The Underlying Origins Of Labor Day...
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history
of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, 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
reconstitution 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, plebians,
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
Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however,
this distinct feature: it has simplified 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 industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby,
to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society,
a rapid development. The feudal system of industry, in
which industrial production was monopolized by closed
guilds, now no longer suffices for the growing wants of
the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place.
The guild-masters were pushed aside by the manufacturing
middle class; division of labor between the different
corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labor
in each workshop.
Meantime, the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever
rising. Even manufacturers 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 the whole industrial
armies, the modern bourgeois.
Modern industry has established the world market, for
which the discovery of America paved the way. This market
has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation,
to communication by land. This development has, in turn,
reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion
as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended,
in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased
its capital, and pushed into the background every class
handed down from the Middle Ages.
We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself
the product of a long course of development, of a series
of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has
put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.
It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties
that bound man to his "natural superiors", and
has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest,
than callous "cash payment". It has drowned
out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of
chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in
the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved
personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the
numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up
that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In
one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political
illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct,
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation
hitherto honored 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 laborers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental
veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere
K. Marx, F. Engels, 1846