From classes to class struggle

Image: Eva Elijas


The practical and theoretical impasses that have afflicted socialists in their approach to class struggle must be sought in the development, not in the abandonment, of historical-structural theory.

It is convenient, preliminarily, to delimit the object of my intervention. The current debate on social classes involves four most prominent themes: the very concept of class and, within that concept, the relationship between economic, political and ideological determinations; transformations in the class structure of contemporary capitalist societies; the persistence of classes in the initial construction phase of socialist societies; and, in each country, the peculiar class structure of its social formation. The purpose of the table is to address only the first topic. To the following two may be made illustrative allusions. The characterization of the classes and strata of Brazilian society completely goes beyond the limits of the table proposed and the time available.

The theory of social classes is at the center of the Marxist conception of the history of societies. It can also be considered one of the most relevant contributions of Marxism to the social sciences and, in particular, to sociology. Paradoxically, it did not receive a systematic treatment from Marx and Engels, despite the rich concrete analyzes they undertook. The following generations of Marxists were forced to return to the subject in order to clarify and develop it.

They continued their efforts to identify the existence and characteristics of primitive communist formations, prior to the division of societies into opposing classes. They sought to distinguish the castes, orders and estates, characteristic of pre-capitalist formations, from the classes themselves, typical of capitalist societies. They faced the process of increasing rationalization and bureaucratization of modern societies, capitalist or socialist, investigating the emergence of powerful layers linked to the political and cultural superstructure, distinct from the classes themselves, rooted in the economic base. Breaking with reductive tendencies, they took care to more clearly relate class struggles to other contradictions and social conflicts, such as those that oppose the male gender to the female, oppressive nations and ethnic groups to the oppressed, the authoritarianism of the adult generation to the aspiration for autonomy of the youth. Finally, they tried to articulate more precisely the existence of classes with the development of the struggle between them.

The purpose of the notes that I share with the participants of the colloquium is to rescue and evaluate some of these controversies. They are controversial notes like the theme itself.

Marx, Engels and the Class Struggle

Marx and Engels inscribed the seminal thesis of their conception of social transformations already in the first pages of the Communist Manifesto: “The history of all societies that have existed up to our time has been the history of class struggles.” (1)

Four years later, writing to a friend, Marx would point out: “As far as I am concerned, it is not my credit to have discovered either the existence of classes or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had already described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, and bourgeois economists had indicated its economic anatomy. What I brought back was: 1) demonstrating that the existence of classes is linked only to certain phases of production development; 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3) that this dictatorship is nothing more than the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” (2)

Shortly after Marx's death, prefacing a German edition of the The Manifest, Engels would return to the theme to repeat: “The fundamental idea belongs exclusively to Marx that the whole world is penetrated. The Manifest, namely: that economic production and the social structure that necessarily derives from it in each historical epoch constitute the basis on which the entire political and intellectual history of that epoch rests; that, therefore, all history (since the dissolution of the primitive regime of common ownership of land) has been a history of class struggle, of struggle between exploiting and exploited, dominant and dominated classes. (3).

For Marx and Engels, therefore, classes emerge in the economic base, when it rises on antagonistic modes of production, organized around different modalities of labor exploitation. Exploitation is structural and objective, just as the antagonistic contradiction that opposes the owners of the conditions of production to the expropriated direct producers is objective. Exploitation does not depend on the conscience of the exploited.

From the economic existence of the classes, however, one does not move on to the struggle between them in an immediate and inevitable way. Referring to capitalist formations, Marx and Engels resumed, in the The Manifest, the indications that Marx had already outlined in The misery of philosophy: the objective contradictions of interests lead to individual clashes between salaried proletarian workers and capitalist entrepreneurs; gradually, these clashes turn into local, then national, collective struggles; struggles for economic claims combine with struggles for political rights, like the Chartist movement in Britain. And so, instructed by its practical experiences and supported by its spontaneous conscience — torn between the rules and values ​​imposed by the political-cultural superstructure and the misfortunes inflicted by the economic base —, the proletarian class advances in its unity and organization, snatching, even under the capitalist regime, better wages, more favorable working conditions and political rights, such as suffrage or freedom to organize unions and parties.

