Jamaica LANDS
Left Alliance for National Democracy and Socialism

Class Conflict (Western Europe)

Class Conflict (Western Europe)

 

Class Conflict (Western Europe)

According to Marxism, class conflict is the driving force of societal change. Marx identifies several stages of human society that have existed in history. It is important to note that Marx's ideas were based on his observations and knowledge of Western Europe, and may not be completely applicable to everywhere in the world; this is a problem that arose after the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Civil War, which both faced challenges in attempting to establish Socialism, because reality outside of Western Europe was not necessarily the same as the reality that was the basis of Marx's theories. This is a concise overview of Marx's theory of history. The party will develop its own adaptation to suit the Caribbean reality.

Primitive Communism

Primitive Communism is the first stage of society. It describes a time when societies focused on hunting and gathering for food and resources. Hunter-gatherer societies were nomadic, and did not build permanent settlements. It is called Primitive Communism because societies were communal; there was not much of a sense of private property, as resources were shared for the collective well-being of the people. Unlike modern societies, primitive ones did not have strong hierarchical systems, and could therefore be considered to be in a state of Anarchy to some extent. As humans developed agriculture, we started building large settlements and civilisations.

Slave Society

In Primitive Communism, basically everyone had to do some type of work, because food production was not efficient. After the establishment of large settlements that engaged in farming, food production became more efficient; this meant that only some people needed to work for everyone to be able to have food.

As settlements became large and desired some sort of social order, humans engaged in what some theorists called "the social contract" - which established the idea of order and a state. In Anarchy, individuals were responsible for maintaining control of the property that they used. They would have to defend their property, and anyone could freely attack it. Any human could use force against another human. The social contract was the idea that an entity should have a monopoly on power, i.e. that the state would regulate the use of force instead of every individual being able to use it. This allowed persons to own land with a sense of security, which they would not be able to do in Anarchy.

Force was used to protect and manage private property. The state was established to govern property. Someone had to have the ability to use force to be able to establish social order. This order, however, was in the interests of those who controlled more property. At the time, property included land, animals, and even enslaved humans. There were essentially 2 classes of people: persons who owned property, and persons who were enslaved as property.

Slavery exhausted itself. People were usually enslaved as prisoners of war. In Europe, this meant that slavery depended on constantly conquering foreign lands to get more slaves. In the Caribbean, this meant depending on the existence of war in West Africa, and reproduction among enslaved people in the Caribbean itself; the"slave trade" eventually became expensive.

The warlords and landowners in this stage of society became the aristocrats in the next stage of society. While using Slave Society to gain wealth and power, these elites abolished it when it became too expensive for them.

Feudalism

Feudalism followed Slave Society. Feudalism still involved war and variants of slavery, but with an expanded ruling class and a sense of a national identity. Large areas of land were owned by a single family or clan as estates. There were many kingdoms, duchies, and other forms of states, ruled by a warlord who owned land. Land and other property could be passed on from one owner to his children or others in his family.

The social contract is still present here. The people who live on the land would produce for the benefit of the leaders, and the leaders would offer them security in return. It is around this time that the modern concept of the state was established, which is why the concept of "the state" so heavily tied to the concept of the "monopoly on force" - ownership of land was legitimised by the owner's ability to maintain control of it by protecting it from invaders.

As societies came into contact with each other more, and national identities developed around land or leaderships, the idea of borders came about. Inevitably, the economies of these societies would interact. Trading allowed wealth to be transferred to a new class, the merchant class. Many powerful countries, however, followed an economic doctrine called Mercantilism, where the government wanted to have complete control of trade. This limited the economic opportunities available to the merchant class, and it had upset them. They had still gained wealth under Feudalism, and they had a greater understanding of economics than the feudal lords. This becomes a conflict between the merchant class and the feudal lords, in which the feudal lords see the merchant class as a threat to their power.

