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The working class (also labouring class and proletariat) are the people employed for wages, especially in manual-labour occupations and in skilled, industrial work.
- Class instinct is subjective and spontaneous. ... To arrive at proletarian class positions, the class instinct of proletarians only needs to be educated; the class instinct of the petty bourgeoisie, and hence of intellectuals, has, on the contrary, to be revolutionized.
- Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1971), p. 2
- Capitalists preach “the market” for the working class – stand on your own two feet, don’t rely on the government – but themselves sponge off the public big time. Just look at the billions in subsidies and tax concessions the fossil fuel companies, huge enterprises for the most part, extract from state and federal governments in Australia. The vehicle manufacturers raked in hundreds of millions a year from the Australian government for decades until deciding it wasn’t enough and went overseas. This is why big companies and industry groups hire armies of former politicians to lobby on their behalf in the offices of premiers and prime ministers – there’s money in government coffers and they want it. And while the capitalists talk about “the market” setting wages for workers, in reality, they don’t really allow the market to do the job. They use the whole apparatus of state repression, the industrial tribunals, the police, the courts to suppress workers’ rights to organise to pursue their demands. But when a crisis hits all the bullshit about the market is thrown to the winds. And that is just what we are seeing now. Faced with the collapse of the capitalist economy, for the second time in a dozen years, with massive bankruptcies on the table and the stock market plunging by more than 30 percent and more to come, fervent advocates of the free market are now embracing government intervention to save their skins.
- Tom Bramble on the 2020 stock market crash, Everyone's a socialist in a crisis, 21 March 2020, Red Flag.
- Workers every day face their own personal crises – lack of money to pay the rent or the possibility of defaulting on their mortgage because the boss didn’t call them in for work this week, overdue utility bills that must be paid or risk being cut off, expenses for children’s education that fall due, the fear of redundancy. These are crises that are experienced personally but are really a collective crisis of everyday life for working class people. But when we ask for governments to respond, we are told that addressing these things collectively is not possible, and that this is just the way things are. But when the capitalist system goes into crisis, governments act promptly. It turns out that political decisions about the economy are possible and it is wholly possible for governments to tell the markets to go jump.
- Tom Bramble on the 2020 stock market crash, Everyone's a socialist in a crisis, 21 March 2020, Red Flag
- The most important word in the language of the working class is solidarity.
- Harry Bridges, quoted in Glass, Fred (2016). From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-28840-9.
- Capitalism is an exploitative system, as Marx has argued so cogently, and as anyone who studies the inequalities within and between the countries of the world today must see. It is therefore a priori likely that its ideology conceals realities that if known would make the exploited militant.
- Andrew Collier, in Transcendence: Critical Realism and God (2013) p. 85
- The working class is the victim of a conspiracy aimed at crushing them, and when there is a conspiracy to crush the working class, it’s the Church’s duty to intervene. We value people more than capital.
- Archbishop Joseph Charbonneau on the 1949 asbestos strike, Catholicism in Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia
- In the status game, then, the working-class child starts out with a handicap and, to the extent that he cares what the middle-class persons think of him or has internalised the dominant middle-class attitudes toward social class position, he may be expected to feel some 'shame'.
- Albert K. Cohen. Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang, New York: The Free Press, 1955. p. 110
- The worker is the slave of capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave.
- James Connolly The Re-conquest of Ireland (1915), Chapter VI: Woman, p. 38, Marxists Internet Archive
- What the workingmen of the country are profoundly interested in is the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, the enslaving and degrading wage-system in which they toil for a pittance at the pleasure of their masters and are bludgeoned, jailed or shot when they protest — this is the central, controlling, vital issue of the hour, and neither of the old party platforms has a word or even a hint about it.
As a rule, large capitalists are Republicans and small capitalists are Democrats, but workingmen must remember that they are all capitalists, and that the many small ones, like the fewer large ones, are all politically supporting their class interests, and this is always and everywhere the capitalist class.
