Karl Kautsky

The Class Struggle


1. From Apprentice to Proletarian

We have seen that the capitalist system of production implies the separation of the laborer from the means of production. On the one side there is the capitalist, who owns the machine, and on the other the proletarian, who does the work.

Originally it took forcible methods to secure the supply of proletarians necessary to this system. Today, however, such methods are no longer necessary. The economic power of the system has become sufficient to accomplish the desired result without breaking the law of private property. In fact, it is by the operation of this law that every year a sufficient number of farmers and independent craftsmen are given the choice between starvation and work in the factories.

That the number of the proletariat is steadily on the increase is such a palpable fact that no one attempts to deny it, not even those who would make us believe that society today rests on the same basis as it did a hundred years ago, and who try to paint the picture of the small producer in rosy colors. Indeed a change has taken place in the make-up of society, just as it has in the system of production. The capitalist form of production has overthrown all others, and become the dominant one in the field of industry; similarly wage-labor is today the dominant form of labor. A hundred years ago the farming peasantry took the first place; later, the small city industrialists; today it is the wage-earner.

In all civilized countries the proletarians are today the largest class; it is their condition and modes of thought that tend to control those of all the other divisions of labor. This implies a complete revolution in the condition and thought of the bulk of the population. The conditions of the proletariat differ radically from those of all former categories of labor. The small farmer, the artisan, the small producers generally, were the owners of the product of their labor by reason of their ownership of the means of production. The product of the labor of the proletarian does not belong to him, it belongs to the capitalist, to the owner of the requisite instruments of production. True enough, the proletarian is paid by the capitalist, but the value of his wages is far below that of his product.

When the capitalist in industry purchases the only commodity which the proletarian can offer for sale, that is, his labor-power, he does so for the sole purpose of utilizing it in a profitable way. The more the working-man produces, the larger the value of his product. If the capitalist were to work his employees only long enough to produce the worth of the wages he pays them, he would clear no profits. But his capital cries for profits and finds in him a willing listener. The longer the time is extended during which the workmen labor in the service of the capitalists, over and above the time needed to cover their wages, the larger is the value of their product, the larger is the surplus over and above the capitalist outlay in wages, and the larger is the per cent of exploitation to which these workmen are subjected. This exploitation of labor finds a limit only in the powers of endurance of the working people and in the resistance they may be able to offer to their exploiters.

In capitalist production, the capitalist and the wage-earner are not fellow-workers, as were the employer and employed in previous industrial epochs. The capitalist soon develops into, and remains, essentially a merchant. His activity, in so far as he is at all active, limits itself, like that of the merchant, to the operations of the market. His labors consist in purchasing as cheaply as possible the raw material, labor power and other essentials, and selling the finished products as dearly as possible. Upon the field of production itself he does nothing except to secure the largest quantity of labor from the workmen for the least possible amount of wages, and thereby to squeeze out of them the largest possible quantity of surplus values. In his relation to his employees he is not a fellow-worker, he is only a driver and exploiter. The longer they work, the better off he is; he is not tired out if the hours of labor are unduly extended; he does not perish if the method of production becomes a murderous one. The capitalist is vastly more reckless of the life and safety of his operatives than the master-workman of former times. Extension of the hours of labor, abolition of holidays, introduction of night labor, damp and overheated factories filled with poisonous gases, such are the “improvements” which the capitalist mode of production has introduced for the benefit of the working-class.

The introduction of machinery increases still further the danger to life and limb for the working-man. The machine system fetters him to a monster that moves perpetually with a gigantic power and with insane speed. Only the closest, never-flagging attention can protect the workingman attached to such a machine from being seized and broken by it. Protective devices cost money; the capitalist does not introduce them unless he is forced to do it. Economy being the much vaunted virtue of the capitalist, he is constrained by it to save room and to squeeze as much machinery as possible into the workshop. What cares he that the limbs of his working-men are thereby endangered? Working-men are cheap, but large, airy workshops are dear.

