The Communist Manifesto

by

Karl Marx

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Proletariat Character Analysis

The proletariat is the class of people that consists of anyone who the bourgeoisie suppresses and exploits—in short, anyone that is forced to work for the bourgeoisie because of their economic circumstances. The proletariat differs from earlier oppressed classes by virtue of its sheer size; as capitalism has simplified the class system, people are either part of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. The division of labor forces the proletariat to work jobs that involve increasingly repetitive and menial tasks; furthermore, as they depend upon their wages to survive, their working conditions are continually diminished by the profiteering of the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels’ manifesto is a call to arms for the proletariat, imploring them to realize their collective power and organize themselves into a revolution. Because members of the proletariat are poorer than the bourgeoisie, they are more at risk in the times of crises, which, Marx and Engels argue, are likely under a capitalist system. This means the proletariat is greatly disadvantaged by its oppressed position—its members do not receive a fair share of the profits of their substantial labor, and they are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty. Marx and Engels envision a society run by and for the proletariat, in which resources are divided according to need rather than economic advantage.

Proletariat Quotes in The Communist Manifesto

The The Communist Manifesto quotes below are all either spoken by Proletariat or refer to Proletariat. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of The Communist Manifesto published in 2011.
I. Bourgeois and Proletarians Quotes

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Page Number: 62-63
Explanation and Analysis:

Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.

But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called in to existence the men who are to wield those weapons—the modern working class—the proletarians.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Modern industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrialist capitalist. Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the individual army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Artisans
Related Symbols: Chains
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
II. Proletarians and Communists Quotes

The immediate aim of the Communists 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.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Communists
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
III. Socialist and Communist Literature Quotes

A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.

To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
IV. Position of the Communists... Quotes

Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Communists
Related Symbols: Chains
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
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Proletariat Character Timeline in The Communist Manifesto

The timeline below shows where the character Proletariat appears in The Communist Manifesto. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
I. Bourgeois and Proletarians
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...knights, plebeians, slaves”), society is becoming increasingly split into two classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. (full context)
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...The bourgeoisie has unwittingly brought into existence the class that will wield those weapons: the proletariat. (full context)
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The size of the proletariat increases in proportion to the expansion of capitalism. The modern working class needs work to... (full context)
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...the work becomes less skilled and less enjoyable, the bourgeoisie drives wages down, paying the proletariat just enough for them to survive. That work becomes more arduous, repetitive, and time-pressured. (full context)
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To Marx and Engels, the nature of work for the proletariat in the capitalist system means more and more people are crammed into factories, “organized like... (full context)
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The capitalist system draws more and more people into the proletariat. People more generally thought of as middle- rather than working-class get pulled down, partly because... (full context)
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Marx and Engels state that the proletariat has occasionally fought back against the bourgeoisie, but such instances are generally confined to local... (full context)
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Where the proletariat has been grouped together into greater number, it is usually on the orders of the... (full context)
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Crucially, say Marx and Engels, the proletariat is growing larger and larger and will gradually begin to feel its collective strength. The... (full context)
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...advances in the means of communications and transport, brought about by bourgeois innovation, help the proletariat to be better organized, allowing workers from different places to galvanize together. (full context)
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...rival countries. In fighting these battles, the bourgeoisie try to enlist the support of the proletariat; however, by empowering the proletariat with political and general education, they are actually providing the... (full context)
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The proletariat pulls small numbers of the bourgeoisie’s members into its orbit—those who feel they have a... (full context)
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The proletariat’s conditions mean its members have skewed family relations, no property, and no “trace of national... (full context)
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Since the proletariat has nothing of its own, it must destroy all “previous securities for, and insurances of,... (full context)
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Marx and Engels argue that if the proletariat doesn’t resist its conditions, its members will continue to grow poorer as the bourgeoisie get... (full context)
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...grave-digger.” Marx and Engels see the downfall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat as inevitable. (full context)
II. Proletarians and Communists
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Marx and Engels explain that the purpose of communism is to support the proletariat. The Communist political party differs from other working-class parties only in that it seeks to... (full context)
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The chief goals of communism are the “formation of the proletariat into a class,” the overthrow of the bourgeoise’s supremacy, and the political empowerment of the... (full context)
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...to property, but an end to property used for exploitation. Capital is generated by the proletariat, yet it does not become their property. Marx and Engels say communism simply wants to... (full context)
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...Marx and Engels. They argue that the bourgeoisie has already ruined family relations for the proletariat, and that bourgeois families are based on “capital” and “private gain.” Marx and Engels say... (full context)
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...defense of family and education; in practice, bourgeois society breaks the family ties of the proletariat and forces young children to work. (full context)
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...industrialism increasingly makes different countries the same, national identities lose significance. The success of the proletariat depends on united action across borders. (full context)
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...the way forward. They say the first step in the revolution is to raise the proletariat into the position of power. Then, the proletariat must seize all capital from the bourgeoisie... (full context)
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...progressive income tax, the centralization of money, communication and transport in the hands of the proletariat government, cultivation of unused land, compulsory work for all who can work, the abolition of... (full context)
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Over time, the proletariat’s public power will no longer resemble the politics of old. In fact, if successful, the... (full context)
III. Socialist and Communist Literature
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...dominance. Their chief objection to bourgeoisie society was that it would bring about a revolutionary proletariat class, ultimately threatening their way of life. (full context)
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...of medieval burgesses and peasant proprietors who are now at risk of slipping into the proletariat. These writings, according to Marx and Engels, successfully point out that the petty-bourgeois class will... (full context)
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...type of socialism is dishonest—what bourgeois socialists want above all is bourgeois dominance over the proletariat. (full context)
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...allowing the bourgeoisie to enjoy their dominant status while removing the revolutionary potential from the proletariat. They do this, say Marx and Engels, by trying to address the proletariat’s social problems... (full context)
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A second type of bourgeois socialism attempts to show the proletariat that revolutions are dangerous and doomed to fail. It argues that reforms have to take... (full context)
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...“Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism.” Marx and Engels say that these writings came about during the proletariat’s first attempts to improve its status in society. However, as the proletariat was too undeveloped,... (full context)
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...society. But they were too “utopian,” or idealistic. Their other problem was that, because the proletariat was not yet ready, the utopian writers looked for new social sciences and laws to... (full context)
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...Engels do think that these utopian writers provide useful material for the “enlightenment” of the proletariat because they focus on the unfair principles that govern society. Their analysis is good and... (full context)
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As the conditions required for a proletariat revolution materialize, these idealistic writings “lose all practical value and all theoretical justification.” Marx and... (full context)
IV. Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties
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...parties. Generally, the Communist parties aim to both fight for the immediate needs of the proletariat and to empower them with the recognition of their oppression by the bourgeoisie. (full context)
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...is about to undergo a bourgeois revolution that will ultimately result in a more developed proletariat; this proletariat will immediately retaliate with their own revolution. Marx and Engels state that communists... (full context)
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...They say, “let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution,” and declare that the proletarians have “nothing to lose but their chains.” The manifesto ends with Marx and Engels imploring... (full context)