Marx and Engels stressed, however, that the constitution of the proletarian class will not be completed, nor will it be able to become a revolutionary force, until it unites around a program of socialist transformations and launches itself into the struggle for the realization of this program. The elaboration of such a project requires that it goes beyond its economic practice and the isolated view of itself and its immediate interests; it demands that it understand the conditions, progress and results of the historical movement in which it is inserted; and demands, therefore, the assimilation and development of comprehensive scientific knowledge and the solution of intricate epistemological and ontological problems. For it is essential that the proletarian class criticize not only the objective situation in which it struggles, but also the distorted view of this situation that is inculcated in it. These theoretical tasks exceed the possibilities of the spontaneous consciousness of the proletariat, which does not receive adequate instruction, nor has the necessary free time, to face them. In capitalist societies, notably in their initial stages, knowledge is monopolized by an intelligentsia of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois origin.

Fortunately, they alerted Marx and Engels in the The Manifest, “in periods when the class struggle approaches its end, the process of disintegration of the ruling class and of the entire old society acquires such a violent and patent character that a small fraction of this class denies it and adheres to the revolutionary class ”, especially the “sector of bourgeois ideologues who theoretically raised themselves to understanding the whole of the historical movement” (4). Linking their personal destinies to the rise of the new class, these intellectuals help it to forge its socialist consciousness, to build its independent union and party organizations, to elaborate its own historical project and to apply strategies, tactics and alliances that make its implementation possible. They do not do this “outside”, nor “above” the practical movement of the proletariat, but by intertwining their lives with the struggles and lives of the proletariat.

It is in this context that Marx discusses, in The misery of philosophy, about the passage from the class-in-itself to the class-for-itself, using, as in other opportunities, a language of resonance, but not of Hegelian content. The reference is well known, but it bears repeating: “Economic conditions first transformed the mass of the country's population into proletarians. The rule of capital created, for this mass, a common situation and common interests. Thus, this mass is already a class for capital, but it is not yet a class for itself. In the struggle, of which we have only mentioned a few phases, this mass unites, constituting itself in a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests.” (5) As can be seen, Marx seeks to articulate the economic existence of the proletarian class, as a collective organized and commanded by capital and without which the capitalist mode of production would not be possible, with the later moment in which, acquiring awareness of its objective situation and of the historical process in which it is inserted, this class starts to have an independent presence in the political scene and in ideological clashes, seeking to transform itself into a hegemonic and unifying force to promote the struggle for a socialist formation. At that moment, its constitution as a class is completed, but it already existed previously. Class for capital and class for itself, economic class and political and ideological force: there is no way to escape the poles of this process, nor how to invert them, imagining that the proletarian class can constitute itself in the political and cultural spheres, without existing previously in the economic sphere. The potentialities of its performance as a revolutionary class result from its existence and toil as an exploited class.

The political and ideological transformation of the proletariat, despite being arduous, would be favored, in the opinion of Marx and Engels, by two processes characteristic of capitalist formations: class contradictions would simplify, dividing these societies, more and more, “into two great enemy camps, in two great classes, which face each other directly, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat” (6); Simultaneously, with the growing concentration of power, wealth and culture in the bourgeois minority and the progressive impoverishment of the proletarian majority, capitalist societies would polarize, increasing the potential strength of their opponents.

The panel drawn was magnificent, but it had stains. One was soon perceived: before the division of societies into classes, a millenary period of history had been marked by the existence of primitive communist formations. In the final phase of their lives, Marx and Engels committed themselves to the study of these classless societies, with their peculiarities, their distinct stages of development and their differentiated processes of transition to class societies, but they bequeathed to their followers more open problems than resolved. Of the particular combination, in pre-capitalist class societies, between classes, on the one hand, and castes, orders or estates, on the other, Marx and Engels were aware of. Mentioned the problem in The Manifest and to him they returned in later works, including The capital, but always in marginal observations, without giving the theme the systematic treatment it deserved, including to elucidate the differences in the formation of class consciousness and in the development of class struggle in these different structural situations. References to classes in capitalist formations themselves were largely intuitive and descriptive, and Engels felt the need to include a later note in the The Manifest, trying to define the concepts of bourgeoisie and proletariat.