There is still another respect in which the capitalist employment of machinery lowers the condition of the working-class. It is this: the tool of the mechanic of former times was cheap and it was subject to few changes that would render it useless. It is otherwise with the machine; in the first place, it costs money, much money; in the second place, if through improvements in the system it becomes useless, or if it is not used to its full capacity, it will bring loss instead of profit to the capitalist. Again, the machine is worn out, not only through use, but through idleness. Furthermore, the introduction of science into production constantly causes new discoveries and inventions to take the place of the old ones. So, because they cannot compete with the improved machinery, now this machine, now that, and often whole factories at once, are rendered useless before they have been used to their full extent. Therefore, every machine is in danger of being made useless before it is used up; this is sufficient ground for the capitalist to utilize his machine as quickly as possible from the moment he puts it in operation. In other words, the capitalist application of the system of machinery is a spur that drives the capitalist to extend the hours of labor as much as possible, to carry on production without interruption, to introduce the system of night and day shifts, and, accordingly, to make of the unwholesome night work a permanent system.

At the time the system of machinery began to develop, some idealists declared the golden age was at hand; the machine was to release the working-man and render him free. In the hands of the capitalist, however, the machine has made the burden of labor unbearable.

But in the matter of wages, also, the condition of the wage-earner is worse than that of the medieval apprentice. The proletarian, the workman of today, does not eat at the table of the capitalist; he does not live in the same house. However wretched his home may be, however miserable his food, nay, even though he famish, the well-being of the capitalist is not disturbed by the sickening sight. The words wages and starvation used to be mutually exclusive; the free working-man formerly could starve only when he had no work. Whoever worked earned wages, he had enough to eat, starvation was not his lot. For the capitalist system was reserved the unenviable distinction of reconciling these two opposites-wages and starvation – raising starvation-wages into a permanent institution, even into a prop of the present social system.

2. Wages

Wages can never rise so high as to make it impossible for the capitalist to carry on his business and to live from the profits of it; under such circumstances it would be more profitable for the capitalist to give up his business. Consequently, the wages of the working-man can never rise high enough to equal the value of his product. They must always be below that, so as to leave a surplus; it is only the prospect of a surplus that moves the capitalist to purchase labor power. It is therefore evident that under the capitalist system the wages of the workmen can never rise high enough to put an end to the exploitation of labor.

The surplus which the capitalist class appropriates is larger than is usually imagined. It covers not only the profits of the manufacturer, but many other items that are usually credited to the cost of production and exchange. It covers, for instance, rent, interest on loans, salaries, merchant’s profits, taxes, etc. All these have to be subtracted from the surplus, that is, the excess of the value of the product over the wages of the working-man. It is evident that this surplus must be a considerable one if a concern is to “pay.” It is clear that the wages of the working-man cannot rise high enough to be even approximately equal to the value of his profit. The capitalist system means under all circumstances the exploitation of the wage-workers. It is impossible to abolish this exploitation without abolishing the system itself. And the exploitation must be great even where wages are high.

But wages rarely reach the highest point which even these circumstances would permit; more often they are found to be nearer to the lowest possible point. This point is reached when the wages do not supply the workman with even the barest necessities. When the workman not only starves, but starves rapidly, all work is at an end.

The wages swing between these two extremes. The less the necessities of the workman, the larger the supply of labor on the market, and the slighter the capacity of the working-man for resistance, the lower wages sink.

In general, wages must be high enough to keep the working-man in a condition to work, or, to speak more accurately. they must be high enough to secure to the capitalist the measure of labor-power which he needs. In other words, wages must be high enough, not only to keep the working-men in a condition to work, but also in a condition to produce children to replace them.

Now industrial development exhibits a tendency, most pleasing to the capitalist, to lower the necessities of the working-man and to decrease his wages in proportion.

There was a time when skill and strength were requisites for a working-man. The period of apprenticeship was long, the cost of training considerable. Now, however, the progress made in the division of labor and the introduction of machinery render skill and strength in production more and more superfluous; they make it possible to substitute unskilled and cheap workmen for skilled ones; and, consequently, to put weak women and even children in the place of men. In the early stages of manufacturing this tendency is already perceptible; but not until machinery is introduced into production do we find the wholesale exploitation of women and children - the most helpless among the helpless.

