LUMPENPROLETARIAT—Put another way; but perhaps we must emphasise that lumpenproletariat is a term, which was originally coined by Dr. Karl Marx to describe the layer of the working class that is unlikely ever to achieve class consciousness and is, therefore, lost to socially useful production, of no use to the revolutionary struggle, and perhaps even an impediment to the realisation of a classless society.
From The Communist Manifesto (Chapter 1 – Bourgeois and Proletarians):
“The ‘dangerous class’, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.”
MARXISTS INTERNET ARCHIVE—Roughly translated as slum workers or the mob, this term identifies the class of outcast, degenerated and submerged elements that make up a section of the population of industrial centers. It includes beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployables, persons who have been cast out by industry, and all sorts of declassed, degraded or degenerated elements. In times of prolonged crisis (depression), innumerable young people also, who cannot find an opportunity to enter into the social organism as producers, are pushed into this limbo of the outcast. Here demagogues and fascists of various stripes find some area of the mass base in time of struggle and social breakdown, when the ranks of the Lumpenproletariat are enormously swelled by ruined and declassed elements from all layers of a society in decay.
The term was coined by Marx in The German Ideology in the course of a critique of Max Stirner. In passage of The Ego and His Own which Marx is criticising at the time, Stirner frequently uses the term Lumpe and applies it as a prefix, but never actually used the term “lumpenproletariat.” Lumpen originally meant “rags,” but began to be used to mean “a person in rags.” From having the sense of “ragamuffin,” it came to mean “riff-raff” or “knave,” and by the beginning of the eighteenth century it began to be used freely as a prefix to make a range of perjorative terms. By the 1820s, “lumpen” could be tacked on to almost any German word.
The term was later used in the Communist Manifesto (where it is translated as “dangerous classes”) and in Class Struggles in France, and elsewhere.
Learn more at MARXISTS INTERNET ARCHIVE.
[Last modified 16:46 CDT 11 MAY 2015]