3.2. Classes (the protagonists)

The "class-struggle left", "class-struggle unions" or "class interests" are common expressions in political phrasebooks. But what are classes for Anarchist Communists, or indeed for the entire radical left, Marxist and otherwise? They are the social groups that can be identified on the basis of their position in the cycle of production and the distribution of goods. For Marxists (for a majority of them, at least), the definition is quite rigid. There are basically two classes. First, those who control the means of production (capital, structures, production machinery, etc.) and who, on the basis of this ownership, obtain a privileged share of the goods which are produced without themselves working on the transformation of raw materials into finished goods. Then there are those (the proletariat) who own only their ability to work (their labour force) which they sell to the former group (the bosses) in exchange for a wage which allows them and their families to survive and reproduce (the very word "proletariat" comes from the Latin prōlēs, meaning "offspring"). Others, such as the middle class are destined to disappear into the proletariat, while the poor who are unable even to make their way into the labour markets survive as an underclass (the "lumpenproletariat") and do not merit a class identity, serving only to keep wage levels down thanks to competition with the employed, something which serves the interests of the bosses alone.

For Anarchist Communists from Bakunin onwards, the position requires further explanation. The position within the productive cycle does identify fundamental opposing interests - on the one hand the proletariat which produces goods for consumption through its labour and which loses the benefit of this as a result of the ownership system of capitalist society and, on the other hand, the bosses who take the profit thanks to their ownership of the means of production. But around this irreparable contradiction are a series of secondary actors who are no less important. There are the peasants, who possess their own means of production but who are robbed of the greater part of the wealth they produce by the mechanism of distribution which they do not control. Then there are the middle classes whose function is essential to capitalist reproduction and who are repaid with ephemeral, derisory privileges and who are consequently often confused as to where their real interests lie. Finally there are the unemployed, whose desperate thirst for a wage puts them in fictional competition with their natural allies.

It is important, therefore, to establish the basic dichotomy and build a strategy which can bring together the interests (which are only separate in appearance) of all those who to a greater or lesser extent are exploited by the present social system based on capitalist private property. This basic dichotomy cannot be denied or avoided. For this reason, there is no place from a class-struggle point of view for all those groups (even though they may be tactically useful in the building of revolutionary confrontation) which bring together people on the basis of subjective perceptions or of different interests to those involved in the production cycle, such as consumers, the poor, the inhabitants of a neighbourhood, students, etc.


3.3. Class Struggle (antagonism)