analysis of middle strata

Jack Hill mlbooks at
Tue Oct 24 13:34:33 MDT 1995

A former comrade of the MLP asked me to post this.  It reflects
a lot of research that he and his group in Boston have done.
I think it is serious work and deserves study.  I am neither
endorsing it or criticizing it right now.

Jack Hill <mlbooks at>


To All who are interested:
     The following is an investigative report produced by a
member of the Boston Communist Study Group. This study group was
formed after the dissolution of the Marxist Leninist Party by
former members and supporters of that organization in the Boston
area to continue the investigation and discussion changes in the
world economy and political systems and class structures that
have given rise to the crisis of revolutionary theory. The
present work is part of a continuation of a study of changes in
the class structure in the US that was originally published in
the Workers' Advocate Supplement of March 20,1993. At this time we are
also posting a paper examining some of the history and features of
the hospital workers and their struggles as part of an investigation
into the service sector.
     We hope that this material is of some help to those trying
to figure out the changes in the world and their implications for
revolutionary theory. We would appreciate any comments by those
examining the same issues. Please write us at:
pt1947 at


Peter Tabolt

      Theories and evolution of the salaried middle strata
                          --part I

by Peter Tabolt


                   Changes in Class Structure

     The twentieth century has seen huge changes in the class
structures of the US and the other Western capitalist countries.
The industrial workers reached the zenith of their weight in the
economically active population about mid century in the US and 15
to 25 years later in other advanced capitalist countries. Since
then there has been sharp decline in the weight of the industrial
workers while the weight service workers and workers in retail
trade have grown dramatically. Meanwhile there has also been a
change in the composition of the middle classes and strata in
advanced capitalist societies.
     In 1900 small farmers were the majority of the  middle
classes and strata in the US accounting for about 28 percent of
what the Bureau of Labor statistics calls the "workforce" today.
The categories of managers, professionals and office clerical
workers accounted together for about 15 per cent of the
workforce. (the figures on managers and professionals include
small owners who manage their own business and self employed
professionals. In 1900 of course the small owners and self
employed professionals constituted a much larger portion of this
middle strata than today.)  Today the small and not so small
farmers are less than 2 per cent of the workforce, while the
white collar workforce has grown to 60 per cent. But this growth
has been accompanied by a proletarianization and feminization of
the office and retail clerks on one hand and the steady growth of
a strata of managerial/professional employees who account for about
25 per cent of the workforce and who form the bulk of the modern
middle strata.
     Today the middle strata produced within large scale
production, within wage labour constitute the bulk of the middle
forces in society as compared to the decaying classes of small
     In 1992 I wrote a report on the changes in class structure
in the US and the changes in stratification of the working class
for the 4th Congress of the Marxist Leninist Party. This report
was published in the Workers' Advocate Supplement of March 20,
1993 . This current effort is a continuation of that effort which
focuses on new middle strata which has emerged during the past
century. Other members of the Boston study group which was
founded to continue research after the demise of the MLP are
working on other aspects of the changes in class structure.

            Middle Strata as Stabilizer of Capitalism

     Analysis of the new middle strata is important for a number
of reasons. First the development of this strata has major
implications for the stability of capitalism. While its emergence
shows the capitalist owners have become superficial to
production, its conservatism is a factor for capitalist stability
and theorticians of reformism from Bernstein on have pointed to
this strata as a factor proving that Marx's prognosis for a
revolutionary overthrow of capitalism by the proletariat was

  The Effect of the Growth of the Professional/Managerial Strata
   and White Collar Work in General On Working Class Cohesion

     Secondly the huge growth of this strata relative to the
industrial workers has had a major impact on the working class
itself. The rapid relative growth opened up opportunity for
probably the majority of the best and brightest young workers to
move on up into the mangerial or professional ranks in the post
WWII period, thus dramatically blurring class boundaries and
undermining the workers sense of being a hereditary class. This
avenue of upward mobility has narrowed in recent years but it has
far from disappeared. In addition unlike the small farmer the
members of the professional/ managerial class live in close
proximity to the worker and they work in the same large scale
industry, trade, and services as the lower worker. More over
unlike the small farmer or small shopkeeper, they have superior
education, and they make a lot more political noise in the urban
areas. As sections of this strata sink lower into proletarian
status as the clerical workers have, they continue to work in
occupations that have vestiges of middle class prestige, ways of
doing things and thinking. Even after they have given up fighting
to maintain their former priviledge they do not yet think like
factory workers. Thus this middle strata has enormous impact on
the mood and cohesiveness of the working class. (Note the growth
and decay of the middle strata is not the only objective factor
affecting the mood, cohesiveness and confidence of the
proletariat by any means. The welfare state, the changes in the
structure of world markets, fragmentation of the workers due to
the change from manufacturing to service and retail trade etc
have at least as great an impact.)

 The Effect of the Salaried Middle Strata on the Political Mood
and Movements.

     Finally  with the relative quiescence of the working class
in the Post WWII world, members or aspiring members of various
sections of the middle strata, working intelligentsia, have
largely dominated and populated most of the oppositonal movements
in the West from the ecological movements to the women's and gay
rights movements. In the US major exceptions to this rule were
the later stages of the movement against the Viet Nam war and the
peak of the black and Latino movements where the energy and class
instincts of the lower masses showed a certain influence (though
not dominant) for a while. In large part the narrowness of
today's movements and lack of any class edge or theme unifying
them into a movement for a new society is due to this situation
of weakness of the lower mass and the political features of the
middle strata.
     At the same time this strata has shown differences from the
old middle strata in that it has a greater interest in democratic
questions affecting lifestyle, intellectual freedom etc than the
old small producers. It worries more about global questions such
as environmental issues, but it still tends see itself above a
class struggle for desired changes.
     In mainstream politics a large section of this strata has
tended toward economic conservatism (squeeze the lower masses)
and social liberalism (abortion rights, gay rights, opposition to
book burners), the Liberal Democratic Party in Britain, the
Clinton to Weld spectrum in the US. In present situation of
economic insecurity it has provided the main support to Perotism.
     As the stagnation of Western capitalism continues
significant numbers of the lower sections of the professional,
managerial strata as well as sections of the formerly more
priviledged white workers who are seeing their priviledges and
security erode have been attracted to racist and right wing
movements in a desperate attempt to cling to their former

     Hence an analysis of the dynamics of this strata, how it is
evolving, how its different strata can be expected to react to
economic and political changes, what influence it brings into the
political climate, and what influences the lower layers it sheds
into the working class proper bring with them, are important
issues facing any future class politics and movement in the
Western world (and the third world countries too as they evolve
into more complex capitalist societies).

   What this Paper Covers and Where Investigation needs to go

     Having looked at the statistical and occupational breakdown
of this strata and being familiar with the political life of the
US we felt it necessary to deepen our understanding of this
question by carrying out a review of the historical theoretical
literature on this strata from Marx to the present, and a review
of the motion of this strata as reflected in that literature. The
present work will review the writings of Marx , Engels, Lenin,
Bernstein, Kautsky, and the debate and social investigations
carried out by German academic circles on the nature and extent
of the new middle strata. We have also done some work  reviewing
the Post WWII research and debate on class structure and the
middle strata in British and American academic circles as well as
the attempts of the academic Marxists, Poulantzas, Carchedi,
Carter etc to develop a theory on a New Middle Class based on
various pieces Marx's views on the role the capitalist in
production and in society. We also feel a complete investigation
of this field would require dealing with the the literature that
is emerging on the "knowledge economy" and "knowledge workers"
and the role of knowledge in the creation of wealth as well as
the insights of Marx on the question over 100 years ago. At what
pace and whether we will finish and publish these other parts of
investigation of historical literature on the middle strata we
cannot guarantee. Our time is limited and we are pulled in many
directions in analyzing the changes in class structure. But we
offer this part of what we have accomplished so far in hopes that
it will be useful to those who feel a need to update a class
analysis of modern society.

