Kautsky on working class (1908)

THE WORKING CLASS (The Proletariat)

By Karl Kautsky

Specially translated for The Socialist Party of Great Britain and approved by the Author.

We have already seen in the previous chapter (See “From Handicraft to Capitalism.”) that capitalist production pre-supposes the divorce of the worker from the means of production. In large capitalist concerns we find on the one hand the capitalist who possesses the means of production but does not himself take part in production; and on the other hand the wage-workers, the Proletarians, who possess nothing but their labour-power, by the sale of which they live, and whose labour alone creates the products of the large concern.

In order to obtain the number of wage-workers necessary to satisfy the requirements of Capital, it was, as we observed, in the beginning essential to rely upon the aid of force. To-day such aid is no longer needed. The advantage the large concern has over the small enterprise suffices to expropriate and throw upon the labour market year by year a sufficient number of peasants and handicraftsmen, who together with the progeny of the already “freed” wage-workers more than satisfy the capitalist craving for “new human flesh” ; and this happens not only without infringing the laws of private property— but on the contrary by relying upon those laws.

That the number of Proletarians continually increases rapidly is so obvious that even those who would like to make us believe that Society is governed by the same conditions that prevailed a hundred and more years ago, and who are painting the future of small enterprise in the rosiest colours, do not venture to deny it.

Just as in production the large capitalist concern has become the dominant form of industrial enterprise, so in State and Society has the industrial wage-worker taken the most prominent place within the working class. This position was occupied four hundred years ago by the peasant, and a hundred years ago by the petty bourgeois.

The industrial wage-workers are already in all civilised countries the largest class ; it is their conditions and views, which increasingly determine the mode of life and thought of the other sections of labour. But that means a complete revolution in the prevailing conditions of life and forms of thought among the great mass of the population; for the conditions of the wage-workers, particularly of the industrial Proletarians (and under the capitalist mode of production agriculture becomes also an industry), differ totally from those of former categories of labour.

When the peasant or handicraftsman was the free owner of his means of production he commanded also the full product of his labour. The labour-product of the wage-worker, however, does not belong to him, but to the capitalist, the purchaser of labour-power, the owner of the necessary means of production. It is true that the wage-worker is aid for his labour-power by the capitalist, but the value contained in is wages by no means equals the value of his product.

When the industrial capitalist purchases the commodity labour-power, he naturally does so with the intention of utilising it in a profitable manner. We have seen that a certain amount of labour creates a certain amount of value. The more the worker labours, the greater (under otherwise equal conditions) will be the value he produces. If the industrial capitalist would let the wage-worker, whom he has hired, work only so long as to produce a value equal to the wages he receives, the employer would make no profit. But even if the capitalist would like to pose as a benefactor of suffering mankind, capital calls for profit, and the capitalist does not turn a deaf ear to this call. The longer the worker toils in the service of capital beyond the labour time necessary for producing the value of his wages—that is to say, the greater surplus there is left—from the total product created by him after the value equivalent to his wages is deducted, the greater is the surplus value (as this excess value is called) the greater is the exploitation of the worker, which finds a limit only in the exhaustion of the exploited and—in the possible resistance offered by him to the exploiter.

To the wage-worker private property in the instruments of production meant therefore from the outset something altogether different to what it signified to the handicraftsman or peasant; for while to these two it was originally the means of securing to them the complete ownership of their product; it has been for the wage-worker, and ever will be, nothing else but the means of exploiting him, of depriving him of the surplus value which he has created. The wage-worker from that standpoint is anything but a lover of “private property.” And in this connection he not only distinguishes himself from the property-owning peasant and handicraftsman, but also from the handicraftsman of precapitalist times.

These journeymen formed the transition from the master handicraftsman to the Proletarian, just as the concerns in which they were employed in larger numbers form the transition from petty enterprise to large industrial concerns. Yet how different they were to the Proletarians !

They were treated as members of the master’s family and they had the prospect of becoming masters themselves. But the wage-worker is only a hireling and condemned to remain a wage-worker. In these two points is summed up the cause for the difference between a handicraftsman and a wage-worker.

