Part 1, Chapter 5 : Capitalism.--Origin Of The Bourgeoisie And Proletariat

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Part 1, Chapter 5

Parsons, Albert Richard. Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis as defined by some of its apostles. Chicago, Mrs. A. R. Parsons [c1887].

CHAPTER V.

CAPITALISM.--ORIGIN OF THE BOURGEOISIE AND PROLETARIAT.

In February, 1848, the now historical "Communist Manifesto appeared in London, England. It was translated into all the European languages and* spread broadcast by the workingmen's societies of those countries An extract from it is here given as follows:

"From the serfs of the middle ages sprang the burgesses of the early Communes; and from this municipal class were developed the first elements of the bourgeoisie. The discovery of America, the circumnavigation of Africa, gave the bourgeoisie or middle class-then coming into being-- and wider fields of action. The colonization of America, the opening up of the East Indian and Chinese markets, the colonial trade, the increase of merchandise and of currency, gave an impetus-hitherto unknown-to, commerce, shipping and manufactures, and aided the rapid development of the revolutionary element in the old decaying form of feudal society.

"The old feudal way of managing the industrial interests through guilds was found no longer sufficient for the increasing demands of new markets. It was replaced by the manufacturing system. Guilds gave way to the industrial middle class, and the division of labor between the different corporations was succeeded by the division of labor between the workmen of one and the same workshop.

"New markets multiplied; the demand still increased. The manufacturing system in its turn was found to be inadequate. Then industrial production was revolutionized by machinery and steam. The modern industrial system was then developed in all its gigantic proportions; instead of the industrial middle-class we find industrial millionaires, chiefs of whole industrial armies-the modern bourgeoisie, or middle-class capitalists. This system of modern industry founded a world-wide market, which he discovery of America had prepared, and thereby an immense development was given to commerce, and to the means of communication by sea and land. This again reacted upon the industrial system, and in the same degree that industry, trade, shipping and railroads have increased, so have the bourgeoisie developed and increased their capital, and at the same time have driven to the wall all classes then remaining from feudal times.

"We find, therefore, that the modern bourgeoisie are themselves the result of a long process of development, of a series of revolutions in the nodes of production and exchange. Each of these stages in the evolution of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by corresponding progress. It was an oppressed class under the old feudal barons; in the medieval communes it assumed the form of armed and self governing associations; in one county we find it existing as a commercial republic or free city; in another, as the third taxable estate of the monarchy; then during the prevalence of the manufacturing system (before the introduction of steam) the middle-class was a counterpoise to the nobility in absolute monarchies, and the groundwork of the powerful monarchial states generally. Finally, since the advent of the modern industrial system, with its world-wide markets, this class has gained exclusive possession of political power in modern representative states. Modern governments are merely committees for managing the affairs of industry in the interest of the bourgeoisie.

"The bourgeoisie have played an extremely revolutionary role in society!

"The bourgeoisie have destroyed all feudal, patriarchal and idylic relations wherever they have come into power. They relentlessly tore asunder the many-sided ties of that chain which bound men to their 'natural superiors,' and they left no bond of union between man and man, save that of bare self-interest--of cash payments. They resolved personal dignity into market value, and substituted the single unprincipled idea of freedom of trade for the numerous, well-earned, chartered liberties of the middle ages. Chivalrous enthusiasm, the emotions of piety, and all principles of personal honor have vanished before the icy breath of their selfish calculations. In a word, the bourgeoisie substituted shameless, direct open spoliation, for the previous system of spoliation concealed under religious and political illusions.

"The bourgeoisie divested of their sanctity all institutions heretofore regarded with pious veneration. They converted the physician, the jurist, the priest, the poet, the philosopher, into their paid tools and servants.

"The bourgeoisie have torn the tender veil of sentiment away from domestic ties and reduced the family relations to a more question of dollars and cents.

"The bourgeoisie have demonstrated how the brutal force of the middle ages, which is so much admired by reactionists, has found its most befitting fulfillment to-day in the laziest ruffianism. They have also shown what human activity is capable of accomplishing. They have executed work more marvelous than Egyptian Pyramids, Roman Acqueducts, or Gothic Cathedrals; and their expeditions have surpassed by far all former crusades and migrations of nations.

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist, without continually revolutionizing machinery and the instruments of production, and consequently changing all our social institutions. Persistence in the established modes of production was, on the contrary, in former years, the first condition of existence for all other industrial classes. A continual change in the modes of production, a never ceasing state of agitation and social insecurity, distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all preceding ones. The ancient ties between men--their opinions and belief, hoary with antiquity-are fast disappearing, and now ones become worn out ere they become firmly rooted. Everything fixed and stable vanishes; everything holy and venerable is profaned; and men are forced to look at their mutual relations, at the problem of life, in the soberest, most matter-of-fact manner.

