Class analysis of Slovakia: who are our friends?

Why is distinguishing between the workers, the petty bourgeoisie and capital important ? Local classes might agree to fight the foreign capital together, and the workers might unite with the petit-bourgeoisie in the fight against austerity or big capital. But when ultimately, the demands of the workers will eventually become incompatible with the interests of the other classes that will oppose them.


The working class sells its labour power to capital for survival. Predictably, this class makes up the vast majority in Slovakia. According to a 2016 Median survey, this class is alienated from party politics (about 40% do not vote) and support for openly capitalist and fascist parties is relatively low. However, this class is not uniform - it is divided into subclasses, between which there is a significant difference. These subclasses are dependent workers and (semi-)independent workers.

Dependent workers are characterized by a clear dependent relationship with the employer – the employer owns all or the dominant majority of the means of production, determines the working hours explicitly, and work takes place at the workplace, not at home. Dependent workers share a certain corporate or industry identity and workplace affiliation. These workers share complex interpersonal relationships, there is an a priori prerequisite for the emergence of mutual collective solidarity. 

Independent workers are workers with little or no attachment to a specific workplace, but still completely beholden to the power of capital. Due to the nature of the employment relationship, they are individualised - at least partially alienated from the rest of their colleagues. Specifically, we can distinguish between agency and platform workers. (1) Platform workers primarily offer services (mainly transport in Slovakia), although there are also platforms that replace agency employment. However, they are marginal even in the West, not to mention Slovakia. Platform workers do not need to know each other, there are no relationships between them like in a regular workplace - they are almost completely individualised. However, we have already observed sporadic manifestations of solidarity in the Czech Republic and the West. For now, this is a marginal group in our country and they do not yet have a vital role in the economy. If there is deindustrialization due to innovation and a subsequent change in the nature of the Slovak economy, this group may become part of the revolutionary component of the workers (see the final section Revolutionary subject).

(2) Agency employees are in a similar situation as platform workers, but there is a higher probability of identification with their dependent peers. This group is also used in vital sectors of the economy, primarily for reasons of outsourcing and to prevent organized resistance by the regular dependent employees. The amount of such workers and of companies using agencies must be closely monitored - due to the pandemic and long covid, regular employees are increasingly being replaced by agency employees, and there is no reason to think that this situation will change soon, rather the opposite. This trend can be observed at least in Germany, where an economic crisis emerged due to long covid. However, agency workers can be volatile, so it must be ensured that they do not become an obstacle in an organised labour resistance.


In 2022, there were almost 380,000 self-employed out of 3.6 million inhabitants of working age, and another 25,000 people are running businesses. Thus, the petite-bourgeoisie consists of 404,000 people, or 11% of the working age population. Even if there are no fundamental changes in their amount - 7 years ago it was 9% of people of productive age - it is not an insignificant number. In our country, the petite-bourgeoisie can be divided into: (1) forced freelancers, (2) rentiers and (3) entrepreneurs.

Forced freelancers are technically entrepreneurs and petite capitalists, but de facto they belong to the subclass of independent workers. They can identify with the workers, and precisely because of the forced, unprotected and petite nature of their business activity, they are often aware of the unfortunate state of the economy, the negative effects of market mechanisms - the crisis often hits them very hard. Nevertheless, they are still entrepreneurs and thus forced to embrace capitalist aspirations. This subclass is prone to oscillations between political positions but overall tends to the right and (right) extreme (Median, 2016; IVO, 2017) – consistent with their class interest and individualism. 

Rentiers rely on income from rent, dividends or grants, or other forms of annuity. Thus, this class does not have to support itself by its own work, or its own work does not form a dominant component of income to cover personal expenses. This can be found in renters of land or housing, together with the armed forces, but also in the group traditionally termed intelligentsiai.e. students (getting an equivalent of rent from parents or occasionally in the form of a scholarship), and at least a part of the artistic and research community, relying on state, international or private grants and their forms. Although the intelligentsia takes a form of rent, this does not say much about the social stratum they belong to, just as the self-employed can live in very precarious conditions. Nevertheless, as a whole intelligentsia has more free time to devote to social issues— it is even expected that it learns about, discusses, and reflects on these issues. So there is a tendency to take strong positions and to engage publicly. However, due to rent-seeking, or in the absence of direct contact with exploitation, rentiers show individualistic tendencies. Volatility in a collective, a tendency to direct action regardless of the moods of the workers define this subclass in political life.

