Last week we found that there were two classes in society—the capitalist class and the working class, and that the tendency of modern industrial development was to solidify the capitalist class into a small number of industrials of great wealth, called plutocrats and to bring the great mass of the working class down to the level of “wage workers,” whose only means of obtaining an existence was to sell their labor power to capitalists for wages.
The great aim of the capitalist class is to make as much profit as possible. To do this, they are, of necessity, compelled to reduce wages to the lowest possible level.
The interest of the working class is to raise wages to the highest possible level—to sell their labor power as dearly as they can. The interest of the capitalist class is in their profit—that of the workers in the price of their labor power, or wages. There is therefore, no “Community of interest,” between the capitalist class and the working, but rather, an evitable “antagonism of interest.”
The antagonism of interest leads to the class struggle. The class struggle came into existence way back in history and is fated to continue and increase in fierceness and bitterness as long as classes exist.
Any and all attempts to reconcile the two irreconcilable elements of the classes must fail, and the struggle can end only with total elimination of one or other of the classes. The working class, to fight the class struggle, has organized itself into various bodies such as trades unions, etc., which use as their weapons of offence and defence, strikes and boycotts and endeavors by such means to force up the price of its labor power.
They have won some victories by these means but have, on the whole failed because they have not recognized the necessity of political action, and partly also, because on even the industrial field, they have displayed no unity of purpose or action, and have not understood the value of the task before them nor the struggle in which they were engaged.
The weakness of the bodies representing organized labor lies in the fact, that although they are class organizations they are not class-conscious organizations.
The great need of the worker’s class is class consciousness, which means a knowledge of the class struggle in society and their position, as workers, is that class struggle. A large proportion of the workers are now developing class consciousness and are going into the class struggle intelligently. Class consciousness amongst the working class inevitably leads to a strong socialist movement and treads down the barriers between skilled and unskilled labor. The socialist movement is the weapon through and with which the working class—or rather, the intelligent class conscious portion of the working class are now striking at the capitalist class.
The capitalist class in its struggle against the working class has used on the industrial field such weapons as lock-outs, black lists, etc., and has succeeded, through its capture of the political power, in fortifying itself behind law and legal procedure. The capitalists oppose the worker’s unions with associations, manufacturer’s alliances, etc.
In the past the different divisions of the capitalist class have been somewhat divided upon the political field. The middle class favoring a certain amount of competition amongst capitalists, while the plutocracy aimed at trustification and monopoly.
In most countries this sectional war amongst them has already been decided by the victory of the plutocrats.
Speaking generally, the capitalist class may be said to have acquired and developed class consciousness much more rapidly than their opponents. At any rate, they must, judging by the utterances of their representatives; be admitted to be thoroughly alive to the class struggle at the present time.
The capitalist class realizes that their sole hope lies in the lack of unity and economic ignorance of the working class and their great aim is to still further antagonize the various bodies representing organized labor, while at the same time misleading the great mass of the workers and covering up, as far as possible, the irreconcilable nature of the class struggle—by creating in the minds of the workers the idea of a community of interest between capital and labor. This, however, they are no longer able to do, and the indications are that with the growth of the international socialist movement, and the spread of economic truth amongst the working class, the working class will soon be in a position, through united and intelligent action to capture the political power, and by annihilating the capitalist class, end the struggle forever.
Next week “Wage Slavery.” Questions—What makes the class struggle? How have the working class organized and what have been their weapons in the past? Why have they failed? What must they do to win? Define class consciousness? Are you a worker? Are you class conscious? If so, are you a member of the political organizations of you class?
Books to read:—“War of the classes,” by Jack London; “Class Struggle,” by Kautsky; “Price, value and profit,” by Marx, “Communist Manifesto,” by Marx and Engels.
Order from Cotton’s Book Department.
Cotton’s Weekly, Thursday, March 18, 1909