As the journeyman belonged to the family, he ate at the same table and slept in the house of his master, and the question of shelter and food did not exist as far as he was concerned. His wages in money were only a part of what he received from his master for his labour-power. The wages served less the purpose of satisfying the most necessary wants (which, as has been pointed out, were supplied by living with the master) than for the purpose of obtaining comforts or of saving, of accumulating the means required for setting up as master on his own account,

The journeyman worked together with the master. When the latter extended the hours of labour unusually, he was himself as much affected thereby as his assistant. There was therefore no strong desire on the part of the master to extend the working hours to the point of exhaustion, and even where that was the case, such intention was very easily restrained. Whenever the master endeavoured to make his own conditions of labour as agreeable as possible, the journeyman too, benefited thereby.

The instruments of production, which the small master required, were so few and simple that the craftsman did not need considerable means to set up as master. Every handicraftsman consequently had the opportunity of becoming a master; in fact, he already anticipated that position, and as he had to save in order to obtain the means to this end, he was as decided a defender of private property as the master craftsman.

It is necessary to point out that here the conditions of handicraft are being considered as they originally arose in pre-capitalist times.

Let us now compare with them the conditions of the wage-worker.

In capitalist industrial concerns wage-workers and capitalists are not active together; and although, in the course of economic development the industrial capitalist has acquired a separate identity from the merchant proper, and although the capitalists of commerce and those of industry have become two distinct sections, the industrial capitalist, strictly speaking, still remains a merchant. His activity as capitalist— as far as he at all plays an active part in his undertaking—is limited, like that of the dealer, to the market. His duties are to purchase as suitably and cheaply as possible the necessary raw material, auxiliary materials, labour-power, etc., and to sell as dearly as possible the goods produced in his concern. In the sphere of production he has to do nothing else but to see that the workers perform the largest amount of work possible for the smallest wages possible; that the largest amount of surplus value be squeezed out of them. The longer they work, the better for him. He does not get tired if the working hours are too long, he does not perish if the mode of production becomes a murderous one.

The capitalist is therefore far less considerate concerning the life and limb of the worker than was the master handicraftsman. The prolonging of the working day, the abolition of holidays, the introduction of night-work, the compulsion to work in damp or over-heated workshops, or places filled with noxious gases, etc.: these are the “improvements” which capitalist industrialism has brought to the worker.

The introduction of machinery has still further increased the dangers to the health and life of the worker. He is now chained to a monster which seizes upon him with gigantic strength and maddening speed. Only the closest, never-faltering attention on the part of the worker attending such a machine prevents his being caught and crushed by it. Safety arrangements cost money, and the capitalist does not introduce them, unless he is compelled to do so. Economy is above all the main virtue of the capitalist; and that demands his limiting the space in his factory and finding room in it for as many machines as possible. What does it matter to him, if by so doing he endangers the workers’ safety. Workmen are cheap ; but large, commodious premises are dear.

But the capitalist method of applying machinery changes the conditions of the workers in yet another manner for the worse.

The tools of the handicraftsman were inexpensive, and seldom required such considerable alterations as would have caused them to become altogether useless. It is different with the machine. That costs money, much money. If it becomes prematurely useless, or is not worked to its full capacity, it will bring the capitalist loss instead of profit. But the machine wears out not only in use, but also when standing still. On the other hand the increasing application of science upon the economic domain, resulting as it did, in the invention of the machine, has the effect of continually producing new inventions and discoveries, sometimes of greater, sometimes of less significance, and constantly causing, now one, now another kind of machine, at times even the entire plant of a factory, to become incapable of keeping up with competition, and thus to lose their value before having been completely used up. Owing to this uninterrupted evolution in the technical aspect of machines, every one is in danger of becoming valueless before being used up. This circumstance affords the capitalist sufficient ground for using up every machine from the moment he purchases it as speedily as possible. That is to say, the application of machinery in production is a spur to the capitalist to extend the hours of labour, to carry on if possible, an uninterrupted production, and to introduce the succession of day-and night-shifts, which means that the abominable practice of night-work becomes a permanent institution.