"The need of an ever increasing market for their produce drives the bourgeoisie all over the entire globe-they found settlements, form connections and set up means of communication everywhere. Through their control of the world's markets they have given a cosmopolitan tendency to the production and consumption of all countries. To the great regret of the reactionists the bourgeoisie have deprived modern industry of its national foundation. The old national manufactures have been in some cases annihilated and are still being destroyed. They are superseded by new modes of industry, the introduction of which is becoming a vital question for all civilized nations, where raw materials are not indigenous, but are brought from the remotest countries; and whose products are not merely consumed in the home market, but throughout the the whole world. Instead of the old primitive wants, supplied only by home production, -we now find new wants supplied by the products of the most distant lands and climes. Instead of the old local, national feeling of independence and isolation, we find universal intercourse and inter-dependence among nations. The same fact obtains in the intellectual world! The intellectual productions of each nation become the common property of all nations. National partiality and prejudice are fast becoming impossible and a universal literature is being formed from the numerous local and national literatures.

"Through incessant improvements in machinery and the means of communication, the bourgeoisie draw the most barbarous nations into the magic circle of civilization. Cheap goods are their artillery for battering down Chinese walls and to overcome the obstinate hatred entertained towards strangers by semi-civilized nations. Under penalty of ruin, the bourgeoisie compel by competition the universal adoption of their system of production; they force all nations to accept what is called civilizationto become bourgeois-and thus the middle class shapes the world after its own image.

"The bourgeoisie have subjected the rural districts to the ascendancy of the town; they have created enormous cities, and by causing an immense increase of population in manufacturing districts, compared with agricultural, have removed a greater part of the population from the simplicity of country life. Not only have they made the country subordinate to the town, they have also made barbarous and half civilized tribes dependent on civilized nations, the agricultural on the manufacturing nations, the East on the West. The division of property, of the means of production disappear under the rule of the bourgeoisie. They agglomerate population, they centralize the means of production, and concentrate property in the hands of the few. Political centralization is the natural result. Independent provinces, with different interests, each affected by separate customs and under separate local government are brought together as one nation , under the same government, the same laws, customs, and tariff-under the same national class interest.

"The rule of the bourgeoisie has only prevailed for about a century, but during that time it has called into being greater gigantic powers of Production than all preceding generations combined. The subjection of the elements of nature, the development of machinery, the application of chemistry to agriculture and manufactures, railways, telegraphs, steamships, the clearing and cultivation of whole continents, the canalizing of rivers,--large populations, whole industrial armies, springing up as if by magic. What preceding century ever even dreamed of these productive powers slumbering in the bosom of society?

"We have seen that these means of production and traffic which serve as the foundation of middle class development, originated in feudal times. At a certain stage in the evolution of these means, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged-the feudal system of agriculture and industry--in a word the feudal conditions of property no longer sufficed for the increased productive powers of mankind. These conditions then became a hindrance to production; instead of an assistance, they were so many fetters which had to be broken and they were broken.

"They were superseded by unrestricted competition with its appropriate social and political constitutions, with the economic and political supremacy of the middle class. At the present moment a similar movement is going on. Modern middle class society which has revolutionized the conditions of property and called forth such collossal powers of production and exchange, resembles the wizard who loses control of the infernal powers he has conjured. The history of manufactures and commercehas been for many years the history of the revolts of the modern powers of production against the modern conditions of production-against the very conditions of property which are vital to the existence and supremacy of the middle class. It is sufficient to refer to the panics or commercial crises, which in their periodical recurrence, more and more endanger the existence of the middle class. In such a crisis is not only a larger quantity of social products destroyed, but also a large portion of the productive power itself.

"During such panics a social epidemic breaks forth, which in all former epochs whould have appeared a paradox-the epidemic of overproduction. Society finds itself suddenly thrown back into momentary barbarism; famine or devastating war seem to have deprived it of the means of subsistence,--industry and trade appear destroyed. And is it because society possesses too much civilization, too much sustenance, too much industry, too much trade? The powers of production at the disposal of society, no longer serve to advance the middle class ownership of property; on the contrary they have become too powerful for these conditions; they are hampered by them and whenever these obstructions are overcome, they throw all middle class society into confusion and imperil the existence of middle class property. The social system of the middle class has become too narrow to hold the wealth it has called into being. How does the middle class try to withstand these panics? On the one hand by destroying masses of productive power, on the other hand by the conquest of new markets and by exhausting the old ones more thoroughly. That is they prepare the way for still more universal and dangerous panics and reduce the means of withstanding them.

"The weapons with which the middle class overthrew feudalism are now turned against itself. The middle class not only has forged the weapons for its own destruction, it has also produced the men who will wield these weapons-the modern workmen, the proletariat.

