By James Thompson

Class warfare is a term which is frequently bandied about these days by both the right and left in U.S. political commentaries. The term comes from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels who coined the history making words “class struggle.”

In my humble view, the class struggle refers to the inherent conflict between the owners of capitalist enterprises and their employees.

Marx and Engels teach us that capitalists strive for increasing profits and must do so in order to survive in the capitalist system. If they do not strive for increasing profits, their competitors will quickly consume them.

Marx and Engels also teach us that the only way for capitalists to increase profits is to lower wages and benefits of the workers. The workers, on the other hand, must fight for adequate wages and benefits so that they and their families and communities can survive. Therein lies the basis for the conflict which is currently being called “class warfare.” Marx and Engels pointed out that the interests of the capitalists, i.e. owners of the means of production or ownership class, are irreconcilable with the interests of the working class.

Here is a quote from Frederick Engels 1888 preface to the Communist Manifesto:

“the fundamental proposition (of the Communist Manifesto)…is: That in every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles form a series of evolutions in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class-the proletariat-cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class-the bourgeoisie-without at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions, and class struggles.”

Here is another quote from the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto entitled “Bourgeois and Proletarians”:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

They end The Manifesto by stating:

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at the Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Workingmen of all countries, unite!”

The relevancy of this classic work cannot be denied with the world economic crisis in full bloom and the Occupy Wall Street and its various manifestations expressing the fury of the international working class at the exploiting/capitalist class.

You can read the Communist Manifesto online at: