By Ragnar Røed
The text is translated from Norwegian by activists in their spare time. The translation is - as all our translations - far from perfect. We would welcome criticism and help to correct mistakes or better the translation. We prioritize to finish translations so that the texts can be read and used by more people, rather than reaching for perfection.
An activist, may 2018
In 2011, I wrote a draft of a class analysis as a discussion piece for Tjen Folket: “Classes in the Norwegian Society” (not translated to english, ed.). This had both good and bad sides.
Today I think that draft uses the term lumpenproletariat incorrectly, defines the core of the proletariat incorrectly, and uses too much space for the petit bourgeoisie while focusing too little on the proletariat, and that it does not focus on defining the upper, middle, and lower layers. It also uses the term “working class” rather than the more precise and accurate term “proletariat”. In places, it reveals itself for what it really is—a draft of an analysis, written in order to start a discussion.
I maintain that the text from 2011 also has some good sides, particularly in the description of the psychology of the different classes and groups, but that this new analysis gives a more correct description of how people in Norway are divided into classes today.
The goal of this text is to equip Norwegian Maoists with a useful class analysis of Norway today. The task of communists is to organize the proletariat as the new ruling class through class struggle—and seize power for the proletariat through people’s war. The organization of the proletariat and the communist organization’s class character has been neglected by Norwegian communists for far too long. As a result of a rightist line, such a reorganization has been “tabled” for some time in the future. The way I see it, this is necessarily to neglect the very core of Maoism—political power to the proletariat.
It is high time to correct this error. It is high time that communists directly align themselves to our its class, unite with it, and politicize, mobilize, and organize it for revolutionary struggle against capitalism.
To understand the depths of what has been neglected, communists must understand classes, class struggle, and the proletariat’s historical task—to abolish itself as a class by forever abolishing all divisions of people into classes.
Ragnar Røed, May 2018
Norway is a highly developed capitalist society and it has been for a long time. For this very reason, only a few remnants of the pre-capitalist classes remain, and they are fairly week. The class structure is therefore more or less the same as it is in all other capitalist countries, where production divides people in the two conflicting camps, capitalism’s two most important classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Beside the two main classes is the middle class, the petit bourgeoisie. These are the three most typical classes in capitalism.
Our class analysis must take Maoism as its starting point because it is the scientific socialism of today. Maoism is our time’s Marxism, and it is the sharpest tool we have for revealing reality as it truly is. Maoism is not only scientific, but also has a class standpoint. Like all other ideologies, it serves the interests of a class, but it is the only ideology that serves the proletariat, the modern working class. Maoism is open about its service to the proletariat, in stark contrast to all bourgeois and petit bourgeois ideologies that try to hide their class character.
The core of Maoism is political power to the proletariat and at its base lies the concept that the class struggle is the most important driving force for developing society. Understanding class struggle and classes is crucial for understanding who it is that will seize the power and who our friends and enemies are in this process.
At the center of Maoism’s principles for class analysis lie Lenin’s criteria for defining classes. He writes:
Classes 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 in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, 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 labour of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy.
In a preface to The Communist Manifesto, Friedrich Engels writes:
The basic thought running through the Manifesto — that economic production, and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom, constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that… all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of social evolution; that this struggle, however, has now reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) can no longer emancipate itself from the class which exploits and oppresses it (the bourgeoisie), without at the same time forever freeing the whole of society from exploitation, oppression, class struggles…
Among the foremost examples of Marxist class analysis is Mao Zedong’s Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society. He begins this analysis by writing
Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution. The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies.”
Mao’s analysis describes the classes that could be found in China, the way they these were divided into different layers, and which positions they took politically, particularly when it came to their position on revolution.
In the program for AKP(m-l) resolved in 1976, the party wrote the following on the principles of class analysis:
Class analysis shall answer the questions of which class contradictions exist in the country, who is the reactionary ruling class, and who is the upcoming revolutionary class. It shall also answer the question of which classes can serve as allies to the revolutionary class and who its enemies are. The Marxist class analysis is a scientific, objective analysis… When the modern revisionists took power in SUKP, one of the first things that they did was to assault the Marxist-Leninist class analysis. They tried to erase the lines of division between the proletariat on one side and the lower layers of the intelligentsia and the petit bourgeoisie on the other. They attacked the Leninist thesis of the union between the proletariat and the working peasants and rather wished to work with the intelligentsia. They exaggerated the contradiction between the monopolistic and non-monopolistic bourgeoisie and wished to present the latter as a potential ally for the proletariat. All of this has a goal. It is to deny the proletariat from taking the leading role and attempting to subordinate proletarian power to the ownership of the bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie. The revisionist ‘analysis’ thereby upholds and reinforces capitalism. The same goes for the same revisionist ‘analyses’ that are offered in ‘leftist’ diction.”
Engels, Lenin, and Mao give examples of how our ideology has treated the question of classes and which principles the leading theoreticians have laid at the basis of their understanding of classes and the class struggle. AKP(m-l) gives examples of how Norwegian communists have concretely applied the universal laws in the ideology to the Norwegian conditions. The classics and AKP(m-l) both provide a natural and correct starting point for our own class analysis today.
To understand classes and the class struggle, we must take the following principles as our starting point:
Learning from Marxism’s (i.e. Maoism today) classics, studying their class analyses and works in depth in order to learn to use their dialectic materialist methods in the study of society and history (historical materialism).
Underpinning that classes are social divisions of people in large and historically determined groups, and that this division is the result of economic production.
Understanding that the criteria for categorization arise according to: (1) peoples’ relation to the means of production, (2) their role in the organization of labour, and (3) the means by which they gain their shares of wealth in society and (4) the proportion of those shares.
Revealing: (1) who the oppressor and oppressed are, (2) who the reactionary ruling class is and who is the leading revolutionary class is and (3) who are friends and who are enemies to the socialist revolution.
Revealing: (1) the most important tendencies of development within classes and (2) between classes, (3) how they divide themselves into relatively higher, middle, and lower layers, and (4) who constitutes the core and peripheries in each class.
The most important task for us today is to reveal and understand who the core of the proletariat is, as this is the starting point of constructing a revolutionary leadership of the class that has the historical task of abolishing capitalism. In this text, I will not go into great detail on this point, as it is a discussion better suited for its own text.
In that light, the most important thing is to be clear about who the main enemy is because we wish to maximize its isolation. Finally, it is also extremely important to understand the coarse features in the development of classes: Which classes are growing and which classes are shrinking?, How do the different layers in each class position themselves politically?, Who are enemies, who are friends, and who are waverers (centrists)?, and Who make up the different groups and why?—as well as their relative sizes.
Class analysis is for understanding society, but even more important is understanding how to change it. Class analysis is a tool for our struggle, and it has little utility when applied to some other purpose.
The Norwegian bourgeoisie arose partly from trade- and craftsmen in the cities, and partly from well-off farmers and nobles. The bourgeoisie is the capitalist class. It led capitalistic development and industrializatio, and with its capital, it was able to purchase machines and build factories where they could employ the new modern working class: the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie has the political power in Norway. They took it through a bourgeois revolution through several stages and struggles, where they finally established their own state. Important milestones in this political revolution include the constitution in 1814 and the war against Denmark, the introduction of parliamentarianism in 1884, and the final liberation from Sweden in 1905.
The bourgeoisie’s wealth is based on having power over the means of production, often by means of ownership with which they can exploit the proletariat. They can hire the proletariat and pay them lower wages than what they receive by selling the goods and services that the proletariat produces. The bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat by appropriating surplus value and this is the very source of the bourgeoisie’s existence and power.
For a long time, ship owners were the most powerful group within the Norwegian bourgeoisie. Today, in imperialist-monopoly capitalism, bank capital and industrial capital, including shipping companies, have been smelted together in finance capital. In turn, this has been smelted together with state capital, in line with the tendencies of imperialism in the direction of state monopoly capitalism and corporatism. The public and semi-public monopolies are sovereign and are the largest Norwegian capitalist enterprises, while oil and gas are their most important sectors. Norway is an imperialist country and as such, Norwegian capital grows through the plunder of other countries and people, something which applies in particular to the capital of monopoly companies and the state.
The fifteen largest companies in Norway, measured by revenue in 2017, are Statoil/Equinor (oil and gas), Telenor (telecommunications), Yara (fertilizers and chemicals) Norsk Hydro (aluminum), NorgesGruppen (retail), DNB (banking), KLP (insurance, finance, real estate), Reitangruppen (retail), Storebrand (banking and finance), Sapa (industry), Statkraft (energy), Coop Norge (retail), ExxonMobil Norge (oil and gas), Orkla (industry), Marine Harvest Norway (food and drink). The state is the majority stakeholder in Statoil/Equinor, Telenor, Norsk Hydro, DNB, and Statkraft. The companies that follow these top fifteen in the list of top 100 companies are mainly within retail (shops), energy, shipping and logistics, building and construction, banking and finance, oil and gas, industry (including production of food and drink), transportation, real estate, and leisure. Board members typically rotate between these large companies and politics.
The core of the bourgeoisie are the largest owners, together with leaders and bureaucrats within the largest companies, organizations, and central political organs. The core is composed first and foremost of the (1) uppermost layer of the state, (2) oil and gas, (3) banking and finance, (4) industry, (5) retail, and (6) shipping.
It is also worth mentioning that Norwegian politicians and bureaucrats who are centrally positioned in large international organizations like NATO, WHO, the European Council, etc. Norway’s role in these organizations shows that the Norwegian monopoly bourgeoisie is much more powerful than the Norwegian population would suggest. This has a lot to do with its large oil reserves and finance capital, large investments in other countries, and the abundance of international activity in general.