Originally, the wage-earner had to earn wages high enough to defray, not only his own expenses, but also those of his family, in order to enable him to propagate himself and to bequeath his labor power to others. Without this process the heirs of the capitalists would find no proletarians ready made for exploitation.

When, however, the wife and young children of the working-man are able to take care of themselves, the wages of the male worker can safely be reduced to the level of his own personal needs without the risk of stopping the fresh supply of labor power.

The labor of women and children, moreover, affords the additional advantage that these are less capable of resistance than men; and their introduction into the ranks of the workers increases tremendously the quantity of labor that is offered for sale in the market.

Accordingly, the labor of women and children not only lowers the necessities of the workingman, it also diminishes his capacity for resistance in that it overstocks the market; owing to both these circumstances it lowers the wages of the working-man.

3. Dissolution of the Proletarian Family

The participation of women in industrial pursuits means the total destruction of the family life of the working-man without substituting for it a higher form of the family relation. The capitalist system of production does not in most cases destroy the single household of the working-man, but robs it of all but its unpleasant features. The activity of woman today in industrial pursuits does not mean to her freedom from household duties; it means an increase of her former burdens by a new one. But one cannot serve two masters. The household of the working-man suffers whenever his wife must help to earn the daily bread. Present society offers, in the place of the individual household which it destroys, only miserable substitutes; soup-houses and day-nurseries, where crumbs of the physical and mental sustenance of the rich are cast to the lower classes.

Socialists are charged with an intent to abolish the family. We do know that every system of production has had a special form of household to which corresponds a special system of family relationship. We do not consider the existing form of the family the highest possible, and we do expect that a new and improved social system will develop a new and higher form of family relationship. But to hold this view is a very different thing from trying to dissolve all family bonds. Those who do destroy the family bonds – who not only mean to, but actually do destroy them right under our eyes – are not the Socialists, but the capitalists. Many a slave-holder has in former times torn husband from wife and parents from children, but the capitalists have improved upon the abominations of slavery; they tear the infant from the breast of its mother and compel her to entrust it to strangers’ hands. And yet a society in which hundreds of thousands of such Instances are a daily occurrence, a society whose upper classes promote “benevolent” institutions for the purpose of making easy the separation of the mothers from their babies, such a society has the effrontery to accuse the Socialists of trying to abolish the family, because they, basing their opinion on the fact that the family has ever been one of the reflexes of the system of production, foresee that further changes in that system must also result in a more perfect family relationship.

4. Prostitution

Hand in hand with the accusation on the subject of family bonds goes the charge that Socialists aim at community of wives. This charge is as false as the other. Socialists, on the contrary, maintain that ideal love, just the reverse of a community of wives and of all sexual oppression and license, will be the foundation of matrimonial connections in a Socialist Commonwealth, and that pure love can prevail only in such a social system. What, on the other hand, do we see today?

Helpless women, forced to earn their living in factories, shops and mines, fall a prey to capitalist cupidity. The capitalist takes advantage of their inexperience, offers them wages too slight for their support, and hints at, or even brazenly suggests, prostitution as a means of supplementing their income. Everywhere the increase of female labor in industry is accompanied by an increase in prostitution. In the modern state where Christianity is so devoutedly preached, many a thriving branch of industry is found where working-women are paid so poorly that they would be compelled to starve did they not prostitute themselves. And the capitalists declare that the ability to compete, the prosperity of their industry, depend upon these low wages. Higher wages would ruin them.