When the application of machinery first began, some idealists declared that the millenium had come, that the machine would relieve the worker from his labour and make him a free man. But in the hand of the capitalist the machine has become the most powerful lever for the purpose of making the labour-burden of the proletarian a crushing one, and his servitude unbearable and murderous.

But it is not only in respect of the hours of labour that the wage-worker under the capitalist mode of production is worse off than the handicraftsman. The wage-worker does not eat at the table of the capitalist nor live at his dwelling-house. He may dwell in most miserable quarters, feed upon refuse, why, even be in a starving condition, yet the comfort of the capitalist is not in the least disturbed thereby.

The meaning of the terms “starvation” and “wages” used to exclude one another. Then the free worker could only fall a victim to starvation if he was unable to find work. Everybody who worked had also to eat. The capitalist mode of production merits the distinction of having reconciled the two contradictions,—”starvation” and “wages”—and of having made “starvation-wages” a permanent institution, and even a mainstay of present society.

Wages cannot be so high as to make it impossible for the capitalist to carry on his business and to live from it. For under these circumstances it would be more advantageous for the capitalist to give up business altogether. Hence the wages of the worker can never rise high enough to equal the value of his product. They must always leave a margin, a surplus value, for only the prospect of this margin induces the capitalist to buy labour-power. Thus in capitalist society wages can never rise so high that the exploitation of the worker comes to an end.

But the margin, the surplus value, is greater than is generally supposed. It consists not only of the profit of the manufacturer, but also much that is reckoned as cost of production and sale, viz., ground rent, interest on invested capital, discount for the merchant who disposes of the goods produced by the industrialist, taxes, rates, etc. All this comes out of the surplus value which the product of the worker yields above his wages. This margin must consequently be considerable if an undertaking is to prove profitable. Wages can, therefore, never rise sufficiently high to enable the worker to receive in his wages anything approaching the value he has created. The capitalist wage system means under all circumstances exploitation of the worker. It is impossible to abolish exploitation so long as that system exists, and even where high wages are being paid the exploitation of the worker must be extensive.

But wages hardly ever reach the highest possible point, more often, however, they fall to the very lowest. That point is reached when the wages of the worker cease to purchase his very necessaries of life. If the worker not only starves but starves quickly, his work ceases altogether.

Between these two limits wages fluctuate, becoming lower as the customary wants of life of the workers decrease, as the supply of labour-power in the labour market increases, and as the power of resistance on the part of the workers decreases.

Generally wages must, of course, be high enough to keep the worker in a fit state to work, or better said, wages must be so high as to ensure to the capitalist the measure of labour-power needed by him. Wages must hence be high enough to make it possible for the worker not only to maintain himself in a fit state to work but also to reproduce children fit to work.

The economic development shows the tendency—so favourable to the capitalist—of reducing the cost of maintenance of the workers and of thereby decreasing wages.

Skill and strength were in times gone by indispensable to the worker. The period of apprenticeship of the handicraftsman was a very long one, and the cost of his maintenance was considerable. Progress in the division of labour and in machine construction caused special skill and strength in production to become superfluous. This progress makes it possible to replace skilled by unskilled—that is cheaper— labour-power; it makes it also possible to replace the labour of men by that of weak women, and even children. Even in manufacture this tendency was perceptible; but only with the introduction of machinery begins wholesale exploitation of women and of children of tender age, exploitation of the most helpless of the helpless who fall victims to revolting ill-treatment and spoliation. Here we get acquainted with a new characteristic of the machine in the hands of Capital.

The wage-worker who did not belong to the family of the employer had originally to receive in his wages not only the cost of his own maintenance but also that of his family if he were to be in a position to reproduce his species, to regenerate his labour-power. Without this reproduction of labour-power the heirs of the capitalist would find no proletariat to exploit. But if the wife, and, from early childhood, also the children of the worker are in a position to provide for themselves, the wages of the male worker can almost entirely he reduced to the cost of maintenance of his own person without the slightest danger to the reproduction of labour-power. And the labour of women and children has the further advantage of their being less capable of resistance than men. Moreover, through their entering the ranks of labour the supply of labour-power in the labour market is tremendously increased.

