"Classes," wrote Lenin, "are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated by law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labor, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate the labor of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy."1
The population of the United States today is divided into the same basic social classes that characterize all capitalist societies – the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie. These classes came into being with the dawn of capitalist production relations and will remain, each in its fixed relation to the means of production, until the capitalist system is overthrown. The basic conditions and characteristics of these classes are determined by these production relations and, consequently, appear consistently in every capitalist society, regardless of cultural and national particularities or the level of economic development. The particular conditions and characteristics of these classes, however, change as society develops, and they vary from country to country. The U.S. today is a highly developed monopoly capitalist society and the classes within it have evolved accordingly. It is also one of the two premier imperialist powers in the world today. The tremendous superprofits which the U.S. bourgeoisie drains from the countries under its domination have affected, to a certain extent, the conditions encountered by the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie at home. Within the borders of the U.S., various nations exist (Anglo-American, Afro-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and the nations and nationalities among the Native Peoples) and the classes within these nations each have particular characteristics which result from the system of national oppression perpetrated by the Anglo-American bourgeoisie. All of these conditions must be considered in analyzing the present situation of the classes in the U.S.
Such an analysis is critical to the development of revolutionary strategy and tactics, i.e. to an understanding of which strata are bound to support the proletarian revolution, which can be rendered neutral in this struggle and which are the enemies of the revolution. The following article represents an effort by our organization to gather together the most important information about the various classes and strata within the U.S. It is, of course, only an outline. Many of the particular questions dealt with in this article have received more detailed attention in our previous publications. All of the questions demand greater study and elaboration. It is hoped, however, that this article will be able to convey the overall picture of the class situation in the United States today.
Note on Bourgeois Statistics
Virtually all the statistical information in the article comes from U.S. government sources and, before we proceed further, it is necessary to explain some of the problems and limitations of these statistics.
1. By design, U.S. government statistics cover up rather than reveal class distinctions. Many of the occupational classifications used by the government combine within one classification capitalists, small proprietors, petty bourgeois employees and proletarians. It was necessary to break down the government classifications into their true class components as much as possible using the information provided. In most cases, we were able to do this, but in several instances detailed information was not provided about each of these components and therefore, in order to present consistent data, we had to use government classifications which are not precise in class terms.
2. The government insists on perpetuating its myth of racial categories to characterize the various nationalities in the U.S. It uses the following classifications: "White", "Black", "American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut", "Asian and Pacific Islander" and "Other Races." This anti-scientific method completely confuses the question of nationalities and national oppression with racial categories. Within the "Black" category are placed not only Afro-Americans, but Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, etc. The Puerto Rican nation disappears into the categories of "Black", "White" and "Other", and the Chicano Nation is likewise divided among the "White", "American Indian" and "Other" categories. In addition to its racial categories, the government has created another category – "Spanish origin" – which overlaps these racial categories and includes all people with Spanish surnames regardless of whether their nationality is Spanish, Argentinean, Mexican, Chicano, etc. Because data is only available using these government classifications, we have been forced to use them to convey information about the conditions of the classes among the various nationalities.
3. Bourgeois statistics are more complete today than those that Marx or Lenin had to use, but they are still far from complete or accurate. U.S. government statistics consistently undercount the number of immigrant workers (especially those without legal documents), national minorities, migrant and seasonal workers and the very poor. After much protest, for instance, the Census Bureau was forced to admit that it undercounted the number of "Blacks" by 7.7% in 1970 and by 4.5 to 5.5.% in 1980 (by its own estimation). Between 1970 and 1980, according to Census Bureau statistics, the number of people of "Spanish origin" grew by 38%, the number of people classified as "Other Races" grew by 92% and the number of "American Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts" grew by 72%.2 This phenomenal "growth" cannot be explained by natural population growth or immigration, but rather by the idiocy of the racial classification method, the severe undercounting of oppressed nationalities in the 1970 census and the pressure applied by the national movements to include the oppressed nationalities in the 1980 census. These severe fluctuations should caution anyone who would attempt to treat Census Bureau statistics as anything more than rough and somewhat distorted data.
The fact that government statistics are purposely distorted, confused and incomplete does not mean they are useless. Indeed, they are very useful and, despite the government's attempts to cover up class distinctions, these distinctions and the characteristics of the various classes are discernible by carefully examining the data that the government provides.
The Total Population and the Labor Force
The total population of the United States in December, 1982 was estimated to be 232,840,000. All of these people belong to one social class or another. When examining statistics, however, it is only possible to determine the social class of those people who are in the labor force, and therefore we have concentrated our study on the "active labor force." In December, 1982, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the total labor force numbered 113,035,000 or somewhat less than half the total population.3
Included within the labor force are all those who are employed or actively looking for work who are 16 years old or older. This category, therefore, excludes most housewives, children, students, prisoners, the disabled and the retired, as well as workers below the age of 16, unemployed seasonal workers and other workers who have, at least temporarily, given up looking for work. The BLS divides the labor force into two components, civilian (which numbered 110,855,000 in December, 1982) and military (which numbered 2,108,000 in December, 1982). Throughout this article, except where otherwise noted, when we refer to the size of various classes we are referring only to the members of the class who are part of the BLS "civilian labor force" (who make up somewhat less than half the total membership of their class).4
1. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works V. 29, p. 421.
2. U.S. Department of Commerce News, Department of Commerce, Feb. 23, 1981.
3. Employment and Earnings. Jan. 1983, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) p. 11.
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