                  The views of Marx and Engels.

     Marx and Engels actually had very little to say on the
subject and quite understandably since this strata was very
little developed in their day. The process Marx and Engels were
observing and dealing with was the transition from small scale
patriarchal production of goods to  large scale industrial
production of goods. They saw that the greatest social product of
this economic revolution was the industrial proletariat which
they saw must inevitably seize power, abolish capitalist private
property and build socialism. They saw the development of
industry leading to the demise of the old middle classes, the
peasantry, the handicraftsmen, the small urban shop keepers the
small producers , the classical petit bourgeoisie and the growth
of an overwhelming proletarian majority which at some point must
realize that it was the majority and could easily dispense with
the capitalist parasites. But in fact they saw that the crises of
capitalism would most likely lead to an even earlier overthrow of
captialism, forcing the proletariat to act earlier with the
greater or lesser support of sections of the ruined old middle
classes to overthrow the the rule of the industrial bourgeoisie.
     The Communist Manifesto and Engels' Condition of the Working
class in England most clearly outline the above scenario.
     "But assuming that England retained the monopoly of
manufactures, that its factories perpetually multiply, what must
be the result? The commercial crises would continue, and grow
more violent, more terrible, with the extension of industry and
the multiplication of the proletariat, the proletariat would
increase in geometrical proportion, in consequence of the
progressive ruin of the lower middle class and the giant strides
with which capitalism is concentrating itself in the hands of the
few; and the proletariat would soon embrace the whole nation,
with the execption of a few millionaires. But in this
development, there comes a stage at which the proletariat
perceives how easily the existing power may be overthrown and
then follows the revolution"
     "Neither of these supposed conditions may, however, be
expected to arise. The commercial crises, the mightiest levers
for all independent development of the proletariat, will probably
shorten the process, acting in concert with foreign competition
and the deepening ruin of the lower-middle-class." F. Engels
Condition of the Working Class in England p.331-332 Progress
Publishers, Moscow, 1973.
     Marx and Engels clearly expected the process of
industrialization going on before them to culminate in socialist
revolution. They did not expect capitalism to last beyond the
point where industrialization of the production of goods was the
main thing going on and the growth of the weight of the
industrial proletariat in society had reached its peak. As
prophets in the narrow sense they failed. Of course they never
claimed to be prophets, but rather social scientists and
revolutionaries. And the tendencies they observed in society have
been confirmed---the replacement of petty production with large
scale production, the conversion of the majority of society to
wage workers, the rise of the proletarian movement which reached
its peak with the Russian Revolution and proletarian movements
between the two World Wars and into the late 40's.
     In Marx and Engels epoch the main issue of middle forces was
the small producers the peasants, handicraftsmen, the classical
petit bourgeoisie. And they paid considerable attention to the
forces pushing this old middle force in various directions and
the tactics that should be used toward it. They spoke much less
about the small strata of professional/managerial/clerical
employees who were then emerging.
     Yet it cannot be said that Marx and Engels where oblivious
to the emergence of this strata. As early as the Communist
Manifesto they say:
     "...a new class of petty bourgeoisie has been formed,
fluctuating between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and ever
renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society. The
individual members of this class, however, are constantly being
hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition,
and, as modern industry develops, they even see the moment
approaching when they will completely disappear as an independent
section of modern society, to be replaced, in manufactures,
agriculture, and commerce, by overlookers, bailiffs, and
shopmen." In this quote the new petty bourgeoisie that Marx and
Engels are talking about is actually what we would refer to as
the old petit bourgeoisie-- the small producers and shopkeepers.
They will be replaced by supervisory employees of the bourgeoisie
(bailiff here does not refer to the court officer who handles the
prisoners and ejects people from the courtroom, but to British
farm manager and overseer.) Thus Marx and Engels see in the
future the replacement of the old petit bourgoisie with trusted
employees of the bourgeoisie.

     During Marx and Engels lifetime the joint stock company
emerged and the owners of capital began to hire managers to
administer their enterprises. This was still a far cry from the
massive managerial and professional organizations of today, but
Marx and Engels took note of this development. Primarily they
noted how this signified that the capitalists were losing any
useful social function.

     "Now the economical function of the capitalist middle class
has been, indeed, to create the modern system of steam
manufactures and steam communications, and to crush every
economical and political obstacle which delayed or hindered the
development of that system. No doubt as long as the capitalist
middle class performed this function it was, under the
circumstances, a necessary class. But is it still so? Does it
continue to fulfill its essential function as manager and
expander of the social production for the benefit of society at
large? Let us see."
     "To begin with the means of communication, we find the
telegraphs in the hands of the Government. The railways  and a
large part of the seagoing steamships are owned , not by
individual capitalists who manage their own business, but by
joint stock companies whose business is managed for them by  paid
employees, by servants whose position is to all intents and
purposes that of superior, better paid work people. As to the
directors and shareholders, they both know that the less the
former interfere with the management and the latter with the
supervision, the better for the concern. A lax and mostly
perfunctory supervision is, indeed, the only function left to the
owners of the business....The social function of the capitalist
has been transferred to servants paid by wages; but he continues
to pocket in his dividends, the pay for those functions though he
has ceased to perform them." (F. Engels "Social Classes--
Necessary and Superfluous" 8/1-2/81 as quoted in On Historical
Materialism-- Marx, Engels, Lenin Soviet edition.)

     Thus Engels notes the emergence of a strata of managerial
employees -- "superior, better paid workpeople", "servants paid
by wages" who perform the "social function of the capitalist".

     In volume III of Capital Marx makes a number of points.
   a."The labor of supervision and management, arising as it does
out of an antithesis, out of the supremacy  of capital over
labour, and being therefore common to all modes od production
based on class contradictions like the capitalist mode, is
directly and inseperably connected, also under the capitalist
system, with productive functions which all combined social
labour assigns to individuals as their special tasks. The wages
of an epitropos, or regisseur, as he was called in feudal France,
are entirely divorced from profit and assume the form of wages
for skilled labour whenever the business is operated on a
sufficiently large scale to warrant paying for such a manager."
(Capital Volume III p 386, Progress Publishers 1966)

     Here Marx notes that labor of management combines
exploitation with necessary productive functions. Here Marx also
seems to be saying that managerial work is simply a form of
skilled labor at least economically speaking. However as we shall
see Marx also points to another social dimension.

     b."The industrial capitalist is a worker compared to the
money capitalist, but a worker in the sense of capitalist, ie, an
exploiter of the labor of others. The wage which he claims and
pockets for this labor is exactly equal to the appropritated
quantity of another's labor, and depends directly upon the rate
of exploitation of this labor, in so far as he undertakes the
effort required for exploitation; it does not, however, depend on
the degree of exertion that such exploitation demands, and which
he can shift to a manager for moderate pay."
(Capital Volume III p 387, Progress Publishers 1966)
     Here Marx in the course of refuting the argument that
profits equal wages of supervision, brings out the aspect of
management that is the exertion of effort necessary to realize a
certain rate of exploitation thus bringing out the second side of
the work of management whether done by the capitalist or by
skilled labor hired by him.