Prostitution is as old as the contrast between rich and poor. At one time, however, prostitutes were a middle class between beggars and thieves; they were then an article of luxury in which society indulged but the loss of which would in no way have endangered its existence. To-day, however, it is no longer the females of the slums, alone, but working-women, who are compelled to sell their bodies for money. This latter sale is no longer simply a matter of luxury; it has become one of the foundations upon which production is carried on. Under the capitalist system prostitution becomes a pillar of society. What the defenders of this social system falsely charge Socialists with is the very thing they are guilty of themselves. Community of wives is a feature of capitalism. Indeed, such a deep root has this system of community of wives taken in modern society that its representatives agree in declaring prostitution to be a necessary thing. They cannot understand that the abolition of the proletariat implies the abolition of prostitution. So deep are they sunk in intellectual stagnation that they cannot conceive a social system without community of wives.

Community of wives is an invention of the upper classes of society, never of the proletariat. The community of wives is one of the modes of exploiting the proletariat; it is not Socialism, it is the exact opposite of Socialism.

5. The Industrial Reserve Army

We have seen that the introduction of female and child-labor in industry is one of the most powerful means whereby the capitalists reduce the wages of working-men. There is, however, another means which, periodically, is just as powerful. This is the introduction of workingmen from regions that are backward and whose population has slight wants, but whose labor-power has not yet been sapped by the factory system. The development of machinery makes possible, not only the employment of such untrained working-men in the place of trained ones, but also their cheap and prompt transportation to the place where they are wanted. Hand in hand with the development of production goes the system of transportation; colossal production corresponds to colossal transportation, not only of merchandise, but also of persons. Steamships and railroads, these much-vaunted pillars of civilization, not only carry guns, liquor and syphilis to barbarians, they also bring the barbarians and their barbarism to us. The flow of agricultural laborers into the cities is becoming constantly stronger; and from ever farther regions are the swarms of those drawing near who have fewer wants, are more patient and offer less resistance. There is a constant stream of emigration from one country of Europe to another, from Europe to America and even from the Orient to western lands. These foreign workers are partly expropriated people, small farmers and producers, whom the capitalist system of production has ruined, driven on the street and deprived not only of a home, but also of a country. Look at these numberless emigrants and ask whether it is Socialism which robs them of their country.

Through the expropriation of the small producers, through the importation from distant lands of large masses of labor, through the use of the labor of women and children, through the shortening of the time necessary to acquire a trade, – through all these means the capitalist system of production is able to increase stupendously the quantity of labor forces at its disposal. And side by side with this goes a steady increase in the productivity of human labor as a result of the uninterrupted progress in the technical arts.

Simultaneously with these tendencies the machine tends steadily to displace workmen and render them superfluous. Every machine saves labor-power; unless it did that, it would be useless. In every branch of industry the transition from hand to machine labor is accompanied by the greatest suffering to the working-men who are affected by it. Whether they are factory workers or independent craftsmen, they are made superfluous by the machine and thrown out upon the streets. It was this effect of machinery that the workingmen felt first. Many riots during the first year of the nineteenth century attest the suffering which the transition from hand to machine labor, or the introduction of new machinery, inflicts upon the working-class and the despair to which they are driven thereby. The introduction of machinery, as well as its subsequent improvement, is always harmful to certain divisions of labor. True enough, under some conditions other working-men, for instance, those who make the machines, may profit by it. But it may be doubted whether a consciousness of this fact affords much comfort to those who are starving.

Every new machine causes as much to be produced as before by fewer workmen, or larger production with no increase in the number of workmen. From this it follows that, if the number of workmen employed in a country does not decrease with the development of the system of machinery, the market must be extended in proportion to the increased productivity of these workers. But since the economic development increases the productivity of labor at the same time that it increases the quantity of disposable labor, it follows that, in order to prevent enforced idleness among workmen, the market must be extended at a much more rapid pace than that at which the productivity of labor is increased by the machine. Such a rapid extension of the market has, however, rarely occurred under the rule of capitalist production. Therefore, enforced idleness is a permanent phenomenon under the capitalist system of production, and is inseparable from it. Even in the best times when the market suddenly undergoes a considerable extension and business is brisk, production is not able to furnish work for all the unemployed. During bad times, however, when business is at a standstill, their number reaches enormous proportions. They constitute, with the workers of superfluous small concerns, a great army, “the industrial reserve army,” as Marx called it, an army of labor forces that stands ever ready at the disposal of the capitalist, an army out of which he can draw his reserves whenever the industrial campaign grows hot.

