“Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labor, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate the labor of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy.” —Lenin, LCW 29:421
1. The general purpose determination (or attempted determination) of the actual social classes in a given society, in light of their respective roles in the functioning of the economy (especially their differing relationships to the means of production); and in light of many other factors, including their sizes, their sub-sections (strata), the attitudes and characteristic ideas of these individual classes as well as of their various strata both at present and potentially, their relative power, potential and importance in the political and/or revolutionary processes already existing or which might later come into existence, their current and potential class consciousness and moods, their experience in struggle so far, their maturity, and so forth.
2. A more direct and focused determination and analysis of the social classes within the capitalist socio-economic system specifically, for the scientific purpose of understanding and explicating the nature and operation of the capitalist mode of economic production. For Marx this was a dialectical process: Instead of first completely specifying the classes involved and then determining their respective roles in capitalist production, Marx just as much determined the classes involved (and their precise definitions) on the basis of his deep investigation of the functioning of capitalist production. This led to his determination that there were two primary classes in capitalist society, the bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) which owns the means of production and exploits hired labor, and the proletariat (or working class) which because it owns none of the means of production must sell its labor power (ability to work) to the capitalists in order to survive. All other classes that may exist in capitalist society, such as the petty bourgeoisie, the remnants of the feudal aristocracy and the peasantry (where they may still exist), and the lumpenproletariat, are of much less interest and relevance when it comes to understanding the functioning of the capitalist mode of production. Similarly, the political activities, attitudes, ideas and moods of the various classes, and even of the bourgeoisie and proletariat themselves (and their internal strata), while extremely important for other purposes, are only of quite secondary interest when it comes to focusing on the functional role of the two main classes in capitalist production.
3. A different, but also more direct and focused determination and analysis of the social classes and their sub-sections (or strata) within capitalist society, but now from the perspective of trying to create an appropriate revolutionary strategy and to then build a revolutionary political movement to overthrow capitalism. The central purpose here is not to study and describe the precise workings of capitalist production, but to overthrow the beast. As such, the investigation of the specific strata of the proletariat, and their differing attitudes and moods, in order to focus the political work of education, agitation and organization on the most exploited and potentially revolutionary-minded people, becomes of greatest importance. Moreover, as such a revolutionary movement is built, political work among sections of some other classes, such as certainly the peasantry in semi-feudal countries, and even among sections of the petty bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat may well become of considerable importance.
4. We should also briefly mention here the superficial and absurd “class analyses” sometimes attempted by bourgeois ideologists, which have been done more for the purpose of distorting and hiding actual capitalist reality than for explicating and understanding it. And they certainly have not been done in order to determine how to overthrow capitalism, but rather as part of their continuing attempt to defend capitalism and preserve it! Their obsessive focus on the so-called middle class is typical of this sort of purposeful obfuscation.
A point to make note of here is that there can be different purposes and perspectives which may be involved in carrying out a class analysis of a given society. And different goals and purposes might actually lead to slightly different class analyses and class specifications, even just within the Marxist milieu. We suggested some of these potential differences above, such as that a class analysis done as part of a scientific analysis of the capitalist mode production might lay almost exclusive stress on the precise relationship of different classes to the means of production (as in definition 2 above); whereas, a class analysis focused on creating a revolutionary strategy and building a revolutionary movement to overthrow capitalism, might well place somewhat less emphasis on the direct relationship of classes to the means of production and much more emphasis on the current and potential ideologies of different classes and their various strata (as in definition 3 above).
It is in fact possible to combine these two different purposes together and to perform a single class analysis of a society with both of these purposes in mind (as in definition 1 above). However, this inevitably leads to at least some small amount of tension and the necessity for slight compromises in the precise definitions arrived at for the different social classes. In particular, the second purpose (building a revolutionary movement) frequently leads people to narrow their definition of the proletariat somewhat to exclude at least some of the better off strata (especially skilled and comparatively well-paid workers and the labor aristocracy where that exists) on the grounds that these workers are generally hopelessly infected with bourgeois or petty bourgeois ideas and have much less revolutionary potential than the lower strata of the proletariat do. Instead of being part of the proletariat, these upper strata are instead often consigned to an expanded petty bourgeoisie. Thus the tendency is to move the precise definitions of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie away from what they would be if the purpose was exclusively one of the scientific analysis of capitalist production. (See the entry on petty bourgeoisie, and the essay “Comments on the Term ‘Petty Bourgeoisie’” (April 2019), by Scott Harrison, online at: https://www.massline.org/Politics/ScottH/PettyBourgeoisie-190428.pdf for more on this tendency.) It would have been preferable, and quite possible, to keep to the scientific definitions of classes in terms of their exclusive relationships to the means of production, and still talk about the need to focus on particular strata of the proletariat in building a revolutionary movement. But it might not be all that serious that this has been very hard for people to do in actual practice.
