Karl Marx: Communist Manifesto Notes
"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." (65)
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…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” (65)
Section 1: Bourgeois and proletarians
The modern labourer…sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own
The Manifesto then describes the past history of the proletariat. As soon as this class was created
it began to struggle with the bourgeoisie. This struggle originally involved the individual laborer,
and later groups of workers, rebelling against the bourgeois that directly exploited them. These
workers hoped to revive the medieval status of the worker. At this point, the workers were still
disorganized, divided by geography and by competition with one another. Furthermore, when they
did form unions, they were under the influence of the bourgeois, and actually served to further the
objectives of the bourgeoisie.
Marx explains that the only class today that is really revolutionary is the proletariat. All of the other
classes that fight the bourgeoisie--such as the shopkeeper--are conservative, fighting to preserve
their existence. Among the proletariat, however, the Old Society is already past preservation.
"Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush
just as many bourgeois interests."
Historically, the proletariat are also unique. In the past, when a class got the upper hand, it tried to
subject all of society to its own mode of appropriation. However, the proletariat lack any property
of their own to retain or expand. Rather, they must destroy all ways of securing private property at
all. Another unique characteristic of the proletariat is that, while past movements were started by
minorities, the proletariats are a vast majority, and are acting in the interest of that majority.
In order for a class to be able to be oppressed, however, its slavish existence must be
sustainable, held steady: in contrast, laborers in modern industrial society are continually
suffering a deterioration of their status; they become poorer and poorer. The bourgeoisie are thus
unfit to rule, because they cannot guarantee "an existence to its slave within its slavery." (76)
Thus, with the development of Modern Industry, the bourgeoisie produces "its own grave-diggers.
Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable."
SECTION 2: PROLETARIANS AND COMMUNISTS
the immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian
parties: formation of the proletariats into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest
of political power by the proletariat (77)
the distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the
abolition of bourgeois property (78) But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most
complete expression of the system of producin