The following is the first part of a series of articles on this question, which has been an important topic of discussion within the Communist Ghadar Party and in the working class movement in recent times.
Bourgeois propaganda about “middle class” attacks the identity of the working class
The Communist Manifesto, published by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 165 years ago, begins by observing that human society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeoisie and proletariat. The Manifesto convincingly argues that the struggle between these classes will necessarily lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is but the prelude to the end of class divisions in society.
Ever since the publication of the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie has been spreading all kinds of unscientific concepts to hide the fact that social development confirms that the fundamental conclusions of Marx and Engels are correct. At the present time, one of the main unscientific ideas being spread on a daily basis is that the majority of people in modern society belong to the “middle class”.
In daily news and TV debates, as well as in so-called analytical essays, society is talked about as if it is made up of a minority of poor, a minority of rich, and a middle class consisting of everyone in between. The spreading of such a distorted picture of social classes has a definite political aim. The aim is to prevent the working class from realising its own strength and uniting to lead a social revolution against the capitalist class.
In our country, the ruling bourgeois class spreads the notion that only those who get the lowest prevailing wages are workers. If one drives a two-wheeler or lives in an apartment building then one is considered to be middle class, as if only those living in slums and who ride bicycles or take a bus are workers.
The scientific concept of an economic class is based on the relationship of that class to the means of social production. It is determined by the source of income and not by its quantity alone. By focusing only on the quantity of income to divide society into rich, middle and poor is a vulgar bourgeois method of hiding the real class contradictions that exist.
Capitalists are those who own the means of social production. They earn profit, interest or rental incomes, which are various forms of pocketing the value created by other people’s labour. They relate to the rest of society as being private owners of capital.
The proletariat, or the working class, consists of those who own no means of production. They depend for their survival on selling their labour power to earn wage income. Educated and skilled labour power fetches higher wages than unskilled labour that requires no education or training. Irrespective of the amount of income one earns, a worker is one who does not own any means of production and depends for survival on being employed by someone for a wage or salary.
The working class includes not only factory and construction workers but also office workers, rail drivers, airline pilots and bus transport staff. It includes doctors and nurses employed in hospitals, bank employees, IT sector and media workers, as well as school and university teachers.
The working class of our country includes a growing number of educated workers having modern communication skills. The most organised and potentially most powerful section consists of those employed in large-scale industry and services.
In between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, there are those who work with their own means of production, such as peasants, artisans, petty shopkeepers and other “self-employed” people. These middle strata of society, also called the petty-bourgeoisie, face an extremely uncertain fate in capitalist society. A minority of them graduates into the bourgeois class while the majority strive hard to keep their heads above water, but ultimately sink into the ranks of the working class.
In our country the middle strata are relatively numerous, but they do not make up the majority. The working class, including wage-workers in agriculture, industry and services accounts for roughly half the population.
If one looks in any English dictionary for the meaning of the word bourgeoisie, one will find that one of the listed meanings is middle class. In the conditions prevailing in Europe a few hundred years ago, the capitalist class emerged from among those with some amount of private property who were socially in-between the aristocratic landed class and the lowest class of serfs who were tied to small plots of land.
The idea of a “middle class revolution”, which the imperialists describe in various colours other than red, such as an orange revolution, is nothing but an illusion. The bourgeoisie is already in power and is a thoroughly reactionary class in the present epoch. The petty bourgeoisie or the middle strata is vacillating by nature, sometimes following the working class while at other times tailing the bourgeoisie. It is a class that longs for the past and lacks any vision of its own for the future.
The deceptive bourgeois propaganda about the middle class is aimed at distorting the very identity of the working class. It is aimed at preventing the working class from realising its true potential and uniting as a class to lead a social revolution that will eliminate all forms of exploitation, by replacing capitalism with socialism and communism.