     c."The wages of management both for the commercial and
industrial manager are completely isolated from the profits of
enterprise in the cooperative factories of the workers, as well
as in capitalist stock companies...In a cooperative factory the
antagonistic nature of the labor of supervision disappears,
because the manager is paid by the labourers instead of
representing capital counterposed to them. Stock companies in
general...have an increasing tendency to separate this work of
management as a function from the ownership of capital... the
functionary remains and the capitalist disappears as superfluous
from the production process.
     "It is manifest from the public accounts of the co-operative
factories in England that --after deducting the manager's wages,
which form a part of the invested variable capital much the same
as the wages of other laborers--the profit was higher than the
average profit..."
(ibid. p387-388)
     The point of interest here is that Marx says the wages of
the managers in the cooperative factory come from variable
capital rather than being deducted from surplus value. He seems
also to be suggesting that the same is true in the joint stock
company although this is not entirely clear with regards to the
whole of the payment of managers as he has drawn out the
distinction of cooperative factory being one where the antagonism
between the workers and the manager as a representative of
capital disappears.

     d."...This was further promoted by the apologetic aim of
representing profit not as a surplus-value derived from unpaid
labor, but as the capitalists wages for work performed by him.
This was met on the part of socialists by a demand to reduce
profit actually to what it pretended to be. And this demand was
all the more obnoxious to theoretical embellishment, the more
these wages of supervision, like any other wage, found their
definite level and definite market price, on the one  hand, with
the development of a numerous class of industrial and commercial
managers,(78) and the more they fell, like all wages for skilled
labor, with the general development which reduces the cost of
production of specially trained labor power.(79)"
(ibid p.388-389.)
     For our investigation the most important point here is the
reference to managers as a class. One might take it to mean that
Marx was refering to managers loosely as a category with the term
class, but foot note 78 indicates that he views them as a social
class with a special contradictory position between the
proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In Footnote 78 he quotes from
Hodgkins: "Masters are laborers as well as their journeyman. In
this character their interest is precisely the same as that of
their men. But they are also either capitalists, or agents of the
capitalists, and in this respect their interest is decidedly
opposed to the interests of the workmen. " ( p.27). ...(Hodgskin,
Labor Defended Against the Claims of Capital, etc., London,

     The second point of somewhat less interest is the assertion
that the general social development including especially the
spread of education in the working class tends to reduce the
wages of managers.
(In actual fact this narrowing of gap between the wages of the
mass of skilled workers including managers and the unskilled has
been long term development of capitalism. Since the late 70's
there has been some reversal of this. But the differential is
still far lower than 70 or 100 years ago. Generally you can guage
a country's level of capitalist development by looking at the
differential between skilled and unskilled laborers wages. And of
course here we are eliminating the upper managerial levels from
consideration who frequently share in the surplus value through
stock options and bonuses and extremely high wages and who merge
with the bourgeoisie.

     So we have the beginnings of an analysis of the vast
managerial strata by Marx and Engels but what did they say about
the specialists, the professionals etc who have no direct
managerial role? Here we find less detailed observations.
     In the Manifesto Marx and Engels say:
     "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation
hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has
converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the
man of science, into its paid wage laborers."
     Note here that Marx and Engels are referring here mostly to
the pre existing "free professions" but indicate a tendency to
     In Volume II of Capital Marx discusses the role of the
commercial clerk who is involved in wholesale buying and selling
of the product of the industrial of agricultural capitalist.
(While we are considering the issue of the professional strata, I
have included this observation because many of the people who are
considered professionals would share the same level of status as
clerks in Marx's time. And clerks in Marx's time were universally
considered part of the the middle strata)
     Marx says:
     "The commercial clerk produces no surplus value directly.
But the price of his labour-power, its exertion, expenditure, and
wear and tear, is as in the case of every other wage laborer by
no means limited by its value. His wage therefore is not
necessarily  proportionate to the masss of profit he helps the
capitalist to realize. ... He creates no direce surplus value,
but adds to the capitalists income by helping him reduce the cost
of realizing surplus value, in as much he partly performs unpaid
labor. The commercial worker in the strict sense of the term ,
belongs to the better paid class of wage-workers-to those who
labor is classed as skilled and stands above the average labor."
     Thus from the economic stand point Marx includes these
skilled clerks of his day in the working class. But he seems to
qualify this with the statement  "in the strict sense of the
term". Thus there are other factors to examine to look at the
outlook of this strata.

     Certain sections of the professional strata such as
engineers, computer programmers in the software industry,
registered nurses, etc  play a role in production,  produce value
and surplus value while their managerial functions of helping
exploit other workers are often very small. (With nurses and
engineers this varies according to their use by the employer from
nil to to quite large. Thus a large section of professional
workers would fall under the category of skilled members of the
working class, technically speaking. As producers who are
exploited and whose higher wages are a result of their higher
skill and the higher value of their compound labor. Yet while
Marx and Engels clearly see proletarianization as trend for the
future and the underlying economics already taking place for this
strata, they are still "technically speaking". There is more to
the relationship of this strata to the workers and the
capitalists that Marx and Engels did not examine in the detail
that they examined the role of the worker and the capitalist.

     In addition to these brief passages giving some partial
glimpses of an economic analysis of the professional strata there
are some comments giving an overall assesment of the strata at
particular times.
     "...The patronizing and errant lecturing of our so called
intellectuals seems to me to be a far greater impediment. We are
still in need of technicians, agronomists, engineers, chemists,
architects, etc. it is true, but if worst comes to worst we can
always buy them just as well as the capitalists buy them, and if
a severe example is made of few of the traitors among them -- for
traitors there are sure to be--they will find it to their own
advantage to deal fairly with us. But apart from thees
specialists, among whom I also include school teachers, we can
get along perfectly well without the other "intellectuals". The
present influx of literati and students into the party, for
example, may be quite damaging if these gentlemen are not
properly kept in check."
Engels, letter to Otto von Boenigk, August 21, 1890.

     "In order to take possession and set in motion the means of
production, we need people with technical training, and masses of
them. These we have not got, and up till now we have even been
rather glad that we have been largely spared  the "educated"
people. Now things are different. Now we are strong enough to
stand any quantity of educated  Quarks and to digest them, and I
foresee that in the next eight or ten years we shall recruit
enough young technicians, doctors, lawyers, and schoolmasters to
enable us to have the factories and big estates administered on
behalf of the nation by Party comrades. Then, therefore our entry
into power will be quite natural and will be settled up quite
quickly--relatively. If on the otherhand, a war brings us to
power prematurely, the technicians will be our chief enemies;
they will deceive and betray us wherever they can and we shall
have to use terror against them but we shall get cheated just the
same. It is what always happened, on a small scale, to the French
revolutionaries; even in ordinary administration they had to
leave the subordinate posts, where the real work is done, in the
posession of old reactionaries who obstructed and paralyzed
F. Engels, letter to Bebel, October 24, 1891

     From these quotes from Marx and Engels we can develop a
general impression of their view that they saw a long term
epochal tendency in capitalism to turn the professionals and
educated people into proletarians, but that it by no means had
yet happened. The educated specialists were still part of a
bourgeois or petit bourgeois intelligentsia. A section of this
strata they felt would be won over to the side of the proletariat
and Engels in his letter of 1891 even expresses wild optimism at
the immediate prospects for such a thing happening. Nevertheless
it is clear that in the concrete, the present Engels regards even
the working intelligentsia with caution as something seperate
from the proletariat. With regards to the managers Marx and
Engels show in the production process a basis for their
contradictory social position. But no where is such analysis
developed to any extent for the non managerial professional
     This may partially be due to the fact that even by Engels
latest writings on the subject the conversion of the mass of
professionals into employees was still little developed. Doctors
and lawyers were still independent professionals,  A large
portion of engineers were junior partners of the capitalists or
capitalists themselves. The mass engineering schools that
produced the engineer employees were just coming into being in
Germany and US.

                        Kautsky and Bernstein
     Nevertheless within a few years of Engels death a discussion
did develop in German socialist circles of the position and role
of professional and office workers. Such was the pace of
capitalist development.

