The working class (also labouring class and proletariat) are the people employed for wages, especially in manual-labour occupations and in skilled, industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most service-work jobs. The working class only rely upon their earnings from wage labour, thereby, the category includes most of the working population of industrialized economies, of the urban areas (cities, towns, villages) of non-industrialized economies, and of the rural workforce.
In Marxist theory and socialist literature, the term working class is often used interchangeably with the term proletariat, and includes all workers who expend both physical and mental labour (salaried knowledge workers and white-collar workers) to produce economic value for the owners of the means of production (the bourgeoisie in Marxist literature). The proletariat is a term used to describe the class of wage-earners (especially industrial workers) in a capitalist society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 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