- Eugene V. Debs. Outlook for Socialism in the United States (September 1900) Published in the International Socialist Review
- Was ist der Kommunismus? Der Kommunismus ist die Lehre von den Bedingungen der Befreiung des Proletariats. Was ist das Proletariat? Das Proletariat ist diejenige Klasse der Gesellschaft, welche ihren Lebensunterhalt einzig und allein aus dem Verkauf ihrer Arbeit und nicht aus dem Profit irgendeines Kapitals zieht; deren Wohl und Wehe, deren Leben und Tod, deren ganze Existenz von der Nachfrage nach Arbeit, also von dem Wechsel der guten und schlechten Geschäftszeiten, von den Schwankungen einer zügellosen Konkurrenz abhängt.
- What is Communism? Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat. What is the proletariat? The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition.
- Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism (1847)
- There have always been poor and working classes; and the working class have mostly been poor. But there have not always been workers and poor people living under conditions as they are today.
- The class of the wholly propertyless, who are obliged to sell their labor to the bourgeoisie in order to get, in exchange, the means of subsistence for their support. This is called the class of proletarians, or the proletariat.
- The costs of production of labor consist of precisely the quantity of means of subsistence necessary to enable the worker to continue working, and to prevent the working class from dying out. The worker will therefore get no more for his labor than is necessary for this purpose; the price of labor, or the wage, will, in other words, be the lowest, the minimum, required for the maintenance of life.
- The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence. This existence is assured only to the class as a whole. ... The slave is outside competition; the proletarian is in it and experiences all its vagaries. ... The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general. ... The proletarian works with the instruments of production of another, for the account of this other, in exchange for a part of the product. ... The proletarian liberates himself by abolishing competition, private property, and all class differences.
- The manufacturing worker almost always lives in the countryside and in a more or less patriarchal relation to his landlord or employer; the proletarian lives, for the most part, in the city and his relation to his employer is purely a cash relation. The manufacturing worker is torn out of his patriarchal relation by big industry, loses whatever property he still has, and in this way becomes a proletarian.
- Big industry has brought all the people of the Earth into contact with each other, has merged all local markets into one world market, has spread civilization and progress everywhere and has thus ensured that whatever happens in civilized countries will have repercussions in all other countries. It follows that if the workers in England or France now liberate themselves, this must set off revolution in all other countries – revolutions which, sooner or later, must accomplish the liberation of their respective working class.
- Everywhere the proletariat develops in step with the bourgeoisie. In proportion, as the bourgeoisie grows in wealth, the proletariat grows in numbers. For, since the proletarians can be employed only by capital, and since capital extends only through employing labor, it follows that the growth of the proletariat proceeds at precisely the same pace as the growth of capital. Simultaneously, this process draws members of the bourgeoisie and proletarians together into the great cities where industry can be carried on most profitably, and by thus throwing great masses in one spot it gives to the proletarians a consciousness of their own strength. Moreover, the further this process advances, the more new labor-saving machines are invented, the greater is the pressure exercised by big industry on wages, which, as we have seen, sink to their minimum and therewith render the condition of the proletariat increasingly unbearable. The growing dissatisfaction of the proletariat thus joins with its rising power to prepare a proletarian social revolution.
- Bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day.
- In all probability, the proletarian revolution will transform existing society gradually and will be able to abolish private property only when the means of production are available in sufficient quantity. What will be the course of this revolution? Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.
- The abolition of private property has become not only possible but absolutely necessary. ... The outcome can only be the victory of the proletariat.
- Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat.
- Once the first radical attack on private property has been launched, the proletariat will find itself forced to go ever further, to concentrate increasingly in the hands of the state all capital, all agriculture, all transport, all trade. All the foregoing measures are directed to this end; and they will become practicable and feasible, capable of producing their centralizing effects to precisely the degree that the proletariat, through its labor, multiplies the country’s productive forces.
- How do you think the transition from the present situation to community of Property is to be effected?
The first, fundamental condition for the introduction of community of property is the political liberation of the proletariat through a democratic constitution.
- The sex life of the working class is nasty, brutish and short. Every survey of behaviour, whether it's sexual offences or marital behaviour or premarital behaviour shows that. I had a dear friend who used to say 'tell me how a man makes love and I'll tell you how he votes', and that is absolutely justified in terms of what we know about class attitude and conduct in sexual matters.
- Beatrice Faust, in Olle, Andrew 1992, "Interview with Richard Walsh and Beatrice Faust", Radio
2BL, 14 May; as quoted in Sexual Offenders and Pornography: A Causal Connection?, by Marlene Goldsmith: Chairman Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues Parliament of New South Wales.