The core of the monopoly bourgeoisie consists of a few hundred people who exercise, on behalf of the monopoly bourgeoisie in its entirety, their class dictatorship over Norway—and they administer the imperialist exploitation of and wars against other people and countries. The monopoly bourgeoisie amounts to no more than a few thousand people in its entirety.
The entire bourgeoisie is much larger and includes all capitalists who have any number of employees—all managers and leaders in the society—first and foremost in production. The lowest layer of the bourgeoisie is the middle bourgeoisie, who employ anywhere between a few dozen to a few hundred thousand workers, as well as mid-level bosses within the state. The smallest capitalists do not belong to the bourgeoisie, but rather the petit bourgeoisie, and to a large degree they must participate in production while gaining less of the socialized share of wealth than the larger capitalists.
There are contradictions in the bourgeoisie between export and import capital, between monopolistic and non-monopolistic, between creditor and debtor, and so on. There are also contradictions between the public bureaucracy and largely private capital, particularly within the retail and shipping sectors. For the most part, however, the bourgeoisie is completely united in defending and developing Norwegian imperialism and capitalism, against the masses in the third world, against the Norwegian proletariat, and against competing bourgeoisies in other countries.
The bourgeoisie’s foremost political parties are Arbeiderpartiet [Labour Party, hereafter AP] and Høyre [The Conservative Party]; the political line that both of these parties have led between themselves since WWII has represented the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie in both foreign and domestic policy. Before AP’s parliamentary breakthrough and reformism’s complete victory within the party, Høyre and Venstre [The Liberal Party] were the bourgeoisie’s foremost parties. Before the embourgeoisiement of AP, it was the proletariat’s party. Venstre was parliamentarianism’s party, the party for the national-democratic revolution in Norway, representing the interests of the petit bourgeoisie and the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie. Today, it has been reduced to one of several petit bourgeois parties and is more than willing to serve the bourgeoisie, but only as a junior partner for the larger party.
The bourgeoisie is reactionary and an inherent enemy of socialism. Yet, there is always a form of two-line struggle occurring within the bourgeoisie, between the right and “left”, between conservative and liberal, between stick and carrot, between hard repression and softer coopting (the purchasing of opposition), between deform and reform, between fascist despotism and bourgeois democracy. There is a condition of both unity and struggle between these two lines that complement each other but can also sabotage each other.
The main political tendency for the bourgeois dominion in Europe during the free market capitalism epoch (in the 18th and 19th centuries) was liberal bourgeois democracy and Enlightenment ideals. This ideology stood in stark contrast to the brutal colonialism the European bourgeoisie exercised against Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which was characterized by terrorism and despotism against the people in these countries.
In the imperialistic (monopolistic) epoch from 1900 onward, the main tendency in the European countries was also more despotic and reactionary, with fascist movements and military juntas, religious sectarianism, and the militarization of society. Such tendencies have also been in place in Norway, if only to a smaller degree than in most other countries. A sharpening of the class struggle will, with necessity, lead to both harsher fascist repression and to an upswing of reformist movements. Fascism and reformism have functioned as the bourgeoisie’s two most important tools for preventing the proletariat from making revolution.
The Norwegian proletariat is a part of the international proletariat. This class has as its historic task to seize the political power from the bourgeoisie and to abolish capitalism and all class societies forever. This is because the fundamental contradiction in the capitalist system, first and foremost the capitalist economy, stands between socialized production and private, capitalistic appropriation. Friedrich Engels describes this in his text Socialism: Utopian and Scientific:
The means of production, and production itself, had become in essence socialized. But they were subjected to a form of appropriation which presupposes the private production of individuals, under which, therefore, every one owns his own product and brings it to market. The mode of production is subjected to this form of appropriation, although it abolishes the conditions upon which the latter rests.
This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalistic character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today.
Moreover, he writes that “the contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation manifested itself as the antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie.”
To be clear, this fundamental contradiction is the resulting expression of the class struggle between the proletariat that represents socialized production, and the bourgeoisie, which lives off of and exists on the basis of private appropriation.
The core of the modern working class in Norway has been the industrial proletariat for a long time. This core was gathered in the bourgeoisie’s factories. They were hardened by the discipline of industrial production. They were exploited into deep poverty. They were herded into massive collectives of hundreds and thousands of proletarians. It is here they organized their labour unions, cooperatives, corporations, and trade unions.
The premier organization of the proletariat, the highest form of the class’s organizing, is the proletariat’s party. There have been made several attempts to construct the Norwegian proletariat’s party. First was AP in 1887, then Norway’s Communist Party [NKP] in 1923, and then the Worker’s Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) [AKP(m-l)] in 1973. These parties, particularly AP and NKP, were strongest among the industrial proletariat, iron workers, shipyard workers, workers in the chemical industry, and so on—as well as among the poorest of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat, like textile workers, foresters, and miners.