A reasonably correct class analysis is an absolutely necessary foundation for both a correct understanding of the given economic system and also for any rational revolutionary strategy and movement in that society. Mao wrote his classic paper, “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” (March 1926), in his Selected Works, vol. 1, which is also available online [though the Marxist Internet Archive version includes some typos]. It is interesting to note, however, that Mao continued to refine that class analysis of the Chinese peasantry in particular in later years. A really good class analysis of a society is by no means easy to accomplish. And it is not clear that a truly adequate class analysis of contemporary American capitalist society yet exists. —S.H.
Siding with the ruling bourgeoisie against the interests of one’s own working class, or coming to an agreement with them for this purpose, etc. Class collaboration can be either an individual act or an action by a group or party led by those selling out to the enemy. Either way it is a betrayal of the proletariat.
See also: BURGFRIEDEN
CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS — Proletarian
[Intro to be added... ]
“Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:422.
The collective interests of the members of a particular social class; the interests which they hold in common; the things which benefit them as a group. These differ greatly from one class to another. Thus the capitalist class has an essential interest in exploiting workers in order to generate surplus value and therefore profits. The working class, on the other hand, has a strong objective interest in ending this system of capitalist exploitation, whether or not individual workers are aware of this class interest of theirs at a particular time.
“[A]n essential condition for such an alliance [between socialists (communists!) and bourgeois democrats in the struggle for democracy] must be the full opportunity for the socialists to reveal to the working class that its interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the bourgeoisie.” —Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902), LCW 5:362.
CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS
The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory of ethics which explains how different class moralities are based on the collective interests of the members of different social classes. [More to be added later.]
[The beginning portion of my book in progress on this topic is available from the Philosophy Page on MASSLINE.ORG. —S.H.]. See also: "CENTRAL PROBLEM" OF THE MARXIST-LENINIST-MAOIST THEORY OF ETHICS
The social class which a person was born into and raised as part of. Class origin is an important consideration in the class struggle, though not the only consideration. People can change their class outlook and allegiance, as indeed most of the great founders of our revolutionary science have done—including Marx, Engels and Lenin. Moreover, some notorious revisionists, such as Khrushchev, came from peasant/proletarian backgrounds. Nevertheless, if a revolutionary party or its leadership is composed mostly of people of non-proletarian class origins it is extremely doubtful if that party will be able to continue along the path of revolution on a permanent basis. One of the serious problems with the “new communist movement” which arose in the U.S. in the late 1960s was the fact that it was mostly composed of, and led by, students from a relatively privileged upper strata of the working class (the so-called “middle class”), or else even from the petty bourgeoisie. This explains, to a considerable degree, its rampant individualism and ultimate failure.
See also: “BLOOD-LINE COUPLET”
“Close attention must be paid to class struggle. The four clean-ups in the rural areas is a class struggle; the five anti’s in the cities is likewise a class struggle.... Class identifications must also be drawn in the cities. As to how they should be drawn, certain criteria should be formulated when we come to do this work in the future. We should not take account of the class origin alone. Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, none of them had their origin from the working class.” —Mao, “Interjection at a Briefing by Four Vice-Premiers” (May 1964), SW 9:86.
The struggle between social classes with antagonistic (irreconcilable) interests.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” —Marx & Engels, first sentence of chapter I of the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), MECW 6:482. In a footnote added to the 1888 edition, Engels notes that of course the sentence is only referring to written history, and that by then it was well known that there were no social classes in pre-history (before the advent of the Neolithic Age).
“Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated. Such is history, such is the history of civilization for thousands of years. To interpret history from this viewpoint is historical materialism; standing in opposition to this viewpoint is historical idealism.” —Mao, “Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle” (Aug. 14, 1949), SW4:428; also in Quotations of Chairman Mao Tsetung, Chapter 2.
CLASS STRUGGLE — In Bourgeois Society
[Intro material to be added... ]
“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
“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” —Marx & Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), MECW 6:485.
