On the Issue of Class Antagonisms and Class Differences

All of the aforementioned brings us to the issue of class antagonisms and class differences in our society. And as Karl Marx famously said: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Mao Zedong also arrived at this realization after years of contemplation and research, when he stated: “Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated; such is the history of civilization for thousands of years.” Even one’s basic personal discourse and one’s mode of thinking is defined by class or classism. As Mao said: “In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”

And while the appearance and character of class structure changed from one epoch of human history to another, the basic class structure has remained intact. In the ancient period, there was the ‘master-slave’ relationship which defined economic and social organization. Then, in the feudal period, there was the ‘lord-serf’ relationship. Now, in the modern period, there is the ‘capitalist-worker’ relationship which is at the heart of economic and social organization. Marx suggested that doctors and lawyers are somewhere between the various classes, and the reason for why doctors and lawyers belong to a class of their own outside of this ‘capitalist-worker’ structure is education.

Nevertheless, and as Richard Wolff noted: “It is merely the forms of these divisions that differ among slavery, feudalism, and capitalism; the divisions themselves are substantially the same.” Mao also suggested that even in the United States which initially was founded as a classless society, there are now “reactionary ruling circles” which seek to maintain this class structure that has been imported to the United States from other countries. Mao argued: 

“In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles that oppress [minorities and the lower classes]. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people.”

Arguably, without class consciousness, the result is social decline, inertia, and stagnation rather than social change, evolution, and progress. As Antonio Gramsci argued: “Take away from the [poor and working class] its class consciousness, and what have you? Puppets dancing on a string!” Because the basic class structure is still intact from previous epochs of human history, the residue or remnants of a feudal mentality or feudal outlook have carried over into the modern class structure. Part of this residue comes in the form of the idealization of the “aristocrat” and the prevailing notion of the European aristocrat as the archetype or prototype for what it really means to be a human being. And as Francis Fukuyama wrote: 

“Aristocrats thought of themselves as better than other people and possessed what we may call megalothymia, the desire to be recognized as superior. Predemocratic societies rested on a foundation of social hierarchy, so this belief in the inherent superiority of a certain class of people was fundamental to the maintenance of social order.” 

And there is an inherent or innate problem within such a social structure or social order that cannot be resolved as things stand. As Fukuyama noted: “The problem with megalothymia is that for every person recognized as superior, far more people are seen as inferior and do not receive any public recognition of their human worth.” What is essential, fundamental, and focal to such a social structure or social order is “to legitimate the relations of domination” to borrow from one scholar. And the question of whether a social structure or social order that revolves entirely around the legitimatization of social relations that are based entirely on domination and hegemony is sustainable or not over the long run is a question we should all be asking ourselves. 

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