In view of the role labor unions have played in the recent bankruptcy of Detroit and the decline of America in general, the media and politicians fail to talk about organized labor’s real purpose: to serve as a weapon of social class warfare. Church leaders have also neglected their duties and seem to have passed up this opportunity of using Detroit as an example to remind their flocks of the pitfalls of union membership and how God’s Word, the Bible, is blatantly opposed to social class warfare throughout.
The Communist Manifesto states that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” and infamously declares that the working class would be the “grave digger” of the capitalist class. Karl Marx believed that a collectivist society requires the elimination of social classes and thus the end of “social class warfare.” Frederick Engels, Marx’s partner, goes on to assert in Trades Unions (1881) that “in a political struggle of class against class, organization of trade unions is the most important weapon.”
This class struggle is to occur between the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and the proletariat (wage laborers). In the 1888 English edition of The Communist Manifesto, Frederick Engels is translated with: “By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor. By proletariat, the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live.”
The Marxist plan is for socialism to replace capitalism, which would then ultimately lead to communism and a classless society. But for this to occur there must first be a transitional phase known as the “workers’ state” or “workers’ democracy.” The Communist Manifesto talks about the organization of the working class through the formation of trade unions and the political party of the working class. Karl Marx wrote, “The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie.” He saw the organized working class as the most powerful force for his revolution.
Marx realized that labor movements were the only possible vehicle for such change. He would say, “The collisions between individual workmen and the individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon the workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.”
In Trades Unions, Frederick Engels wrote, “The very existence of Trades Unions is proof sufficient of the fact; if they are not made to fight against the encroachments of capitalism what are they made for? There is no use in mincing matters. No milksop words can hide the ugly fact that present society is mainly divided into two great antagonistic classes—into capitalists, the owners of all the means for the employment of labour, on one side; and working men, the owners of nothing but their own working power, on the other. The produce of the labour of the latter class has to be divided between both classes, and it is this division about which the struggle is constantly going on.”
With labor unions came the ability to strike. Socialists see the trade union strike as an instrument of social change. Engels, in his 1845 treatise Conditions of the Working Class, describes union strikes as “the expression of the social war between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, as the training ground for the fighting proletariat to fight its class battles.” The general strike is one of its most powerful weapons for destroying the economy of a capitalist state. Marx envisioned striking labor unions as having the potential to force an entire country into submission to the revolutionary elite in control of the unions.
During the 19th century, factory workers throughout Europe began to be organized into labor unions. In 1864 the International Workingman’s Association (IWA), or the First International, was founded in London, Marx himself being its representative from Germany. All labor leaders were influenced by the socialist doctrines made popular by Marx and Engels. Unions were closely tied to socialist political parties. The first Marxist party in the world was the German Social Democratic Party, founded by Marx and Engels in 1868. In the 1870s and 1880s, Marxist labor parties, or “Social Democratic Labor Parties” sprang up throughout Europe.
According to Marxist doctrine, warfare between the classes is inevitable. This warfare is for class survival and must end with the extinction of capitalism (or Biblical, free-market economics). This class struggle is the very reason for labor unions’ existence: to organize and lead the workingman to class victory. As Marx saw it, “Without the presence of class warfare, the unions would be hard put to justify their existence.”
However, Bible-believing Christians, particularly Protestants during Marx’s time, denounced labor union membership on the grounds that it is incompatible with the Word of God. First of all, unions were pledged to using violence to reach their goals, if peaceful means failed. Also, unions were (and still are) a manifestation of the socialist philosophy itself, which stands for coercion, envy, and class warfare. Furthermore, organized labor is a direct attack on the businessman’s right to property, the very foundation of his liberty. Consequently, this attack on property is also an assault on the Biblical family and on God Himself.
Scriptures acknowledge the legitimacy of classes. In fact, the Bible nowhere supports class warfare, and instead establishes throughout that God has created social classes that are to co-exist in accordance with divine law. As Christians, we should never deliberately employ evil as a means by which to try to accomplish good. This is relativistic reasoning and defies God’s principles concerning absolute truth (see John 17:17). Remember, the end does not justify the means—simply look at Detroit!
Labor unions are so crucial to the Marxist cause that the closing line from The Communist Manifesto reads: “WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!” However, this isn’t the only place you’ll find this most famous rallying cry of socialism. A variation, “WORKERS OF ALL LANDS UNITE!” is inscribed on both Karl Marx’s tombstone and on a memorial to him in Moscow. This slogan was also the motto of the former Soviet Union, used on its coat of arms, postage stamps, and even on its currency. The phrase has been translated into many languages. Each individual soviet socialist republic in the Soviet Union adopted it as their motto and translated it into the region’s local languages. In fact, it is still used by many socialist and communist groups around the world. The slogan is frequently chanted during labor union strikes and labor-related protests—even in the United States today.
Ray Harker is the founder of God in Government (www.GodGov.org), a teaching ministry and outreach dedicated to a Biblical worldview. He is the author of the books "God in Government" and "Solid Food for the Soul."