Draft Rules of the Communist League

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This document is a draft of the Rules of the Communist League adopted at its First Congress in the beginning of June 1847 (see Note 69) and distributed among the circles and communities for discussion. It shows the reorganisation work done by the League of the Just leaders as agreed with Marx and Engels, who consented early in 1847 to join the League on the condition that it would he reorganised on a democratic basis and all elements of conspiracy and sectarianism in its structure and activity would be eliminated. Engels, who was present at the Congress, took a direct part in drawing up the Rules. The draft recorded the change in the League’s name, and it is referred to here as the Communist League for the first time. The new motto, “Working Men of All Countries, Unite!” was also used for the first time. The former leading body, the narrow People’s Chamber (Halle), was replaced by the supreme body — the Congress, composed of delegates from local circles; the executive organ was to be the Central Authority. The relations between all the League organisations were based on principles of democratism and centralism. At the same time a number of points in the draft showed that the reorganisation was not yet complete and that former traditions were still alive, namely: Art. 1 formulating the aims of the League; one of the points in Art. 3, making the sectarian stipulation that members were not to belong to any other political organisation; Art. 21, limiting the powers of the Congress by the right of the communities to accept or reject its decisions, etc. On the insistence of Marx and Engels these points were later deleted or altered. The Second Congress (November 29-December 8, 1847) adopted the Rules in an improve(] and more perfect form, which finally determined the structure of the Communist League according to the principles of scientific communism. This document was discovered, together with the “Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith” in 1968 among the papers of Joachim Friedrich Martens, a member of the Communist League in Hamburg.


Art. 1. The League aims at the emancipation of humanity by spreading the theory of the community of property and its speediest possible practical introduction.

Art. 2. The League is divided into communities and circles; at its head stands the Central Authority as the executive organ.

Art. 3. Anyone who wishes to join the League is required:

a. to conduct himself in manly fashion;
b. never to have committed a dishonourable action;
c. to recognise the principles of the League;
d. to have acknowledged means of subsistence;
e. not to belong to any political or national association;
f. to be unanimously admitted into a community, and
g. to give his word of honour to work loyally and to observe secrecy.

Art. 4. All League members are equal and brothers, and as such owe each other assistance in every situation.

Art. 5. All members bear League names.


Art. 6. A community consists of at least three and at most twelve members. Increase above that number will be prevented by division.

Art. 7. Every community elects a chairman and a deputy chairman. The chairman presides over meetings, the deputy chairman holds the funds, into which the contributions of the members are paid.

Art. 8. The members of communities shall earnestly endeavour to increase the League by attracting capable men -and always seek to work in such a way that principles and not persons are taken as guide.

Art. 9. Admission of new members is effected by the chairman of the community and the member who has introduced the applicant to the League.

Art. 10. The communities do not know each other and bear distinctive names which they choose themselves.


Art. 11. A circle comprises at least two and at most ten communities.

Art. 12. The chairmen and deputy chairmen of the communities form the circle authority. They elect a president from among themselves.

Art. 13. The circle authority is the executive organ for all the communities of the circle.

Art. 14. Isolated communities must either join an already existing circle authority or form a new circle with other isolated communities.


Art. 15. The Central Authority is the executive organ of the whole League.

Art. 16. It consists of at least five members and is elected by the circle authority of the place where it is to have its seat.


Art. 17. The Congress is the legislative authority of the League.

Art. 18. Every circle sends one delegate.

Art. 19. A Congress is held every year in the month of August. The Central Authority has the right in important cases to call an extraordinary congress.

Art. 20. The Congress in office decides the place where the Central Authority is to have its seat for the current year.

Art. 21. All legislative decisions of the Congress are submitted to the communities for acceptance or rejection.

Art. 22. As the executive organ of the League the Central Authority is responsible to the Congress for its conduct of its office and therefore has a seat in it, but no deciding vote.


Art. 23. Anyone who acts dishonourably to the principles of the League is, according to the circumstances, (removed) either removed or expelled. Expulsion precludes re-admission.

Art. 24. Members who commit offences are judged by the (supreme) circle authority, which also sees to the execution of the verdict.

Art. 25. Every community must keep the strictest watch over those who have been removed or expelled; further, it must observe closely any suspect individuals in its locality and report at once to the circle authority anything they may do to the detriment of the League, whereupon the circle authority must take the necessary measures to safeguard the League.

Art. 26. The communities and circle authorities and also the Central Authority shall meet at least once a fortnight.

Art. 27. The communities pay weekly or monthly contributions, the amount of which is determined by the . respective circle authorities. These contributions will be used to spread the principles of the community of property and to pay for postage.

Art. 28. The circle authorities must render account of expenditures and income to their communities every six months.

Art. 29. The members of the circle authorities and of the Central Authority are elected for one year and must then either be confirmed anew in their office or replaced by others.

Art. 30. The elections take place in the month of September. The electors can, moreover, recall their officers at any time should they not be satisfied with their conduct of their office.

Art. 31. The circle authorities have to see to it that there is material in their communities for useful and necessary discussions. The Central Authority, on the other hand, must make it its duty to send to all circle authorities such questions whose discussion is important for our principle.

Art. 32. Every circle authority and failing that the community, even every League member, must, if standing alone, maintain regular correspondence with the Central Authority or a circle authority.

Art. 33. Every League member who wishes to change his residence must first inform his chairman.

Art. 34. Every circle authority is free to take any measures which it considers advisable for the security of the circle and its efficient work. These measures must, however, not be contrary to the general Rules.

Art. 35. All proposals for changes in the Rules must be sent to the Central Authority and submitted by it to the Congress for decision.


Art. 36. After the Rules have been read to him, the applicant is asked by the two League members mentioned in Art. 9 to reply to the following five questions. If he replies “Yes”, he is asked to give his word of honour, and is declared a League member.

These five questions are:

a. Are you convinced of the truth of the principles of the community of property?
b. Do you think a strong League is necessary for the realisation of these principles as soon as possible, and do you wish to join such a League?
c. Do you promise always to work by word and deed for spreading and the practical realisation of the principles of the community of property?
d. Do you promise to observe secrecy about the existence and all affairs of the League?
e. Do you promise to comply with the decisions of the League?

Then give us on this your word of honour as guarantee!

In the name and by the order of the Congress

Heide [Wilhelm Wolff]

The President,
Karl Schill [Karl Schapper]

London, June 9, 1847