CLASS STRUGGLE — In Socialist Society
“The dictatorship of the proletariat does not signify a cessation of the class struggle, but its continuation in a new form and with new weapons. This dictatorship is essential as long as classes exist, as long as the bourgeoisie, overthrown in one country, intensifies tenfold its attack on socialism on an international scale. In the transition period, the small farmer class is bound to experience certain vacillations. The difficulties of transition, and the influence of the bourgeoisie, inevitably cause the mood of this mass to change from time to time. Upon the proletariat, enfeebled and to a certain extent declassed by the destruction of the large-scale machine industry, which is its vital foundation, devolves the very difficult but paramount historic task of holding out in spite of these vacillations, and of carrying to victory its cause of emancipating labor from the yoke of capital.” —Lenin, “Theses for a Report on the Tactics of the Russian Communist Party” (prepared for the Third Congress of the Communist International, June 13, 1921), LCW 32:460.
A viewpoint which reflects the interests, needs or desires of some particular social class. It is the Marxist position that every social theory or idea, and—indeed, even a great many ideas and opinions which may not be obviously connected to society and social relationships—actually are the viewpoint of one or another class.
“In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.” —Mao, “On Practice” (July 1937), SW1:296; also in Quotations of Chairman Mao Tsetung, Chapter 2.
CLASS WARFARE — Bourgeois Condemnations Of
“They don’t call it class warfare until we fight back.” —A poster raised by protesters at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.
CLEMENCEAU, Georges (1841-1929)
Prominent French bourgeois politician who was Prime Minister in 1906-1909 and again from 1917-1920. He was a strong French nationalist and played a leading political role in the years leading up to World War I and during and after that war. He insisted on total victory over Germany in the war, and afterwards was the leading proponent of penalizing Germany for the war (even though the war was actually a contest between opposing imperialist powers, none of whom were at all morally justified in what they had collectively brought about). The Treaty of Versailles was as harsh on Germany as Clemenceau could make it. Even some bourgeois commentators recognized that this only made a new war with Germany even more inevitable.
John Maynard Keynes, in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), said of Clemenceau that “he had one illusion—France, and one disillusion—mankind.” As has been aptly remarked, restoring the glory of capitalist France was all that mattered to Clemenceau.
Global warming and other factors (such as pollution and acidification of the oceans) are leading to very rapid climate change. The NASA graphic at the right shows the changes in average temperatures during the period 2013-2017 as compared to the baseline period of 1951-1980. Note that almost all parts of the globe have become notably warmer during this period, and especially the arctic regions. “The 20 warmest years on record have all come in the past 22 years.” [NY Times, March 16, 2019.]
Climate change is one of the many severe and ever worsening consequences of the indifference of the capitalist ruling classes to the welfare of the people of the world and to the state of the world itself. Tremendous disruptions to the production of food are occurring, whole regions are suffering as deserts spread, and a worldwide major extinction episode is occurring for large numbers of animals and plants. Even if humanity survives the capitalist era (by no means a given, in light of the growing possibility of inter-imperialist nuclear war), it may take a century or more to completely clean up the environmental mess that capitalism has left behind.
See also: SUNLIGHT
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL
The anti-scientific claims that climate change, including global warming, either is not occurring at all—despite a mountain of evidence that it is—or else that human activity (and especially capitalism!) has nothing to do with whatever actual changes are occurring—thus letting the capitalist corporations and their governments off the hook.
The bourgeoisie and its ideologists have a very long history of denying facts which condemn their profit-seeking obsession regardless of its consequences, and their mismanagement of society and nature. The tobacco industry denied the bad affects of tobacco on people’s health for most of a century or so, while growing millions died of cancer, heart disease and other ill effects. But the case of climate change denial is even more serious and likely even deadlier to millions of people around the globe. This is in part because the worst damage and disasters have not yet come about—though it is virtually inevitable at this point that they will.
In the U.S., liberals and Democrats like to pretend that it is only the Republicans who hold such anti-scientific views, and generally try to at least ignore the central role of capitalism and capitalist ideology in this determined denialism. This merely shows that they are also participating in this climate change denialism, even if in a more subtle and hidden way. It is like condemning smoking but avoiding all criticism of tobacco companies!
“The latest offical report by America’s preeminent climate scientists warns that unless there are ‘substantial and sustained’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change could eventually cost the country ‘hundreds of billions’ of dollars per year. That stark warning issued by the National Climate Assessment was immediately dismissed by President Donald Trump. The report, issued every four years, states that climate change is already affecting the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, transportation and human health across the country. But with an administration that supports the fossil-fuel industry and is openly hostile toward efforts to curb greenhouse emissions, many scientists say they now feel any official U.S. action to address climate change is likely to come far too late to avoid a climate catastrophe.” —Steve Newman, “Earthweek: a diary of the planet”, for the week ending Nov. 30, 2018; San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 2, 2018, p. B12.
