The Progressive Living Glossary

Definition: Class Warfare

Domains:   Politics, classes, types of conflict, political corruption, social decay
Context:     Employees, consumers, taxpayers, citizens, parents, environment, military,
                     corporations, businessmen, wealthy, propaganda
       

 

 

Thephrase "class warfare" refers to the conflicts of interest that arise within every society when a wealthy economic elite arises and exploits its economic advantages so as to obtain still greater wealth and/or political power for itself.

This conflict has arisen so universally that it must have very deep roots in human nature, human relationships, or both. The very first example of world literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, shows signs of having been written in protest of the excesses of a privileged ruler; and in every early civilization, privileged elites emerged and exploited a working class to their own advantage.

In contemporary societies this conflict has continued unabated, though the tools used to wage it have changed, and the scale has enlarged.

Some of the major arenas of class conflict are as follows:

Employee/employer
In corporate (as opposed to Mondragon) capitalism, the labor of employees is regarded as one commodity among others, and driving its cost down is among the highest priorities of all managers. Thus, employers seek to avoid paying overtime pay, to avoid paying unemployment

 

compensation, to avoid paying employees the full value of their labor, and to keep benefits as minimal as the labor market will bear. Employers have also sought to abrogate employee privacy, and to disrupt union organization. Working as an employee also entails a hidden "opportunity cost", in that workers build no equity in the business that they work for. Of course, in many cases, employees also seek to exploit employers, and engage in numerous practices that minimize their productivity; however, in the US, the balance of power greatly favors the employer. A major tactic in current class warfare is the exporting of jobs to third world nations (in the US corporations are actually subsidized for doing so).

Consumer/corporation
Consumers are often sold products that are defective or dangerous. While
the courts, in principle, provide recourse, economic elites have sought to pack the judiciary with conservatives, and have consistently sought so-called "tort reforms" to limit financial awards to those harmed. The corporately-owned media have publicizedcases in which, arguably, the consumer has victimized himself (a well-known example arose when

 

someone spilled coffee on themself at a McDonalds), but studies show these are exceptions. Transnational corporations are currently trying to corner the market on fresh water, while Microsoft has exploited its monopoly of computer operating systems by charging high software prices.

Taxpayer/corporation
For decades now, in the US, the burden of taxation has been shifting from corporations to taxpayers. The wealthy have also successfully sought to shift the burden of taxation to the middle class and poor (particularly under the Bush administration).

Citizens/corporations
Under corrupt, conservative courts, corporations won rights that are properly reserved to citizens, such as "freedom of speech." This has paved to way to political corruption through political bribes (so-called "campaign contributions") and numerous other practices. When corporations exercize greater political influence than individuals, democracy itself is undermined. Corporations have also exploited natural resources belonging to all Americans, for example extracting mineral and logging wealth from public
lands at nominal cost. Moreover, corporate welfare exceeds that paid to human beings

 

while doing little or nothing to promote the common good.

Parents/corporations
Coporations see children as particularly desirable customers, and seek to establish brand-name loyalty at the earliest possible age. This has led to advertising in the public schools, textbooks with advertising promotions, and candy and other junk food sales on public school campuses.

Environment/wealthy
Historically, slum lords profited from the poor, while living in luxury themselves. While this practice continues, it pales in comparison with the massive environmental degradation caused by corporations which they don't wish to pay to ameliorate.

Corporations/military
Many wars are fought on behalf of the economic interests of business elites. Yet those actually engaged in combat are overwhelmingly composed of individuals from lower socioeconomic classes who entered the military looking for economic opportunity.

Globally, class war is coordinated by the Bilderberg group, while in the United States the Business Roundtable, Chamber of Commerce, and major banks take the lead.

The economic dynamics underlying class warfare are discussed in depth at Capitalism, Socialism, Communism.

See also: democracy, oligarchy, mass media, plutocracy, fascism, progressivism.

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