From The Communist Manifesto


The history of all hitherto existing society is the history ofclass struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf,guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stoodin constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted,now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in arevolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the commonruin of the contending classes.

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere acomplicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifoldgradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians,knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords,vassals, guildmasters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost allof these classes, again subordinate gradations.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins offeudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has butestablished new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms ofstruggle in place of the old ones.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, thisdistinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Societyas a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostilecamps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisieand Proletariat.

From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers ofthe earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of thebourgeoisie were developed.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened upfresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-lndian and Chinesemarkets, the colonization of America, trade with the colonies, theincrease in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gaveto commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never beforeknown, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the totteringfeudal society, a rapid development.

The feudal system of industry, under which industrial productionwas monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for thegrowing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took itsplace. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturingmiddle class; division of labour between the different corporateguilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each singleworkshop.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising.Even manufacture no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machineryrevolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture wastaken by the giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrialmiddle class, by industrial millionaires, the leaders of wholeindustrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which thediscovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immensedevelopment to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land.This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension ofindustry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation,railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed,increased its capital, and pushed into the background every classhanded down from the Middle Ages.

We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself theproduct of a long course of development, of a series of revolutionsin the modes of production and of exchange.

Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied bya corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed classunder the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governingassociation in the medieval commune; here independent urban republic(as in Italy and Germany), there taxable "third estate" of themonarchy (as in France), afterwards, in the period of manufactureproper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as acounterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of thegreat monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since theestablishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conqueredfor itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive politicalsway. The executive of the modern State is but a committee formanaging the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionarypart.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put anend to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilesslytorn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "naturalsuperiors", and has left remaining no other nexus between man and manthan naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drownedthe most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrousenthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water ofegotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchangevalue, and in place of the numberless indefeasible charteredfreedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom - FreeTrade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious andpolitical illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct,brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hithertohonoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted thephysician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, intoits paid wage-labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimentalveil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutaldisplay of vigour in the Middle Ages, which Reactionists so muchadmire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence.It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. Ithas accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Romanaqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions thatput in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionisingthe instruments of production, and thereby the relations ofproduction, and with them the whole relations of society.Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was,on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlierindustrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production,uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlastinguncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from allearlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train ofancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, allnew-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that issolid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is atlast compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions oflife, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chasesthe bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestleeverywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world marketgiven a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in everycountry. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn fromunder the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. Allold-established national industries have been destroyed or are dailybeing destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whoseintroduction becomes a life and death question for all civilisednations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous rawmaterial, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industrieswhose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarterof the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productionsof the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfactionthe products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old localand national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse inevery direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as inmaterial, so also in intellectual production. The intellectualcreations of individual nations become common property. Nationalone-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible,and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises aworld literature.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments ofproduction, by the immensely facilitated means of communication,draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. Thecheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which itbatters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians'intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compelsall nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode ofproduction; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisationinto their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word,it creates a world after its own image.

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of thetowns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased theurban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued aconsiderable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it hasmade barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on thecivilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the Easton the West.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scatteredstate of the population, of the means of production, and of property.It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, andhas concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequenceof this was political centralization. Independent, or but looselyconnected provinces with separate interests, laws, governments andsystems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with onegovernment, one code of laws, one national classinterest, onefrontier and one customs-tariff.

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, hascreated more massive and more colossal productive forces than haveall preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces toman, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture,steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of wholecontinents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populationsconjured out of the ground - what earlier century had even apresentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap ofsocial labour?

We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whosefoundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudalsociety. At a certain stage in the development of these means ofproduction and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal societyproduced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture andmanufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of propertybecame no longer compatible with the already developed productiveforces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder;they were burst asunder.

Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a socialand political constitution adapted to it, and by the economical andpolitical sway of the bourgeois class.

A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modernbourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange andof property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means ofproduction and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longerable to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called upby his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry andcommerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forcesagainst modern conditions of production, against the propertyrelations that are the conditions for the existence of thebourgeoisie and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercialcrises that by their periodical return put on its trial, each timemore threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society. Inthese crises a great part not only of the existing products, but alsoof the previously created productive forces, are periodicallydestroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in allearlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity - the epidemic ofover-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a stateof momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war ofdevastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence;industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there istoo much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too muchindustry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal ofsociety no longer tend to further the development of the conditionsof bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerfulfor these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as theyovercome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole ofbourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. Theconditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealthcreated by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises?On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productiveforces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the morethorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving theway for more extensive and more destructive crises, and bydiminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.

The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to theground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.

But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bringdeath to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are towield those weapons - the modern working class - the proletarians.

In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, inthe same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class,developed - a class of labourers, who live only so long as they findwork, and who find work only so long as their labour increasescapital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are acommodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequentlyexposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all thefluctuations of the market.

Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour,the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and,consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage ofthe machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, andmost easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the costof production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to themeans of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance, and forthe propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, andtherefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. Inproportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases,the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machineryand division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burdenof toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours,by increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speedof the machinery, etc.

Modern industry has converted the little workshop of thepatriarchal master into the great factory of the industrialcapitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, areorganised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they areplaced under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers andsergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and ofthe bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by themachine, by the overlooked and, above all, by the individualbourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotismproclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the morehateful and the more embittering it is.

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manuallabour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed,the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women.Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive socialvalidity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, moreor less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.

No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer,so far, at an end, and he receives his wages in cash, than he is setupon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, theshopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.

The lower strata of the middle class - the small tradespeople,shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen andpeasants - all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partlybecause their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale onwhich Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in thecompetition with the large capitalists, partly because theirspecialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production.Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.

The proletariat goes through various stages of development. Withits birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first thecontest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeopleof a factory, then by the operatives of one trade, in one locality,against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. Theydirect their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions ofproduction, but against the instruments of production themselves;they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, theysmash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek torestore by force the vanished status of the workman of the MiddleAges.

At this stage the labourers still form an incoherent massscattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutualcompetition. If anywhere they unite to form more compact bodies, thisis not yet the consequence of their own active union, but of theunion of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to attain its ownpolitical ends, is compelled to set the whole proletariat in motion,and is moreover yet, for a time, able to do so. At this stage,therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but theenemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, thelandowners, the non-industrial bourgeois, the petty bourgeoisie. Thusthe whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of thebourgeoisie; every victory so obtained is a victory for thebourgeoisie.

But with the development of industry the proletariat not onlyincreases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, itsstrength grows, and it feels that strength more. The variousinterests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariatare more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliteratesall distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages tothe same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, andthe resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers evermore fluctuating. The unceasing improvement of machinery, ever morerapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious;the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeoistake more and more the character of collisions between two classes.Thereupon the workers begin to form combinations (Trades' Unions)against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up therate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to makeprovision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there thecontest breaks out into riots.

Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. Thereal fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but inthe ever-expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on bythe improved means of communication that are created by modernindustry and that place the workers of different localities incontact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed tocentralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character,into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggleis a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghersof the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, requiredcenturies, the modern proletarians, thanks to railways, achieve in afew years.

This organization of the proletarians into a class, andconsequently into a political party, is continually being upset againby the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever risesup again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislativerecognition of particular interests of the workers, by takingadvantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus theten-hours' bill in England was carried.

Altogether collisions between the classes of the old societyfurther, in many ways, the course of development of the proletariat.The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At firstwith the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of thebourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to theprogress of industry; at all times, with the bourgeoisie of foreigncountries. In all these battles it sees itself compelled to appeal tothe proletariat, to ask for its help, and thus, to drag it into thepolitical arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies theproletariat with its own elements of political and general education,in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons forfighting the bourgeoisie.

Further, as we have already seen, entire sections of the rulingclasses are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into theproletariat, or are at least threatened in their conditions ofexistence. These also supply the proletariat with fresh elements ofenlightenment and progress.

Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour,the process of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in factwithin the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent,glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cutsitself adrift and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holdsthe future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, asection of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now aportion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and inparticular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raisedthemselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historicalmovement as a whole.

Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisietoday, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. Theother classes decay and finally disappear in the face of ModernIndustry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.

The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper,the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, tosave from extinction their existence as fractions of the middleclass. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Naymore, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel ofhistory. If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only inview of their impending transfer into the proletariat, they thusdefend not their present, but their future interests, they deserttheir own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.

The "dangerous class", the social scum, that passively rottingmass thrown off by the lowest layers of old society may, here andthere, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; itsconditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of abribed tool of reactionary intrigue.

In the conditions of the proletariat, those of old society atlarge are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is withoutproperty; his relation to his wife and children has no longeranything in common with the bourgeois family relations; modernindustrial labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in Englandas in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of everytrace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him somany bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as manybourgeois interests.

All the preceding classes that got the upper hand, sought tofortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at largeto their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot becomemasters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishingtheir own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also everyother previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their ownto secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previoussecurities for, and insurances of, individual property.

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, orin the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is theselfconscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in theinterest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratumof our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, withoutthe whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung intothe air.

Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of theproletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. Theproletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settlematters with its own bourgeoisie.

In depicting the most general phases of the development of theproletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, ragingwithin existing society, up to the point where that war breaks outinto open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of thebourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.

Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have alreadyseen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But inorder to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to itunder which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. Theserf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in thecommune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of feudalabsolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer,on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress of industry,sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his ownclass. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly thanpopulation and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that thebourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society,and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as anover-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent toassure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because itcannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feedhim, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live underthis bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longercompatible with society.

The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of thebourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital; thecondition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusivelyon competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whoseinvoluntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation ofthe labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionarycombination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry,therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which thebourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie,therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its falland the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.



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