The ideology of Liberalism emerged, which opposed Mercantilism and supported free trade. It also brought about more secular ideas which challenged the parochial tendencies of the feudal lords. After overthrowing feudal systems, liberal ideas lead societies to have greater innovation in technology and economics, which leads to Capitalism.

Capitalism

Capitalism is founded upon the ideology of Liberalism, which discourages government control and encourages individual liberty and a free trade. Under Capitalism, everything is determined by market forces. Capitalism is largely associated with the Industrial Revolution, which led to a great level of economic efficiency.

The Industrial Revolution saw the height of the division of labour. Put this into the context of societal history; in early human society, almost everyone had to be involved in food production. As food production became more efficient and humans developed other demands like better quality housing and clothing, some persons could focus on producing those instead. As more complex goods came about, different workers could specialise in different parts of the production process. Aspects of production were simplified and understood well enough to have workers replaced by machines, for some processes. Capitalism results in a great surplus of production, i.e. it is able to produce more than what everyone needs.

The problem with Capitalism is that it maintains the slavery-era idea of private property, and the feudal-era idea of hereditary ownership. This maintains a class hierarchy involving a Capitalist class and a working class. It is established that not everyone has to work for there to be enough resources to serve all of society. The result of this is that the members of the Capitalist class can choose not to work, and to offer nothing to society, while continuing to gain wealth. Considering that hereditary ownership of property is maintained, this also means that someone can be born in the Capitalist class instead of working their way to become a part of it. Most of the production is done by the working class, and most of the wealth goes to the Capitalist class that owns the land and the machines that are used for production. What makes Capitalism even worse is that technology constantly replaces labour, and Capitalism deals with this in a way that benefits the Capitalist class instead of the working class. When technology reduces the need for labour, the Capitalists simply fire workers, and this results in what is called "unemployment" in their societies.

Also, Capitalism involves free markets and free trade, which initially occur among many different companies. Over time, competition forces some companies to go out of business, and the remaining companies get a larger share of the industry. Over time, different industries become dominated by individual companies; there will be oligopoly in which there are only a few large companies, and eventually monopoly when only one large company is left. With the presence of free trade, this means that a company based in one country will be competing with a company based in another country. If a Jamaican company goes out of business, a foreign company can take its share of the industry.

When the working class realises that Capitalism doesn't benefit them, it gives way for populist movements to offer alternatives. After being frustrated with Capitalism, the working class will choose to support either Socialism or Fascism. Fascism was not a part of Marx's theory of history, so it will be explained separately and we will assume that society will advance to Socialism. Ultimately, Socialism involves the working class taking control of property, and using it to produce for the benefit of the masses instead of a privileged few.

Socialism

Under Socialism, what has typically happened is that a Socialist state establishes a planned economy to manage the transition from Capitalism to Communism. In an economic sense, Capitalism is an efficient mode of production, in that it produces more than everyone needs, but it does not distribute resources properly, and this leads to waste and unemployment. Socialism involves reorganising the economy so that surplus production is distributed properly.

In a political sense, Capitalism is considered to be a "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" - meaning that the Capitalist class is in complete control, and the state acts in their interests. Under Socialism, there is a "dictatorship of the proletariat" which means that the working class is in control, and the state acts in their interests. Socialism is supposed to abolish class and lead to Communism.

Among Marx, Lenin, and Mao, the process for transitioning to Communism is vague, especially where the abolition of the state is concerned. Anarchists believe in abolishing the state as soon as possible, skipping directly from Capitalism to Communism. Whereas Marx considered the transition from Socialism to Communism to be something that would be done without class conflict, it is possible that the transition from Socialism to Communism may come about as a result of conflict between the working class and a new class of bureaucrats.

Communism

Communism describes a stateless and classless society. It is a Utopian idea, where no-one is exploited by anyone else. It must be global, which means that national borders will need to be abolished. It is achieved by reorganising production under Socialism, then having the state eventually abolished when there is no longer a need for violence in society.