Workers Vanguard No. 1004

8 June 2012


On Economic and Political Struggle

(Quote of the Week)

In a report to Friedrich Bolte, a leading member of the First International in New York, Karl Marx spelled out how the basic economic struggles of the working class give rise to political struggle against the ruling capitalist class. The instrument necessary to advance this struggle toward overturning the capitalist order is a revolutionary workers party forged in the fires of class battles.

The political movement of the working class naturally has as its final object the conquest of political power for this class, and this requires, of course, a previous organisation of the working class developed up to a certain point, which arises from the economic struggles themselves.

But on the other hand, every movement in which the working class comes out as a class against the ruling classes and tries to coerce them by pressure from without is a political movement. For instance, the attempt in a particular factory, or even in a particular trade, to force a shorter working day out of the individual capitalists by strikes, etc., is a purely economic movement. The movement to force through an eight-hour law, etc., however, is a political movement. And in this way, out of the separate economic movements of the workers there grows up everywhere a political movement, that is to say a movement of the class, with the object of achieving its interests in a general form, in a form possessing general, socially binding force. Though these movements presuppose a certain degree of previous organisation, they are in turn equally a means of developing this organisation.

Where the working class is not yet far enough advanced in its organisation to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e. the political power, of the ruling classes, it must at any rate be trained for this by continual agitation against, and a hostile attitude towards, the policies of the ruling classes.

—Karl Marx, “Letter to Bolte,” November 1871