More attention was given to the study of the concrete capitalist formations in Europe at the time, with their combination of different modes of production and complex class structures. It was a necessary study to outline the tactical objectives and possible alliances of the proletarian struggle. Among these investigations of Marx, it is always rightly remembered the 18 Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, but they can't be forgotten either Class struggles in France, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany, or Engels' works on The Peasant War in Germany is about The peasant problem in France and Germany.

These political works contain, in addition to concrete analyses, passages of theoretical scope on the problem that concerns us, the concept of class. One of the most cited is Marx's comment on the political role of the piecemeal peasantry in Louis Bonaparte's France. It is worth remembering: “To the extent that millions of peasant families live in economic conditions that separate them and oppose their way of life, their interests and their culture to those of the other classes of society, these millions constitute a class. But in so far as there is only a local connection among the small peasants, and in so far as the similarity of their interests does not create between them any community, any national connection, or political organization, to that exact extent they do not constitute a class. They are, consequently, incapable of asserting their class interest in their own name.” (7). As in the commentary on the proletariat, Marx seeks to retain the two moments of the process: the peasantry in France at the time was and was not a class; it was not yet a class from the political and ideological point of view, but it was already a class from the economic point of view.

Marx was expected to systematize his theory of classes in The capital. But he left us only an unfinished chapter, in which, using a procedure typical of him, he departed from England at the time and from Ricardo's vision. He probably intended to later criticize this current view and formulate his own conception, which he did not manage to do. Even so, the chapter is valid, as an indication, for the place in which it was inserted: after the study of the economic base was completed and before the planned investigation of the state and bourgeois culture. A revealing place that, for Marx and Engels, the concept of class was the mediating link between the infrastructure and the superstructure of the social building, necessary to prevent both economistic and voluntarist interpretations of their theory of social change.

The first controversies

At the end of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century, developed capitalist societies underwent important economic, political and cultural transformations. As far as classes are concerned, the peasantry began to shrink; the segment of non-manual salaried workers has expanded; the bureaucracy of the State and private companies grew; within the proletariat, differences in wages, living conditions and even social and political rights were accentuated; and, in significant sectors of the proletarian class, the inclination towards a reformist and nationalist accommodation was reinforced. In this context, the prestige of interpretations of the social structure contrary to the Marxist interpretation, such as that of Weber, rose. Among the Marxists themselves, an inflamed controversy was ignited after Bernstein questioned the revolutionary path of the socialist struggle, maintaining that the predictions of simplification and polarization in the class structures of the capitalist countries were not being confirmed.

Kautsky, main author of the Erfurt Program of German social democracy, came out in defense of an interpretation of the legacy of Marx and Engels that came to be considered the “orthodox”. He wrote, for this purpose, two significant works: the class struggle, in 1892, and The three sources of Marxism, in 1908. Sticking to our theme, one can recognize two positive commitments by Kautsky in these works: highlighting the central importance of the class struggle and insisting on the economic foundation of this conflict. The negative and essential point is that Kautsky inserted the class struggle into a naturalist, evolutionist and determinist conception of historical development. I quote only one passage: “For Marx, (…) the class struggle was nothing more than a form of the general law of the evolution of Nature, which by no means has a peaceful character. Evolution is, for him, (…) dialectic, that is to say, the product of a struggle of opposing elements that necessarily arise. Any conflict between these irreconcilable elements must finally lead to the crushing of one of the two protagonists and, consequently, to a catastrophe. (…) The overthrow of one of the antagonists will be inevitable, after the fight and the growth in strength of the other. (…) In Nature, as in society.” (8)

Kautsky did not believe, however, that the spontaneous consciousness of the proletariat could lead it to socialism. He maintained, on the contrary, that proletarian workers, "without socialist theory, cannot know their common interests" (9). And that this theory was “prior” to the labor movement, had begun “in bourgeois circles” and departed from another principle, that of cultural development: it was “nothing other than the science of society, seen from the point of view of the proletariat”(10). It is on these theses that he based the famous statement that socialist theory needed to be taken “from outside” to the proletarian class. Even so, for him, both the demographic strengthening of the proletariat and the socialist evolution of a portion of the intelligentsia would be, as products of capitalism, inevitable. Kautsky, like Plekhanov, believed that the great historical transformations were already predetermined, and that social struggles could only modify the rhythms of their realization or some of their secondary characteristics. (11).

