The Communist Manifesto
This document is still relevant, and even readable, minus a few buzzwords
The history of all hitherto existing society(2) is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master(3) 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 reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In 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.
The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class 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 super-rich, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified 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 — billionaires versus workers.
From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie--the controlling rich-- were developed.
The invasion and genocide of the peoples of the Americas, the rounding of the African Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising super-rich. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonization of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, and to industry, an impulse never before known: a rapid development. This was also available to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society.
The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolized 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, to be replaced by division of labour in each single workshop.
Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturers no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class was replaced by industrial billionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies.
Modern industry has established the world market, for which the rape of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, and to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry. Industry, commerce, navigation, and railways extended, in the same proportion the billionaires developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.
We see, therefore, how the modern rich owning class is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.
Each step in the development of the rich class was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. In general, the billionaire class 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 billionaire class.
The bourgeoisie rich, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.
The super-rich class, 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 vulgar sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless untouchable chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one phrase, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The billionaire class has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored 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 laborers.
The rich class has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
The owning class 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.
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutioniing 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 revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the billionaire 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 people are at last compelled to face with sober senses their real conditions of life, and their social relations.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the corporate owning class over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.
The rich and their corporations' exploitation of the world market has given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. 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 "civilized" 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 production 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.
The rich, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draw all, even the most isolated, nations into commerce. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all walls, with which it forces the most insular peoples to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the corporations' mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The owning class 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. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made non-industrial countries dependent on the imperial ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the South on the North.
Corporate rule keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralized the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization. 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 owning class, during its rule of two hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to technology, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, navigation, railways, jet routes, the Internet, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization 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?
We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the owning class 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 phrase, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many chains. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition (though stunted by gross corruption), accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the ruling billionaire class.
A 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 billionaire class and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire billionaire society on its trial, each time more threateningly. 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 "civilization," 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 the rich people's property. The conditions of the owner class' society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the billionaire class get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced 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.
The weapons with which the rich classes felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the rich themselves.
But not only has the billionaire class 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.
In proportion as the owning class, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These workers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, 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.
Owing to the extensive use of robotics and computerization, and to the division of labor, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. She becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the latest arbitrary technological trick that is required of her. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity for the owning class, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. (The price on the market of course depends on demand and supply.) 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 the increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed of machinery, etc.
Modern 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 manager, and, above all, by the individual corporate manufacturer itself. The more openly this despotism proclaims greed to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.
No sooner is the exploitation of the laborer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that she receives her wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the owning class, i.e., the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.
The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and 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 new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.
The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the owning class. At first the contest is carried on by individual laborers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative 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 labor, 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. Or they would, if they had a lick of sense.
At this stage, the laborers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition. At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies. Thus, the whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of the corporations; every victory so obtained is a victory for the billionaire class.
Now 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 social media that are created by modern industry, and that places the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize 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 proletarian, thanks to the Internet, achieve in days.
This 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.
Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old 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.
Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the working class 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 only so 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.
The "dangerous class", [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the 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.
In the condition of the working class (proletariat), those of old society at large are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is without property; family relations no longer have anything in common with the wealthy' family relations; modern industry labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped her of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many owning class (bourgeois) prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.
All 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 workers 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 overaccumulation of wealth.
All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The paycheck-earners, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise themselves up, without the whole strata of official society being sprung into the air.
Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the workers with the billionaires is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.
In 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 ninety-nine percent.
Hitherto, 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 the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process 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 billionaire 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.
The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the billionaire class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labor. Wage-labor rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The internet, though owned by the very rich, provides the method by which individual workers may communicate. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the billionaire class therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the ninety-nine percent are equally inevitable.
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