Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,
The Communist Manifesto
Basic assertion of historical materialism: “The history of all hitherto existing
society is the history of class struggle,” (9). The bourgeois epoch has simplified
class antagonism by largely dividing society into two camps – the proletariat
(workers) and the owners of capital.
The bourgeoisie has also accelerated the system of production and vastly
expanded the market, “Meantime the markets kept growing, the demand ever
rising. Even manufacture 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 by industrial
millionaires – the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeoisie,”
The bourgeoisie played the role of revolutionaries in history, and, “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,” (11).
Having achieved supremacy, Marx argues that the bourgeoisie turned all human
social, political and cultural relations into the commodity relation of exchange,
and now defines all worth through exchange value. Free Trade is thus rendered
the only freedom, “In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political
illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation,” (11).
Rendering oppression transparent is a big part of the reason Marx thinks a
proletarian revolution could smash oppressive class relations for all time.
The bourgeoisie needs to constantly revolutionize commodities and the means of
production to continue to profit, “Constant revolutionizing of production,
uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and
agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones…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,” (12).
Nations are rendered interdependent and imperialism emerges as the bourgeoisie