- Global capitalists have turned back the clock to the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The working class is increasingly bereft of rights, blocked from forming unions, paid starvation wages, subject to wage theft, under constant surveillance, fired for minor infractions, exposed to dangerous carcinogens, forced to work overtime, given punishing quotas and abandoned when they are sick and old. Workers have become, here and abroad, disposable cogs to corporate oligarchs, who wallow in obscene personal wealth that dwarfs the worst excesses of the Robber Barons.
- Chris Hedges, "Dying for an iPhone" (May 31, 2021), Scheerpost
- Amazon workers, like many American workers, endure appalling work conditions. They are forced to work compulsory 12-hour shifts. They are denied bathroom breaks, often urinating into bottles. They endure stifling temperatures inside the warehouse in the summer. They must scan a new item every 11 seconds to hit their quota. The company knows immediately when they fall behind. Fail to meet the quota and you are fired.
- Chris Hedges, "Let Us Now Praise Amazon Unionists" (April 4, 2022), Scheerpost
- But the rise of capitalism also depended on something else. It needed labour. Lots of it, and cheap. Enclosure solved this problem too. With subsistence economies destroyed and commons fenced off, people had no choice but to sell their labour for wages - not to earn a bit of extra income, as under the previous regime, nor to satisfy the demands of a lord, as under serfdom, but simply in order to survive. They became, in a word, proletarians.
- Jason Hickel, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (2021), p. 47
- Confronting this crisis ultimately means confronting capitalism, and that means directly resisting these layoffs, since layoffs are always the first weapon used against working people in moments of economic crisis. Big businesses and corporations that have benefited from years of economic growth (not to mention the massive surplus value of workers’ labor) owe employees and their families a huge debt and it’s time to pay up. In order to make this happen, working people must organize for and demand: 1. An immediate ban on all layoffs. 2. Full wages for all employees, whether they are working during the crisis or not. And 3. A redistribution of working hours among currently unemployed workers (including undocumented and precarious workers) so that no one is denied the essential right to employment.
- James Dennis Hoff on the 2020 stock market crash, Freeze Layoffs: Make the Capitalists Pay (March 23, 2020), Left Voice
- When times are good, capital can extract huge profits from labor with little risk. For instance, after the last economic crisis, the S&P 500 (thanks in large part to government bailouts) not only managed to recover all of its losses by 2013, it then proceeded to almost double its value in the seven years that followed — an average rate of growth equal to about 14 percent per year. By contrast, average hourly wages for working people, which rose less than three percent per year for most of that same period, recovered much more slowly, and many workers actually saw their wages fall or remain flat when adjusted for inflation. When times are bad, however, in moments of crisis, when profits are low, or when there is little or no demand — such as we are seeing in many industries today — corporations and companies can protect themselves and their market value by simply letting workers go. Workers, on the other hand usually must continue to pay for food, rent, healthcare, and basic utilities in order to survive. As a consequence, while capital can often weather the storm of such economic crises, they can severely weaken the power of the working class by creating what Marx called a vast reserve army of labor. And since unemployment insurance compensations are rarely available to all and always only for a short period of time, workers — whether laid off or only threatened with the prospect of layoffs—will eventually be pressured to work much harder for less wages. And this is precisely why the future of worker’s power depends on how we respond to this crisis now.
- James Dennis Hoff on the 2020 stock market crash, Freeze Layoffs: Make the Capitalists Pay (March 23, 2020), Left Voice
- The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.
- Preamble to the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World
- Two things make the future real, the artist's imagination and the worker's hope. Fascism destroys both. Therefore the artist and the worker must unite to destroy Fascism.
- John Langdon-Davies, Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War. Left Review. 1937. . Quoted in Buchanan, Tom (1997). Britain and the Spanish Civil War. Cambridge University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-521-45569-5.
- Notwithstanding all the differences in the aims and tasks of the Russian revolution, compared with the French revolution of 1871, the Russian proletariat had to resort to the same method of struggle as that first used by the Paris Commune — civil war. Mindful of the lessons of the Commune, it knew that the proletariat should not ignore peaceful methods of struggle — they serve its ordinary, day-to-day interests, they are necessary in periods of preparation for revolution — but it must never forget that in certain conditions the class struggle assumes the form of armed conflict and civil war; there are times when the interests of the proletariat call for ruthless extermination of its enemies in open armed clashes.
