Lenin and labour aristocracy

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at cqu.edu.au
Mon Nov 11 06:19:35 MST 2002

Dear MM

Can someone clarify something about the Labour Aristocracy
thesis for me?  One comrade here has got me re-reading some
Marxist economics and thinking about the economics of the
thesis, which has always sounded a bit conspiratorial to me.

1. What relations does the thesis bear to the Marxist theory of
value ie workers are paid at socially necessary labour time
for their reproduction. In the West they are paid higher
wages because their contribution (ie their productivity is
higher than in the Third World). An labour aristocracy would
be the result of higher productivity of labour resulting in
higher living standards such that certain workers will
accomodate to the system from which they have won gains.

2. Lenin saw the thesis as a way of explaining the betrayal
of German social democracy in 1914. Up to then he saw them
more or less as revolutionary Marxists at least I suppose so
given his well-know surprise when they voted for war credits.
On reflection then when did he decide they had gone off the
rails? He looked to Kautsky as a genuine Marxist (as most did)
who went renegade. At what point then did this occur or was it
in embryo from early on?

3. Lenin saw in his Imperialism thesis (which is the other side
of the labour aristocracy) that capitalism had entered a period
of "wars and revolutions" which he decribed as a "era of capitalist
decay" while this looked plausible in the 1920s and Trotsky I
understand made similar predictions about the end of capitalism
after WW2 it is clear retrospect that what happened after was
not decay or decline let alone collapse but the 'long-boom' and
capitalist stability. Doesn't this imply that these ideas need
some recalibrating?



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