The labour of women and children does not only lower the cost of maintaining the worker, it reduces also his power of resistance and increases the supply of labour-power—in short, it has the effect under any of these circumstances of causing the wages of the worker to fall.

The industrial labour of woman in capitalist society means the entire destruction of the worker’s family life without substituting a higher form of family. The capitalist mode of production, in most cases, does not dissolve the individual working-class household, but it deprives it of all its brightness, leaving only its dark side with the waste of woman’s energy and her exclusion from public life. The industrial labour of woman to-day does not mean her relief from household duties, it means adding a fresh burden to those she already bears. But one cannot serve two masters. The household of the worker goes to wreck and ruin if his wife has to assist in earning subsistence for the family ; but what present society puts in place of the individual household and the individual family is miserable refuse: the soup-kitchen and tbe day-nursery in which the leavings of the physical and mental nourishment of the rich are thrown to the lower classes.

Socialism is accused of aiming at the destruction of the family. Well, we know that each particular mode of production has its particular form of household to which corresponds a particular form of family. We do not consider the present form of family to be the last, and expect that a new form of Society will also develop a new form of family. But such expectation is something altogether different to an endeavour to dissolve all family ties. Those who destroy the family —who not merely want to do, but actually DO destroy it before our eyes—are not the Socialists but the capitalists. Many a slave-owner in the past has torn husband from wife, parents from children able to work : but capitalist methods surpass the abominations of slavery ; they tear the suckling from the mother, forcing her to entrust her infant to the care of strangers. And a society in which that occurs daily in hundreds and thousands of cases, a society that has specially founded “charitable institutions patronised by the ‘nobility'” for the purpose of making it easier for the mother to part from her child—such a society has the audacity to reproach us with intending to dissolve the family, because we are convinced that household-work will develop into a special branch of industry, thereby transforming the character of the household and of family life.

Besides being reproached with the intention of dissolving the family we are accused of aiming at community of women. This reproach is as void of foundation as the other. We assert on the contrary that the very opposite of community of women, of sexual compulsion and immorality, namely, ideal love, will form the basis of all marital relations in the Socialist Commonwealth, and such love can generally prevail only in such a state of Society. But what do we see to-day ? The want of resistance on the part of women who have hitherto been confined to their households and have mostly but a faint conception of public life and the power of organisation—is so great, that the capitalist employer dare pay them wages which do not suffice for their sustenance, and incite them to prostitution as a means of augmenting their wages. An increase in the industrial employment of women has everywhere the tendency of causing au increase in prostitution. In the modern state of the fear of God and pious morals there exist entire “flourishing” branches of industry in which the women workers are so badly paid that they would have to starve to death were they not to stoop to prostitution. And the employers declare that just upon these low wages depends the possibility of their successful competition, and that higher wages would rain them.

Prostitution is as old as the contradiction between poverty and riches. But in ages gone by prostitutes occupied in the social scale a position falling between those of beggars and scamps, constituting a luxury in which Society could afford to indulge, and the loss of which would by no means have endangered the very existence of that society. To-day it is not only the women of the loafing proletariat but working women, who are compelled to sell their bodies for money. This selling of their bodies is no longer only a matter of luxury, no, it has become the basis of industrial development. In the capitalist system of production prostitution becomes one of the pillars of Society. The defenders of this society themselves practise community of women, the vice of which they accuse us; of course, community with women of the Proletariat. And this method of community of women has taken root so deeply in present society that its representatives declare prostitution to be a necessity. They cannot conceive that the abolition of the Proletariat must mean the abolition of prostitution, because they cannot possibly conceive a society without community of women.

The community of women of to-day is an invention of the “higher” grades of Society, not of the Proletariat. This community of women is one of the ways of exploiting the Proletariat. It is not Socialism, but its very opposite.

The introduction of the labour of women and children into industry is, as we have seen, one of the most powerful means for forcing down wages.