     Karl Kautsky was the first Marxist to deal in any extensive
matter with the question of the salaried professional,
managerial, and clerical workers. He wrote a series of articles
on this emerging strata and its significance in Neue Zeit in
1895. We have not been able to find this original work but we
have found his summary of those ideas in his polemic vs Bernstein
as published in Karl Kautsky: Selected Political Writings by K.
Kautsky Jr.
     Kautsky assigned the rapid growth of the intelligentsia, the
new middle stratum, to the fact that the functions of the
dominant and exploiting classes were increasingly being taken
over by paid skilled workers, who sell their services either
peicemeal like doctors and lawyers or for a salary, like
officials of every kind.  Kautsky points out that while the
clergy and the aristocracy which had carried out the functions of
state and culture in the Middle ages had been pushed aside, the
the tasks of the state, of the munincipal authorities and of
science  and culture continued to grow with the complexity of
capitalist society and a salaried labor force to carry them out
also grew from year to year. Kautsky after Marx and Engels also
noted that the growth of this strata was connected to the
capitalists handing more and more of thier functions in industry
and commerce over to paid skilled workers, tradesmen and
technicians. Initially, Kautsky noted, these people were only
assistants to the capitalist,entrusted with organizing,
initiating and supervising the labor process, with purchase of
the means of production and sale of products: in other words,
with functions which, due to the growing demand for specialized
skills the capitalist is incapable of carrying out himself.
Eventually even the management of the firm is handed over to a
subordinate and the capitalist himself becomes superfluous. The
development of the joint stock company contributes to the growth
of this strata--by creating greater demand for employees to run
larger scale businesses, not as Bernstein was arguing by
splitting up the capitals. The white collar worker is a wage
laborer not a capitalist. Private property in the means of
production is not important to this strata.

     But Kautsky noted, it would be equally mistaken to regard
this new middle class as part of the proletariat.
Kautsky distinguished the new middle class from the proletariat
on the following grounds:
1.It has emerged from the bourgeoisie, and is connected to it
through family and social ties and shares similar values.
a.Certain sectors such as managers have taken over the functions
of the capitalists are extremely close to the bourgeoisie, and
share it values and hostility to the proletariat.
b.Other professions require a specific political stance, such as
political journalists, legal officials, policemen. The state,
capitalist publishers and the clergy will employ only those
people who share the outlook of their employers or are willing to
adopt an alien outlook for money. That is another reason why the
intelligentsia is generally opposed to the proletariat.
2.The greatest contrast between the intelligentsia and the
proletariat is that the former constitutes a privileged class,
due to the fact that it has the privilege of education.

     Kautsky noted that the intelligentsia favored enough
education for the masses that they could understand what the
intellectuals were saying and stand in awe of their knowledge,
but that they vigorously fought extension of access to
professional education to the masses as part of their fight to
maintain their privileged position. In this sense Kautsky says
that this strata was more backward than the bourgeoisie itself
which needed to expand professional education to meet its needs
in production for skilled professional employees. But Kautsky
says that with the advance of captitalism professional education
will expand, various artificial barriers will be broken down and
one layer of the new middle strata after the other will be forced
to recognize its proletarian position no matter how much they may
resist their decline. Thus eventually one layer after another
will take an interest in the proletarian movement and eventually
join it.
     Kautsky pointed out that those who use the growth of the new
middle strata to tout the stability of captialism are failing to
see that its growth is accompanied by proletarianization of
increasing strata.
     In between the strata most closely linked to the bourgeoisie
and the strata being proletarianized is a broad section that
views itself above narrow class interests, as alone capable of
expressing the interests of the whole society. This strata
vacilates like the old petit bourgeoisie between sympathy for the
proletarian and his condition and denouncing the bourgeois greed
one day, and condemning proletarian bad manners the next.
     Kautsky notes however 2 differences between the old
petit bourgeoisie and the new intelligentsia.
a. on the positive side it has a far greater intellectual culture
b. on the negative side it in comparison to the old petit
bourgeoisie it lacks fighting ability. Kautsky says, "... Few in
number, with no unified class interests or proper form of
organization, without any property, but nevertheless demanding a
bourgeois standard of life,...The middle strata of the
intelligenstia, the cultural aristocracy, could afford to be in
the opposition so long as the bourgeoisie itself was; but now
since the bourgeoisie has established itself it has become
submissive and lost its capacity and desire to fight....Certainly
there are some genuine supporters of the proletariat among the
knights of the spirit, but they do not come out into the open
until the proletariat is actually victorious. It cannot  expect
the intelligentsia to provide it with reinforcements for the
struggle, but it need not fear any fierce opposition from them

     Kautsky held that the growing intelligentsia is a class that
the proletariat could not ignore. It would be asking too much
according to him to convert the intelligentsia to the
proletariat, but an even greater mistake to lump them in with the
propertied classes. Kautsky held that the new middle strata held
in concentrated form all the contradictions of capitalist
society, yet even in this microcosm the proletarian seed was

     Kautsky developed his views on this strata very early in its
development as the modern new middle strata. It was very small
and was still mainly recruited from the bourgeoisie. Much of the
way he characterizes the various sections of this strata still
rings true today. Yet with nearly 100 years of hindsight he seems
overly optimistic about the pace of proletarianization of this
strata. Nor does  he deal with the problem of what sort of sector
of the proletariat the proletarianized sections of the new middle
strata become, what characterisitics they bring with them and
what influence this has on the character of the working class,
its class consciousness and fighting capacity, especially as
these sections have now become the largest sections of the
working class. ( Here I am speaking of clerical workers, and
technicians and possibly the very lowest levels of


     The issue of the new middle class was part of the debate
with Bernstein.
     Bernstein, reflecting the criticism of Marx in academic and
Fabian circles argued that capitalism was not polarizing as Marx
had predicted in the Manifesto. Mainly he cited the continued
existence of the small farmer, the growth of retail trade and
small shop keepers and the spread of share holding to a larger
section of the population. He stated:
"Social contradictions have not reached the acute tension which
the Communist Manifesto predicted. Not only would it be useless,
it would be the height of folly to conceal this from ourselves.
The enormous increase in social wealth is accompanied not by a
shrinking number of capitalist magnates but by a growing number
of capitalists of all ranges of wealth. The middle classes change
their character , but they do not disappear from the social
(Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism 1899)

     Bernstein prefigured many subsequent attempts to refute
Marxism with his emphasis on shareholding and the growth of
income levels. In addition he added a theoretical agrument for
the growth of middle classes under capitalism. He argued that the
vast increase in productivity and hence wealth meant that the
capitalists could not consume it all. Nor could it be exported.
Hence he argued:
    " Where does this mass of commodities go which is not
consumed by the magnates and their stooges? If it is not to go to
the proletarians  in one way or another, it must be absorbed by
other classes. Either relative decrease in the number of
capitalists and increasing wealth of the proletariat, or a
numerous middle class-- these are the only alternatives permitted
by the continuous increase of productivity."
(Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism 1899)