Today the class structure has changed. Imperialism first and foremost places its industrial production in the third world in order to exploit the proletariat there. Here, production occurs under semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions that make it possible to exploit and oppress the proletariat particularly harshly. This tendency in imperialism was described by Lenin as early as 1906, but this tendency was delayed and partially reversed by the socialist revolutions in Russia and China, and by anti-colonialist rebellions and national revolutions throughout the third world. The tendency rebounded again after the counterrevolution in China (1976) and the collapse of Soviet social imperialism (1991).
The large worker’s collectives within Norwegian industry are considerably weakened, as is the weight of union politics along with them. This is the direct consequence of the tendency for fewer proletarians within industry for the past forty years: partly because production is moved out of the country to “low cost countries” and partly because the production that remains has become more automated. Meanwhile, there has been a tendency for higher employment in the service industry, particularly in the public sector—like health care. In the past fifteen to twenty years, there has also been a tendency of turning towards employment agencies, temporary employment positions, part-time positions, and social dumping within entire sectors.
Around 2010, thirteen percent (1 in 8) employees in Norway were foreign citizens, first and foremost from Eastern Europe, with particular representation in building and construction, and the industrial, service, and entertainment sectors. These workers primarily earn much less than Norwegian workers. A new law passed in 2000 made employment agencies and employee leasing more widespread, which has made it easier to hire workers under poorer conditions. Temporary employment has increased greatly, particularly in the public sector. Some work as temporary employees at various companies for years, and it is not only the proletariat. Over 200,000—that is to say 9 percent—of all employed persons in Norway were temporary employees in 2016.
The proletariat are all those who are subordinated and unfree in production, receive their share of wealth in the form of relatively moderate or low wages, and do not own or have power over the means of production. The largest group in the proletariat can be found within (1) the health and care sector, (2) retail and services sector, (3) building and construction, and (4) the industrial sector. Altogether, these four largest sectors employ over 1.5 million people, the majority of whom are proletarian.
In total, there are 2.5 million (active) employed persons in Norway. It is reasonable to estimate that the majority of these people are part of the proletariat. The same applies to those they care for, primarily their children. There are 1.1 million children under 18 years old in Norway. Very few of them move away from home before they turn 18, and quite a few live at their parents’ home for some years afterwards, such that the number of dependent children and youth is well over 1 million. This gives somewhere between 1.8 and 2.2 million employed proletarians and their children.
There are nearly 1 million retirees, roughly 300,000 people on disability, and the real rate of employment may be as high as 200,000 people. This gives between 1.3 and 1.5 million people on welfare. The majority of these people have been or will become partially or totally a part of the proletariat.
A reasonable estimate puts the number of Norwegian proletarians at somewhere between 2 million as an absolute minimum and 4 million as an absolute maximum. Swedish Maoists estimate that around 70% of the population of Sweden is proletarian in a recent reissue of a political study (Oktoberförlaget, 2018). The Canadian Maoist Party RCP-PCR estimates that 65% of people in Canada are a part of the proletariat in their program. If the Norwegian proletariat is comparable to that of Sweden and Canada in proportion, there would be between 3.3 and 3.6 million people in the Norwegian proletariat. It is possible that there are fewer proletarian people in Norway—as Norway is richer, has a higher average wage, a more developed welfare system, greater finance capital—all of which lends itself to the possibility that there is a larger petit bourgeoisie in Norway. Nonetheless, I would like to point out that the Canadian and Swedish comrades have made fairly accurate estimates.
Correctly determining the size of the proletariat in Norway requires a more in-depth effort, although it is fairly safe to say that the Norwegian proletariat accounts for between 3 and 3.5 million people, between 60 and 70 percent of the Norwegian population. An even safer assumption would be to estimate that at least 50% of the population is proletarian and that the class easily constitutes a majority of the population.
The proletariat has a common political interest in standing together against the bourgeoisie in the struggle for wages and rights, and as a class they have an interest in abolishing capitalism, oppression, and classes in their entirety. That is, the proletariat has a common fundamental political interest within capitalism, in the class struggle, and the in entire path forward to communism. It impels the class to unite as one political party, the communist party, and under one political ideology, Maoism.
The proletariat nonetheless will experience splitting. In part, they will be split by the bourgeoisie’s political games, by patriarchal structures, and by religious and national chauvinism. Individual barriers of different nationalities, languages, and culture are erected. The proletariat is divided by production, by the division of labour, and by contradiction between those who work and those who do not work. The upper layers of the proletariat have relatively high wages, stable working conditions, and the people in this layer can advance to middle management and perhaps even further. They are those who are the most influenced by the bourgeoisie’s worldview and the petit bourgeois dissemination of this view because they are not too far removed from the petit bourgeoisie. They are also influenced by their way of looking at the world because many in the upper layers of the proletariat often come from the petit bourgeoisie or are themselves children of petit bourgeois people. They occasionally “visit” the proletariat, they “started from the bottom” to work their way up and to finance their studies or to gain some experience for higher education or advancement. Steadily, individual groups within the petit bourgeoisie become proletarianized and often go from the lowest layer of the petit bourgeoisie to the upper layer of the proletariat.
