Class warfare is the struggle between classes in a society, often one based on capitalist principles. The term is often used by Marxists to differentiate the proletariat or working class and the bourgeois (upper class). There can actually be many other classes, as evidenced in American society. Blue-collar workers sit at the “bottom” and work manufacturing jobs, while white-collar workers are the secretaries, teachers, and middle management. The upper classes include CEOs, politicians, and people who work in highly specialized careers like doctors.
Marx describes class warfare as a constant assault and exploitation of the lowly worker by the bourgeoisie. Wealth is made on the backs of the laborers, according to Marx, who are paid a fraction of the salary that the upper class gets paid. This breeds discontent in society, making it much more likely that the lower class will revolt.
Yet the upper class tends to hold so much power, that revolt, even in the forms of organizing or unionizing, is difficult. This is true in many sectors of American society at present. While there are strong unions, there is also much anti-Union sentiment against those groups that have not yet unionized. The mere threat of unionization may be met by a company deciding to organize outside of a country, where they can get cheaper labor and not have to meet the demands of a new union. This outsourcing, in fact, is tied to the continued downgraded position of the American manufacturer. It is true that manufacturing jobs are being lost at a great rate, leaving groups of people with little means to continue working since their job training was so specific to a type of labor.
Class warfare may be expressed merely as discontent, but many also see crime in society as a product of this conflict, particularly when the wealthy are targeted. Such crime could be gang related “tagging,” or working in illegal fields (such as drug dealing and prostitution). Some view this as the lower class’s attempt to even the field when fewer opportunities are available to them. It should be noted, of course, that most people of the working class have never done an illegal thing in their lives. Warfare may be too strong a term in many cases; class conflict, a society with very different groups of people that feel a certain amount of tension between these groups, may be more accurate.
In the US, struggle between classes is certainly felt. While there are some who contend that all American citizens are given the same opportunities to succeed and enter the upper class, many more (with various political backgrounds) believe that the middle class is gradually sinking. Teachers for instance, may not be able to afford rent or be able to purchase homes, especially in urban areas. Furthermore, some contend that the same opportunities are not available to all. Differences in schooling, school facilities, crime rates, and et cetera may make it much more difficult for the poor to access the same opportunities for scholastic and financial success.
Class warfare is certainly not only the product of a capitalist society. Huge differences between the leaders of a communist or socialist country and its citizens can cause class conflict to exist. When a leader of a predominantly working class country has access to luxuries unavailable to the working class, then this is not true Marxism. Instead, it divides a country into separate classes, with a good chance that the lower, working classes will resent this division. Many point to the downfall of the Soviet Union as primarily due to the exceptional poverty endured by most in the society, while its leaders continued to live fairly luxurious lives.