     In a certain way Bernstein prefigures the Left wing of the
Socialist movement and the Bolsheviks on the issue of bribery of
certain strata of society, excepth Bernstein actually gives it a
reverse reformist twist as we shall see in a bit. He also gives
an under consumptionist theory in the process, but that is not
the issue we want to deal with here.
     It should be noted that mainly Bernstein is talking about
small proprietors, small to mid sized capitalists, and upper
independent professionals ie doctors and lawyers when he speaks
of middle classes. But he also notes the growth of the number of
technical, office, and sales personnel and government employees
whom he sees as developing 'a strong community of interests with
the workers'. He argued that 'the majority of them identify more
and more with the working class and should be added to it along
with their dependents."
     Now this view on the new middle class is not so different
from Kautsky's except that it is a bit more optimistic about the
pace of change. But Bernstein draws different conclusions from
tendency toward proletarianization of the new middle class of
office and professional workers. He argues against the idea that
the unity of the two classes could or should be achieved by the
acceptance of the new middle class that they were sinking to the
level of the proletariat and hence joining its movement.  In
stead he argued that:
"Social democracy does not wish to dissolve this society and make
proletarians of all its members. Rather it labors incessantly at
lifting the worker from the social position of the proletarian to
that of a 'bourgeois and thus to make bourgeoisie or citizenship
(The above quotes of Bernstein from Carter's book , Capitalism
Class conflict and the new middle class. Carter cites Peter Gay's
book The dilemma of Democratic Socialism as the source. We have
been unable to get this book as of yet. Although we have read
Evolutionary Socialism, we have not yet looked into  any other
works from Bernstein of this period. )

     Essentially Bernstein's view on how the interests of the
proletariat and the new middle class would merge was by a process
of proletarianization of the new middle class and
embourgeoisement of the workers and a tendency to intermarriage
between the two classes. Thus Bernstein's views were a system of
views for a reformist path for the workers and socialist
movement. The near future was to prove Bernstein quite wrong.
Society was indeed heading for great class upheavals. In the long
run social development has wiped out a very large section of the
small property owners. But in the prosperity of the Post World
War II world an outcome of embourgeoisement of large sections of
the working class combined with a great degree proletarianization
of sections of the office and technical workers has materialized.
However over the last 15 to 20 years embourgeoisement part of the
equation has again been undermined. But the fact of blurring of
the line between the new middle strata and the proletariat by the
dual action of the process of proletarianization of the lower
layers of the new middle strata and the relative embourgeoisement
of the later, the process of intermarriage betweeen the two
sectors and upward mobility from the proletariat still remain
although each of these factors has been undermined to a degree by
the continuing stagnation in the west. A certain aspect of
Bernstein's predictions has been verified for the time being, but
of course his main point of evolving to socialism has not been
proved at all. In fact the opposite.


     Lenin is the other great Marxist who has influenced views of
the Left on the question of the new middle class. Lenin supported
Kautsky in his debate with Bernstein and Kautsky's views on the
     In the 1890's Lenin had carried on a debate with the
Narodniks on the role of the intelligentsia. He gave classical
view that the Russian intelligentsia as a strata was a bourgeois
and petit bourgeois intelligentsia.
Thus Lenin wrote:

     "It was a mistake that arose naturally at a time when the
class antagonisms of bourgeois society were still quite
undeveloped and were held down by serfdom, when the latter was
evoking the unanimous protest and struggle of the entire
intelligentsia, the creating the illusion that there was
something particularly democratic about our intelligentsia, and
that there was no profound gulf between the ideas of the liberals
and the socialists. Now that economic development has
advanced.... The composition of the "intelligentsia" is assuming
just as clear an outline as that of society engaged in the
production of material values; while the latter is ruled and
governed by the capitalist, among the former the fashion is set
by the rapidly growing horde of careerist and bourgeois
hirelings, an intelligentsia" contented and satisfied, a stranger
to all wild fantasy and very well aware of what they want."
(Lenin Collected Works ,Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969 v1 pp.

     In responding to the Kautsky Bernstein debate Lenin endorsed
Kautsky's views on the middle nature of this strata as well as
the the tendency to proletarianization.

     "The chapter on the "new middle estate" is likewise
extremely interesting and for us Russians, particularly
instructive. If Bernstein had merely wanted to say that in place
of the declining petty producers a new middle estate, the
intelligentsia, is appearing, he would be perfectly correct, says
Kautsky, pointing out that he himself noted the importance of
this phenomenon several years before. In all spheres of people's
labor, capitalism increases the number of office and professional
workers with particular rapidity, and makes a growing demand for
intellectuals. The latter occupy a special position among the
other classes, attaching themselves partly to the bourgeoisie by
their connections, their outlooks,etc, and partly to the wage
workers as capitalism increasingly deprives the intellectual of
his independent position, converts him into a hired worker and
threatens to lower his living standard. The transitory, unstable
and contradictory position of that stratum of society now under
discussion is reflected in the particularly widespread diffusion
in its midst of hybrid, eclectic views, a farrago of contrasting
principles and ideas, an urge to rise verbally to the higher
spheres and to conceal the conflicts between the historical
groups of the population with phrases, all of which Marx lashed
with his sarcasm a half century ago."

note: The above quote is from a review of Kautsky's book:
Bernstein and the Social-Democratic Programme, a Counter
Critique.    Bernstein und das sozialdemokratische Programm, Eine

LCW v4. p.201-202.

                        Lenin on Bribery

     Lenin's further contribution to the analysis of this strata
was his view that the office, professional workers along with the
upper section of skilled workers and the classical petit
bourgeoisie were bribed out of the  superprofits the big
imperialist bourgeoisie made on it monopoly position and its
plunder of the colonies and poor countries.

"...Firstly chauvinism and opportunism in the labor movement have
the same economic basis: the alliance of a numerically small
upper stratum of the proletariat and the petit bourgeoisie-who
get but morsels of the privileges of their own national capital--
against the masses of the proletarians, the masses of the toilers
and the oppressed in general."
LCW v21 p 244
     "The bourgeoisie of an imperialist "Great" Power can
economically bribe the upper strata of "its" workers by spending
on this  a hundred million or so francs a year, for its
superprofits most likely amount to a thousand million. And how
this little sop is divided among the labor ministers, "labor
representatives" (remember Engels splendid analysis of the term),
labor members of war industries committees, labor officials,
workers belonging to narrow craft unions, office employees etc.
etc. is a secondary question."
LCW V23 p115

     Lenin has a major point here, the connection of imperialism
to the new middle strata and to the upper sections of the working
class. But it seems an overstatement to assign the political stand of
these strata so strongly to bribery from imperialist
superprofits. That such bribery exists and is a factor there is
no doubt. But the market position of skilled and mental labor,
the historical prejudices in favor of mental and skilled labor,
the fact that the professional and managerial workers perform
functions with a contradictory class role have a profound impact
on the class outlook of the middle strata regardless of
superprofit bribery. It would seem Lenin here was speaking as an
agitator in the middle of a big fight emphasizing the fact that
was important, not trying to be theoretically all sided.
     The main point Lenin was making of the upper sections of the
working class , the office workers and the petit bourgeoisie
forming the social base of opportunism in the socialist movement
has been born out many times. An interesting statistical
confirmation of this was provided by Schorske in his classic
study of the split in the German Social Democracy (German Social
Democracy, 1905-1917,The Development of the Great Schism. Harper
Touchbooks, 1972 pp136-145.) which showed that opportunist voting
patterns at German Social Democratic Party Congresses came from
the districts with a large peasant and small proprietor
electorate and from the largest cities which in Germany were
commercial and administrative centers with a large white collar
workforce (which at that time was very much a middle strata) and
white collar membership in the party. The medium sized cities was
where the mass production factory workers were located and they
were staunch centers of the German Left.

          Lenin overestimates the lower office workers

     In the period just before the October revolution Lenin put
forward views on the office workers that emphasized the aspect of
proletarianization. In fact it was a high estimate of the degree
of proletarianization of this strata that was a major part of
the basis for Lenin's confidence in the feasability of running
the economy through workers control plus soviets.