Lenin was formed within the framework of the Second International. Even after he broke politically with Kautsky and Plekhanov, he continued to recommend the study of their theoretical works. After resuming the reading of Hegel, in the final years of his life, Lenin may have fully realized the theoretical roots of Kautsky's and Plekhanov's political errors. It is possible that he had them in mind when he wrote the famous outburst of the Philosophical Notebooks: “It is quite impossible to understand The capital of Marx (…) without having studied and understood in depth all the Logic of Hegel. Therefore, half a century ago, no Marxist understood Marx!” (12)

Regarding our topic, Lenin was initially concerned with studying the concrete social formation of tsarist Russia, with its original class structure. He only incidentally advanced into more general reflections. For example, commenting The Agrarian Program of Russian Social Democracy, made the caveat: “The division of society into classes is common to slave, feudal and bourgeois societies, but in the first two there were classes-estates, while in the latter the classes are no longer estates.” (13)

After the victory of the October Revolution, pressured by the new demands of the class struggle in the Russia of the Soviets and at the international level, Lenin's concerns widened. He did not have time, however, to devote himself to a systematic study of class theory, and his remarks on the subject continued to be circumstantial. It was thus, for example, that, speaking to the Youth Unions in October 1920, he argued: “What are classes in general? Classes are what allow one sector of society to appropriate the labor of another sector. If one sector of society appropriates all the land, we have a landlord class and a peasant class. If one sector of society owns the factories and workshops, the shares and capital, while the other sector works in those factories, we have a capitalist class and a proletarian class.” (14)

It was just as casual that, writing about the workers' initiative in voluntary work on “Communist Saturdays”, Lenin formulated the most articulate definition of the concept of class available in the classical literature of Marxism. It is important to remember: “Classes are large groups of people who differ from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relationship with the means of production (in most cases, fixed and formulated in laws ), for their role in the social organization of work and, consequently, for the magnitude of the share of social wealth available to them and the way in which they obtain it. Classes are groups of people, one of which can appropriate the work of another by virtue of the different places they occupy in a given system of social economy.” (15)

The precision and comprehensiveness of this definition are impressive. The economic determinations of social classes are clearly exposed, the mode of production is articulated with the modes of distribution, circulation and consumption and, in the mode of production, the property relations of the productive means with labor relations. Lenin was also careful to distinguish between legal and real ownership of the means of production and products. Its definition makes it possible to consider not only the size and means of obtaining it, but also the way in which the parts of social wealth that fall to the classes are spent, making it possible to incorporate, subordinately, in the delimitation of classes and their strata, characteristics emphasized by stratification theories social, such as the level of education, the place of residence, or the prestige of occupations. But above all, the definition rightly highlights the labor exploitation as the objective and structural basis that differentiates any class of exploiting property owners from the correlated class of expropriated workers.

Lenin's formulation contains other potentialities. It makes it possible to understand why, in complex social formations, constituted by more than one mode of production, in addition to the fundamental classes, linked to the dominant mode of production, there are non-core classes, linked to subordinate and transitional modes of production. It also allows establishing, in each class, according to secondary characteristics, horizontal differentiations, in sectors, and vertical, in strata. Finally, Lenin's formulation entails another important implication, not always noticed: if classes originate from the objective positions they occupy in the economic base, they cannot be confused with the superstructural layers, also called by some authors social categories, linked to the administrative, repressive and cultural apparatuses of the State, such as the civil and military bureaucracy.

