The Proletariat

What is the proletariat?

The proletariat is known as the social class constituted by laborers and laborers, without properties or own means of production. Reason why the proletarians must sell their labor power in exchange for a salary in order to survive.

According to Marxist theory, the proletariat is a social class of the capitalist economic system that is exploited by the bourgeoisiethe owner of the means of production and wealth.

There is an urban proletariat, concentrated in the cities, linked to industrial activities, and a rural proletariat, dedicated to agricultural work.

At certain moments in history, the proletariat has protested to improve their working conditions and well-being. During the 20th century, the official history of the Soviet Union (USSR) stated that the working class contributed to the Russian revolution of 1917 and the formation of socialist states.

Origin of the term proletarian

The word proletariat dates from the Ancient Romeand is derived from the Latin proletarian. He was referring to that poor citizen who could only serve the State with his offspring, that is, with his offspring, providing men for the army.

In the nineteenth century, with the industrial Revolution, the proletariat was identified as the social class without property. Therefore, she was forced to work for the bourgeoisie in exchange for a payment that would allow her to survive.

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Characteristics of the proletariat

  • The 19th century proletariat was made up of workers who lived in the cities. In the cities there were more industries and, therefore, more sources of work.
  • During the industrial revolution in Europe, thousands of people moved from the countryside to the cities. For that reason, a large part of the city workers were migrants.
  • The working days of the proletarian class were very long. In industrial cities like Manchester, in England; Liege, in Belgium; or Pittsburgh, in the United States; etc., exceeded 12 hours a day.
  • The workers could hardly buy houses. Therefore, it was common for them to rent small places where large families lived crowded together.
  • Having no possessions, the proletariat forms the opposite class to the bourgeoisie. Its fundamental characteristic is that it must sell its labor power in order to have income that will sustain it.
  • Socialist thought indicates that the class-conscious urban proletariat is the one that organizes itself to create unions and supports parties that promote the revolution.
  • According to Marxist theory, the proletariat is the social class called to make the revolution that ends the capitalist economic system.

proletariat and bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie It is the social class that owns the means of production, that is, the owner of businesses, shops and land. According to Karl Marx’s theory of class struggle, the bourgeoisie economically exploits the proletariat.

The introduction of ideas in defense of the proletariat modified the two-party political system that emerged after the French Revolution. The representation of the two major parties was transformed: from aristocrats and bourgeois, to bourgeois and proletarian.


Image based on the lithograph by Charles Joseph Traviès. “The jobless proletariat”.

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See also:

  • Bourgeoisie
  • Social classes
  • class struggle

dictatorship of the proletariat

Dictatorship of the proletariat is a Marxist concept that refers to the political organization that should appear once the workers carry out the revolution. In this way, the proletariat would come to have political control of society while disintegrating the structures of the bourgeois state.

The workers’ state would be transitory and should disappear when the class struggle ceases. However, in practice, the Marxist-Leninist governments, such as the one in the USSR, considered that the State would remain in force and directing the economy during the socialist mode of production.

lumpen proletariat

Marxism called lumpen proletariat to the social class that does not participate in productive activities and, therefore, lives on the margins of society. This thus constitutes the lowest stratum of the social pyramid.

The lumpenproletariat is accused of lacking class consciousness, thus not cooperating with the working class to improve their conditions. In addition, it is associated with crime, begging and unemployment.

See also:

  • Marxism.
  • Karl Marx.