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