Saturday, October 01, 2005

The role of the petty-bourgeois class in the class struggle

In a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society such as ours, the role of the petty-bourgeois in the class struggle and ultimately, in the triumph of the revolution is very critical. According to Mao Zedong, the petty-bourgeois class deserves special attention due to its class character and size. (Mao, 1926) This class includes, “the owner-peasants, the master handicraftsmen, the lower levels of the intellectuals--students, primary and secondary school teachers, lower government functionaries, office clerks, small lawyers--and the small traders.” (Mao, 1926) He divides the petty-bourgeois into three sections. The first are mostly engaged in small-scale production such as master handicraftsmen and owner-peasants. The middle section of the petty-bourgeois is “suffering from the oppression and exploitation of the imperialists, the warlords, the feudal landlords and the big comprador-bourgeoisie, they have become aware that the world is no longer what it was. They feel they cannot earn enough to live on by just putting in as much work as before. To make both ends meet they have to work longer hours, get up earlier, leave off later, and be doubly careful at their work.” (Mao, 1926) This middle section includes a lot of office workers and professionals who would always rather remain neutral or hesitant to join any political struggle, but do not oppose it.

The third section of the petty bourgeois may be aptly called the left-wing of the class as it “consists of those whose standard of living is falling. Many in this section, who originally belonged to better-off families, are undergoing a gradual change from a position of being barely able to manage to one of living in more and more reduced circumstances. When they come to settle their accounts at the end of each year, they are shocked, exclaiming, "What? Another deficit!" As such people have seen better days and are now going downhill with every passing year, their debts mounting and their life becoming more and more miserable, they "shudder at the thought of the future". They are in great mental distress because there is such a contrast between their past and their present.” (Mao, 1926) This is the section where public school teachers and government functionaries are part of at a time when their salaries are stunted despite constant price increases of commodities and services.

According to Mao, the petty-bourgeois is a friend of the revolution as they too are part of those oppressed and exploited by the ruling class of “warlords, the bureaucrats, the comprador class, the big landlord class and the reactionary section of the intelligentsia attached to them.”

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