    " The chief difficulty facing the proletarian revolution is
the establishment on a countrywide scale of the most precise and
most conscientious accounting and control, of workers control of
production and distribution of goods....
     "....If it is the proletariat, if we are speaking  of a
proletarian state, that is, of the proletarian dictatorship, then
workers control can become the country wide, all embracing,
omnipresent, most precise and most conscientious accounting of
the production and distribution of goods...
     "The big banks are the 'state apparatus' which we need to
bring about socialism, and which we take ready made from
capitalism; our job is to lop off what capitalistically mutates
this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more
democratic, even more comprehensive. Quantity will be transformed
into quality. A single state bank ... with branches in every
rural district, in every factory, will constitute as much as 9
tenths of the socialist apparatus. This will be countrywide book-
keeping, country-wide accounting of the production and
distribution of goods, this will be, so to speak, something in
the nature of a skeleton of socialist society.
     "We can "lay hold of" and "set in motion" this "state
apparatus" (which is not fully a state apparatus under
capitalism, but will be so with us under socialism) at one
stroke, by a single decree, because the actual work of book-
keeping, control, registering, accounting and counting is
performed by employees the majority of whom themselves lead a
proletarian or semi-proletarian existence.
     "By a single decree of the proletarian government these
employees can and must be transfeered to the status of state
     "As for the higher officials, of whom there are very few,
but who gravitate toward the capitalists, they will have to be
dealt with the same way as the capitalists, i.e.,"severely"...
     "We can do this , for it is merely a question of breaking
the resistance of an insignificant minority of the population,
literally a handful of people, over each of whom the employee's
unions, the trade unions, the consumers societies and the Soviets
will institute such supervision that every Tit Titych will be
surrounded as the French were at Sedan. We know these Tit
Tityches by name: we have only to consult the lists of directors,
board members, large shareholders, etc. There are several
hundred, at most several thousand of them in the whole of Russia,
and the proletarian state with the apparatus of the Soviets, of
the employee's unions etc, will be able to appoint ten or even a
hundred supervisors to each of them, so that instead of "
breaking resistance it may be possible , by means of workers
control to make all resistance impossible.
(LCW v26 p104-107)

     But Lenin it turned out was overly optimistic in these
passages about the degree to which the office workers, even the
lowest sections would, actively join the proletariat. In actual
fact they did not. Even the telephone operators opposed Soviet
power and refused to cooperate. As a result to get the
cooperation of this strata, the Bolsheviks had to bribe the upper
strata of experts and managers. Workers control and red terror
was able to break the resistance of the upper managers and
bourgeoisie, but it was unable to render all resistance
impossible and thus secure cooperation without high salaries etc.
And these concessions to the experts made maintaining a high
level of mass involvement all the more difficult.

     After the seizure of power, there are numerous quotes in
Lenin's works about the vacilating nature of the working
intelligentsia who are willing to cooperate with the Soviet power
when it is strong and who swing to the counterrevolution or whine
when things go badly in the civil war.

     It is most unfortunate that any serious work by organized
Marxist parties on the question of the middle strata or even
changes in class structure stops after the WWI, October
revolution era. From this point as far as we can gather the
theoretical work on this question is left to the academic
sociologists, of Marxist, social democratic, neo weberian and
other ideological persuasions. From here we will review some of
the highlights of this research, theorizing and debate.

    Research and Debate in German Academic Circles 1900-1940

     Some of the most useful and interesting research and debate
took place in German academic circles between the turn of the
century and the 1930's. This debate is useful not only for the
ideas developed (many of which were proved wrong by subsequent
developments) but for the picture of development of the middle
strata and its role that the research and debate gives.

     Prior to WWI German non Marxist academicians emphasized the
importance of the peasants, artisans, shop keepers and
independent professions, ie the old classical Marxist petit-
bourgeoisie. After 1918 , this concern with non-proletarian
elements, focused increasingly on the roles of the middle class
in salaried employment. Important in this shift of emphasis were
Oswald Spengler, Ernst Niekishch and numerous contributors to the
periodical Die Tat. The "Tat" circle published numerous
investigations into the position of the new middle class,
including their relationship to fascism and to the working class.
     What united the theorists of the right was their conception
that the new middle class would act as a check against the
polarization of society. They saw the salaried workers as a third
force, independent of both capitalists and workers. Mediating
between increasingly concentrated capital on one hand and labor
on the other, the new middle class would bring an end to the
instability of the social system.
     Within this pespective the position of the salaried worker
was considered to be fundamentally different from that of the
manual wokrer, because the former performed  what were seen as
delegated entrepreneurial functions. The influence of this view
was very widespread among German white collar workers. The D.H.V
by far the largest and most right wing of the organizations of
salaried workers was particularly active in promoting this view.

     The debate on white collar workers was also reflected in
academic sociological circles. One of the most interesting of the
characters in the debate was Emil Lederer. In 1912 Lederer wrote
a book part of which was later translated into English under the
title of The Problem of the Modern Salaried Employee: Its
Theoretical and Statistical Basis.(WPA Project no. 165-6999-6027,
New York,1937. Cited by Carter in Capitalism, Class Conflict and
the New Middle Class.)

     In The Problem of the Modern Salaried Employee Lederer shared
the judgement of Bernsteinians that Marxism oversimplified the
stratafication of classes. He admitted that there was a process
of concentration of capital going on which reduced the number of
employers and increased the number of workers. But that the
process had other consequences as well namely emergence of a
class of technicians and who could not categorically be
classified as proletarians or as employers. In addition a
socially analagous strata of salaried workers had emerged in
commerce and in government.

     Lederer defined membership to this strata as people who
although wage laborers had work which was more intellectual than
manual but more definitive for Lederer was their middle position
between the industrial proletariat and the bourgeoisie. "This
middle position between the two classes-- a negative
characteristic--rather than definite technical functions, is the
social mark of the salaried employees and establishes on their
own consciousness and in the estimation of the community."
     Lederer did not deny that the salaried workers were far from
a homogeneous lot or that there was a tendency on the edges for
this strata to be absorbed into the proletariat on the bottom and
into the bourgeoisie on the top. Nevertheless he felt that these
tendencies did not preclude by any means the possibility that
salaried employees would more and more become an independent
group, not only on account of thier increasing numbers, but as a
result of their growing consciousness of their special interests.
     Thus Lederer's original views coincided a great deal with
those of Die Tat.
     Then in 1926 Lederer together with Jacob Marschak wrote
another work "Der Neue Mittelstand" in which while repeating
much of the earlier analysis stressing the common social position
between the two major classes of the time proletariat and
bourgeoisie, Lederman and Marshak this time give a different
description of where these strata are going. Lederer was very
much influenced in this second work by the radicalized mood in
German society following 1918 and the early Wiemar Republic.
     Lederer and Marschak noted that prior to 1918 the salaried
workers had primarily come from the "bourgeois strata" small
proprietors, independent professional strata, ruined businessmen
etc. According to Lederer and Marschak "...[until] recently, it
was possible for the salaried employee to attain a position
consistent with his abilities or to become himself an
independent. Such considerations foster among the employees those
tendencies which seek to check the material and social
degredation of their class and aim at the preservation of their
middle class standards of living and prestige." (from
Carter: Capitalism, Class Conflict... p 58)
     As the salaried employees began to organize, they had to
aknowledge thier status as employees, as wage laborers. Thus the
demands of the group had to take the form of a labor policy but
with a distinctly middle class character--such as a demand for a
seperate salaried employees state pension system, abrogating
clauses in contracts prohibiting people from going to work for
rival firms, safeguarding employees property rights to their
inventions etc. Lederer noted a wide variation in the degree to
which various sections organized seperately for their interests
as a middle class or strata, but pointed out that even the
technicians who were most influenced by the labor movement
staunchly rejected any cooperation with the manual workers trade
union movement as well as socialist ideology.
     But after the War and the crisis of 1918 the economic and
social conditions that had underpinned this seperate middle class
movement were dramatically undermined.
     "Proletarianization of the middle-class strata, which went
on at an unprecedented pace, and the raising of the social status
of the 'manual' worker, which brought him steadily closer to the
employee, proved stronger than any class tradition. The economic
conditions, the political changes, the recognition of the trade
unions and the abolition of all traditional conceptions of the
social order forced the employee organizations to adopt the aims
and methods of the labor unions. ...
     "The transformation of the whole employee movementafter 1918
had the additional effect of shifting the balance of power to the
more radical employee associations and of causing further changes
in their policies. Such changes were the replacement , in
associations of the policy of 'harmony' by a trade union policy,
and the infiltration of the formerly rejected socialist doctrines
into the radical organizations...What is still more important,
activities characteristic of the policy of labor unions-- such as
collective wage agreements and 'orgnaized labor's last resort',
the strike-- were finally adopted and practiced in the manner of
labor organizations. " "Der Neue Mittlestand" by Lederer and
Marshak 1926 cited in Bob Carters Capitalism, class conflict, and
the New Middle Class

     Ledherer did not regard these changes as temporary effects
of the immediate post war period, but regarded the allegiance of
the office employees to the working class movement to be part of
a longterm developmental process.