"In the same degree in which the bourgeoisie and capital have developed, so the proletariat has developed. And this is the class that live only when it can find work, and it finds work only as long as its toil will increase capital. These workers who must sell themselves piecemeal -to the highest bidder, like all other articles of commerce, are equally exposed to all the variations of competition and to all the fluctuations of the market.

"Through the extension of machinery and the division of work, daily labor has lost all its independent character and all attraction for the workingman. He becomes merely an appendage to a machine, and only the simplest, most monotonous, and most easily learned operation is demanded. The expenses of the workingman, are therefore almost entirely limited to the means of subsistence required for his support and for the propagation of his race.

"The price of a commodity, likewise of labor, is measured by its cost of production. In the same degree that the repulsiveness of labor increases, wages decrease. Still further in proportion as machinery and division of labor increase, the burdens of labor increase either through increase of the hours of labor, or in the quantity of work required in a given time, or through increased speed of machinery, etc.

"Modern industry has transformed the small workshop of the artisan into the larger factory of the capitalist. Masses of operatives crowded together in factories are organized on a military basis. They are placed as common soldiers, under the superintendence of a complete hierarchy of officers and subalterns. They are not alone slaves of the middle class, of the government; but they are also daily and hourly the slaves of the machine, the foreman, and above all the individual employer. This despotism is all the more hateful, contemptible and aggravating since it openly proclaims that gain is its only object and aim.

"The less skill and exertion of force manual labor requires, the more modern industry develops; the more the labor of men is displaced by that of women. Neither sex nor age have any social existence for the working class. They are merely so many instruments costing different sums according to age or sex.

"When the plundering of the workingman by the manufacturer has ceased in so far that he has been paid his cash wages, then step in the other portions of the middle class to prey upon the worker, viz: the landlord, storekeeper, pawnbroker, etc.

"The small middle class, the artisans, merchants, mechanics, shopkeepers, and farmers, are all doomed to fall into the ranks of the proletariat, because their small capital can not compete with that of the millionaire, and partly because their skill is depreciated by new modes of production. Thus the proletariat recruits from all classes of population.

"The proletariat has passed through many phases of development, but its struggle with the bourgeoisie dates from its birth. At first the struggle is waged by individual workingmen, then by the workingmen of 'One factory, next by the workingmen of an entire trade in the same locality against an individual employer who directly despoils them. They attack not only the capitalistic conditions of production, but even the instruments of production; they destroy competing merchandise from foreign countries, they break machines, burn factories and seek to regain the position of the workers in the middle ages. At this stage the workers form a disorganized mass scattered all over the country divided by competition. A more compact union then comes, not so much the effect of their own development, as it is the consequence of the organization of the bourgeoisie. This class requires and does set in motion the whole working class for the furtherance of its own political interests. And thus the, working class do not fight their own enemies, but rather the enemies of their masters, such as absolute monarchy wherever it exists, the landowners, the non-employing capitalists, the shopkeepers; the benefits of every such movement are thus concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie, who are opposed to these classes; every victory thus gained is won for them.

"With the development of industry not only does the proletariat increase, it also concentrates into greater masses and learns its own strength and power. The interests and conditions of different trades are more and more equalized, because machinery destroys more and more the difference in labor and reduces wages to the same low level generally. The increasing competition of the bourgeoisie among themselves and the commercial panics resulting therefrom make the wages of workingmen more uncertain; the continual and rapid improvement in machinery makes. their conditions in life more precarious. The collisions between individual workingmen and individual masters assume more and more the character of outbreaks between the two classes. The workingmen form coalitions. against the masters, they unite in trade unions to maintain their wages. They form permanent associations for mutual aid and to prepare for these occasional outbreaks. And at times the struggle assumes the form of riots. From time to time the workingmen are victorious, but only momentarily. The actual result of their struggle is not immediate success, but leads to ever increasing combination among workingmen. Their unions are favored by the ever growing facility of communication, fostered by modern industry, whereby the workingmen of the remotest districts are placed in closer connection. All that is required is a closer union to centralize the many local struggles of the same character into one grand national struggle, into a class revolt. Every class struggle is a political one. The combination, which took the burghers of the middle ages with their common highways centuries to accomplish, can be now established in a few years by the modern working class, through the aid of railroads.

"This organization of the workingmen into a class and thereby into a political party is often destroyed by the competition of workingmen among themselves. Yet the organization of labor always reappears, and each time stronger, firmer and more extensive. It enforces the legal recognition of some particular interest of the workingmen, profiting by dissensions among the bourgeoisie-as in the case of the ten-hour law in England. The dissensions of the ruling class among themselves are favorable in many respects to the advancement of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie have always been in a state of perpetual warfare, first against the aristocracy, -then against that part of its own class whose interests are opposed to the further development of industry, and thirdly against the bourgeoisie of other countries. In all these struggles it is obliged to appeal to the working class, to invoke their help, and so the working class is drawn into political movements. It therefore places in the hands of the proletariat its own means of advancement-and furnishes the weapons against itself.