Lenin's definition suffers, however, from a major defect: it does not articulate the class situation with class consciousness and, as Thompson rightly stated, "a class cannot exist without some kind of self-consciousness". (16). Lenin's position must therefore be considered economist? Such an assessment does not seem correct. To agree with her, it would be necessary to forget the body of Lenin's theoretical and practical work and the relentless struggle he waged against the “economism” of a wing of Russian social democracy and against the “cult of spontaneity” of the labor movement. Lenin always insisted on the importance of the political struggle of the proletariat and the need for it not to confine itself to the factories and their specific claims, but to be concerned with establishing mutually supportive relationships with the other working classes and progressive forces. Endorsing Kautsky's point of view, he also emphasized that the working class could not forge a "socialist consciousness" without socialist theory being brought to it "from outside" by vanguard intellectuals. Lenin's position is vulnerable to criticism from another direction: not for economism, but for the positivist and determinist impregnations that his thought still carried.

In this intellectual framework, one cannot ignore the merit of Lukács in reincorporating the issue of “class consciousness” into Marxist investigations. In his well-known essay, Lukács distinguished, firstly, the immediate awareness, or empirically given, of the proletarian class, of its possible consciousness, of the revolutionary consciousness that it could achieve by its structural position. He based this objective possibility on the class situation of the proletariat, distinct from the situation of the previous castes and estates: “State consciousness masks class consciousness. (…) The relationship between class consciousness and history therefore differs entirely in pre-capitalist and capitalist times. (...) Now the classes are this immediate reality, History (...). Class economic interest, as the engine of history, only appeared in all its purity with capitalism. (...) With capitalism, (...) class consciousness reached the stage where can become aware. " (17) Related to the assimilation and development of socialist theory, this would be a promising line of investigation: it would start from the immediate proletarian consciousness, with its contradictions and limits, to arrive, through practical struggles combined with critical reflection, at the possible revolutionary proletarian consciousness , socialist. It was the line of elaboration that Lucien Goldmann sought to resume, with the notion of limit consciousness (18).

Lukács, however, deviated from this course. Resuming ambiguous indications from Marx and radicalizing the theses of Kautsky and Lenin, he introduced a new and dangerous distinction: between the “false consciousness” of the proletariat, which curiously would be its immediate and real consciousness, and the “true class consciousness” of the proletariat, that would not be exactly his, but would be “awarded” or “assigned” to him by the avant-garde intelligentsia. Other social sectors could be carriers of this “proletarian consciousness” more effectively than the majority of proletarian workers. With this, in addition to slipping into a metaphysical interpretation, Lukács unwittingly offered the theoretical justification for the replacement of the real proletarian class by a leading party, formed by advanced workers, but above all by distinguished intellectuals. Through this operation, the protagonism of the class as a whole was transferred, in the most benign hypothesis, to a part of it. Under Stalin's influence, this distorted conception of the relationship between the proletarian class and its political representation would eventually become institutionalized in the Soviet tradition of Marxism.

the recent controversies

It is therefore not surprising that, after Stalin's death, the denunciation of his mistakes and the emergence of the first signs of a structural crisis in socialist countries and communist parties, the fight against avant-gardeism was the initial target of the reopening of the debate on the theory of social classes. Thompson's case is exemplary. Breaking with the Communist Party of Great Britain and with the avant-garde and authoritarian tradition of Soviet Marxism, in 1956, the English historian began to link this tradition to an economistic and static conception of social classes. To overcome economism, he found it necessary to abandon the base-superstructure metaphor. To emphasize human agency, he considered it essential to refuse structural determinations. And in order to respect the incessant dynamism and renewed originality of historical processes, he considered it essential to reject the use of “sociological categories”. Since it is necessary to risk a synthetic evaluation of Thompson's so nuanced thought, I would say that he developed a variant of historicism, marked by empiricism in the reconstruction of historical processes and by spontaneity in the formulation of class consciousness.

