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Spring Season at Humanities Lab for School Students

The Making of a Manifesto: 175 Years of the Manifesto of the Communist Party

This February marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto. The short, 23-page text, which is truly of world historical significance, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Documents  in 2013. The genesis of the text, which is currently being studied at the Academy as part of The Complete Works of Marx and Engels, stands in sharp contrast to its unprecedented impact. As this research appropriately  demonstrates for the first time, the Manifesto originally served to orientate a small and clandestine revolutionary group, the Communist League, and reflects the successful, but often laboriously achieved, integration of the conflicting interests of its members, who were scattered across several European metropolises and came from different ideological camps.


Historical Sources as a Space of Possibility

The historical result of this negotiation process, which lasted almost a year, is a masterpiece of rhetorical verve, uncompromising argumentation as well as cunning intrigue, but it does not appear to be compelling. On the contrary, the deliberations at the first and second congresses of the League could just as plausibly have led to a programme  with Christians, socialists or anarchists. The Humanities Lab derives its framework of action from these findings and opens up the historical documents to impartial viewing, examination and discussion by the students. Is a utopian approach required to give momentum and permanence to a political movement? Must power be won through violent revolution, and if that seems inevitable, is it perhaps strategically wise to avoid an open commitment to revolution anyway? With this enactment, the Humanities Lab playfully picks up on an idea that the Manifesto itself poses at one point: that under certain conditions the present determines the past – and not vice versa.


Preparation and Course of the Event

Through working with accompanying teachers the participants receive different, didactically prepared excerpts from the original sources on the genesis of the Manifesto in advance, albeit in an anonymised form, in order to prevent hindsight as well as authority bias. Statements by an immigrant craftsman or a clique leader who today are only known to the insiders deserve the same level of critical attention as those written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

The independent elaboration on the aforementioned materials is the primary condition for the productive participation in the workshop, of which the first part is dedicated to staging the decision-making processes in the Communist League. Here, the students form small groups that represent the various ideological camps. Their goal is to represent their respective positions as eloquently as possible and to prepare a resolution in their interest.

The political programme that participants agree on will be linked back to and compared with Marx’s and Engel’s “actual” Manifesto, in the second part of the Humanities Lab.  Members of the team will provide an insight into the editorial, philological and historical methods, that create the conditions for texts like these to remain as subjects of reflection.


Reference to the Curriculum and Target Groups

The workshop topic is directly relevant for the 2024 Abitur examination in History, where the focus of the first half of the course is "Change and Revolutions in Modern and Pre-Modern Times: Industrial Revolution".

However, connections with the “competence oriented focal points“ can also easily be established for other disciplines. Depending on the size of the group and the booking situation, we are also happy to put together cross-school and cross-subject teams.


Venue, Dates and Registration

The workshops take place in the main building of the Academy at Gendarmenmarkt (Jägerstraße 22/23, 10117 Berlin; U-Bahn stations Stadtmitte, Hausvogteiplatz and Unter den Linden).

The event begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.


All dates in the Spring Series of the Humanities Lab for School Students are already fully  booked.