It is the students who show a low interest in party politics (due to the absence of immediate impacts on their daily life), and at the same time an above-average support for openly capitalist and fascist parties (due to individualistic tendencies), as evidenced by the Median survey from 2016. Similarly, the artistic community and a part the rest of the intelligentsia had a notable above-average representation in the protests of 2018 (but also 2024), which were aligned with part of the population identifying with the right (Median, 2018). In both cases, it is a consequence of rentierism - without directly experiencing the financial existential threats that workers face, rentiers occupy themselves with other than kitchen table topics or intuitively side with capital. Certainly, a large part of the attendees in the mentioned protests is ideologically/class confused. However, given the experience of who is the typical attendee, speaker, or organiser, it is reasonable to consider these protests as evidence of a class-based – not subjective – expression of the intelligentsia and managerial petite-bourgeoisie, so numerously represented in the capital city.

In the rare cases when the intelligentsia opposes capital, their anti-capitalist stance comes from a different position – it has a different internal logic than the anti-capitalism of the workers. This contradiction defines the post-1989 left, including the (pseudo-)Marxist discourse. This class has an inherent individualistic tendency or a tendency towards liberalism (including anarchism or "liberal socialism" and "the left in general"), although with occasional individual exceptions.

The seeming exception among rentiers are pensioners. As rentiers dependent on the welfare-state they are forced to support nominally left-wing parties, but not out of an effort to overcome the system, but on the contrary – in an effort to preserve it. As a result, even this part of the population is subject to petite-bourgeois reactionism and conservatism.

Management forms a special subgroup. While they are technically wage workers, they identify largely with the interests of enterprise, of capital, since their job is to carry out the will of the enterprise's leadership, and as such they occupy a privileged position within the enterprise. Even if they lose their job, they do not have to lose their privileged position - they may resume their managerial position in another company. This subgroup also includes a part of civil servants, especially senior officials and management of (public) enterprises or contribution organizations. Depending on the specific conditions of the workplace, the management, especially the lower one, may rather meet the class characteristics of dependent workers. Due to their conditionally privileged status, they have reservations about "political extremism" - according to IVO (2017) more than any other polled group (on the other hand, entrepreneurs and freelancers considered "extremism" not to be a problem of all - consistent with the findings of Median, 2016).

Small entrepreneurs, unlike forced freelancers, are in a more stable life situation, their income exceeds their personal consumption and they live off the work of their employees. This group clearly identifies with capital, economically and politically. Here we can include mainly micro-enterprises such as pubs or restaurants, or crafts, but also farmers who still feel the pressure of the market and crises. They are often aware of the "injustice in the world" and therefore may be inclined to anti-capitalist ideas, but in the end, in the vast majority of cases, they either give up political aspirations, or they clearly stand on the side of reaction - fascist despotism towards the workers could secure their profits. This is shown by their support of openly capitalist parties - 2-3 times higher than among workers; fascists are also supported by this class twice as much as by workers. At the same time, it is the most politically engaged class with the highest rate of participation in elections (Median, 2016), as well as the highest representation in party leadership.

The unfortunately called class of lumpenproletariat is a group living independently and, even though in precarious living conditions, it lives off of the surplus of others, which economically and ideologically brings it closer to the petite-bourgeoisie. Of the 3.3 million people of productive age over 19, up to 12% are not registered as employed or unemployed or working abroad. That's 450,000 people who are dependent on the work of other household members or earn a living by working outside the legal framework. Given the apparent heterogeneity of this class, it will also vary in its affinity to revolution. However, it will not form the core of the critical mass. 


Non-finantial capital consists of (1) medium entrepreneurs who a priori show an affinity for nationalism with the vision of protecting their own capital through nationalist protectionism. Together with small entrepreneurs, they employ two-thirds of Slovak workers, but amount only to one-third of the total sales. They feel the pressure from (2) large capital, which, on the other hand, employs the remaining third of the workers, while having a two thirds share of the total sales. Medium and large capital is also made up of domestic companies, but the dominant position is clearly held by foreign companies, or foreign-owned enterprises. While small entrepreneurs have aspirations in local politics, the oligarchic tendency is most evident among medium and large capitalists – the use of capital to directly obtain advantages for the reproduction of capital or personal wealth. These entrepreneurs tend to be more politically shallow than the petite-bourgeoisie, especially big capitalists – they tend to finance anyone who can provide them with the desired results.