His concept of social class clearly expresses the limits of his theoretical and methodological orientation: class, he asserts, is “inseparable from the notion of class struggle. (...) Insofar as it is more universal, class struggle seems to me to be the priority concept. (…) The class struggle is evidently a historical concept, as it implies a process (…). For me, people see themselves in a society structured in a certain way (fundamentally through relations of production), support exploitation (or seek to keep it on the exploited), identify the nodes of antagonistic interests, debate around of these same nodes and, in the course of such a process of struggle, discover themselves as a class, thus coming to discover their own identity.

class consciousness. Class and class consciousness are always the last and not the first rung of a real historical process.” (19) The inversion does not convince. How can classes arise from the class struggle? For how can there be class struggle between classes that do not yet exist? It is difficult to accept this circular and tautological conception of a class struggle engendered by the class struggle itself, like a Baron of Münchhausen getting up from the ground pulling his own hair. The traditional sequence, which articulates the objective class situation with the development of class consciousness and class struggle, is much more adequate and consistent.

In reality, Thompson's priority concept is not the "class struggle", but the "people": starting from "people" to construct the "class struggle" and the "classes", Thompson moves away from Marxism and approaches draws on the methodological individualism of authors such as Elster and Przeworski. The latter, incidentally, began to conceptualize classes as “effects of struggles” (20). Here, it must be admitted that the reason lies with Lukács: the error of bourgeois historical science “lies in that it believes to find the concept in question in the empirical historical individual. (...) But it is precisely when he believes he has found what is most concrete that he is furthest from this concrete: society as a concrete totality, the organization of production at a determined level of social development and the division into classes that it operates in society. Bypassing this, it apprehends something completely abstract as concrete.”(21)

Reacting to “humanist” and “historicist” interpretations of Marxism, such as those exposed, Althusser insisted on the scientific status of Marxism and elaborated his “anti-humanist” and “anti-historicist” theoretical positions. Interestingly, he also opposed the alleged “economism” of current interpretations of Marxism, having formulated the expanded concept of “mode of production” as an alternative to the “base-superstructure” metaphor. It fell to Poulantzas to introduce Althusserian positions into the debate on social classes (22). Committed to combating both historicism and economism, Poulantzas sought to formulate a concept that distanced itself from classes as historical subjects, but which was not limited to economic determinations either. He thus arrived at his well-known definition of classes as “the effects of the global structure in the field of social relations”, as “the effects of the set of structures (...) on the agents that constitute their supports” (23).

The consequences of this reconceptualization have already been pointed out several times. Objectivist, it reifies social relations, as if they only occurred between things and agents devoid of any subjectivity. Eclectic, it does not take into account that the economic structure in capitalism, in addition to being ultimately determinant, is also dominant, as the Althusserian current itself insisted. Deterministic, it expels contradictions and social classes outside structures, closing social reproduction in a rigid circle, to which social transformation can only be brought “from outside”. Thus, in the eagerness to combat historicism, it also loses historicity. Risking an overall assessment again, I would say that the attempt at a structuralist reinterpretation of Marxism and the concept of social class ended up resulting in another type of positivism.

Realizing the defects of his proposal, Poulantzas himself reformulated it, in essential points, at the Mérida Seminar, in Mexico, in 1971. He reconceptualized social classes as “groups of social agents, defined mainly, but not exclusively, by its position in the production process, that is, in the economic sphere”. And he added, surprisingly: “What distinguishes Marxism is the importance it attaches to the class struggle as the engine of history. But the class struggle is a historical and dynamic element. The constitution, and therefore definition, of classes, fractions, layers, categories, can only be done by taking into account the dynamic factor of the class struggle. (…) It depends on the historical process.” (24)

By way of conclusion

Having exhausted the time and space available, it is necessary to conclude.

The fluctuations and inaccuracies that have marked these controversies, succinctly reconstructed, indicate that the way out of the practical and theoretical impasses that have afflicted socialists in their approach to class struggle must be sought in the development, and not in the abandonment, of historical-structural theory. , or historical-systematic, or historical-sociological, formulated by Marx and Engels. this theory historical-structural of social classes and social change is incompatible with any one-sided and anti-dialectical reading that dismembers it — be it historicist or structuralist, economicist or politicalist, avant-garde or basistist.

*Duarte Pereira (1939-2021), lawyer and journalist, was leader of Ação Popular.

Originally published in the book Marxism and Human Sciences (2003).



(1) MARX and F. ENGELS, Communist Party Manifesto, no translator indicated, Pekín, Ediciones en Lenguas Extranjeras, 1965, p. 32.