The core of the proletariat contains those low-wage workers who are at the bottom of the hierarchy of production. They are those who are completely unfree in their labour, are disciplined by processes and working hours, are surveilled by middle managers and often carry out physically demanding labour. First and foremost, they work with their hands, especially since class divisions in capitalism go hand in hand with the contradiction between manual labour and intellectual labour. The latter type of labour is as a rule labour that requires higher education, returns a higher wage, and gives a greater degree of freedom and personal responsibility for everyday work, which usually places them within the petit bourgeoisie instead of the proletariat.
Moreover, the core of the proletariat consists of those who have the lowest wages and are at the bottom of the production hierarchy in the health and care, retail and services, building and construction, and industrial sectors. A typical annual income (wages or welfare) in Norway lies somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 kroner. Most proletarian people have somewhere around this or even less. Those who have fulltime employment (100%) can earn more than 400,000, and those who are unemployed or on welfare will typically have less than 300,000, generally closer to 200,000.
Some examples of proletarian work with low incomes are (as of 2016): 1) agricultural assistants (on average around 300,000 for full-time employment), 2) waiters, bartenders, and fast food workers (a little over 300,000 on average), 3) retail employees, cleaners, gardeners, and kindergarten assistants (a little over 350,000), 4) personal assistants, textile factory workers, food industry workers, and painters (around 400,000). These groups are among the 50 lowest paid occupations among the top 300 occupations published in Fri Fagbevegelse, based on statistics provided by SSB.
Together, average wages for nurses were a little over 500,000, lecturers 550,000, and civil engineers over 700,000.
The relation to production and the means of production, i.e. the position in production and society, is more important than wages—but wages often follow this position. Stronger or higher positions lead, as a rule, to higher wages. And vice versa—lower wages are an indication of a lower position. Based on EU standards, the poverty line in Norway lies around 235,000 kroner per year for a household, which in turn provides 600,000 people living in poverty in Norway.
A very rough estimate would indicate that the core of the proletariat consists of somewhere between half a million and one million people. Large portions of the core are concentrated in apartments in the suburbs and cooperative buildings in the larger cities.
The core of the proletariat is in some ways positioned in the middle layer of the class. They distinguish themselves clearly from the upper layer, particularly when it comes to wages and the lack of certain privileges, but they also distinguish themselves from the lower layer of the class as well. The lower layer spends longer periods of time outside of work, is geographically dispersed or work in small businesses, are employed in family businesses, and are in a typical day of work completely without a labour collective. There is revolutionary potential among these and much anger and frustration, but lower degrees of organization, less unity and less ability to organize and struggle. They can also oftentimes have such deplorable working conditions and unfavorable working hours that it is nearly impossible for them to organize themselves. But they are a part of the lumpenproletariat, a group that is persistently placed outside of production. They are far from impossible to organize for struggle, but they are much more dependent on the initiative of the core of the proletariat.
The proletariat—particularly the core of the proletariat—spontaneously develops union consciousness and labour solidarity. They adapt the concepts that unity and community are good, about strength within the collective, and they see that discipline and organization are necessary. More important than the proletariat being taught to think in this way is that the proletariat is daily fostered and drilled in working together, in contributing to larger processes, following instructions, solving practical problems, and performing heavy and routine labour in their work. This makes the proletariat the strongest and toughest class.
The proletariat is gathered in large collectives. Even if the enormous industrial companies to a large degree have moved or have been rebuilt in the third world, the workplaces of the proletariat are still large in many sectors. Even if production collectives are more divided, a deliberate measure carried out by the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is still concentrated in proletarian neighborhoods.
The proletariat is exploited by capitalists. They create products (goods or services) that directly or indirectly contribute to the turnover that feeds the capitalist their profit. The enormous wealth of the capitalists, their property and means of production—all their capital—comes from the proletariat—either in Norway or in other countries. The productive labour of the proletariat creates surplus value, and it is this surplus that is the source of the capitalist’s profits. This, in turn, is the source of the accumulation and growth of capital. Without exploitation, there is no capitalism.
The proletariat lives close to poverty or in poverty. The proletariat, even in the richest imperialist country in the world, rarely has anything left after the monthly expenses for rent, food, and transportation are paid. All this, despite the fact that it is the proletariat that creates all wealth in a society.
