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The Census Report and the Middle Class

(July 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 29 (Whole No. 125), 16 July 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The government has just released the 1930 census figures of the gainfully employed. These figures list workers, owners, bankers and managers. Like all statistics of the capitalist, they must be analyzed before they are of value for the working class. These figures present a decline in the number of foreign-born workers. The native white and Negro workers show an increase, but this can be accounted for by the natural population increase and not the influx of workers into industry. There are 7,411,127 foreign-born “employed”, 5,503,535 Negro and about a half a million Spanish-Americans. The census lists all who are able to work as gainfully employed regardless of the six million workers unemployed at the time the census was taken.

Labor Shifts

These figures show a shift of labor power from the division of production to the division of distribution. Farming, lumbering, fishing and mining show a decline of labor power employed at production while those occupations listed under distribution show an increase. Manufacturing and transportation show a total gain due to population increase but basic occupation divisions of this total show a marked decline. The light industries such as: dressmaking, tailors, millinery, upholstery, leather, tobacco, food, etc., show a decline in labor power. In heavy industry: iron, steel, metal, molding machine, boiler-making, lumber, and railroad transportation show a decline. These figures present the effects of the contradictions capitalism is moving in, with increased production and a permanent army of unemployed, with a lower standard of living, and increased capital and wealth in the hands of fewer capitalist.

More light will be thrown on these figures when we divide them into classes. The following is a list of the non-workers gainfully employed taken from the census:

Non-Workers Gainfully Employed

Finance, bankers, brokers, etc.


Industry, owners




Wholesale, owners


Domestic, owners


Retail, owners


Farmers owners and tenants


Professional, credit agents, etc.


Government employees


Managers, officials, inspectors, real estate agents, etc.


Foreman, overseers, etc.




Gainfully employed Total






The fifteen million non-workers gainfully employed make up the exploiting class and their office boys. Over fourteen million of these make up the “great” American middle class The ideology as well as the line of march of this class is as varied as the rainbow and is constantly changing colors.

For example, the retail merchants in struggle against the chain stores react than the managers or the chain stores who carry on the business for the owners. The personnel of the industrialist see things somewhat different than the personnel of the financier. The tenant farmers do not view matters like the farm owners. The poor farmer, middle farmer and rich farmer have their differences. Some of the petty bourgeois want to turn the wheels of industry backward. Others trail behind the industrialist, others behind the financier, and some behind the workers, but all of them think they are capable as a class of leading the workers.

The more one considers the middle class, pressed between the capitalist and the workers, the more one can realize the vacillations and different layers at juxtaposition to each other. The vanguard of the workers must be able to utilize this division within the enemy. In America the parliamentary structure gives the middle class great advantages in the general administration of city, county, and state politics but the whole structure is well organized to leave the determining forces of the government in the hands of the dominating imperialist group.

Middle Class in U.S.

The middle class within the American structure is able to press heavily upon the developing working class. It takes organizational forms in many ways, from farmer-labor parties to Anti-Imperialist Leagues; from craft job control to anti-political action; from a struggle to reduce the cost of living to the fight to obtain a glass of beer under the leadership of Green and Walker.

The Communist can only utilize the petty bourgeoisie against the bourgeoisie, if this class is considered in its manifold divisions and sections and not as a homogeneous mass. In the class struggle the middle class must always be considered as fellow travelers. Individuals of this class, who leave their class, who throw overboard their ideology, who learn Marxism, are an entirely different problem for us. The petty bourgeoisie as a class cannot lead and can only be of value if they follow the proletariat in the struggle against capitalism. The main danger of the working class is to trail behind the middle class. Our key to this problem is the program, policies and tactics of the Communist party. Centrism has failed in this task. Today, Stalinism is not winning individuals from this class on the basis of Marxism; Stalinism is incorporating petty bourgeois policies which cause this class to flock to the banner of “revolution”. The Militant from week to week elaborates on these non-Marxism policies of Centrism.

Under Stalinism the workers are not brought to the movement on the basis of Marxism; they are won on the basis of opportunism, adventurism, and petty bourgeois ideas. Under such a regime these woikcrs do not and cannot shake off completely their bourgeois ideology. Under a Marxian leadership the “green” worker is assimilated in the Bolshevik current. Stalinism warps the new recruits.

Our task is to win the working class and with this class pressure to force layers of the petty bourgeoisie to support our position. Only in this sense do we want the middle class as a class ally. With increased class struggles and increased class pressure, under Communist leadership, having a Marxian policy, layers of the middle class are forced to support our position. As the struggle increases, new layers of workers brought into action will force up new layers of allies. Only on this basis can allies be of value to us.

Regain Proletarian Base First

An ebb or defeat in the line of march of our. class will cause sections of our allies to withdraw and often turn on us. We cannot regain these allies by compromise, as Stalinism does in all parts of the world. We can only regain these allies by regaining our own class position first. Necessary steps must be taken, reorganisation or retreat, to consolidating our own class forces at a level suitable for the task, enabling us to maintain our position and to strike out in new class battles for new positions.

The Communist League of America cannot ignore the large middle class in America as a valuable ally or bitter enemy. The best way not to ignore this class is to learn from the blunders of Stalinism, replace it with a Marxian line and give our full energy to our own class, the working class. The Communist must point out the road for the working class. The greater the numbers of workers we move into action against capitalism the broader is our class base and the greater will be the layers of allies forced to move in our line of march. Without this class base, the class guarantee is lacking, and the allies will lead the workers to defeat. Such is the logic of Stalinism in Germany in 1923, in China in 1927; and such is the road their line of march is leading to in America. The Communist worker must fight against the Stalin stranglehold for Marxism, for the Marxian policies of the Left Opposition.

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