(2) MARX, “Letter to Weydemeyer”, March 5, 1852, in Selected Works of Marx and Engels, translation by Apolônio de Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, 1963, 3, pp. 253-254.

(3) ENGELS, “Preface to the German edition of 1883”, in Communist Party Manifesto, ed. cit., p. 7.

(4) MARX and F. ENGELS, Communist Party Manifesto, ed. cit., pp. 45-46.

(5) KARL MARX, Misery of Philosophy, no translator indicated, S. Paulo, Grijalbo, 1976, 164.

(6) MARX and F. ENGELS, Communist Party Manifesto, ed. cit., p. 33. On the impoverishment of workers, ib., p. 48.

(7) MARX, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in K. MARX and F. ENGELS, Selected Works, no translator indicated, Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, 1956, pp. 305-306.

(8) KARL KAUTSKY, The Three Sources of Marxism, translation by Olinto Beckerman, Paulo, Global, undated, p. 24.

(9) KAUTSKY, cit., p. 50.

(10) KAUTSKY, cit., pp. 46-48, passim.

(11) See PLEKHANOV, The materialist conception of history, no translator indicated, Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, 2nd edition, 1963, especially pp. 101 and 103.

(12) I. LENIN, Philosophical Notebooks, untranslated., Buenos Aires, Ediciones Estudio, 2nd corrected and augmented edition, 1974, p. 172.

(13) I. LENIN, The agrarian program of the Russian Social Democracy, chap. II, in the collection On Scientific Communism, Moscow, Editorial Progreso, 1967, pp. 90-91, note.

(14) I. LENIN, “Tareas de las Uniones de las Juventudes”, in Complete works, version by Editorial Cartago, Madrid, Akal Editor, 1978, vol. XXXIII, p. 433.

(15) I. LENIN, “A great initiative”, in Complete works, ed. cit., vol. XXXI, p. 289.

(16) P. THOMPSON, “Some Remarks on Class and False Consciousness,” in The peculiarities of the English and other articles, edited by Antônio L. Negro and Sérgio Silva, Campinas, Editora da Unicamp, 2001, p. 279.

(17) GEORG LUKACS, Class History and Conscience, translated by K. Axelos et Bois, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1960, pp. 82-83.

(18) See LUCIEN GOLDMANN, Human Sciences and Philosophy: what is Sociology?, translation by Lupe C. Garaude and J. Arthur Giannotti, S. Paulo, European Diffusion of the Book,

(19) P. THOMPSON, op. cit., p. 274.

(20) ADAM PRZEWORSKI, “The organization of the proletariat into a class: the process of class formation”, in Capitalism and social democracy, translation by Laura Motta, S. Paulo, Cia. das Letras, 1989, pp. 67 and 86.

See also JON ELSTER, marx, today, translation by Plínio Dentzien, Rio, Paz e Terra, 1989, mainly chapters 7 and 10.

(21) LUKACS, op. cit., p. 72.

(22) On Althusser, consult the important essay by DÉCIO SAES, “The impact of the Althusserian theory of history on Brazilian intellectual life”, in JOÃO QUARTIM DE MORAES (ed.), History of Marxism in Brazil, Campinas, Editora da Unicamp, 1998, III, pp. 11-122. By NICOS POULANTZAS, see: Political power and social classes, translated by Francisco Silva and revised by Carlos RF Nogueira, S. Paulo, Martins Fontes, 1977; It is

“The social classes”, in RAÚL B. ZENTENO (coord.), Social classes in Latin America: conceptualization problems, translation by Galeno de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1977.

(23) POULANTZAS, Political power and social classes, ob. cit., p. 65.

(24) POULANTZAS, ”The social classes”, op. cit., pp. 91 and 116. Since it has not been possible, due to constraints of time and space, to address postmodernist objections to the Marxist theory of social classes, I recommend reading the collection edited by ELLEN M.WOOD and JOHN B. FOSTER, In defense of history: Marxism and postmodernism, translation by Ruy Jungman, Rio de Janeiro, Jorge Zahar Editor, 1999.


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