Class conflict

The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a simple visualization of class conflict.

Class conflict (also class warfare and class struggle) is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society consequent to socio-economic competition among the social classes.

The forms of class conflict include direct violence, such as wars for resources and cheap labor and assassinatons; indirect violence, such as deaths from poverty and starvation, illness and unsafe working conditions. Economic coercion, such as the threat of unemployment or the withdrawal of investment capital; or ideologically, by way of political literature. Additionally, political forms of class warfare are: legal and illegal lobbying, and bribery of legislators.

The social-class conflict can be direct, as in a dispute between labour and management, such as an employer's industrial lockout of his employees in effort to weaken the bargaining power of the corresponding trade union; or indirect, such as a workers' slowdown of production in protest of unfair labor practices, such as low wages and poor workplace conditions.

In the political and economic philosophies of Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, class struggle is a central tenet and a practical means for effecting radical social and political changes for the social majority.[1]


Social-class warfare: Truck drivers fight the police in the course of the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934.

In political science, Socialists and Marxists use the term class conflict to define a social class by its relationship to the means of production, such as factories, agricultural land, and industrial machinery. The social control of labor and of the production of goods and services, is a political contest between the social classes.

The anarchist Mikhail Bakunin said that the class struggles of the working class, the peasantry, and the working poor were central to realizing a social revolution to depose and replace the ruling class, and the creation of libertarian socialism. In contrast, Marx's theory of history proposes that class conflict is decisive in the history of economic systems organized by hierarchies of social class, such as capitalism and feudalism.[2] Marxists refer to its overt manifestations as class war, a struggle whose resolution in favor of the working class is viewed by them as inevitable under plutocratic capitalism.

Pre-capitalist societies

Where societies are socially divided based on status, wealth, or control of social production and distribution, class structures arise and are thus coeval with civilization itself. It is well documented since at least European Classical Antiquity (Conflict of the Orders, Spartacus, etc.)[3] and the various popular uprisings in late medieval Europe and elsewhere. One of the earliest analysis of these conflicts is Friedrich Engels' The Peasant War in Germany.[4] One of the earliest analyses of the development of class as the development of conflicts between emergent classes is available in Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid. In this work, Kropotkin analyzes the disposal of goods after death in pre-class or hunter-gatherer societies, and how inheritance produces early class divisions and conflict.

21st-century United States

In the speech "The Great American Class War" (2013) the journalist Bill Moyers acknowledged the existence of social-class conflict between democracy and plutocracy in the U.S.[5] Chris Hedges wrote a column for Truthdig called "Let's Get This Class War Started," which was a play on Pink's song "Let's Get This Party Started."[6][7]

Historian Steve Fraser, author of The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power, asserts that class conflict is an inevitability if current political and economic conditions continue, noting that “people are increasingly fed up… their voices are not being heard. And I think that can only go on for so long without there being more and more outbreaks of what used to be called class struggle, class warfare.”[8]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Klassenkampf
asturianu: Llucha de clases
български: Класова борба
čeština: Třídní boj
dansk: Klassekamp
Deutsch: Klassenkampf
español: Lucha de clases
Esperanto: Klasbatalo
euskara: Klase-borroka
한국어: 계급투쟁
hrvatski: Klasna borba
Bahasa Indonesia: Perjuangan kelas
lietuvių: Klasių kova
magyar: Osztályharc
македонски: Класна борба
മലയാളം: വർഗ്ഗസമരം
Bahasa Melayu: Perjuangan kelas
Nederlands: Klassenstrijd
日本語: 階級闘争
norsk: Klassekamp
norsk nynorsk: Klassekamp
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Sinfiy kurash
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਵਰਗ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼
polski: Walka klas
português: Luta de classes
Simple English: Class struggle
slovenčina: Triedny boj
slovenščina: Razredni boj
српски / srpski: Класни сукоб
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Klasna borba
svenska: Klasskamp
українська: Класова боротьба
Tiếng Việt: Đấu tranh giai cấp
中文: 阶级斗争