To the capitalist this reserve army is invaluable. It places in his hands a powerful weapon with which to curb the army of the employed. After excessive work on the part of some has produced lack of work for others, then the idleness of these is used as a means to keep up, and even increase, the excessive work of the former. And yet there are people who will contend that matters are today arranged in the best possible way!

Although the size of the industrial reserve army rises and falls with the ups and downs of business, nevertheless, on the whole it shows a steady tendency to increase. This is inevitable. The technical development moves on at a constantly increasing pace and steadily extends its field of operations, while, on the other hand, the extension of the markets is hemmed in by natural limits.

What, then, is the full significance of lack of work? It signifies not only want and misery to the unemployed, not only intensified servitude and exploitation to the employed; it signifies also uncertainty of livelihood for the whole working class. Whatever hardships former modes of exploitation inflicted upon the exploited, one boon was left them: the certainty of a livelihood. The sustenance of the serf and the slave was assured at least during the life of the master himself. Only when the master perished was the life of his dependents in peril. Whatever amount of misery and want afflicted the people under former systems of production, it never resulted from production itself; it was the result of a disturbance of production, brought on by failure of crops, droughts, floods, invasions of hostile armies, etc.

Today the existence of the exploiter is not bound up in that of the exploited. At any moment the workman, with his wife and children, can be thrown upon the street and given over to starvation without the exploiter, whom he has made rich, being the worse for it.

The misery of enforced idleness is today rarely the result of a disturbance in production caused by outside influences; it is the necessary result of the development of the present system of production. Just the reverse happens of what occurred under the former systems of production; disturbances of production often improve the opportunities for work rather than lessening them; remember the results of the war of 1870 upon the industrial life of Germany and France in the years immediately following.

Under our former system of production on a small scale the income of the worker was in proportion to his industry. Laziness ruined him and finally threw him out of work. Today, on the contrary, unemployment becomes greater the harder and the longer the workman toils; he brings enforced idleness upon himself through his own labor. Among the many maxims from the world of small production which capitalist large production has reversed is: “A man’s industry is his fortune.”

Labor-power is no more a shield against want and misery than is property. As the specter of bankruptcy hovers always over the small farmer and the craftsman, so the specter of unemployment hovers always over the wage-earner. Of all the ills which attend the present system of production the most trying, that which harrows men’s souls deepest and pulls up by the roots every instinct of conservatism, is the permanent uncertainty of a livelihood. This constant uncertainty as to one’s own condition undermines one’s belief in the permanence of the existing order and one’s interest in its preservation. Whoever is kept in eternal fear by the existing order loses all fear of a new one.

Excessive work, lack of work, the destruction of the family – these are the gifts that the capitalist system of production brings to the proletariat, and at the same time it forces more and more of the population into proletarian conditions of living.

6. The Increase of the Proletariat. Mercantile and Educated Proletariat

It is not only through the extension of large production that the capitalist system causes the condition of the proletariat to become more and more that of the whole population. It brings this about also through the fact that the condition of the wage-earner engaged in large production strikes the keynote for the condition of the wage-earners in all other branches. The conditions under which the latter work and live are revolutionized; the advantages which they may have had over those engaged in capitalist industry are turned into so many disadvantages under the influence of the latter. To illustrate: Where, for example, the craftsman still boards and lives with his master, this arrangement becomes a means of forcing him to be content with even poorer board and lodging than those of the wage-earner who carries on his own household.

There is another and very extensive domain in which the capitalist system of large production tends to turn the population into proletarians – the domain of commerce. The large stores are already bearing heavily upon the smaller ones. The number of small stores does not, for that reason, diminish. On the contrary, it increases. The small store is the last refuge of the bankrupt small producer. Were the small stores actually crowded out, the ground would be wholly taken from under the feet of the small traders; they would then be thrust forthwith below the class of the proletariat – into the slums; they would be turned into beggars, vagabonds and candidates for the penitentiary – a wonderful social reform!

