Rules of the Communist League

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Author(s) Communist League (Marx-Engels)
Written December 1847


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 633;
First published: Wermuth und Stieber, Die Communisten-Verschwörungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Erster Theil, Berlin, 1853;

Note from Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, 1976 :

These Rules of the Communist League are based on the draft Rules elaborated by the League’s First Congress. Marx and Engels, who exerted considerable influence on the elaboration of the League’s new organisational principles, greatly contributed to improving the text of the Rules and gave it greater precision. In particular, it was they, in all probability, who drew up the new formulation of Article 1 defining the aim of the League. The Rules in their present version were adopted by the Second Congress of the Communist League. This document was first published in English in the book: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Lawrence, London, 1930.

SECTION I THE LEAGUE[edit source]

Art. 1. The aim of the League is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society which rests on the antagonism of classes, and the foundation of a new society without classes and without private property.

Art. 2. The conditions of membership are:

A) A way of life and activity which corresponds to this aim;

B) Revolutionary energy and zeal in propaganda;

C) Acknowledgment of communism;

D) Abstention from participation in any anti-communist political or national association and notification of participation in any kind of association to the superior authority.

E) Subordination to the decisions of the League;

F) Observance of secrecy concerning the existence of all League affairs;

G) Unanimous admission into a community.

Whosoever no longer complies with these conditions is expelled (see Section VIII).

Art. 3. All members are equal and brothers and as such owe each other assistance in every situation.

Art. 4. The members bear League names.

Art. 5. The League is organised in communities, circles, leading circles, Central Authority and congresses.

SECTION II THE COMMUNITY[edit source]

Art. 6. The community consists of at least three and at most twenty members.

Art. 7. Every community elects a chairman and deputy chairman. The chairman presides over the meeting, the deputy chairman holds the funds and represents the chairman in case of absence.

Art. 8. The admission of new members is effected by the chairman and the proposing member with previous agreement of the community.

Art. 9. Communities of various kinds do not know each other and do not conduct any correspondence with each other.

Art. 10. Communities bear distinctive names.

Art. 11. Every member who changes his place of residence must first inform his chairman.

SECTION III THE CIRCLE[edit source]

Art. 12. The circle comprises at least two and at most ten communities.

Art. 13. The chairmen and deputy chairmen of the communities form the circle authority. The latter elects a president from its midst. It is in correspondence with its communities and the leading circle.

Art. 14. The circle authority is the executive organ for all the communities of the circle.

Art. 15. Isolated communities must either join an already existing circle or form a new circle with other isolated communities.

SECTION IV THE LEADING CIRCLE[edit source]

Art. 16. The various circles of a country or province are subordinated to a leading circle.

Art. 17. The division of the circles of the League into provinces and the appointment of the leading circle is effected by the Congress on the proposal of the Central Authority.

Art. 18. The leading circle is the executive authority for all the circles of its province. It is in correspondence with these circles and with the Central Authority.

Art. 19. Newly formed circles join the nearest leading circle.

Art. 20. The leading circles are provisionally responsible to the Central Authority and in the final instance to the Congress.

SECTION V THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY[edit source]

Art. 21. The Central Authority is the executive organ of the whole League and as such is responsible to the Congress.

Art. 22. It consists of at least five members and is elected by the circle authority of the place in which the Congress has located its seat.

Art. 23. The Central Authority is in correspondence with the leading circles. Once every three months it gives a report on the state of the whole League.

SECTION VI COMMON REGULATIONS[edit source]

Art. 24. The communities, and circle authorities and also the Central Authority meet at least once every fortnight.

Art. 25. The members of the circle authority and of the Central Authority are elected for one year, can be re-elected and recalled by their electors at any time.

Art. 26. The elections take place in the month of September.

Art. 27. The circle authorities have to guide the discussions of the communities in accordance with the purpose of the League.
If the Central Authority deems the discussion of certain questions to be of general and immediate interest it must call on the entire League to discuss them.

Art. 28. Individual members of the League must maintain correspondence with their circle authority at least once every three months, individual communities at least once a month.
Every circle must report on its district to the leading circle at least once every two months, every leading circle to the Central Authority at least once every three months.

Art. 29. Every League authority is obliged to take the measures in accordance with the Rules necessary for the security and efficient work of the League under its responsibility and to notify the superior authority at once of these measures.

SECTION VII THE CONGRESS[edit source]

Art. 30. The Congress is the legislative authority of the whole League. All proposals for changes in the Rules are sent to the Central Authority through the leading circles and submitted by it to the Congress.

Art. 31. Every circle sends one delegate.

Art. 32. Every individual circle with less than 30 members sends one delegate, with less than 60 two, less than 90 three, etc. The circles can have themselves represented by League members who do not belong to their localities.
In this case, however, they must send to their delegate a detailed mandate.

Ait. 33. The Congress meets in the month of August of every year. In urgent cases the Central Authority calls an extraordinary congress.

Art. 34. The Congress decides every time the place where the Central Authority is to have its seat for the coming year and the place where the Congress is next to meet.

Art. 35. The Central Authority sits in the Congress, but has no deciding vote.

Art. 36. After every sitting the Congress issues in addition to its circular a manifesto in the name of the Party.

SECTION VIII OFFENCES AGAINST THE LEAGUE[edit source]

Art. 37. Whoever violates the conditions of membership (Art. 2) is according to the circumstances removed from the League or expelled.
Expulsion precludes re-admission.

Art. 38. Only the Congress decides on expulsions.

Art. 39. Individual members can be removed by the circle or the isolated community, with immediate notification of the superior authority. Here also the Congress decides in the last instance.

Art. 40. Re-admission of removed members is effected by the Central Authority on the proposal of the circle.

Art. 41. The circle authority passes judgment on offences against the League and also sees to the execution of the verdict.

Art. 42. Removed and expelled members, like suspect individuals in general, are to be watched in the interest of the League, and prevented from doing harm. Intrigues of such individuals are at once to be reported to the community concerned.

SECTION IX LEAGUE FUNDS[edit source]

Art. 43. The Congress fixes for every country the minimum contribution to be paid by every member.

Art. 44. Half of this contribution goes to the Central Authority, the other half remains in the funds of the circle or community.

Art. 45. The funds of the Central Authority are used:

1. to cover the costs of correspondence and administration;

2. to print and distribute propaganda leaflets;

3. to send out emissaries of the Central Authority for particular purposes.

Art. 46. The funds of the local authorities are used:

1. to cover the costs of correspondence;-

2. to print and distribute propaganda leaflets;

3. to send out occasional emissaries.

Art. 47. Communities and circles which have not paid their contributions for six months are notified by the Central Authority of their removal from the League.

Art. 48. Circle authorities have to render account of their expenditure and income to their communities at least every three months. The Central Authority renders account to the Congress on the administration of League funds and the state of the League finances. Any embezzlement of League funds is subject to the severest punishment.

Art. 49. Extraordinary and Congress costs are met from extraordinary contributions.

SECTION X ADMISSION[edit source]

Art. 50. The chairman of the community reads to the applicant Art. 1 to 49, explains them, emphasises particularly in a short speech the obligations which the new member assumes, and then puts to him the question: “Do you now wish to enter this League?” If he replies “Yes”, the chairman takes his word of honour to the effect that he will fulfil the obligations of a League member, declares him a member of the League, and introduces him to the community at the next meeting.

London, December 8, 1847
In the name of the Second Congress of the autumn of 1847

The Secretary
Signed Engels

The President
Signed Karl Schapper