The proletariat is the carrier of socialism and communism. Those who control the modern means and methods of production—they are those who use them each and every day. They do not have a privileged position where they directly or indirectly earn from the labour of another class. They do not stand above anybody in the hierarchy of the capitalist society, but are the carriers of collectivism, unity, solidarity, and planned economy. They are the carriers of the solution to the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation, in that communism appropriates socially. The proletariat is the most revolutionary class, the class with the most revolutionary potential, particularly the core of the proletariat.
The petit bourgeoisie is a varied collection of groups and layers that distinguish themselves from both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in different ways. The petit bourgeoisie can be divided into three layers, where the highest layer stands close to the bourgeoisie and where the lowest layer stands closer to the proletariat. The top of the petit bourgeoisie is difficult to separate from the bourgeoisie—both objectively, according to their position, and subjectively, according to their political consciousness. The lowest layer is difficult to separate from the proletariat, as they can for example have a lower income than the best paid proletariat.
The petit bourgeoisie distinguishes itself as a special class by its relatively middle-lying position according to Lenin’s criteria for class analysis. The Norwegian petit bourgeoisie is gathered into three main groups or parts: (1) the petit bourgeoisie in agriculture and fisheries, (2) the petit bourgeoisie in trade and crafts, (3) and the petit bourgeois intelligentsia, academics, and officials.
According to SSB, 38 percent of all employed persons in the country, 370,000 people, were employed in agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, this sector directly employs less than 2 percent of all employed persons. That is, people who work in agriculture and fisheries were the largest employed group around a century ago, but today consist of less than 50,000 persons. Yet, indirectly, the sector employs even more people, and a number of groups are tied directly to the so-called “primary sector”. Nearly all those who live in rural areas are indirectly dependent on such businesses.
Here is where one may find the traditional middle classes of rural Norway, the self-employed farmers. Peasants, tenants, and similar groups have more or less vanished. Farmers are to large degrees small business owners who have a lot in common with the petit bourgeoisie in trade and crafts. They often have large debts to finance capital and have small profit margins. They must work hard to keep their farms running. Here is also where one will find fishers who own their own boats and similar people.
This part of the petit bourgeoisie must often perform heavy manual labour and as a rule, they work closely with both nature and machines. They nurture a strong disappointment and distrust of the state and monopoly capital. The upper layers are more similar to other business owners. They employ substitutes and other employees, and have a number of common interests and viewpoints with the bourgeoisie. The lowest layer has difficulty making ends meet, and are persistently threatened with bankruptcy and proletarianization.
For a long time, this part of the petit bourgeoisie was the proletariat’s closest ally. They were those who stood closest to the proletariat, something that has been confirmed by the fact that this part of the petit bourgeoisie has been reduced to the largest degree by social development in the past fifty years. However, there have also been strong reactionary currents in this layer, characterized by religious and national chauvinism and skepticism towards the labour movement.
The political composition of the highest layer of this group is Senterpartiet’s [Centre Party] most important base. They dominate the political apparatus of the rural petit bourgeoisie in “district-Norway”. Between farmer’s organizations and cooperatives, they have a good deal of power, and they are a much stronger political force than their numbers would suggest. This showed itself, for instance, in the EU struggle in 1994. There are strong contradictions between them and retailers, the state and bank capital, which gives rise to regular conflicts. They do not like monopoly capital, and have a number of common interests with the proletariat.
Strategically, the goal is for the proletariat to tear the lowest layers of the rural petit bourgeoisie loose from the political domain of the higher layers, which can be done if one emphasizes the common interests between the proletariat and farmers and fishers: namely, putting the entire country’s land in use, reconstructing land use, increasing agricultural production, and reversing the capitalistic centralization of settlement and employment.
Small business owners, owners of small firms, craftsmen with few or no employees, sole proprietors, and so on constitute this portion of the petit bourgeoisie. They exploit other people to a small degree and they cannot live in such exploitation, although they do as a rule have this as their goal. They wish to become larger capitalists. They stand politically closer to the bourgeoisie then, for instance, the petit bourgeoisie in agriculture. They are often organized politically and socially with the bourgeoisie.
This part of the petit bourgeoisie has contradictions with the state and state monopoly capital. They are tied closer to the bourgeoisie in retail, but they also have contradictions with these when they compete and steadily are placed in danger of being undercut by the monopoly bourgeoisie. As a counterreaction, one can typically find them as social supporters of reactionary parties, like Fremskrittspartiet [Progress Party, hereafter FrP], and perhaps Senterpartiet. They want to halt development or turn it back, since the tendency of monopolization and corporatism is a threat to their small businesses. They can easily fall for rightist populism and demagogues, usually rich celebrities who attack “the elite”, like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy and Donald Trump in the US. Some portions of them can also go to more socially liberal parties, like Venstre, to conservative-values parties like Kristlig Folkeparti [Christian Democratic Party, hereafter KrF] or in “normal” circumstances, to Høyre.