But at times other means have an equally powerful effect: the importation of workers from localities backward in economic development, where the population have but few wants, but possess labour-power that has not yet fallen under the ban of industrial enterprise. The development of large industrial enterprise, especially of machinery, not only makes it possible to use unskilled in place of skilled workers, but also affords the opportunity of obtaining them cheaply and quickly. Development of the methods of transit proceeds hand in hand with the development of production ; transit on a large scale develops side by side with production on a large scale, transit not only of commodities but of persons. Steamships and railways, these highly praised bearers of culture, not only carry rifles, whisky, and syphilis to the Barbarians, but they also bring the Barbarians to us and with them their barbarism. The migration of agricultural labourers into the towns is assisted by this development; and from ever greater distances swarm the persevering masses, who have but few needs and little power of resistance. Slavs, Swedes, and Italians go to Germany and drag down wages; Germans, Belgians, and Italians go to France; Slavs, Germans, Italians, Irishmen and Swedes to England and the United States; Chinamen to America and Australia, and perhaps in the not too distant future they will to Europe. On German ships Chinamen and Negroes are already taking the places of white workers.

These foreign workers are, partly, expropriated small peasants and petty bourgeois, who have been ruined and driven from hearth and home by the capitalist mode of production. Gazing at the numberless crowds of imigrants we may well ask the question whether it is Socialism that thus makes them homeless and is responsible for men and women leaving their native land.

By expropriating small peasants and petty bourgeois, by importing crowds of workers from distant countries, by the development of woman- and child-labour, by shortening the term of apprenticeship (which becomes merely a period of initiation) the capitalist mode of production effects an enormous increase in the number of workers at its disposal. Hand in hand with this increase proceeds the ever growing productivity of human labour in consequence of the uninterrupted progress in technical improvements and inventions. And not alone this, but capitalist exploitation increases also the power of utilising the labour-power of the individual to the utmost degree, partly through extending the hours of labour, but also by speeding up the workers, especially in those cases where the organisation of the workers or legislation prevents the former course being pursued.

And at the same time machinery has the effect of reducing the amount of manual labour required. Every machine displaces labour ; if that were not so there would be nothing gained in having the machine. In every industry the change from manual labour to production by machinery causes the greatest suffering among the manual workers affected, who, whether they be handicraftsmen or factory workers, become redundant, and are turned into the street. It was this effect of the machine which the workers felt first of all. The numerous instances of revolt in the first decades of the nineteenth century showed the great suffering and despair which were caused by the introduction of machinery. The introduction of machinery, and every subsequent improvement thereof, is always detrimental to the interests of certain sections of the workers : sometimes, of course, other sections may benefit—as, for instance, those employed in the engineering trade. But this knowledge will hardly be a consolation to the displaced workers faced with starvation.

The effect of the introduction of every new machine is that as much as before is produced with fewer workers, or more than before with the same number of workers. If, therefore, the number of workers employed in one country is not to diminish, in consequence of the growing development of machinery, then the market must be extended in the same proportion in which the productivity of labour increases. As, however, economic development causes at the same time the quantity of labour performed by the worker to grow and the available labour-power to increase rapidly—and much more rapidly than the population—it is necessary, if unemployment is to be avoided, that the market be extended much more rapidly than in a ratio that would merely keep pace with the growing productivity of the workers owing to the introduction of machinery.

Such a rapid expansion of the market has scarcely ever taken place under the domination of capitalist industry on a large scale, certainly never for any considerable period in a large field of capitalist industry. Hence, unemployment is a permanent feature of capitalist industry on a large scale, the one being inseparable from the other. Even at brisk periods, when the market experiences important extension and trade is flourishing, industry has not room for all the unemployed. In periods of slackness, when trade is dull, their number grows immensely. They, together with the workers of the superfluous petty undertakings, form a whole army—the Industrial Reserve Army, as Marx called it—an army of labourers always at the disposal of capital, from which the latter is always able to draw its reserves as soon as the industrial struggle shows signs of becoming animated.