CLIMATE CHANGE — and Human Extinction
Climate change from greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming, is a very serious problem for humanity, but it is only one of a great many very serious problems resulting from capitalism, and not even the worst of them. Contrary to the wild claims of some radical liberals, there is no good reason for thinking that climate change by itself will lead to the extinction of humanity! No scientific study of the problem has ever concluded such a thing. Yes, it will likely eventually lead to the deaths of millions of people, and has already led to the deaths of many. But so have many other effects of capitalism. Air pollution, for example (the particle emission portions of which are not normally considered part of climate change) already kills millions of people around the world each year. The same is true of mass starvation, on-the-job fatal accidents, the absence of adequate health care, and so many other problems of capitalism. So yes, climate change is a very serious problem, and a major crime by the capitalists against humanity. But as bad as climate change is, there are even worse crimes that the capitalists are already committing or are capable of—one of which might indeed lead to the extinction of our species. This capitalist-imperialist system has already led to two major world wars over the past century or so, and if a third such war should now come about—almost certainly involving vast numbers of nuclear weapons and/or equally horrendous new chemical and biological weapons—it is indeed now quite possible that human beings will not survive it.
Some of those quite reasonably alarmed by global warming and climate change, and especially the activists with petty-bourgeois origins, still do not have any full appreciation for the much larger problem that humanity faces at the present time. Instead of any hysterical focus on one single problem arising from capitalism, we must develop a much deeper understanding of how the whole capitalist-imperialist system is an extreme danger to us, and how it simply must be overthrown if humanity is to have a future.
See: COLLATERALIZED LOAN OBLIGATION
“Workers at major corporations in America recently came up with a new verb:
clopening. That’s when an employee workers late one night to close the store or
café and then returns a few hours later, before dawn, to open it. Having the same
employee closing and opening, or clopening, often makes logistical sense for a company. But
it leads to sleep-deprived workers and crazy schedules.
“Wildly irregular schedules are becoming increasingly common, and they especially affect low-wage workers at companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Walmart. A lack of notice compounds the problem. Many employees find out only a day or two in advance that they’ll have to work a Wednesday-night shift or handle rush hour on Friday. It throws their lives into chaos and wreaks havoc on child care plans. Meals are catch as catch can, as is sleep.” —Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction (2017), pp. 123-4.
Computing done, mostly by corporations ranging in size from very small to very large, on an off-site network of computer systems which is accessed through the Internet. The advent of cloud computing is leading more and more companies to drastically reduce or totally eliminate their own data processing divisions, and instead to hire the computing services of cloud computing providers. This form of business computing, which is especially focused on building, maintaining and accessing huge data bases of information, started before 2009 but began a very rapid expansion around 2014 which is still continuing. During this early period of cloud computing the service cost for corporations has declined rapidly. One of the biggest companies providing cloud computing, and a pioneer in the field, is Amazon Web Services (a division of Amazon Corporation). Two other very large cloud hosting companies are Microsoft Azure and Google’s Google Cloud Platform. An important result of the cloud computing boom—and the main reason that corporations are shifting into cloud computing—is that it allows the rapid disappearance of a great many data processing jobs at individual corporations.
A bomb designed to kill as many individuals as possible by scattering around indiscriminately many submunitions which then explode, sending shrapnel in all directions. It frequently happens that some of these submunitions do not explode immediately (often purposely so), and go off when people come by later—usually civilians.
Because so many civilians have been killed by these weapons, an international treaty known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions which bans them has been signed by 119 countries (as of 2017), but not by the United States, which is by far the biggest user of these vicious weapons. In 2008, however, the U.S. did pretend to adopt a policy of not using cluster bombs anymore. But in 2009 44 civilians in Yemen were killed by cluster bombs delivered by a U.S. cruise missile, and for a while the U.S. did stop using them, apparently. However, in November 2017 the Pentagon reversed this policy again, and announced it would resume the use of cluster bombs.
Approximately 270 million submunitions from cluster bombs were dropped by the U.S. on Laos alone during the Vietnam War, and about 80 million remain unexploded. Peasant farmers there continue to be killed by them frequently. An estimated 20,000 civilians have been killed or maimed by unexploded ordnance since the end of the Vietnam War. And this is just one more of the great many ways in which U.S. imperialism continues to be the terrible, murderous enemy of the people of the world. [The information here is taken from a brief article by Gunar Olsen in the Nation magazine, Jan. 1/8, 2018, p. 4.]
An abbreviation used in India for “Chief Minister”, the prime minister heading a state in India, who performs a function similar to that of the governor of an American state.
See: CHASI MULIA ADIVASI SANGHA
See: COUNCIL FOR MUTUAL ECONOMIC AID
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