Translation as pamphletary practice: Insight into the translation history of the Communist Manifesto

  • Stefanie Kremmel (Vortragende*r)

    Aktivität: VorträgeVortragScience to Science


    Many pamphlets and activist texts aspire to have international impact. In most cases, however, translation, albeit a powerful tool for circulation, is only an afterthought. For this contribution, I intend to present a diverging case, namely the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as a “born-translated” (cf. Walkowitz 2015) political text.
    The Communist Manifesto was first published in German in London in 1848 with a firmly international horizon (cf. Hobsbawm 2012) and has been known and read around the world, also thanks to countless translations. I will zoom in on translation as a facet of the production, circulation, and reception of this political text in the second half of the 19th century. Back then, it was mainly printed in newspapers and as a pamphlet, and circulation and reception were limited, before the Manifesto had its first ‘boom’ towards the end of the 19th century.
    To support my categorization of the Manifesto as born-translated, I will discuss several textual features, most prominently the preamble announcing eight linguistic versions of the text. There will be special emphasis on identifying the concrete steps that were contemplated or taken by the people involved to prepare the text for translation as well as to carry out translations. This characterization will be followed by a discussion of actual translation events, foregrounding the first English translation by Helen Macfarlane from 1850.
    I argue that translation can be considered as an integral part of pamphletary practice, not primarily because it makes the text available in another language, but because of a variety of other effects translation has. Through translation, texts can be framed differently and the choices of a translator or an editor, e.g., changes in the title, the addition of explanatory notes or the usage of certain terminology can shift the reception of the text beyond one language community. This is shown through the analysis of Macfarlane’s translation strategy, as well as the subsequent critique, treatment and re-printing of the translation and its connectedness to other language versions. Macfarlane’s translation, for example, served as the source text for translations into French and subsequently into Spanish. But her translation was also (covertly) reprinted in English by different political groups who adapted it to fit their needs, to correspond to current and local circumstances and who applied “translation as a means of ideological struggle” (Delistathi 2011), causing, i.e., Friedrich Engels to have diverging opinions on different editions of the same translation.
    The goal of this contribution is therefore to carve out how this born-translated manifesto was actually translated, which efforts were made to do so and which factors, socio-political, situational and textual, hindered translations from being successfully produced, circulated or received.
    Zeitraum26 Feb. 2022
    EreignistitelActivist Writing. The Pamphlet in Practice, History, Media and the Public Squere
    OrtMünchen, DeutschlandAuf Karte anzeigen