"As we have already seen, the evolution of industry throws a large part of the ruling class into the ranks of the proletariat, or at least rend- their condition in life more precarious. Thus a mass of enlightened elements are driven into the ranks of the working class.

"Finally, as the settlement of this class struggle nears an end, then the process of dissolution goes on so rapidly within the ruling class-within the worn out body politic-that a small fraction of this class separates from the bourgeoisie and unites with the revolutionary class-that class which holds the future in its own hands.

"As in former times, a part of the nobility joined the bourgeoisie, so now a part of the bourgeoisie joins the proletariat, and particularly that part of the bourgeoisie who have attained a theoretical and historical knowledge of the whole movement.

"The working class is the only true revolutionary class among all the enemies of the bourgeoisie to-day. The remaining classes are degenerating; destroyed by modern industry. The proletariat is its only product!

"The middle class, the artisans, the shopkeepers, mechanics and farmers, all oppose the bourgeoisie in order to defend their position as small capitalists. They are not revolutionary, but conservative. Yea more--they are reactionary, they seek to turn backward the wheels of history., When they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending absorption by the proletariat, hence they do not defend their present but their future interests; they abandon their own position in order to take up that of the proletariat.

"The vagabond proletariat-the rowdies and bummers-that passive rot of the lowest strata of modern society, will be partially drawn into this movement but from its peculiar social status will be ever found a ready and venal tool for reactionary intrigues.

" he conditions of existence for modern society are already destroyed through the conditions imposed upon the working class. The working- man has no property; the relation in which he stands to his family has noth- ing in common with the bourgois family relation. Modern industrial labor, the modern slavery of labor to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has divested him of all national character. Law, morality, religion are for him only so much middle class prejudice, behind which are concealed so many middle class interests.

"All dominant classes in the past have sought to preserve the position they attained, by subjecting society to the conditions which gave those classes their possessions. The proletarians can gain control of the productive powers of society-of the instruments of labor-only by annihilating all acknowledged modes of spoliation by which they have been plundered, and with it the entire system of spoliation and robbery. The proletarians have nothing of their own to protect, they must destroy all existing capitalistic security and capitalistic guaranties.

"All previous movements were movements of minorities or in the interest of minorities. The labor movement is an independent movement of the immense majority in behalf of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest strata of existing society, cannot arise without disrupting the entire superstructure of classes above it, and that hold it down.

"Although the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is not national in its nature, yet it is so in form. The proletariat of each country must naturally first settle accounts with the bourgeoisie of that country.

"We have thus sketched the general aspect presented by the devel- opment of the proletariat, and at the same time followed the more or less concealed civil war pervading modern society up to that point, where it must break forth into open revolution, and then the proletariat will arrive at supremacy through the forcible downfall of the bourgeoisie.

"All previous forms of society rested as we have seen, upon the antagonisms of oppressing and oppressed classes. But, in order to oppress a class, the conditions must be secured under which it can at least continue its slavish existence. The serf in the middle ages found it possible to become a member of the commune. The burghers could enter the middle class even under the yoke of feudal monarchy. The modern workingman on the contrary, instead of improving his condition with the progress of industry, is daily sinking lower and lower, even below the conditions of existence for his own class. The workingman is becoming a pauper, and pauperism develops even more rapidily than population and wealth. This clearly proves that the bourgeoisie is incapable of holding its position any longer as the ruling class. It can no longer force upon society its conditions as the rule of action. It is unable to rule because it is unable even to secure the existence of its slaves in their slavery, as it lets them sink into a lot where it must nourish them, instead of being nourished by them. Society can not longer exist under this class, as the existence of this class is no longer compatible with that of society.

"The most important condition for the existence and supremacy of the bourgeoisie, is accumulation of wealth in the hands of private individuals; the formation and increase of capital.

"The condition upon which capital depends is wages-labor. Wageslabor rests exclusively on the competition of the workingmen among themselves. The progress of industry, tends to supersede the isolated action of the workingmen by the revolutionary union of their class, and to replace competition by association. With the development of modern industry therefore the basis on which the bourgeoisie manages production and appropriates the products of labor is drawn from under its feet. Thus the bourgeoisie produces its own grave. Its downfall and the victory of the proletariat are alike unavoidable."

From : Anarchy Archives

Chronology

February 08, 2017 19:18:07 :
Part 1, Chapter 5 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

September 24, 2017 14:47:23 :
Part 1, Chapter 5 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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