The reserve army is invaluable to the capitalist. It serves him as an important weapon to keep in check the army of the employed and to make them more submissive. Since the overwork of some causes the unemployment of others, the unemployment of these latter becomes the means for sustaining and intensifying the overwork of the former. And yet in face of this fact it is asserted that we are living in the best of all possible worlds!

While the expansion of the industrial reserve army fluctuates with the fluctuations of commercial life, its general tendency is to move in an upward direction; for the technical revolution proceeds ever more rapidly, extending continually to wider spheres, but the expansion of the market on tbe contrary becomes ever more limited. We shall have occasion to refer to this point again in another connection. It suffices here to have drawn attention to it.

But what does unemployment mean ? It not only means want and misery for its victims, not only intensified slavery and exploitation for those in employment, but it means also insecurity of existence for the entire working class.

Whatever the fate of those exploited under former systems of exploitation may have been, they were certain of one thing—security of livelihood. The sustenance of the slave or the serf was assured at least so long as the existence of his master was secure. Only the ruin of his master could deprive him of his security of livelihood.

The misery or want that under any former mode of production was at times experienced by the population was not the consequence of production, but a disturbance of production through bad harvests, cattle plague, floods, invasion by hostile armies, etc.

The existence of the exploiter is not bound up with that of the exploited. The worker and his wife and children can at any moment be turned into the street, with starvation staring them in the face, without causing the slightest change in the position of the exploiter who has fattened on him.

And the misery of unemployment is to-day rarely the consequence of disturbances in production through external, overpowering influences, it is now in fact the natural consequence of production itself. Disturbances in production under present conditions often increase the opportunities for work instead of lessening them: one need only call to mind the consequences of the war in 1870 to the economic life of Germany and France during the immediately succeeding years.

Under the domination of petty enterprise the income of the worker producing on his own account grew larger the more industrious he proved to be. Laziness ruined him and caused his unemployment. To-day the longer the workers work the more unemployment increases. The worker causes his unemployment by his own work. Like many another maxim from the world of petty enterprise, the one that the worker’s good fortune depends upon his being industrious has been changed to its opposite by the large capitalist enterprise. And another maxim still mouthed to-day by many a Philistine, presumably for the benefit of the worker, has become an untruth, namely, that anyone willing to work can find work.

Just as little as a small property is a sure protection against want and misery, so is possession of labour-power. While the ghost of bankruptcy is continually hovering over the peasant owner and the handicraftsman, the ghost of unemployment haunts the wage-worker all his life. This continual insecurity is, of all the evils of the present mode of production, the most tormenting, and also the most atrocious, the evil that stirs up the feeling of the worker unspeakably and scatters completely to the winds all his conservative notions. This eternal insecurity of his own position undermines his belief in the security of the existing state of things and extinguishes his interest in its retention. And he who continually dreads the existing state of things finally loses all fear for new conditions.

The capitalist mode of production brings in its train overwork, unemployment, and dissolution of the family for the working-class, and it has at the same time the effect of forcing proletarian conditions upon further sections of Society, thus visibly making these conditions the general conditions of the great mass of the population.


It is not only by the extension of industry on a large scale that the capitalist mode of production makes the proletarian conditions general. It is also caused by the position of the wage-workers in industries on a large scale becoming the standard for the position of the wage-workers in other spheres of activity. And their conditions of work and life are revolutionised by the large-scale industries.

The advantages which these workers may perhaps have possessed over those employed in capitalist industries are now, by the influence of the latter, changed into so many disadvantages. Where, for instance, to-day the worker of a handicraft still boards and lodges with his master, the aforesaid change results in this handicraft worker being worse fed and housed than the wage-worker who has a household of his own. The long apprenticeship was, in times gone by, a means for preventing a glut of workers in handicraft; to-day the system of apprenticeship is the most effective means of producing a glut of cheap workers in handicraft and of depriving the adult workers of their livelihood.

Here also, as in other directions, things that under the domination of petty enterprise were reasonable and a boon, have become nonsensical and a hindrance owing to the capitalist mode of production.

