Class conflict

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Several terms redirect here. For other uses, see Class war and Class Struggle.
The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a simple visualization of class conflict. Pyramid of Capitalist System.png
The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a simple visualization of class conflict.

Class conflict (also class warfare and class struggle) is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society consequent to socio-economic competition among the social classes. As a means of effecting radical social and political changes for the social majority, class struggle is a central tenet of the philosophic works of Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin. [1]

Society group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same territory, subject to the same authority and culture

A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

Socioeconomics is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how societies progress, stagnate, or regress because of their local or regional economy, or the global economy. Societies are divided into 3 groups: social, cultural and economic.

Social class hierarchical social stratification

A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.


Class conflict can take many different forms: direct violence, such as wars fought for resources and cheap labor; indirect violence, such as deaths from poverty, starvation, illness or unsafe working conditions; coercion, such as the threat of losing a job or the pulling of an important investment; or ideologically, such as with books and articles. Additionally, political forms of class conflict exist; legally or illegally lobbying or bribing government leaders for passage of desirable partisan legislation including labor laws, tax codes, consumer laws, acts of congress or other sanction, injunction or tariff. The conflict can be direct, as with a lockout aimed at destroying a labor union, or indirect, as with an informal slowdown in production protesting low wages by workers or unfair labor practices by capital.

A lockout is a temporary work stoppage or denial of employment initiated by the management of a company during a labor dispute. That is different from a strike in which employees refuse to work. It is usually implemented by simply refusing to admit employees onto company premises and may include changing locks and hiring security guards for the premises. Other implementations include a fine for showing up or a simple refusal of clocking in on the time clock. It is therefore referred to as the antithesis of strike.

A trade union, also called a labour union or labor union (US), is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve many common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits, and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by the creation of a monopoly of the workers. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment". This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies.

An unfair labor practice in US labor law refers to certain actions taken by employers or unions that violate the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 29 U.S.C. § 151–169 and other legislation. Such acts are investigated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).


Teamsters wild-cat strike in Minneapolis, 1934 Battle strike 1934.jpg
Teamsters wild-cat strike in Minneapolis, 1934

In the past the term class conflict was a term used mostly by socialists and Marxists, who define a class by its relationship to the means of production—such as factories, land and machinery. From this point of view, the social control of production and labor is a contest between classes, and the division of these resources necessarily involves conflict and inflicts harm. It can involve ongoing low-level clashes, escalate into massive confrontations, and in some cases, lead to the overall defeat of one of the contending classes. However, in more contemporary times this term is striking chords and finding new definition amongst capitalistic societies in the United States and other Westernized countries.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

In economics and sociology, the means of production are physical and non-financial inputs used in the production of economic value. These include raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in the production of goods and services. In the terminology of classical economics, the means of production are the "factors of production" minus financial and human capital.

The anarchist Mikhail Bakunin argued that the class struggle of the working class, peasantry and poor had the potential to lead to a social revolution involving the overthrow of ruling elites, and the creation of libertarian socialism. This was only a potential, and class struggle was, he argued, not always the only or decisive factor in society, but it was central. By contrast, Marxists argue that class conflict always plays the decisive and pivotal role in the history of class-based hierarchical systems such as capitalism and feudalism. [2] Marxists refer to its overt manifestations as class war, a struggle whose resolution in favor of the working class is viewed by them as inevitable under plutocratic capitalism.

Mikhail Bakunin Russian revolutionary, philosopher, and theorist of collectivist anarchism

Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin was a Russian revolutionary anarchist and founder of collectivist anarchism. He is considered among the most influential figures of anarchism and one of the principal founders of the social anarchist tradition. Bakunin's enormous prestige as an activist made him one of the most famous ideologues in Europe, gaining substantial influence among radicals throughout Russia and Europe.

Libertarian socialism form of left-wing anarchism

Libertarian socialism is a group of anti-authoritarian political philosophies inside the socialist movement that rejects the conception of socialism as centralized state ownership and control of the economy.

Historical materialism Marxist historiography

Historical materialism is the methodological approach of Marxist historiography that focuses on human societies and their development over time, arguing that they follow a number of observable tendencies. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the materialist conception of history. It is principally a theory of history according to which the material conditions of a society's way of producing and reproducing the means of human existence or, in Marxist terms, the union of its technological and productive capacity and social relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development.

Pre-capitalist societies

Where societies are socially divided based on status, wealth, or control of social production and distribution, class structures arise and are thus coeval with civilization itself. It is well documented since at least European Classical Antiquity (Conflict of the Orders, Spartacus, etc.) [3] and the various popular uprisings in late medieval Europe and elsewhere.

Conflict of the Orders political struggle (500–287 BCE) between the Plebeians and Patricians of the Roman Republic

The Conflict of the Orders, also referred to as the Struggle of the Orders, was a political struggle between the Plebeians (commoners) and Patricians (aristocrats) of the ancient Roman Republic lasting from 500 BC to 287 BC, in which the Plebeians sought political equality with the Patricians. It played a major role in the development of the Constitution of the Roman Republic. Shortly after the founding of the Republic, this conflict led to a secession from Rome by Plebeians to the Sacred Mount at a time of war. The result of this first secession was the creation of the office of Plebeian Tribune, and with it the first acquisition of real power by the Plebeians.

Spartacus Thracian gladiator

Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who, along with the Gauls Crixus, Gannicus, Castus, and Oenomaus, was one of the escaped slave leaders in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. Little is known about Spartacus beyond the events of the war, and surviving historical accounts are sometimes contradictory and may not always be reliable. However, all sources agree that he was a former gladiator and an accomplished military leader.

One of the earliest analysis of these conflicts is Friedrich Engels' The Peasant War in Germany. [4] One of the earliest analyses of the development of class as the development of conflicts between emergent classes is available in Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid . In this work, Kropotkin analyzes the disposal of goods after death in pre-class or hunter-gatherer societies, and how inheritance produces early class divisions and conflict.

Friedrich Engels German social scientist, author, political theorist, and philosopher

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, communist, social scientist, journalist and businessman. His father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford, England and in Barmen, Prussia.

The Peasant War in Germany by Friedrich Engels is a short account of the early-16th-century uprisings known as the German Peasants' War (1524–1525). It was written by Engels in London during the summer of 1850, following the revolutionary uprisings of 1848–1849, to which it frequently refers in a comparative fashion. "Three centuries have flown by since then," he writes, "and many a thing has changed; still the peasant war is not as far removed from our present-day struggles as it would seem, and the opponents we have to encounter remain essentially the same."

Peter Kropotkin Anarcho-Communist philosopher

Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian activist, revolutionary, scientist, geographer and philosopher who advocated anarcho-communism.

21st-century United States

Bill Moyers, for example, gave a speech at Brennan Center for Justice in December 2013 which was titled "The Great American Class War," referring to the current struggle between democracy and plutocracy in the U.S. [5] Chris Hedges wrote a column for Truthdig called "Let's Get This Class War Started," which was a play on Pink's song "Let's Get This Party Started." [6] [7]

Historian Steve Fraser, author of The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power, asserts that class conflict is an inevitability if current political and economic conditions continue, noting that “people are increasingly fed up… their voices are not being heard. And I think that can only go on for so long without there being more and more outbreaks of what used to be called class struggle, class warfare.” [8]

Capitalist societies

The typical example of class conflict described is class conflict within capitalism. This class conflict is seen to occur primarily between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and takes the form of conflict over hours of work, value of wages, division of profits, cost of consumer goods, the culture at work, control over parliament or bureaucracy, and economic inequality. The particular implementation of government programs which may seem purely humanitarian, such as disaster relief, can actually be a form of class conflict. [9] In the USA class conflict is often noted in labor/management disputes. As far back as 1933 representative Edward Hamilton of ALPA, the Airline Pilot's Association, used the term "class warfare" to describe airline management's opposition at the National Labor Board hearings in October of that year. [10] Apart from these day-to-day forms of class conflict, during periods of crisis or revolution class conflict takes on a violent nature and involves repression, assault, restriction of civil liberties, and murderous violence such as assassinations or death squads. (Zinn, People's History)

