The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
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Freeman 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…a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstruction 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…
The modern bourgeoisie society…has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle…Society as a whole is…splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat….
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scare 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….
But….the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons—the modern working class—the proletarians….[A]s the bourgeoisie…developed…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 piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to the vicissitudes [changing circumstances] of competition, to all fluctuations 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 of the machine, and it is only the simplest, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack that is required of him….
Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organized 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 bourgeoisie class, and of the bourgeoisie State, they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the over-seer and, above all, by the individual bourgeoisie manufacturer….
But 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….[M]achinery obliterates all distinctions of labour and …reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeoisie, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers even more fluctuating. The unceasing improvement of machinery…makes their livelihood….precarious…..
The modern labourer…sinks deeper and deeper….He becomes a pauper…And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class…because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave…
The immediate aim of he Communist is the…formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat….
[T]he first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class; to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest…all capital from the bourgeoisie; to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State…and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.
When…class distinctions have disappeared and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power…is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another….
In the place of the old bourgeois society with its classes and class antagonisms we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all…
Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Working men of all countries, unite!