In times of crisis, it has been this group of the petit bourgeoisie, along with mid-level farmers, who have constituted the core of the voter base of reactionary and fascist parties, like the German NSDAP. It is not a coincidence that the bourgeois and liberal center parties were almost completely eradicated by NSDAP in the German election that led to Hitler’s seizure of power. It is also reminiscent of what Marx and Engels refer to as “reactionary socialism” to which they dedicate a section in The Communist Manifesto.
This part of the petit bourgeoisie tends to hold values like individual freedoms, free elections, careers, “bootstrap” mentality, and “the triumph of will” quite highly. This contributes to their skepticism and direct animosity towards communism and the proletarian movement. On the other hand, the lower levels will often experience and persistently struggle just to survive. They experience threats from monopoly capital, tax pressures from monopoly capital’s state, obstacles regarding rent payments to property speculators, and debt to the bank. They will often perceive “globalization”, “unserious actors”, employment agencies, and other expressions of capitalism’s tendency towards global markets and monopolization as threats. There are also many in this layer who experience racism and have a background from the third world that makes them enemies of imperialism, particularly US imperialism.
The lowest layer quickly finds themselves sharing common interests with the proletariat, at least because they have a common enemy. Yet, the middle and upper layers will quickly move towards the most reactionary directions and will therefore become a challenge; it may be necessary to politically neutralize them instead of trying to win them over to the proletariat’s side.
One method that the proletariat can use when dealing with these groups is to demonstrate strength and power. These are qualities that these groups particularly tend to respect. A strong proletariat that is well-organized and shows a willingness to fight in practice can win over the lowest layer, and even some in the middle layer of this group—and, perhaps just as important, it may scare the more reactionary elements to passivity.
The intelligentsia is not its own class, but a layer that has arisen from the historical division between manual and intellectual labour. They have always been strongly tied to the ruling classes and oppressors and have had the task of serving these groups in various ways. Officials are the state’s, the monopolies’, and non-monopolistic capitalists’ technicians, specialists, middle managers, and henchmen. In modern capitalist countries, they have been the fastest growing group besides the modern working class.
The petit bourgeoisie is the main social support of the bourgeoisie’s dictatorship, and this applies first and foremost to officials and the intelligentsia. Of all groups outside of the bourgeoisie, they are the most loyal to bourgeois laws and justice, to the bourgeoisie’s state, and they are those who spread the bourgeoisie’s thinking in society to the largest degree.
The foremost characteristic feature of these groups in the petit bourgeoisie is that they perform intellectual labour and that they live on their own intellectual resources and knowledge. The top will become professors and judges and may eventually become part of the bourgeoisie. The lowest layer lives on odd jobs, temporary positions, and project funding, which provides them with a lower income than average among the working class; in return, they have a degree of freedom in determining their own workday.
They waver between two extrema: they may have a very general oversight that makes them superfluous and dogmatic, or they may be very specialized and focus on one subject or theme, which makes them one-sided and empirical. Both of these forms of thinking stand in opposition to the proletarian, dialectic, and materialist method. Technological and scientific revolutions have made it possible for this part of the petit bourgeoisie to reach very deep and multifaceted insights, but without Marxism’s tools for sorting perceptions and understanding this information from the proletariat’s standpoint, the world and society become entirely overwhelming for them. Therefore, they will often grasp, like other parts of the petit bourgeoisie, simple “systems” and explanations like conspiracy theories, one-sided focuses on biology, one-sided focuses on culture, and so on. They will often foster the belief that “the journey is more important than the destination”, the way that modern educators may focus on methods over what it is they wish to achieve.
When radicalism breaches into these layers, it is often tied to lifestyles or methodologies rather than proposing a goal for the development of society. Examples of this are: pacifism as a end in itself, alternative fashion trends, sexuality or food habits, different types of music or rebellious art forms.
The proletariat and communists can of course find many good allies and servants among this group. Like others, they are typically well-meaning and can be convinced to join the right side of history, both in individual questions and in the strategic struggle. At certain periods in history, Marxism has broken through at universities in the West, particularly in the aftermath of the anti-colonial liberation wars, the anti-war movements, the Cultural Revolution, and the upswing of class struggle in the 1960s and 70s. Historically, socialism was delivered to the proletariat by intellectuals, who through theoretical labour obtained the socialist consciousness. But today, these groups are dominated by petit bourgeois ideologies, identity politics, liberalism, opportunism, and reformism.
It is furthermore important that the proletariat or communists do not accept a petit bourgeois leader for the movement. Where the petit bourgeoisie participates, particularly intellectuals, they often seek to do the most natural thing in the world: to either dominate or to do things the way they want to do them. This groups arose out of the contradiction between manual and intellectual labour, and they will therefore see themselves as natural leaders in everything that is like education and other forms intellectual labour. Petit bourgeois directions and ideologies have often won hegemony within organizations and groups on the left and has led them away from Marxism—or towards superfluous, mechanical, or idealistic interpretations of Marxism.