- Vladimir Lenin, “Lessons of the Commune”, in Zagranichnaya Gazeta, No. 2 (23 March 1908), as translated by Bernard Isaacs, Collected Works, Vol. 13, p. 478
- When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, "Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won, in the course of decades, the position of vanguard of the entire factory and industrial proletariat. This party had won that position even before the revolution of 1905. It is the party that was at the head of the workers in 1905 and which since then — even at the time of the reaction after 1905 when the working-class movement was rehabilitated with such difficulty under the Stolypin Duma — merged with the working class and it alone could lead that class to a profound, fundamental change in the old society.
- Vladimir Lenin, “Speech to the First All-Russia Congress of Workers in Education and Socialist Culture” (30 July 1919) Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 535.
- The academy now boasts specialists by thousands in Asian studies, GLT studies, Latino/a studies, Native American studies, and multicultural studies, but barely a handful in proletarian studies. It still hasn't found a way to become serious about class.
- Julian Markels, From Buchenwald to Havana, p. 104
- The property-owning class and the class of the proletariat represent the same human self-alienation. But the former feels at home in this self-alienation and feels itself confirmed by it; it recognises alienation as its own instrument and in it it possesses the semblance of a human existence. The latter feels itself destroyed by this alienation and sees in it its own impotence and the reality of an inhuman existence.
- Karl Marx, The Holy Family, Chapter 4.
- If there is going to be class warfare in this country, it’s time that the working class of this country won that war and not just the corporate elite. (Senator Sanders wspeaking to the Iowa AFL-CIO convention summer 2019)
- Bernie Sanders quoted by Norman Solomon in The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders (18 Feb 2020)
- Marxism is the capitalism of the working class.
- Oswald Spengler, Prussianism and Socialism (1919)
- The expenses of the royal household, wars, and lavish public building were financed by tolls and the profits of the king's foreign trade monopoly, by conscription of labour and heavy taxation. The results were impoverishment of the masses, alienation of land, and the development of a proletariat.
- Eric Roll, Baron Roll of Ipsden, A History of Economic Thought (1939), Chapter I, The Beginnings, p. 25
- The bourgeoisie today is a falling class... by its imperialist methods of appropriation [it] is destroying the economic structure of the world and human culture generally. Nevertheless, the historical persistence of the bourgeoisie is colossal. It holds to power, and does not wish to abandon it. Thereby it threatens to drag after it into the abyss the whole of society. We are forced to tear it off, to chop it away. The Red Terror is a weapon utilized against a class, doomed to destruction, which does not wish to perish. If the White Terror can only retard the historical rise of the proletariat, the Red Terror hastens the destruction of the bourgeoisie.
- Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism : A Reply to Karl Kautsky (1920; 1975), p. 83
- For most workers the transition to socialism held out considerably fewer rewards. Though everyone appreciated job security and a steady income—especially those who had experienced the 1930s—living conditions were still poor and the shortages of consumer goods and sometimes even food clashed with socialist ideals of plenty. Even worse was the lack of working-class autonomy. All over eastern Europe workers had tasted influence and power of their own in the immediate postwar years. In some areas factory councils had taken over the running of plants or negotiated deals with the owners. By the late 1940s Communist trade unions came in and took over workers’ organizations, and officials appointed by the authorities were the new bosses. They set production quotas after instructions from above, and workers had little influence on their daily existence. Workers protested everywhere, with some condemning the Communists as Nazis in disguise. Gradually, in the post-Stalin era the authorities tried to buy off workers’ protests through accepting lower levels of productivity and increasing subsidies on food and rent.
- Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (2017)
- A worker-coop based economy—where workers democratically run enterprises, deciding what, how and where to produce, and what to do with any profits—could, and likely would, put social needs and goals (like proper preparation for pandemics) ahead of profits. Workers are the majority in all capitalist societies; their interests are those of the majority. Employers are always a small minority; theirs are the "special interests" of that minority. Capitalism gives that minority the position, profits and power to determine how the society as a whole lives or dies. That's why all employees now wonder and worry about how long our jobs, incomes, homes and bank accounts will last—if we still have them. A minority (employers) decides all those questions and excludes the majority (employees) from making those decisions, even though that majority must live with their results.
- Richard D. Wolff during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism (April 6, 2020), CounterPunch.