     "An intermediate position between the classes is no longer
possible and the fact of being employed in a dependent capacity
triumphs over all class and traditional restraints. The adoption
by the salaried employees and public officials of the aims and
methods of labor.... are expressive of the fact that a single
stratum of gainfully employed (if not a single organization) is
in the process of formation." ibid.

     No sooner however did Lederer and Marshak make such
predictions than the new middle strata swung more than any other
strata in society behind the  Nazis. In 1940 Lederer wrote
another work in which he returned to his original position of
seeing the new middle strata as a stabilizing force for
capitalism. Lederer's flip flops in assesment of the new middle
strata mirror the swings of this strata with the balance of class
forces in Germany. His errors highlight the dangers of taking any
transient position of any middle strata as its permanent
trajectory. The most prominent characteristic of a middle strata
is its propensity to vacilate to go with those who appear to be

     Probably the most balanced of the German academic theorists
was Hans Speir who pointed out that while economically the
salaried employees were members of the working class ie wage
laborers, they were seperated from the manual workers and played
a middle contradictory role. Speir was an academic who
sympathized with the SDP in the 20's and 30's.
     His work German White Collar Workers and the Rise of
Hitler written in 1933 and published in English in 1986 by Yale
University Press, is very useful for getting a picture of the
development of various sectors and strata of the white collar
workers and of the dominant psychology of German society in which
these developments take place. As well Speir traces the changing
political, economic and ideological attitudes of different
sections through the first three decades of the century.
     Speir raises a number of things that tend to seperate the
white collar workers from the manual workers:

1. The priviledge of superior education, though how superior
varies greatly.

2.  Sharing in the authority of the employer. As capitalism
developed the role of the capitalist in production and commerce
was replaced by organizations of employees. These employees to
one degree or another share in the authority and prestige of the
employer. There is of course a tendency with the growth of the
white collar employee strata for its proletarianization that more
of the functions become routinized, the employees become
extremely replacable and their wages fall to the level of the
manual workers and sometimes below. Speir also points out that
this tendency to proletarianization is generally associated with
feminization as well. Thus with proletarianization for the lower
section this authority and prestige becomes hugely diluted.
Meanwhile however he points out that there is a significant
countertrend: that the growth of the white collar strata creates
new opportunities to rise into managerial, specialist or
supervisory functions for male employees usually of more middle
class backgrounds. (At this time the lower strata of the white
collar workers were being heavily or even predominantly recruited
from the working class -eg retail clerks, office machine
operators, some what smaller degree among stenographers,
technicians, and higher level clerks. But engineers, professional
employees and government bureaucrats and higher managers were
still overwhelmingly recruited from bourgeois, independent
producer or professional, or official classes though less so than
when Kautsky wrote 30 years earlier.)

3.Masked class membership. Where as the factory production worker
feel clearly that the capitalist and his management organization
are the ones exploiting him or her and can see that his or her
fellow workers are in the same condition , the situation is much
less clear for the majority of white collar workers. The white
collar worker Speir points out is part of captitalist management
organization that is hierarchical in nature. Not only does this
organization in part organize the exploitation of the manual
workers with different degrees of participation in this process
of exploitation by different sections of the white collar
workers, many of whom may be quite far removed from that aspect,
but within the white collar workforce the hierarchical
organization makes it so that the workers experience their own
exploitation and oppression from the strata imediately above
while helping control, exploit and oppress to one degree or
another the office workers below them. In many official and non
official ways Speir says that this extends quite far down in even
the clerical workforce even to stenographers in his day. In big
offices he says he found only the office machine operators and
messengers to be entirely free of this contradictory position and
to have the clearest most objective assesment of the system of
     Speir pointed out that the situation was different for
retail clerks. They were not so much ensnared in a hierarchical
system. But most of their social activity on the job was acting
to one degree or another as a representative of the employer to
the buying public which they dealt with on a non class basis ie
the customer does not act as a worker or a capitalist in the act
of purchasing retail goods. This aspect of their work experience
tended to slow the growth of class consciousness among this
section although they were usually very exploited and oppressed
and very heavily working class women especially in the cities and
in the "one price stores"(apparently department stores).

4.The priviledge of their nationalism.  This seems a strange
formulation by Speir but it speaks of a phenomenon that was very
pronounced in Germany and exists to a degree in other countries.
In pre 1918 Germany, the dominant Junker aristocratic prejudices
defined the limits of the German nation at the border of the
manual proletariat. The proletariat was considered a dangerous
class, a class without national loyalty by definition, not just
because of the influence of Marxism, a class outside the German
nation and as such was segregated to great extent physically and
in the electoral system from the other classes. (No doubt this
clumsy policy contributed mightily to growth of socialism among
the German workers.) The white collar workers as wage laboring
employees existed just on the other side of that border and to be
forced over the border would be a great loss of prestige and

     Speir also chronicles the motion among different sectors of
the white collar workers. And this history verifies the analysis
of a middle strata with its lower edge merging with the
proletariat and its upper section with the bourgeoisie and a vast
middle section which vacilates.

     Before 1918-1919, the vast majority of white collar workers
were not organized. To the extent that they organized they joined
professional and office worker organizations that admitted
employers as well. The exception being a small section of factory
technicians and retail clerks who were organized into unions
affiliated with the SDP. There was also a section of technicians
who were organized into a union which believed in strikes and
collective action but also wanted to maintain its distance from
the unions and movement of the manual workers. But generally in
this strata there was not only hostility to the manual workers
but to the idea of collective strike action as being too
proletarian a weapon. The majority of office workers to the
extent that they were organized belonged to the DHV a reactionary
pro capitalist, anti semitic extreme nationalist organization
dominated by the upper sections. As well the stratafication
within the middle strata was also refected organizationally. When
the technicians formed their unions the Engineers formed a
society to distinguish themselves from the technicians and so on.

     WWI brought a tremendous fall in standard of living for the
white collar workers who actually fell to a lower standard of
living than a large section of the manual workers. General
disenchantement with the imperialist war grew as the suffering
grew. When the proletatian movement broke out in the last years
of the war the office workers were impressed and there was
widespread sympathy among the lower sections of white collar
workers. With the end of the war and the revolution of 1918-1919
there was a huge wave of unionization among the white collar
workers. Initially these workers streamed into the unions
affiliated with the USDP (which in this period was an alliance
between the centrists and the Communists) They were attracted to
radical politics. But as the height of revolutionary fervor ebbed
the affiliation with these unions fell off. The base of the more
left white collar unions remained among the technicians the
female retail sales clerks and the lower level mostly female
office workers and did not expand beyond this.  But through the
early 20's white collar workers continued to join various unions
but mainly the conservative and liberal unions. There was a sense
among the mass of especially male professional and middle and
upper clerical and accounting and managerial workers of being
caught between two large forces: the proletariat proper and the
bourgeoisie. The conservative and liberal unions appealed to this
sense of being in the middle and organized for the interests of
the middle as opposed to joining the lower mass. Even the DHV, by
the far the largest white collar union federation was compelled
to recognize the need for strikes, but it was opposed to the idea
that the office workers and manual workers were of the same class
or should have solidarity with the manual workers struggle,
unions or parties. The DHV and GDA representing 75 per cent of
the white collar workers fought bitter battles for seperate
representation of white collar workers on factory councils, for
seperate social insurance for salaried workers and so on. They
continued to push a nationalist male chauvinist and anti semitic
line (The DHV much more so than the GDA).