Thomas Jefferson, United States

Although Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) led the United States as president from 1801–1809 and is considered one of the founding fathers, he died with immense amounts of debt. Regarding the interaction between social classes, he wrote,

I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, & restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you & I, & Congress & Assemblies, judges & governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. [11]

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Edward Carrington - January 16, 1787

Warren Buffett, United States

The investor, and billionaire , and philanthropist Warren Buffett, one of the 10 wealthiest persons in the world, [12] voiced in 2005 and once more in 2006 his view that his class – the "rich class" – is waging class warfare on the rest of society. In 2005 Buffet said to CNN: "It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be." [13] In a November 2006 interview in The New York Times , Buffett stated that "[t]here’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." [14] Later Warren gave away more than half of his fortune to charitable causes through a program developed by himself and computer software tycoon Bill Gates. [15] In 2011 Buffett called on government legislators to, "...stop coddling the super rich." [16]

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, 2004 Noam Chomsky, 2004.jpg
Noam Chomsky, 2004

Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, and political activist has criticized class war in the United States:

Well, there’s always a class war going on. The United States, to an unusual extent, is a business-run society, more so than others. The business classes are very class-conscious—they’re constantly fighting a bitter class war to improve their power and diminish opposition. Occasionally this is recognized... The enormous benefits given to the very wealthy, the privileges for the very wealthy here, are way beyond those of other comparable societies and are part of the ongoing class war. Take a look at CEO salaries....

-- Noam Chomsky in OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, Second Edition (November 5, 2013) [17]

Max Weber, Germany

Max Weber (1864–1920) agrees with the fundamental ideas of Karl Marx about the economy causing class conflict, but claims that class conflict can also stem from prestige and power. [18] Weber argues that classes come from the different property locations. Different locations can largely affect one's class by their education and the people they associate with. [18] He also states that prestige results in different status groupings. This prestige is based upon the social status of one's parents. Prestige is an attributed value and many times cannot be changed. Weber states that power differences led to the formation of political parties. [18] Weber disagrees with Marx about the formation of classes. While Marx believes that groups are similar due to their economic status, Weber argues that classes are largely formed by social status. [18] Weber does not believe that communities are formed by economic standing, but by similar social prestige. [18] Weber does recognize that there is a relationship between social status, social prestige and classes. [18]

Arab Spring

Numerous factors have culminated in what's known as the Arab Spring. Agenda behind the civil unrest, and the ultimate overthrow of authoritarian governments throughout the Middle-East included issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, government corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables), [19] economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, [20] such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population. [21] Also, some, like Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek attribute the 2009 Iranian protests as one of the reasons behind the Arab Spring. [22] The catalysts for the revolts in all Northern African and Persian Gulf countries have been the concentration of wealth in the hands of autocrats in power for decades, insufficient transparency of its redistribution, corruption, and especially the refusal of the youth to accept the status quo. [23] [24] as they involve threats to food security worldwide and prices that approach levels of the 2007–2008 world food price crisis. [25] Amnesty International singled out WikiLeaks' release of US diplomatic cables as a catalyst for the revolts. [26]


Marxist perspectives

Karl Marx, 1875 Karl Marx.jpg
Karl Marx, 1875

Karl Marx (1818–1883) was a German born philosopher who lived the majority of his adult life in London, England. In The Communist Manifesto , Karl Marx argued that a class is formed when its members achieve class consciousness and solidarity. [18] This largely happens when the members of a class become aware of their exploitation and the conflict with another class. A class will then realize their shared interests and a common identity. According to Marx, a class will then take action against those that are exploiting the lower classes.

What Marx points out is that members of each of the two main classes have interests in common. These class or collective interests are in conflict with those of the other class as a whole. This in turn leads to conflict between individual members of different classes.

Marxist analysis of society identifies two main social groups:

Not all class struggle is violent or necessarily radical, as with strikes and lockouts. Class antagonism may instead be expressed as low worker morale, minor sabotage and pilferage, and individual workers' abuse of petty authority and hoarding of information. It may also be expressed on a larger scale by support for socialist or populist parties. On the employers' side, the use of union busting legal firms and the lobbying for anti-union laws are forms of class struggle.

