The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The Working Class, Society’s Only Progressive Force

Feb 17, 2014

This article is translated from part of an article in the February 14th, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

“The bourgeoisie has played an eminently revolutionary role in history,” Marx wrote in 1847. He recalled how this new social class had put an end to the privileges of the nobility and the constraints it had set, in order to develop production and trade at a global level, allowing for the peoples of the world to come together.

167 years later, does anything progressive about the bourgeoisie’s domination remain? Even the most impressive of its inventions and advancements end up being turned against us. A significant part of humanity is today dying of hunger or of minor diseases, but not because there isn’t enough food produced or because we don’t know how to cure these diseases. Millions of families are homeless, including in the richest countries on the planet, but not because we don’t know how to build houses!

Today, the bourgeoisie’s economic system is sunk in total stagnation, even giving few opportunities for the capitalist class to increase its profits. Its prosperity therefore relies essentially on worsening the level of exploitation.

The enrichment of the ruling class now depends on society’s general impoverishment and on the decline of public services, which is inevitably accompanied by the fracturing of society and by its moral degeneration.

It is in this situation that reactionary ideas and actions have flourished – attacks on immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, racist violence, anti-worker attacks. The only way to oppose the rise of reaction is to strike at the heart of this unjust and insane system. The only class capable of doing this and offering another social organization to humanity is the working class.

Workers must take up the fight for their own class interests. The workers are the only progressive force of our times. However, in order to step forward as a progressive force, they must take up the fight for their own class interests, and they must find again the will to impose their common demands: a job, a good wage, retirement, housing, and a decent existence. These demands, modest as they are, will force workers to confront the capitalist class. And when they become aware of this, they will have the power they need.

Workers must find the dignity that comes with knowing that they are the source of all wealth. They are the only ones with legitimate demands, since, contrary to the parasitic bourgeoisie that is driving this society over a cliff, they wear themselves out to make it even function!

The workers are the only ones who do not exploit anyone, and their interests are aligned with those of the rest of society, including independent workers, artisans, small businesspeople, and peasants, all of whose incomes depend on the buying power of wage-earners.

By fighting on their own grounds and going so far as to contest the bourgeoisie’s claim to rule, workers will allow the entire society to progress materially and morally, as they have always done.

For yes, the workers movement embodies moral values that are the exact opposite of those held by bourgeois society. Against the individualism and the every-man-for-himself mentality of this capitalist society, the workers movement is the bearer of solidarity and fraternity. Against the love of money, it upholds collective interests. Against nationalism, it holds the torch of internationalism.