     As the SD led Weimar Republic fell into deeper crisis in the
late 20's and as the Communists were unable to rally the working
class decisively behind a revolutionary policy away from the SDP,
the majority of the white collar workers moved to the right. They
faced growing uncertainty in life and yet they had no confidence
that the proletariat could lead society out of its crisis. So
they turned to the Nazis and the right in general. The Nazis had
enormous appeal to this strata. They recruited from the upper and
middle sections of the white collar workers per capita more than
from any other section of the population 2 times the rate as from
the small farmers and almost 4 times the rate among the manual
workers, even though the latter faced astronomical unemployment
more than twice as high as among the office workers. By the late
20's early 30's the DHV leaders were all Nazis or Nazi
sympathizers. The GDA too moved to the right. Only the Alpha Bund
unions of technicians, and retail clerks and lowest female office
workers stayed to the left or center. They were affiliated with
the SDP but actually maintained positions to the left of SDP and
the SDP unions of manual workers. (There were no KDP unions of
office workers but then there were only 35,000 manual workers in
red trade unions.)

     This history should give pause to anyone who gets excited
about the pace of proletarianization of the middle strata. We can
see in Germany only the lowest level of clerical, technical and
retail trade workers went very far to the left and stayed there
while the professional, managerial upper and middle clerical may
have temporarily moved somewhat to the left but as the crisis
deepened and the proletariat proved incapable of winning went to
the extreme right. This strata resists its proletarianization
with frequent detours into right wing politics ala Hitler or
Perot or Reaganism. Bringing the even the lower majority of this
section with the movement of the lower mass would require an
extremely strong movement of the lower mass and the
disintegration of the bourgeois order.

     It should also be born in mind from Speirs points on
contradictory class position and masked class membership what the
sinking of sections of the middle strata into the proletariat
means for the composition attitudes and consciousness and
cohesion of the proletarian lower mass, ie what influences from
their previous middle strata existence they bring as a mass into
the consciousness of the proletariat as a whole. Thus, future
work will have to pay particular attention to the post WWII
social research on the condition and outlooks of the clerical and
lower technical workers and their role in the political and
economic struggles in which they have participated.

                      Some concluding thoughts.

     The materials reviewed above cannot help us have a
definitive answer on whether the new middle strata form a
seperate class, form varieated strata between the working class
and the owning bourgeois class or form a house servant labor
aristocrat type section of the working class. Yet the materials
from Marx, Kautsky, Lenin and the German authors do give us a
basis to understand the contradictions in the social position of
the segments of this strata which give rise to its conservative
and vacilating political positions. As well the history reviewed
should give pause to any illusions of straightline
proletarianization and left radicalization of these strata or
sections of them. In fact vacilations and rightwing politics are
frequently to be expected.

     The insights of Marx, Kautsky and the documentation of Speir
give us some idea of the factors giving rise to the growth of
this strata, the growing complexity and scope of capitalist
production, distribution and finance, the management of the
contradictions in society etc. At the same time they also point
out a trend of routinization and proletarianization of functions
and sectors of this strata. Thus both a tendency for a growth of
the middle strata and a tendency for its bottom layers to get
proletarianized and sink into the proletariat. As pointed out in
the introduction in 1900 white collar office workers--managers,
professionals and clerks-- accounted for 15 per cent of the
economically active population. Today they account for over 50
per cent. But most clerical workers are now women and their
position has become very proletarianized and most certainly they
jobs are no longer a route to management. But meanwhile the more
clearly middle strata professional/managerial occupations have
grown to 25 per cent of the economically active population. The
same trends will continue within this middle strata. For example,
the functions of the engineer are increasingly being broken down
into more routine, less responsible functions performed by
technicians and the more professional managerial functions
performed by graduate engineers. Thus the technician occupations
are growing twice as fast as engineer jobs. A similar
differentiation is taking place in the  registered nurse
occupation. Thus it would seem that at a certain point the
process of the growth and of middle strata core and the process
of the shedding of the lower layers of the middle strata should
reach an equilibrium.

     Such a stabilization has great importance for the
development of class consciousness of the lower strata. So long
as the middle strata grows above its internal replacement rate,
there is considerable room for upward mobility out of the working
class. And that factor has great effect on consciousness of the
workers of their position as a hereditary class. (Engels pointed
out a similar circumstance as a major factor inhibiting the
emergence of a proletarian movement among the pre-industrial
proletariat in Britian). In fact there has been considerable
narrowing of the channels for upward mobility out of the working
class over the last 15 years. Moreover even the position of a
large section of professionals has become much more insecure with
the restructuring of industry and government. How far this will
go is an open question. There are already politicians and even
business leaders expressing concern over the effect of
restricting access to education and elimination of the higher
paying jobs on social stability. At certain point resistance from
the poor, from sections of workers, from, many interests is bound
to come up.

     But the policies embodied in Gingrichism, restructuring etc
are not just a whim. To a certain extent they are being forced on
American and other Western captialist establishments by the
changes in the world economy. These include a decades long real
stagnation of Western economies and much of the third world
combined with the rapid growth of industrialization in Asia,
which is causing intense price and wage competition and
forcing up unemployment throughout the West. We have previously
seen this competition from Japan and the Asian Tigers, but now
China and even India and Indonesia are growing at phenomenal
rates and their weight in the world economy is becoming major.
According to World Bank estimates, China's economy will be larger
than the US economy in just 9 years (The Economist, October 1,
1994) This change in the world market is bound to keep up intense
pressure on wages in the higher wage countries and not just on
industrial and non-professional wages for several decades. In
addition the tighter world market, the nearly instantaneous flows
of capital around the world, and the changing relations of power
among the various capitalist-imperialist powers make for great
problems for capitalism to maintain its stability. Thus although
the finding of a delicate balance that will maintain sufficient
stability cannot be ruled out, there are major factors at work
for the hardening of social stratification and for the eventual
reemergence of working class political movements.
     But it should not be considered that such a process will be
quick or even. It will take a number of decades for the lower
mass to become conscious that they are a class and a force. It
will take time for the masses to shed the illusions of the Post
WWII prosperity, to shed the "we are all middle class" illusions,
for the more dispersed office, service and now even industrial
workers to find new centers, forms and hooks for organizing.
Meanwhile we can expect a great deal of pain and suffering from
right wing movements of hysterical members of the middle strata
and upper sections of the working class who strive to maintain
their previous relatively priviledged position by attacking the
lower mass of workers and the poor by falling for various race
baiting schemes and vicious national chauvinism. Indeed
capitalist politics world wide is playing this right wing card to
divert the growing anger in society. And yet unless the
capitalists can find some way to stabilize their system
sufficiently to stop the deterioration of conditions for the
lower middle strata and the upper sections of workers, race
baiting, and scapegoating in general must eventually get pretty
hollow.  One way or another the fight against racism and rabid
nationalism will play a major part in the reemergence of a
new working class movement.

     --- from list marxism at ---


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