Not all class struggle is a threat to capitalism, or even to the authority of an individual capitalist. A narrow struggle for higher wages by a small sector of the working-class, what is often called "economism", hardly threatens the status quo. In fact, by applying the craft-union tactics of excluding other workers from skilled trades, an economistic struggle may even weaken the working class as a whole by dividing it. Class struggle becomes more important in the historical process as it becomes more general, as industries are organized rather than crafts, as workers' class consciousness rises, and as they self-organize away from political parties. Marx referred to this as the progress of the proletariat from being a class "in itself", a position in the social structure, to being one "for itself",an active and conscious force that could change the world.

Marx largely focuses on the capital industrialist society as the source of social stratification, which ultimately results in class conflict. [18] He states that capitalism creates a division between classes which can largely be seen in manufacturing factories. The proletariat, is separated from the bourgeoisie because production becomes a social enterprise. Contributing to their separation is the technology that is in factories. Technology de-skills and alienates workers as they are no longer viewed as having a specialized skill. [18] Another effect of technology is a homogenous workforce that can be easily replaceable. Marx believed that this class conflict would result in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and that the private property would be communally owned. [18] The mode of production would remain, but communal ownership would eliminate class conflict. [18]

Even after a revolution, the two classes would struggle, but eventually the struggle would recede and the classes dissolve. As class boundaries broke down, the state apparatus would wither away. According to Marx, the main task of any state apparatus is to uphold the power of the ruling class; but without any classes there would be no need for a state. That would lead to the classless, stateless communist society.

The Soviet Union and similar societies

A variety of predominantly Trotskyist and anarchist thinkers argue that class conflict existed in Soviet-style societies. Their arguments describe as a class the bureaucratic stratum formed by the ruling political party (known as the n omenklatura in the Soviet Union), sometimes termed a "new class", [27] that controls and guides the means of production. This ruling class is viewed to be in opposition to the remainder of society, generally considered the proletariat. This type of system is referred by them as state socialism, state capitalism, bureaucratic collectivism or new class societies. (Cliff; Ðilas 1957) Marxism was such a predominate ideological power in what became the Soviet Union since a Marxist group known as the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was formed in the country, prior to 1917. This party soon divided into two main factions; the Bolsheviks, who were led by Vladimir Lenin, and the Mensheviks, who were led by Julius Martov.

However, many Marxist argue that unlike in capitalism the Soviet elites did not own the means of production, or generated surplus value for their personal wealth like in capitalism as the generated profit from the economy was equally distributed into Soviet society. [28] Even some Trotskyist like Ernest Mandel criticized the concept of a new ruling class as an oxymoron, saying: "The hypothesis of the bureaucracy’s being a new ruling class leads to the conclusion that, for the first time in history, we are confronted with a “ruling class” which does not exist as a class before it actually rules." [29]

Non-Marxist perspectives

Social commentators, historians and socialist theorists had commented on class struggle for some time before Marx, as well as the connection between class struggle, property, and law: Augustin Thierry, [30] François Guizot, François-Auguste Mignet and Adolphe Thiers. The Physiocrats, David Ricardo, and after Marx, Henry George noted the inelastic supply of land and argued that this created certain privileges (economic rent) for landowners. According to the historian Arnold Toynbee, stratification along lines of class appears only within civilizations, and furthermore only appears during the process of a civilization's decline while not characterizing the growth phase of a civilization. [31]

Proudhon, in What is Property? (1840) states that "certain classes do not relish investigation into the pretended titles to property, and its fabulous and perhaps scandalous history." [32] While Proudhon saw the solution as the lower classes forming an alternative, solidarity economy centered on cooperatives and self-managed workplaces, which would slowly undermine and replace capitalist class society, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, while influenced by Proudhon, insisted that a massive class struggle by the working class, peasantry and poor was essential to the creation of libertarian socialism. This would require a (final) showdown in the form of a social revolution.

