The Communist Manifesto HTML version
The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class
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.
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
bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it 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, the rounding of the Cape, opened up
fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and
Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the
colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in
commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to