This part of the petit bourgeoisie will often support other groups in the petit bourgeoisie in trade and craft. These two wings of the petit bourgeoisie today apparently have a very different view on the state and on the political questions of welfare and taxes. They may even have even greater contradictions with the so-called “global questions”, like their views on feminism, on questions of liberal versus conservative views, religion, immigration, and so on. This part of the petit bourgeoisie mainly goes to AP and Sosialistisk Venstreparti [Socialist Left Party, hereafter SV]. This is in line with the performances that these parties give about being for welfare and education, businesses where the majority of this wing of the petit bourgeoisie are employed. They believe that they are joining these parties for “the good of the community”. Apparently, the “good of the community” means giving academics and officials better wages, better contracts, more freedom, and more power…
There are also small layers and groups of people who are partially or completely placed outside of these three classes, exceed them, or for other reasons require extra consideration. Earlier, the semi-proletariat was an example of one such group. They accounted for a large portion of those who were employed in agriculture. They were employed primarily by farmers and fishers who needed to work in some other place for part of the year to make ends meet. This group has more or less vanished today.
The class structure in Norway has in the past century become extremely simplified because pre-capitalist classes have been washed away, as almost all adults are employed in a profession in contrast to the large number of “homemakers” in earlier periods, and as almost all groups have been gathered into these three main classes. This simplification is in line with the main tendency in the development of the capitalist class structure of concentrating people more and more into two main classes, two warring camps that stand against each other, the way Marx and Engels described it in The Communist Manifesto.
There are some counteracting tendencies as well, e.g. the tendency towards the creation of new “middle layers”, new petit bourgeois groups, first and foremost under the development of new types of production. An example is the so-called computer revolution in the 1990s. Other counteracting tendencies include imperialism’s tendency to buy up parts of the working people in imperialist countries, the tendency to split older collectives and structures, and the tendency to place a part of the people completely outside of production and society.
A labour aristocracy has been formed within the proletariat’s upper layers. The basis for this is imperialism, and their share in the spoils from imperialist plunder and exploitation. The core in this group arises within industries with the largest revenues and in the bureaucracies of representatives in unions and cooperatives. Parts of them belong to the petit bourgeoisie, and some of them may even belong to the bourgeoisie, like the leader of LO [the national union]. Imperialism and chauvinism have important supporters here, and chauvinism will often spread from this starting point to portions of the proletariat. The labour aristocracy, particularly those at the top, is a layer that typically ends up with AP—and makes up a large part of the party’s apparatus. SV and Rødt [Red Party] have a number of party members in this group, but still very few from the top level.
The apparatus of violence is the core of the state. The Norwegian military is today a volunteer army and only 10% of conscripts will ever be drafted. Historically, both in Norway and in other Western capitalist countries, professional armies and officials have as a rule oriented themselves politically towards those who have the power, their parties, and usually the most reactionary and corporativist among them. During the German occupation of Norway, the officer corps revealed their many Nazi sympathizers. The apparatus of violence is extremely important for the bourgeoisie and therefore it is very important for them to foster reactionary ideologies among those who make it up.
The police, like the military, will seek the politics of the power’s parties and identify themselves strongly with the state, first and foremost with the formal state in the form of laws and symbols. They are often discontented with the real state in the form of its bureaucracy and politicians because they often wish for more means and free reign. They comprise the system’s opportunity to exercise legal violence and this violence is often exercised against poor people, against proletarian youth, against drug abusers, and against the mentally ill. It also exercises its violence against political opposition, demonstrators, and strikers, typically in the form of political surveillance and harassment.
The military, police, and prisons comprise the enemy’s most important means of power. They are the core of the state. The apparatus of violence is the foundation for the entirety of the political power of the bourgeoisie. Those who make up these institutions are therefore clearly not neutral actors. And they distinguish themselves from most of the petit bourgeoisie. They stand in a particular position against revolution.
The lumpenproletariat consists first and foremost of drug abusers, beggars, street prostitutes, and criminals who are placed entirely outside of production and the social organization of labour. Ideologically, they have more in common with the lower layers of the petit bourgeoisie than they do with the proletariat, as individualism and anti-social self-interest are strongly held values among this layer. They have also historically allowed themselves to be mobilized to work for reaction, for instance as assassins and mercenaries. This layer often serves as a liability, especially for the proletariat who typically share neighborhoods with the proletariat. Their criminality, drug trafficking, theft, and similar actions usually comes at the expense of the proletariat.
Meanwhile, hatred towards the system is strong within this group, and because of their personal experiences, it is easier for this group to understand that capitalism and the state are their enemies. The lumpenproletariat is often exploited by rich criminals, who oppress them, step on them, sell them drugs, sell their bodies, and hold them down with grave violence. If the lumpenproletariat is ever organized, it is as a rule in bands and informal groups that partially exploit each other and partially support each other.