history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class
and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master
and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant
opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden,
now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary
re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of
the contending classes.
the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated
arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation
of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians,
slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters,
journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes,
again, subordinate gradations.
modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal
society has not done away with clash antagonisms. It has but established
new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle
in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie,
possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified
the class antagonisms: Society as a whole is more and more splitting
up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly
facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of
the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of
the bourgeoisie were developed.
discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh
ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese
markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies,
the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally,
gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never
before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the
tottering feudal society, a rapid development.
feudal system of industry, under which industrial production was
monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing
wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place.
The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing
middle class; division of labour between the different corporate
guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single
the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacture
no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised
industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the
giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrial middle class,
by industrial millionaires, the leaders of whole industrial armies,
the modern bourgeois.
industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery
of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development
to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development
has, in its time, reacted on the extension of industry; 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 class handed down
from the Middle Ages.
see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product
of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in
the modes of production and of exchange.
step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by
a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed
class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing
association in the mediaeval commune; here independent urban republic
(as in Italy and Germany), there taxable "third estate" of the
monarchy (as in France), afterwards, in the period of manufacture
proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy
as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, corner-stone
of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last,
since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world-market,
conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive
political sway. The executive of the modern State is but a committee
for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.
bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.
bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end
to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly
torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural
superiors," and has left remaining no other nexus between man
and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment."
It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour,
of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the
icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal
worth into exchange value. And in place of the numberless and
feasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable
freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by
religious and political illusions, naked, shameless, direct, brutal
bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto
honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted
the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science,
into its paid wage labourers.
bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil,
and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal
display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which Reactionists so much
admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence.
It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about.
It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids,
Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions
that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.
bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the
instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production,
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 earlier industrial classes.
Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance
of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation
distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed,
fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable
prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become
antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into
air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled
to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his
relations with his kind.
need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases
the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle
everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given
a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every
country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from
under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood.
All old-established national industries have been destroyed or
are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries,
whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised
nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material,
but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose
products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter
of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions
of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction
the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old
local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse
in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And
as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual
creations of individual nations become common property. National
one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible,
and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises
a world literature.
bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production,
by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all,
even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap
prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it
batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians'
intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels
all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode
of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation
into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one
word, it creates a world after its own image.
bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns.
It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban
population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a
considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.
Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it
has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the
civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the
East on the West.
bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered
state of the population, of the means of production, and of property.
It has agglomerated production, and has concentrated property
in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political
centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces,
with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation,
became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one
code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier and one
customs-tariff. The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one
hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive
forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection
of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry
to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric
telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation
of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground -- what
earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces
slumbered in the lap of social labour?
see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation
the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society.
At a certain stage in the development of these means of production
and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced
and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing
industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became
no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces;
they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they
were burst asunder.
their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social
and political constitution adapted to it, and by the economical
and political sway of the bourgeois class.
similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois
society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property,
a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production
and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to
control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by
his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and
commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive
forces against modern conditions of production, against the property
relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie
and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises
that by their periodical return put on its trial, each time more
threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society.
In these crises a great part not only of the existing products,
but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically
destroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that,
in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity -- the epidemic
of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into
a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal
war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence;
industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there
is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much
industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal
of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions
of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful
for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon
as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole
of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property.
The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise
the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over
these crises? On the one hand inforced destruction of a mass of
productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets,
and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is
to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive
crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.
weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground
are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.
not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death
to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to
wield those weapons -- the modern working class -- the proletarians.
proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in
the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class,
developed -- a class of labourers, who live only so long as they
find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases
capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piece-meal,
are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are
consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to
all the fluctuations of the market.
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
of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous,
and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence,
the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely,
to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance,
and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity,
and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production.
In proportion therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases,
the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery
and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden
of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working
hours, by increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased
speed of the machinery, etc.
industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal
master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses
of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers.
As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command
of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are
they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State;
they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the over-looker,
and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.
The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and
aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering
less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour,
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 social validity
for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or
less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.
sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer,
so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he
is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord,
the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.
lower strata of the middle class -- the small tradespeople, shopkeepers,
retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants --
all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because
their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which
Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition
with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill
is rendered worthless by the new methods of production. Thus the
proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.
proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its
birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest
is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople
of a factory, then by the operatives of one trade, in one locality,
against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. They
direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production,
but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy
imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash to pieces
machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by
force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages.
this stage the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered
over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition.
If anywhere they unite to form more compact bodies, this is not
yet the consequence of their own active union, but of the union
of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to attain its own political
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 the enemies of
their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners,
the non-industrial bourgeois, the petty bourgeoisie. Thus the
whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of the
bourgeoisie; every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie.
with the development of industry the proletariat not only increases
in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength
grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests
and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are
more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates
all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages
to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois,
and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers
ever more fluctuating. The unceasing improvement of machinery,
ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and
more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and
individual bourgeois take 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 the rate of wages; they found permanent associations
in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts.
Here and there the contest breaks out into riots.
and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The
real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result,
but in the ever-expanding union of the workers. This union is
helped on by the improved means of communication that are created
by modern industry and that place the workers of different localities
in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was
needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the
same character, into one national struggle between classes. But
every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union,
to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable
highways, required centuries, the modern proletarians, thanks
to railways, achieve in a few years.
organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently
into a political party, is continually being upset again by the
competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises
up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition
of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of
the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus the ten-hours'
bill in England was carried.
collisions between the classes of the old society further, in
many ways, the course of development of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie
finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the
aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie
itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress
of industry; at all times, with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries.
In all these battles it sees itself compelled to appeal to the
proletariat, to ask for its help, and thus, to drag it into the
political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the
proletariat with its own instruments of political and general
education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons
for fighting the bourgeoisie.
as we have already seen, entire sections of the ruling classes
are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat,
or are at least threatened in their conditions of existence. These
also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment
in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the
process of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact
within the whole range of society, assumes such a violent, glaring
character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself
adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds
the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period,
a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now
a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and
in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have
raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically
the historical movement as a whole.
all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today,
the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other
classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry;
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, to save
from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class.
They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more,
they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history.
If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view
of their impending transfer into the proletariat, they thus defend
not their present, but their future interests, they desert their
own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.
"dangerous class," the social scum, that passively rotting mass
thrown off by the lowest layers of old society, may, here and
there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution;
its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part
of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.
the conditions of the proletariat, those of old society at large
are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is without property;
his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in
common with the bourgeois family-relations; modern industrial
labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in
France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace
of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so
many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as
many bourgeois interests.
the preceding classes that got the upper hand, sought to fortify
their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to
their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become
masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing
their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every
other previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their
own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all
previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property.
previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or
in the interests of minorities. The proletarian movement is the
self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority,
in the interests of the immense majority. The proletariat, the
lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise
itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official
society being sprung into the air.
not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat
with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat
of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with
its own bourgeoisie.
depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat,
we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing
society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution,
and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation
for the sway of the proletariat.
every form of society has been based, as we have already seen,
on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in
order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to
it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence.
The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership
in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of
feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern
laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress
of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence
of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops
more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident,
that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class
in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society
as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent
to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because
it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has
to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer
live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is
no longer compatible with society.
essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the
bourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital;
the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively
on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry,
whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation
of the labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination,
due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore,
cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie
produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore,
produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the
victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
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