How Class Should Be Central | Portside
Capitalists are able to dominate society because they exploit these wage workers, who produce profits. Employers are dependent on working people. This is key, because it means we have the potential power to stop production — the thing that bosses care most about, because it’s how they get profits — and even overturn the system. Lise Vogel put it this way in her 1983 book Marxism and the Oppression of Women: “class struggle over conditions of production represents the central dynamic of social development in societies characterized by exploitation.”
Though workers experience a wide range of social oppressions, the structural position of workers is different from other subordinate social groups. Wage exploitation means that the interests of the whole working class and the capitalist class are diametrically opposed. The more money you make as a worker, the less your boss does — and vice versa. In contrast, other subordinate groups — women, people of color, queer people — include people both within the capitalist class and the working class, meaning that they can have different class interests.
At the same time, the dynamics of capitalist accumulation and competition pit individual workers against each other in the struggle to find a job, secure housing, and keep their families afloat. This leads to unjust stratifications among working people — by race, nationality, and other divisions — that make it easier for bosses to turn a profit and more difficult for workers to collectively fight for their common interests. These social divisions, in turn, lay the basis for reactionary ideologies.