Changes in the working class


The struggle for the international organising of the proletariat for the class struggle must take into account the major developments and changes in recent years and decades. A hundred years ago – the time of Lenin and Trotsky – the proletariat in the colonial and semi-colonial world was still quite small. Capitalist industrialisation had progressed only to a relatively small degree. The proletariat therefore constituted only a small minority among the toilers.

This has changed dramatically in recent decades. Contrary to the nonsensical claims of numerous petty-bourgeois "intellectuals", the proletariat has not become smaller, but is bigger than ever. The wage earners today make about half of the world's working population – concretely 46.9% (2008) and around 1.4 billion in absolute terms. Similarly, the proportion of women participating in the production process has increased. Furthermore, the proportion of migrants in the working class in the imperialist countries has increased significantly. In many countries they now make up 10-25% of the workers and especially in the centres – the bigger cities – the percentage is even higher.

Of particular significance is the shift of the weight of the proletariat from the old imperialist metropolises towards the poorer countries. Previously, the majority of workers lived in the imperialist metropolises (mainly Western Europe and North America) while today three quarters of all wage earners live in the semi-colonial and poorer imperialist countries. In the industrial sector – the core sector of the capitalist production of value – even 83.5% of all employees live outside of the rich imperialist metropolises. Added to this is that the share of the top strata of the working class which is privileged and corrupted by the capitalists – the labour aristocracy – is significantly lower in the poorer countries. In short, while 100 years ago, most of the world proletariat lived in the advanced imperialist industrial states, today we have the reverse situation: the majority of the world proletariat lives in semi-colonial world and the underdeveloped imperialist countries such as China and Russia.

But the growth of the world proletariat goes hand in hand with an increase in inequality among workers. Groups that have previously belonged to the middle class and are now proletarianised retain various privileges and prejudices. Certain upper layers of the working class in the imperialist metropolises receive privileges at the expense of new sub-layers of the working class in the metropolises (e.g. migrants, precarious workers) or in the poorer countries. Our class itself thus has layers, which are tempted by the capitalists to profit from the exploitation of the masses of our class.

Against this background, the problem of the labour aristocracy takes up an important place in the revolutionary strategy. The labour aristocracy is a thin layer at the top of the proletariat, which the capitalists bribe by the extra profits that they derive from the exploitation of the semi-colonial countries and the lower layers of the working class in the metropolises by means of various privileges and which they hope to bind as loyal supporters. It is this layer that defends an attitude like "things are still going well," against the broad masses of the proletariat – because they themselves actually live relatively "good" and for them the efforts of smashing the system appears too large.

On one hand, the capitalist crisis undermines the material basis of these privileges and this layer becomes smaller. Therefore, the aristocratic classes are increasingly forced to turn against capital and to defend their interests, thereby improving the opportunities for building a broad unity of the proletariat in class struggle. On the other hand, inequality has risen within the proletariat and the aristocracy was able to increase their share of the income of wage earners.

Hence we see the growing central importance of the lower and middle strata of the proletariat (including many immigrants, national minorities, women, youth) for advancing the class struggle and the renewal of the labour movement. These groups especially are living a life in noticeable chains. Therefore, the battle against the special, additional forms of oppression of these layers - such as the national and social oppression - takes an important role within the revolutionary programme, as these forms of oppression help the bourgeoisie to deepen the split in the working class and weaken it.

It follows that the struggle for political and organisational independence of the working class focuses particularly on the broad mass of the working class – i.e. its lower and middle classes. This means that the workers' organisations - trade unions, youth and women's organisations and in particular the revolutionary world party in formation – must reflect the changing composition of the proletariat. In other words, to meet the growing significance of the proletarians of the poorer countries, of women, migrants, etc. they must strive to attract and organise them and also to represent them in their own ranks and leadership structures. The future revolutionary communist world party therefore has a strong semi-colonial, young, female, migrant face or it fails in its task. Its members know the value of these layers and show a lot of respect towards them.



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