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.

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