From ProleWiki, the proletarian encyclopedia

The Lumpenproletariat, alternatively called lumpenprole or lumpen, refers to an unthinking underclass that is (but not always) exploitable by reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces. The term was coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Marx defined the lumpenproletariat as a dangerous class and "passively rotting mass" thrown off the lowest layers of the old society.[1] He and Vladimir Lenin dismissed the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat. However, Mao believed that the lumpenproletariat could be revolutionary with the correct guidance.[2]


Lumpen was a prefix for "rag"; therefore Lumpenproletariat literally means "rag proletariat".


  • Prostitutes
  • Criminals (tramps, vagabonds, homeless persons)

Unemployed workers

Unemployed workers can turn into lumpenproletariats a result of being barred from employment by capitalists.

Unemployed workers typically consist of:


  1. “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.”

    Karl Marx. Communist Manifesto: '1' (p. 15). [MIA]
  2. Mao Zedong (1926). Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society. [MIA]