The endeavour of guild-masters to revive the old guild system may in the main be ascribed to the desire to create, by the revival of the old forms, new means for the purpose of exploiting their workmen. They seek to save themselves from the bog by throwing down and stepping on proletarian bodies.

And these gentlemen grow indignant when the working class fails to become enthusiastic over this method of delaying somewhat the inevitable extinction of petty enterpise.

Commercial trading undergoes a similar development to handicraft. The large enterprise squeezes out of existence the petty enterprise, even in the sphere of petty trading.

The small commercial undertakings need not, therefore, diminish ia number. Petty trading becomes the last refuge of those who have gone bankrupt among the small producers.

In the German empire there were employed per thousand workers in each particular group :—

(including Licensed Victuallers.)
1882 1895 1882 1895
With 1 – 8 employees 551 399 757 697
With 6 – 50 employees 186 238 202 243
Over 50 employees 263 363 41 60

From this table it will be gathered that in commercial and licensed establishments petty enterprise predominates far more than in industry and declines less rapidly—speaking relatively. Speaking absolutely, petty enterprise is on the increase in commerce and the licensed victuallers’ trade. The number of employees in these callings increased from 1,013,981 in 1882 to 1,509,453 in 1895.

To restrict petty trading—for instance by restricting hawking or peddling—would mean nothing else but to sweep those who are getting their livelihood in that way completely off their feet and to force them into the ranks of the loafing class ; that is to say, to compel them to become beggars, vagabonds, or jailbirds—which would indeed be typical social reform.

The influence of the development of industry on a large scale, as far as petty trading is concerned, does not find expression in a decrease in the number of small trading concerns, but in their actual dwindling away. The existence of petty traders on their own account becomes continually more insecure and more like that of proletarians. Besides, there is a steady increase in the number of those employed in large concerns, who become real proletarians, and have no prospect of ever going into business on their own account; child- and woman-labour continues to extend, the latter accompanied by increased prostitution. Overwork, unemployment, and the cutting down of wages also enter this sphere of employment. The position of the commercial employee is approaching that of the industrial proletarian. The former can be distinguished from the latter almost in only one way, namely, by his keeping up the appearance, at a great sacrifice, of a higher social position, while the industrial proletarian knows nothing of practising such deception.

And yet another category of proletarians begins to develop: the educated proletariat. To be educated has, in our present mode of production, become quite a separate business. The scope of knowledge has grown immensely and is widening from day to day. And capitalist society as well as the capitalist state, require more and more men of science and art for the conduct of their affairs, for the subjection of the forces of nature, be it for the purpose of production or destruction, or for the luxurious utilisation of their increasing affluence. But not only the peasant, the handicraftsman or proletarian, but even the merchant, the manufacturer, the banker, the stock-exchange gambler and the large land-owner have no time to devote to art or science. Their time is fully taken up by their business and amusements. In present society it is not, as under former systems of society, the exploiters themselves, or at least a section of them, who foster art and science. They leave that occupation to a separate class, whom they pay for their services. Education becomes a commodity.

But until several decades ago it was still a rare commodity. There were but few schools, and study involved considerable expense. The peasants were mostly not in a position to be able to raise the means for sending their sons to the higher schools. Handicraft and commerce on the other hand were still in a prosperous condition ; hence, whosoever was engaged in these callings remained in them; only the fact of being specially gifted or in exceptional circumstances induced the son of the handicraftsman or merchant to take up the study of art or science. While the demand for officials, technical experts, medical men, teachers, artists, etc., increased, the supply was almost entirely restricted to the progeny from such circles.

The commodity education commanded therefore a high price. Its possession brought at least a comfortable living to those who turned it to practical account, like lawyers, officials, medical men, professors, etc.,—often fame and honour also. The artist, the poet, the philosopher were the companions of kings. The intellectual aristocrat considered himself superior to the aristocrat by birth or money. His only concern was the development of his intellectual gifts. Consequently the educated could be idealists, and often were such. They stood above the other classes and their material aspirations and antagonisms. Education meant power, happiness, and amiableness; therefore the conclusion lay near, that, in order to make all men happy and amiable, to surmount all class antagonism and to abolish poverty and degradation, nothing more was required than the diffusion of education.

