In years past, we spoke of class war between the haves and the have-nots. It’s no longer that simple. Now the traditional political consensus is splintering into multiple class wars between overlapping camps of the protected and the unprotected, those who’ve been promised entitlements and privileges that are no longer affordable and those expected to pay more taxes.
In the modern era, the phrase Class War is rooted in the socialist/Marxist concept that the conflict between labor (the working class) and capital (owners of capital) is not just inevitable—it’s the fulcrum of history. In this view, this Class War is the inevitable result of the asymmetry between the elite who own/control the capital and the much larger class of people whose livelihood is earned solely by their labor.
In Marx’s analysis, the inner dynamics of capitalism inevitably lead to the concentration of capital in monopolies/cartels whose great wealth enables them to influence the government to serve the interests of capital. Subservient to capital, the laboring class must overthrow this unholy partnership of capital and the state to become politically free via ownership of the means of production, i.e. productive assets.
This Class War did not unfold as Marx anticipated. The laboring class gained sufficient political power in the early 20th century to win the fundamentals of economic security: universal public education, labor laws that prohibited outright exploitation, the right to unionize, and publicly funded pensions.