Politicians in the sense of "professional" members of the party - people who live by working for the party or for the office in which they work for the party - in Slovakia, they are primarily petite-bourgeois and medium entrepreneurs. Ultimately, therefore, the politician class is the legal form of the oligarchic tendency of those classes. In their essence (especially elected) politicians are rentiers parasitising on their sponsors and the state, but their function is closely related to the reproduction of their sponsors' capital and capital in general. Thus, in relation to foreign capital, they appear as compradors, in relation to domestic capital as representatives or negotiators between capitalists and petite-bourgeois. A political party functions as a means of political production and, together with capital, as an instrument of self-reproduction, and therefore one can speak of a class in the Marxist sense of the word. Practice says that the state cannot be reduced to economic relations only - although the state is ultimately servile to capital, the occasional friction proves the conflicting interests of capitalists and the state administration. One of the determining aspects is who gives this class rent, or who ultimately has the power in the party - if it is the mass membership or workers in general, then such a party, or a politician does not fall under this definition of a political class.

Finance capital holds a dominant position due to the nature of global capitalism. However, Slovakia also has a significant domestic class of financial capitalists who dominate the political sphere and entire economic sectors (not to mention foreign financial capital).

Revolutionary subject

So, is it dependent or independent workers who are today's revolutionary class? The tendency towards revolution (or, conversely, towards conservatism) of a certain class is a function of economic necessity. While it is essential for entrepreneurs to stand up in defence of capital, it is essential for the working class to stand up against capital. However, only such opposition to capital, which is creative, which does not negotiate with capital, is revolutionary. Moreover, the working class, even divided into the mentioned subclasses, did not enter the previous revolutions as a monolith. The core of the revolution was often specific groups, not the industrial proletariat as a whole. So who makes up this revolutionary core today?

While a part of the vanguard may (and inevitably will) be made up of intelligentsia, the revolutionary subject itself will consists of the "conscious" parts of the working class, who operate the means of production that can both bring the system to its knees and at the same time elevate it to a qualitatively new stage and create a new economic imperative, a new dominant mode of production.

The backbone of the Slovak economy is the automotive industry. Although it employs only around 6% of the workforce, it is responsible for 40% of the export price and accounts for almost half of the sales in the industry (about 12% of total sales). About 8% of workers are employed in wholesale and retail, which accounts for up to a quarter of total sales in Slovakia. The IT and telecommunications sector, which is vital for the running of not only the economy, but society as such, does not have a large share of sales (~3%) and also employs only a little over 1.5% of workers, most of whom are petite-bourgeois or worker aristocracy. The equally vital (especially in the just-in-time economy) transport and logistics sector accounts for about 5% of total sales and employs 3% of workers. 

The automotive and associated electrical engineering industries, IT and telecommunications, and logistics are all industries that are subject to dynamic changes. Despite the current stagnant application of innovations, the modernization process is unstoppable. This process will be accompanied by the precarisation of workers. Considering the role of the Slovak economy in the global and regional division of labour, it is not likely that dependent workers will become employees of services and platforms to the extent that can be observed in the imperialist core. The industrial proletariat will therefore probably remain the most numerous group in the revolutionary mass. However, precarisation occurs across the board, even in key sectors such as IT, and therefore it is necessary to closely monitor the activities of forced freelancers and small entrepreneurs in this sector. Although it will not provide a significant number of revolutionary-minded people, the skills of these people will be all the more crucial during and after the revolution.

So, who is the target audience for agitation and education? It's the workers in the automotive and electrical industries, working in transport and logistics and, to a lesser extent, in wholesale and retail. Furthermore we need to include agency workers in industry, along with a part of (mainly working) students and IT freelancers. The revolution will be marginally supported by individual small entrepreneurs, mostly with the vision of protection against the big capital, but their support will be very unstable and conditional. Although domestic capital can be persuaded by the promise of investment as part of efforts to develop productive forces, at the decisive point they will refuse cooperation; a small part will yield, a part will flee, the larger part will support the reaction from the beginning - their ratio will depend on specific conditions.

In a concluding remark: the revolutionary programme must be formulated for the benefit of all workers (and ultimately also for the benefit of part of the petite-bourgeoisie), but it will be only the workers of the key sectors who will able to enforce and defend it.

Sources: Median: 2016, 2018; IVO: 2017

Sely Papan
member of the leadership