But it is not in the reduction of the number of small stores, it is in the debasement of their character that the influence of large production manifests itself in commerce. The small trader deals in ever worse and cheaper goods; his life becomes more precarious, more proletarian. In the large stores, on the contrary, there is constant increase in the number of employees – genuine proletarians without prospect of ever becoming independent. Child labor, the labor of women, with its accompaniment of prostitution, excessive work, lack of work, starvation wages – all the symptoms of large production – appear also in increasing quantity in the domain of commerce. Steadily the condition of the employees in this department approaches that of the proletarians in the department of production. The only difference perceptible between the two is that the former preserve the appearances of a better living, which require sacrifices unknown to the industrial proletarians.

There is still a third category of proletarians that has gone far on the road to its complete development – the educated proletarians. Education has become a special trade under our present system. The measure of knowledge has increased greatly and grows daily. Capitalist society and the capitalist state are increasingly in need of men of knowledge and ability to conduct their business, in order to bring the forces of nature under their power. But not only the hard-working small farmer, mechanic or the proletarian in general have no time to devote themselves to science and art; the merchant, the manufacturer, the banker, the stock-jobber, the landlord – all are in the same situation. Their whole time is taken up with their business and their pleasures. In modern society it is not, as it used to be under previous social orders, the exploiters themselves, or at least a class of them, who foster the arts and sciences. The present exploiters, our ruling class, leave these pursuits to a special class whom they keep in hire. Under this system education becomes a merchandise.

A hundred years or so ago this commodity was rare. There were few schools; study was accompanied with considerable expense. So long as small production could support him, the worker stuck to it; only special gifts of nature or favorable circumstances would cause the sons of the workers to dedicate themselves to the arts and sciences. Though there was an increasing demand for teachers, artists and other professional men, the supply was definitely limited.

So long as this condition of things lasted, education commanded a high price. Its possession produced, at least for those who applied it to practical ends, very comfortable livings; not infrequently it brought honor and fame. The artist, the poet, the philosopher, were, in monarchical countries, the companions of royalty. The aristocracy of intellect felt itself superior to the aristocracy of birth or money. The only care of such was the development of their intellect. Hence it happened that people of culture could be, and often were, idealists. These aristocrats of education and culture stood above the other classes and their material aspirations and antagonisms. Education meant power, happiness and worth. The conclusion seemed inevitable that in order to make all men happy and worthy, in order to banish all class antagonisms, all poverty, all wickedness and meanness out of the world, nothing else was needed than to spread education and culture.

Since those days the development of higher education has made immense progress. The number of institutions of learning has increased wonderfully, and in a still larger degree, the number of pupils. In the meantime the bottom has been knocked out of small production. The small property holder knows today no other way of keeping his sons from sinking into the proletariat than sending them to college; and he does this if his means will at all allow. But, furthermore, he must consider the future not only of his sons, but also of his daughters. The development in the division of labor is rapidly encroaching on the household; it is converting one household duty after another into a special industry, and steadily diminishing household work. Weaving, sewing, knitting, baking, and many other occupations that at one time filled up the round of household duties, have been either wholly or partially withdrawn from the sphere of housekeeping. As a result of all this, marriage in which the wife is to be the housekeeper only, is becoming more and more a matter of luxury. But it so happens that the small property holder and producer is at the same time sinking steadily, and steadily becoming poorer; more and more he loses the means to indulge in luxury. In consequence of this the number of unmarried women increases, and ever larger is the number of those families in which mother and daughter must become wage-earners. Accordingly the number of women wage-earners increases, not only in large and small production and commerce, but in government offices, in the telegraph and telephone service, in railroads and banks, in the arts and sciences. However loudly personal interests and prejudices may rebel against it, the labor of women presses itself forward more and more into the various professional pursuits. It is not vanity, nor forwardness nor arrogance, but the force of economic development that drives women to labor in these as well as in other fields of human activity. If men have succeeded in preventing the competition of women in certain branches of intellectual labor which are still organized on craft lines, women workers tend to crowd all the more into the pursuits not so organized, for example, authorship, painting, music.

