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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials - The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto had inauspicious beginnings. Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and published by a small group of radical German socialists, the 1848 political pamphlet had little immediate impact. However, by that year’s end revolutions had broken out across Europe. The Revolutions of 1848 would ultimately be crushed, but Marx continued to refine his theories. Twenty years later he would finish the first volume of Das Kapital, his magnum opus. Quizbowlers of the world unite! All we have to lose is our ignorance!

Various versions of "The Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx.Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on The Communist Manifesto.


In a pamphlet famous for its pithy quotes, this one may be the most famous. Marx begins the Communist Manifesto with this arresting image. It is a recognition of the fearful power Communism held over the ruling elite of Europe. Marx urges workers the world over to capitalize on this power. In the manifesto he quotes Flora Tristan’s famous exhortation: Workers of the world, unite!”


If Communism is a specter, who exactly is it haunting? Marx identifies Communism’s foes as all the powers of old Europe united in a “holy alliance.” Marx specifically identifies several of the most powerful men in Europe as leaders of this alliance. These powerful men include Austrian chancellor Metternich, French prime minister Guizot, and both Pope and Czar.


The Communist Manifesto defines the history of society as the history of class struggle. Marx identifies the class struggle of his century as originating from the ruins of feudal society. This class struggle occurs between the bourgeoisie and the proletarians. The bourgeoisie are the upper class and prosperous individuals of society. Descended from the burghers of Medieval society, they enriched themselves through trade and industry and accrued political power along the way. Marx defines the modern working class, or proletariat, in opposition to the bourgeoisie. These are the individuals with little political power who, in Marx’s view, enrich the bourgeoisie while gaining nothing for themselves.


Marx views Communism as essential to overcoming the stranglehold of the bourgeoisie on the proletarians. The Communist Manifesto articulates a “ten-point program” stating Communism’s political goals. Some of these points include: abolition of all rights of inheritance, establishment of “industrial armies,” free education for all, and confiscation of all property of emigrants and rebels.


Marx traces the variations of socialism across Europe in order to contrast them with communism. Proto-anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is disparaged as a practitioner of conservative socialism alongside philanthropists and organizers of charity. Marx characterizes thinkers like Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen as utopian socialists who, while well-meaning, reduced the power of groups Marx supported such as the chartists.

Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

  • The film The Young Karl Marx is a dramatization of about Marx and Engels’ composition of The Communist Manifesto.

  • Visit this site to learn more about Fourier and Owen, the “socialist utopians” Marx criticizes.

  • Although the phrase “Workers of the world unite!” is often credited to Marx, the rallying cry can originally be attributed to Flora Tristan.

  • Read this article to learn more about the continent-wide revolutions that shook Europe the year The Communist Manifesto was published.

  • Just for fun, make sure you watch Karl Marx play a version of quizbowl in an attempt to win a lovely lounge suite in this Monty Python sketch:


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