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by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The original, squashed down to read in about 20 minutes
This little paper is the most influential political pamphlet of all time. Nations of millions, from Russia to Cuba have tried to follow its plan for a proletarian revolution to overthrow the bourgeois social order and create a classless society without private property. Although ostensibly the work of a people's committee, The Manifesto is in Marx's handwriting and his colleague Friedrich Engels said that its ideas "belong solely and exclusively to Marx."
Abridged: GH, from the English edition of 1888.
For more works by Karl Marx, see The Index
A spectre is haunting Europe- the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, French Radicals and German police-spies. Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Communistic by its opponents?
Two things result from this fact.
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European Powers to be itself a Power.
II. It is high time that Communists should openly publish their aims, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre.
To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London, and sketched the following Manifesto.
I. BOURGEOIS AND PROLETARIANS
The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.
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 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 modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. Our epoch 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.
From 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. The discovery of America and the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The 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 corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.
Meantime 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.
The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie has pitilessly torn asunder the feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors," and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, the callous "cash payment." It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and, in place of the numberless chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom - Free Trade. In one word; naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The 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. The bourgeoisie has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface 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. The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, and has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.
Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control his spells. 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 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. Why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.
But 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. 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.
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. 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. In proportion therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases.
No sooner does the labourer receive his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc. The 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.
The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. The workers begin to form combinations (Trades Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages. Here and there the contest breaks out into riots. At every disappointment the proletariat 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 process of dissolution is going on within the ruling class. 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, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie.
Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, but they are not revolutionary, but conservative.
All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their 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.
All previous historical movements were movements of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority.
In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we trace 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.
The 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 labourers. 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.
II. PROLETARIANS AND COMMUNISTS
The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
The immediate aim of the Communist is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.
All property relations have continually been subject to change consequent upon the change in historical conditions. The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property. The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.
We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man's own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.
Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.
Or do you mean modern bourgeois private property?
Does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour. Capital is not a personal, it is a social power, for when capital is converted into common property personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class-character.
The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite in bare existence as a labourer. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation. In Communist society, labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.
The abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.
It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us.
According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything, do not work.
Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.
On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital. Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.
The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.
But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the whole bourgeoisie in chorus.
He has not even a suspicion that the real point is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial. Our bourgeois, not content with having the wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other's wives.
The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.
The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got.
The charges against Communism made from a religious, philosophical, and an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination. But let us have done with the bourgeois objections to Communism.
The first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to rapidly increase the total of productive force.
Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property. These measures will of course be different in different countries. Nevertheless in the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c., &c.
In 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.
III. SOCIALIST AND COMMUNIST LITERATURE
1. REACTIONARY SOCIALISM
A. Feudal Socialism: It became the vocation of the aristocracies of France and England to write pamphlets against bourgeois society. Thus arose Feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon, but always ludicrous. As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.
B. Petty-Bourgeois Socialism: In countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie. Petty-bourgeois Socialism aims either at restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange. It is both reactionary and Utopian.
C. German, or "True," Socialism: German philosophers, eagerly seized on French Socialist literature, forgetting that French social conditions had not immigrated along with them. German Socialists proclaimed the German nation to be the model nation, and the German petty Philistine to be the typical man - merely foul and enervating literature.
2. CONSERVATIVE, OR BOURGEOIS, SOCIALISM
A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society; philanthropists, humanitarians, organisers of charity, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, fanatics and reformers of every kind.
Free trade and protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. The bourgeois; for the benefit of the working class.
3. CRITICAL-UTOPIAN SOCIALISM
They reject all political, and especially all revolutionary, action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, by small experiments, necessarily doomed to failure.
4. COMMUNISTS AND EXISTING PARTIES
The Communists fight for the interests of the working class. In France the Communists ally themselves with the Social-Democrats. In Switzerland they support the Radicals. In Poland they support the party of agrarian revolution. But they never cease, for a single instant, to instil into the working class the clearest possible recognition of the hostile antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat. They labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
● Copyright © 2014 Glyn Hughes.
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