneke
Hermann Heinrich Becker
Johann Philip Becker
Friedrich Heinrich Karl Bobzin
Karl Heinrich Brüggermann
Karl von Bruhn
Friedrich Christian Diez
Collet Dobson Collet
Karl Ludwig Johann D'Ester
August Herman Ewerbeck
Karl Theodor Ferdinand Grun
Hermann Wilhelm Haupt
Friedrich Wihlelm Hühnerbein
Johann Joseph Jansen
Karl Joseph Jansen
Friedrich Wilhelm German Mauer
Jakob Lukas Schabelitz
Wilhelm Christian Weitling
Johann Baptist Bekk
Camille Hyacinthe Odilon Barrot
Friedrich Daniel Bassermann
Count Lajos von Batthyány
Hermann von Beckerath
Pierre Jean de Béranger
Philipp Karl Peter Berg
Lorenz Peter Brentano
Otto Julius Bernhard von Corvin-Wiersbitzki
Isaac Moise Crémieux
Nicolas Joseph Creton
Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski
Napoléon comte Daru
Franz von Dingelstedt
Charles Théodore Eugene Duclerc
Charles François du Périer Dumouriez
André Marie Jean Jacques Dupin
Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure
Michel Auguste Dupoty
Pascal Pierre Duprat
Count Pál Esterházy of Galántha
Count Miklós Esterházy Galántha
Baron Heinrich Wilhelm August Gagern
Albert Frédéric Jean Galeer
Louis Antoine Garnier-Pagès
Émile de Girardin
Theodor Ludwig Greiner
Karl Theodor Ferdinand Grün
Auguste Joseph Guinard
Richard Debaufre Guyon
Johann von Hám
David Justus Hansemann
Friedrich Wilhelm Harkar
George Julian Harney
Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker
Baron August von der Heydt
Edward von Müller-Tellering
Stephen Adolph Naut
German Workers Educational Association
History of the Left in France
^ a b David Fernbach, "Introduction" to Karl Marx, The Revolutions of
1848. New York: Random House, 1973; pg. 23.
^ a b c Fernbach, "Introduction" to The Revolutions of 1848, pg. 24.
^ Bernard Moss, "Marx and the Permanent
Revolution in France:
Background to the Communist Manifesto," in Leo Panitch and Colin Leys
Communist Manifesto Now: The Socialist Register, 1998. New
York: Monthly Review Press, 1998; pg. 10.
^ Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life. Edward Fitzgerald,
trans. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1936; pg. 138.
^ Hal Draper, The Marx-Engels Chronicle: A Day-by-Day Chronology of
Marx and Engels' Life and Activity: Volume 1 of the Marx-Engels
Cyclopedia. New York: Schocken Books, 1985; pg. 22.
^ a b Franz Mehring, Karl Marx, pg. 135.
^ Mehring, Karl Marx, pp. 138-139.
^ a b c d e f Mehring, Karl Marx, pg. 139.
^ See Eric Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels, chapter titled "Rituals in
Social Movements", p.169 of the 1965 edition by Norton Library
The Communist League, 1847 - 1850, documents of the league on
Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Karl Marx.
Bund der Geächteten (in German)
Jenny von Westphalen
Karl Marx: The Story of His Life
Karl Marx: His Life and Environment
Karl Marx: His Life and Thought
The Young Karl Marx
International Workingmens Association
Other cultural depictions
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Marx in Soho
"The Philosophers' Football Match"
"World Forum/Communist Quiz"
Timeline of Karl Marx