In his assertion, The Communist Manifesto, Marx specifically discusses class struggleand the exploitation of one class by another, meaning when one class becomestoo powerful in comparison to another class and/or to the rest of society. Toexplain the exploitation of one class by another, Marx uses the example of thebourgeoisie and the proletariat; Marx addresses the wealthy, materialisticcapitalist class as ‘the bourgeoisie’ and the working class as ‘theproletariat.
‘ For Marx, the materialistic capitalist class, labeled as the’bourgeoisie’, consisted of capitalists, manufacturers, bank-tellers, etc., whoowned the most important means of production. On the contrary, the workingclass, known as the proletariat, consisting of those who sell their labour powerfor a wage and/or salary, such as low-skilled factory workers, farmers, etc.
,were exploited by the bourgeoisie as they did not own any means of production. For Marx, to understand capitalism orother social systems, it is critical to understand class structure,specifically of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and class struggles towhich they may face. In understanding class structure, Marx suggests thatclasses are classified and organized by the relations of work and labour, andprivate property and means of production. All of which, Marx claims that theserelations evidently influence the social relationships within a capitalist society.Along with his previous description of the bourgeoisie, the materialisticcapitalist class, are the owners of the most important means of production(‘capital’), to which purchases and exploits labour, in the process of creatinga profit and to accumulate capital. As for the owners of labor power, theproletariat, whom do not own any private property, are often found to seek employmentof a capitalist-employer, in order to sustain an income and survive within asociety.
In the process of creating a profit and accumulating/expandingcapital, wages must be kept relatively low; meaning the proletariat isexploited, by the means of surplus labour, as capitalist-employers demand anexcess of the labour that is necessary to produce a product, which evidently generatessurplus value and profit for the bourgeoisie and poverty for the proletariat. Thiscycle of exploitation is continually recreated through the conditions of thelabour process, evidently causing the working class to be left in a state theycannot break free from.For Marx, the bourgeoisie is ‘different’from other dominant social classes, not only because it is oppressive, but ashe describes as “nakedly dehumanizing;” as he states “Not only are the slavesof the bourgeoisie class, and of the bourgeoisie state, they are daily andhourly enslaved by the machine, by the over-looker, and, above all, by theindividual bourgeoisie manufacturer himself.” Despite his claim stating thatthis development is inevitable and that capitalism is inherently unstable; Marxclaims the productive forces to be compatible with the exploitativerelationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, suggesting arevolution of the proletariat must occur; ultimately laying the seed of thebourgeoisie’s own destruction. As the bourgeoisie claim authority throughoutthe capitalist society, the elimination of all social classes will not andcannot be brought about through social reforms or adjustments in government.Although however, Marx claims that by the means of the class’ nature, themembers of the lower class are not able to reallocate private that is in favorof the bourgeoisie. This is due to the fact that they cannot appropriateproperty.
Hence, to acquire control, the members of the proletariat mustdestroy all ownership of private property in order for all social classdistinctions to be eliminated. More however according to Marx, once classdistinctions are diminished, the end of exploitation of the proletariat willfollow as a result.