Fascists have often opposed class struggle and instead have attempted to appeal to the working class while promising to preserve the existing social classes and have proposed an alternative concept known as class collaboration.

Class vs. race struggle

Jobless black workers in the heat of the Philadelphia summer, United States, 1973 NORTH PHILADELPHIA JOBLESS BLACKS. MAN STANDING AT RIGHT IS GERALD "HEAT WAVE" JONES, WHO WORKS FOR "THE NETWORK", A... - NARA - 552754.tif
Jobless black workers in the heat of the Philadelphia summer, United States, 1973

Some historical tendencies of Orthodox Marxism reject racism, sexism, etc. as struggles that essentially distract from class struggle, the real conflict.[ citation needed ] These divisions within the class prevent the purported antagonists from acting in their common class interest. However, many Marxist internationalists and anti-colonial revolutionaries understand sex, race and class to be bound up together. There is an ongoing debate within Marxist scholarship about these topics.

According to Michel Foucault, in the 19th century the essentialist notion of the "race" was incorporated by racists, biologists, and eugenicists, who gave it the modern sense of "biological race" which was then integrated to "state racism". On the other hand, Foucault claims that when Marxists developed their concept of "class struggle", they were partly inspired by the older, non-biological notions of the "race" and the "race struggle". Quoting a non-existent 1882 letter from Marx to Friedrich Engels during a lecture, Foucault erroneously claimed Marx wrote: You know very well where we found our idea of class struggle; we found it in the work of the French historians who talked about the race struggle. [33] [ citation needed ] For Foucault, the theme of social war provides the overriding principle that connects class and race struggle. [34]

Moses Hess, an important theoretician and labor Zionist of the early socialist movement, in his "Epilogue" to "Rome and Jerusalem" argued that "the race struggle is primary, the class struggle secondary... With the cessation of race antagonism, the class struggle will also come to a standstill. The equalization of all classes of society will necessarily follow the emancipation of all the races, for it will ultimately become a scientific question of social economics." [35]

W. E. B. Du Bois theorized that the intersectional paradigms of race, class, and nation might explain certain aspects of black political economy. Patricia Hill Collins writes: "Du Bois saw race, class, and nation not primarily as personal identity categories but as social hierarchies that shaped African-American access to status, poverty, and power." [36] :44

In modern times, emerging schools of thought in the U.S. and other countries hold the opposite to be true. [37] They argue that the race struggle is less important, because the primary struggle is that of class since labor of all races face the same problems and injustices.


Riots with a basically nationalist background are not included.

Classical antiquity

Middle Ages

Modern era

The rebellion of Gyorgy Dozsa in 1514 spread like lightning in the Kingdom of Hungary where hundreds of manor-houses and castles were burnt and thousands of the gentry killed. GeorgheDoja.jpg
The rebellion of György Dózsa in 1514 spread like lightning in the Kingdom of Hungary where hundreds of manor-houses and castles were burnt and thousands of the gentry killed.

See also

Related Research Articles

Leninism political, social, and economic theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

State capitalism is an economic system in which the state undertakes commercial economic activity and where the means of production are organized and managed as state-owned business enterprises, or where there is otherwise a dominance of corporatized government agencies or of publicly listed corporations in which the state has controlling shares. Marxist literature defines state capitalism as a social system combining capitalism with ownership or control by a state—by this definition, a state capitalist country is one where the government controls the economy and essentially acts like a single huge corporation, extracting the surplus value from the workforce in order to invest it in further production. This designation applies regardless of the political aims of the state and some people argue that the modern People's Republic of China constitutes a form of state capitalism and/or that the Soviet Union failed in its goal to establish socialism, but rather established state capitalism.

Anti-capitalism political ideology

Anti-capitalism encompasses a wide variety of movements, ideas and attitudes that oppose capitalism. Anti-capitalists, in the strict sense of the word, are those who wish to replace capitalism with another type of economic system.

