“The history of all hitherto existing society (that is, all written history) 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.” – Communist Manifesto.
The class struggle is the product of class-divided society. It exists no less today than in the class societies of history. By means of political action the oppressed classes of the past strove to gain their emancipation. The form that this action took was dictated by the conditions then existing. By means of political action – and by no other means – can the workers gain their emancipation.
Society rests on an economic basis. The manner in which wealth is produced and distributed determines the form of existing society. The development of the productive forces calls periodically upon mankind to adapt society to the changed economic conditions. Modern industry ushered capitalism into existence. It now demands that capitalism pass out of the picture, to be replaced by a new form of society, one that will conform to the needs of the developing means of production, and, therefore, to the essential needs of mankind. It is the duty – the imperative mission – of the working class to undertake this task.
Capitalism has outlived its usefulness. Within its confines can be found no solution for the wretchedness and insecurity endured by the workers. Not more than momentary relief has ever resulted from the generations of effort to improve their conditions of life. Even their trade unions – their most potent weapon in these activities – have been forced to remain for the most part on the defensive, struggling not so much to improve their conditions as to prevent these conditions from becoming worse. Socialism offers the only way out. The failure of the workers to recognize this fact – no matter what else they may do – can result only in the preservation of things as they are, with the prospect of darker days ahead.
In the main the world’s workers have in the past given their support to parties openly representing capitalist society. The principal agencies for spreading education and information have, throughout the period of capitalism’s existence, been under the control of the capitalist class and have been used for the purpose of fostering and preserving the illusion that there is no practicable alternative to capitalism. Incessant, insidious propaganda is levelled at the workers from the cradle to the grave, designed to cloud their minds in their own interests and protect the dominant position of the capitalist class. They are taught that their interests are tied up with the interests of their masters and that only in the solution of the latter’s problems can the solution of their own problems be found. It is no wonder, therefore, that for generations they have been only too willing to give their support to one or another of the various capitalist parties. Capitalist parties represent, first of all, capitalism. They may differ as to the manner in which the affairs of capitalism ought to be conducted. They may differ as to the sections of the capitalist class whose interests ought to be the most favored. But they are united in their opposition to those who would end capitalism. They are united even in opposing any effort to provide the workers with a greater share of the wealth which they produce.