First Published: The New Voice, [U.S.] Vol. IV, No. 5, March 10, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) has issued an important statement on the class analysis of Britain. The statement began:
The question of class is the question of politics, of the party, of revolution, of struggle. Class is everything, and without clarity about it we do not know who we are or what we are doing. It is an all-embracing matter.
The statement continues: “That fundamental condition of wage-labourer has in no way changed, but has extended to include the vast majority of the population, sweeping away peasants and all other classes in a massive simplification.
The statement notes that the growth of capitalism is the development of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The statement summarizes:
Certain basic facts emerge from this glance at the origins of our class. Firstly, the thing that made a proletarian different from others who worked for their living at that time [the 16th century] was the fact that he had no way of living other than selling his labour. He was not a peasant, for he had no land to support himself. He was not a handicraft worker, for he could not survive by making things in his own house on his own simple machines and selling them. He was a commodity, a wage-labourer at the mercy of the anarchic and violent forces of the young bourgeoisie.
Giving the Party’s analysis of classes in Britain today, the statement says:
We, in our Party programme, say that there are only two classes–“those who sell their labour power and those who exploit the labour of others”– i.e. a brief description of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. This is in line with what the Communist Manifesto has to say:
“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 into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”–Communist Manifesto.
And of all the people who would fall into one or other of those middle categories which were outlined above Marx and Engels have this to say:
“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.”–Communist Manifesto
Nobody escapes the net of capitalism. The peasantry fell an early victim to the bourgeoisie, and the inevitable tendency was for all other strata to be proletarianised. No petit-bourgeoisie exists, with interests separate from that of the bourgeoisie, and so we are left with a simple two-class division.
This is not to dismiss the many differences which exist in the working class. They exist, and are used in a divide-and-conquer way. The ideology which says, for example, that teachers or doctors are middle class is an ideology which disarms teachers and doctors by telling them that they have nothing to fight for–(but also saying that they have status to preserve).
Nor, even though we say that managers and foremen are working class, do we say that managers are the leading force of proletarian revolution. Capitalism is sustained by those who produce, and it is the producers, the industrial working class, who make up the vital core of the revolutionary effort.
The statement concludes with a section on class, politics and revolution. Not all proletarians are revolutionaries today, but oppression increases when the problems of the bourgeoisie become more acute, when working class demands become more insistent. This opens the path for the party to bring Marxism-Leninism, the science of revolution, to the workers’ struggle. The statement says that two points must be stressed:
Firstly, as an organised and ideological section we are a separate and distinct entity within the working class, and so detached in that sense. Secondly, however, we are of the working class, with no separate interest, and in that sense must never be detached from it, except at all our perils.
The statement, entitled “The Definitive Statement on the Internal Polemic 1972-4” is a definite contribution to the Marxist-Leninist analysis of classes in the most highly developed capitalist countries. In the United States, too, there are basically two classes, the capitalists or bourgeoisie and the working class or proletariat. There is no sizeable petty bourgeoisie. All confused theories of wealthy, middle class and poor, of manager, professional, white collar and blue collar; of petty-bourgeois strata; of nations floating around outside of classes or confusingly overlapping the working class yet apart from it–such theories are false. They are the stock in trade of bourgeois ideologists and the anti-party opportunists.
(The New Voice has given a class analysis of the United States in its two pamphlets Imperialism Today: An Economic Analysis and Three Article the Bribe, especially in the article in the second pamphlet: “The Bribe Theory and the Capitalist Definition of Class.” Each pamphlet is available for 25 cents per copy.)
A correct class analysis is central to the program of a Marxist-Leninist party and to revolutionary strategy.