Criticism of capitalism

Criticism of capitalism ranges from expressing disagreement with the principles of capitalism in its entirety to expressing disagreement with particular outcomes of capitalism.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Marxian class theory asserts that an individual’s position within a class hierarchy is determined by his or her role in the production process, and argues that political and ideological consciousness is determined by class position. A class is those who share common economic interests, are conscious of those interests, and engage in collective action which advances those interests. Within Marxian class theory, the structure of the production process forms the basis of class construction.

Free association is a relationship among individuals where there is no state, social class, authority, or private ownership of means of production. Once private property is abolished, individuals are no longer deprived of access to means of production enabling them to freely associate to produce and reproduce their own conditions of existence and fulfill their individual and creative needs and desires. The term is used by anarchists and Marxists and is often considered a defining feature of a fully developed communist society.

Internationalism (politics) movement which advocates a greater economic and political cooperation among nations

Internationalism is a political principle which transcends nationalism and advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and people.

Class consciousness

In political theory and particularly Marxism, class consciousness is the set of beliefs that a person holds regarding their social class or economic rank in society, the structure of their class, and their class interests. According to Karl Marx, it is an awareness that is key to sparking a revolution that would "create a dictatorship of the proletariat, transforming it from a wage-earning, property-less mass into the ruling class".


Lumpenproletariat is a term used primarily by Marxist theorists to describe the underclass devoid of class consciousness. Coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1840s, they used it to refer to the "unthinking" lower strata of society exploited by reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces, particularly in the context of the revolutions of 1848. They dismissed its revolutionary potential and contrasted it with the proletariat. Among other groups criminals, vagabonds, and prostitutes are usually included in this category.

Classical Marxism economic, philosophical, and sociological theories expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Classical Marxism refers to the economic, philosophical and sociological theories expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as contrasted with later developments in Marxism, especially Leninism and Marxism–Leninism.

Marxist literary criticism

Marxist literary criticism is a loose term describing literary criticism based on socialist and dialectic theories. Marxist criticism views literary works as reflections of the social institutions from which they originate. Most Marxist critics who were writing in what could chronologically be specified as the early period of Marxist literary criticism subscribed to what has come to be called "Vulgar Marxism." In this thinking of the structure of societies, literary texts are one register of the Superstructure, which is determined by the economic Base of any given society. Therefore, literary texts are a reflection of the economic Base rather than "the social institutions from which they originate" for all social institutions, or, more precisely human social relationships, are in the final analysis determined by the economic Base. According to Marxists, even literature itself is a social institution and has a specific ideological function, based on the background and ideology of the author.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.

A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country is a sovereign state constitutionally dedicated to the establishment of socialism. The term "Communist state" is often used interchangeably in the West specifically when referring to single-party socialist states governed by Marxist–Leninist political parties despite being officially socialist states in the process of building socialism; these countries never describe themselves as communist nor as having achieved a communist society. Additionally, a number of countries which are not single-party states based on Marxism–Leninism make reference to socialism in their constitutions; in most cases these are constitutional references alluding to the building of a socialist society that have little to no bearing on the structure and development paths of these countries' political and economic systems.

Anti-Leninism opposition to Leninism

Anti-Leninism is opposition to the political philosophy Leninism as advocated by Vladimir Lenin.

Proletarian internationalism Marxist social class concept

Proletarian internationalism, sometimes referred to as international socialism, is the perception of all communist revolutions as being part of a single global class struggle rather than separate localized events. It is based on the theory that capitalism is a world-system and therefore the working classes of all nations must act in concert if they are to replace it with communism. Proponents of proletarian internationalism often argued that the objectives of a given revolution should be global rather than local in scope—for example, triggering or perpetuating revolutions elsewhere.

Collectivist anarchism is a revolutionary anarchist doctrine that advocates the abolition of both the state and private ownership of the means of production as it instead envisions the means of production being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.

The history of socialism has its origins in the 1789 French Revolution and the changes which it wrought, although it has precedents in earlier movements and ideas. The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 just before the Revolutions of 1848 swept Europe, expressing what they termed "scientific socialism". In the last third of the 19th century, social democratic parties arose in Europe, drawing mainly from Marxism. The Australian Labor Party was the world's first elected socialist party when it formed government in the Colony of Queensland for a week in 1899.


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Further reading