The result of this whole development is that the number of educated people has increased enormously. Nevertheless, the beneficent results which the idealists expected from an increase of education have not followed. So long as education is a merchandise, its extension is equivalent to an increase in the quantity of that merchandise, consequently to the falling in its price and the decline in the condition of those who possess it. The number of educated people has grown to such an extent that it more than suffices for the wants of the capitalists and the capitalist state. The labor market of educated labor is today as overstocked as the market of manual labor. It is no longer the manual workers alone who have their reserve army of the unemployed and are afflicted with lack of work; the educated workers also have their reserve army of idle, and among them also lack of work has taken up its permanent quarters. The seekers for public office find that avenue of employment crowded. Those who seek openings elsewhere experience the extremes of idleness and excessive work just as do the manual workers, and like them are the victims of wage-slavery.

The condition of the educated workers deteriorates visibly; formerly people spoke of the “aristocracy of intellect,” today we speak of the “intellectual” or “educated” proletariat.

The time is near when the bulk of these proletarians will be distinguished from the others only by their pretensions. Most of them still imagine that they are something better than proletarians. They fancy they belong to the bourgeoisie, just as the lackey identifies himself with the class of his master. They have ceased to be the leaders of the capitalist class and have become rather their defenders. Place-hunting takes more and more of their energies. Their first care is, not the development of their intellect, but the sale of it. The prostitution of their individuality has become their chief means of advancement. Like the small producers, they are dazzled by the few brilliant prizes in the lottery of life; they shut their eyes to the numberless blanks in the wheel and barter away soul and body for the merest chance of drawing such a prize. The barter and sale of one’s convictions and the marriage for money are, in the eyes of most of our educated proletarians, two means, as natural as they are necessary, to “make one’s fortune.”

Still, the supply of this class grows so rapidly that there is little to be made out of education, even though one throws his individuality into the bargain. The decline of the mass of educated people into the class of the proletariat can no longer be checked.

Whether this development will result in a movement of the educated people to join the battling proletariat in mass and not, as hitherto, singly, is still uncertain. This however, is certain: The fact that the educated people are being forced into the proletariat has closed to the proletarians the only gate through which its members could, by dint of their own unaided efforts, escape into the class above.

The possibility of the wage-earner becoming a capitalist is, in the ordinary run of events, out of the question. Sensible people do not consider the chance of winning a prize in a lottery or of falling heir to the wealth of some unknown relative when they deal with the condition of the working-class. Under certain particularly favorable conditions it has sometimes happened that a workman succeeded, through great privations, in saving up enough to start a little industry of his own, or to set up a little retail shop, or to give his son a chance to study and become something “better” than his father. But it was always ridiculous to hold out such possibilities to the workman as a means of improving his condition. In the ordinary course of events the working-man may thank his stars if he is at all able, even during good times, to lay by enough not to remain empty-handed when work becomes slack. Today, however, to hold out such hopes to working-men is more ridiculous than ever. The economic development makes saving not only more difficult, but it renders it impossible for a working-man, even if he succeeds in saving something, to pull himself and his children out of the class of the proletariat. To invest his little savings in some small independent industry were for him to fall from the frying pan into the fire; ten to one he will be thrown back to his previous condition, with the bitter experience that the small producer can no longer keep his head above water – an experience which he will have purchased with the loss of his hard-earned savings.

Today, whichever way the proletarian may turn, he finds awaiting him the same proletarian conditions of life. These conditions pervade society more and more. In all countries the mass of the population has sunk to the level of the proletariat. To the individual proletarian the prospect has vanished of ever being able, by his own efforts, to pull himself out of the quagmire into which the present system of production has pushed him. The individual proletarian can accomplish his own redemption only with the redemption of his whole class.


Last updated on 23.11.2003