Liberal and Marxist Conceptions of the Class Struggle

V. I.   Lenin
May 1913
The question of the class struggle is one of the fundamental questions of Marxism. It is, therefore, worthwhile dealing with the concept of class struggle in greater detail.
Every class struggle is a political struggle. We know that the opportunists, slaves to the ideas of liberalism, understood these profound words of Marx incorrectly and tried to put a distorted interpretation on them. Among the opportunists there were, for instance, the Economists, the elder brothers of the liquidators. The Economists believed that any clash between classes was a political struggle. The Economists therefore recognised as “class struggle” the struggle for a wage increase of five kopeks on the ruble, and refused to recognise a higher, more developed, nation-wide class struggle, the struggle for political aims.
The Economists, therefore, recognised the embryonic class struggle but did not recognise it in its developed form. The Economists recognised, in other words, only that part of the class struggle that was more tolerable to the liberal bourgeoisie, they refused to go farther than the liberals, they refused to recognise the higher form of class struggle that is unacceptable to the liberals. By so doing, the Economists became liberal workers’ politicians. By so doing, the Economists rejected the Marxist, revolutionary conception of the class struggle.
To continue. It is not enough that the class struggle becomes real, consistent and developed only when it embraces the sphere of politics. In politics, too, it is possible to restrict oneself to minor matters, and it is possible to go deeper, to the very foundations. Marxism recognises a class struggle as fully developed, “nation-wide”, only if it does not merely embrace politics but takes in the most significant thing in politics—the organisation of state power.
On the other hand, the liberals, when the working-class movement has grown a little stronger, dare not deny the class struggle but attempt to narrow down, to curtail and emasculate the concept of class struggle. Liberals are prepared to recognise the class struggle in the sphere of politics, too, but on one condition—that the organisation of state power should not enter into that sphere. It is not hard to understand which of the bourgeoisie’s class interests give rise to the liberal distortion of the concept of class struggle.
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