Since then the spreading of higher school education—and here it is only a question of higher education—has made gigantic strides. The number of educational establishments has immensely increased. The number of scholars has grown to a still greater extent. Petty enterprise in commerce and industry no longer offers chances of prosperity. The petty bourgeois is unable to save his children from drifting into the ranks of the proletariat unless he can manage to give them a university education, providing, of course, it is possible for him to rake together sufficient means for this end. And he must think of providing not only for his sons but also for his daughters; for the progress in the division of labour gradually transforms, as already mentioned, household work into separate occupations, thus reducing more and more the work in the home, so that a marriage in which the wife is only the housekeeper, and not at least partly bread-winner, becomes increasingly a luxury. At the same time, however, the petty bourgeoisie falls into greater poverty, as we have seen, so that it loses the ability of affording a luxury. The number of celibates increases, as does the number of families in which wife and daughter have to work to augment the income of the family. Thus female labour increases not only in the direction of the petty and large industry, and of petty trading, but also in the sphere of officialdom in Government and private employment, as, for instance, in the post and telegraph offices, railways, banks, art and science. However loud the protest on the grounds of prejudice or personal interest may be, female labour enters increasingly into the various spheres of intellectual activity. It is not conceit, neither insolence nor uppishness, but the compulsion due to economic development, which forces women to seek occupation in that particular sphere as elsewhere. While the men in some intellectual occupations, in which craft organisation still exists, have been successful in keeping out female competition, the women have been able to gain admission to callings unhampered by craft organisation, as, for instance, journalism, painting, and music.

A consequence of this entire development is, that the number of the educated persons has increased tremendously in comparison with the past; but the favourable consequences which the idealists expected to be derived from a greater diffusion of education, have not been realised. So long as education remains a commodity, the diffusion of education means an increased supply of the commodity, hence a lowering of its prices and consequently a worse position for the owner of the commodity The number of the educated has grown to an extent that more than satisfies the requirements of the capitalists and of the capitalist state. The labour market of the educated workers is to-day as overcrowded as that of the manual workers. And also the intellectual workers have already their Reserve Army—unemployment is as much known in their ranks as in those of the industrial workers. Those who wish to obtain an appointment under Government have to wait years, often more than a decade, until they are able to get one of the badly paid minor posts. With the others over-work is followed as much by unemployment and vice-versa as with the hand-workers, and the forcing down of wages is practised upon them as upon the latter.

The class position of the educated workers grows perceptibly worse ; if before one spoke of the aristocracy of intellect, one now speaks of the proletariat of intelligence; and very soon these latter proletarians will distinguish themselves from the other wage-workers by only one thing—their conceit. The majority of them will still think they are something better than the wage-workers ; they still consider themselves to belong to the bourgeoisie, but in a similar way as servants regard themselves as belonging to the family of their masters. They have ceased to be the intellectual leaders of the bourgeoisie and have become their hired prize fighters. The ambition to succeed develops among them; not the cultivation, but the turning to account, of their intellectual gifts now becomes their first consideration, and the prostitution of their being is the principal means of advancement. Like the petty traders, they, too, are deceived by a few big prizes in the lottery of their life; they overlook the numerous blanks which are facing them and bargain away body and soul for the mere prospect of drawing such a big prize. The selling of their own convictions and a marriage for money have become in the estimation of the majority of our “educated,” two self-understood as well as indispensable means for “making a fortune.” And that is what the capitalist production has made of its explorers, thinkers and dreamers. But the supply increases too rapidly for it to be possible to make a great deal out of education even if one sells with it his own personality. It cannot be prevented that masses of the educated are driven into the ranks of the proletariat.

It is as yet uncertain whether this development will lead to the educated joining the fighting proletariat en masse rather than individually, as until now, but one thing is certain—with the proletarianisiug of the educated the last chance of the proletarian to rise by his own efforts into a higher class has been frustrated.

It is out of question that the wage-worker can become a capitalist, at least in the ordinary course of things.

A prize in a lottery or a wealthy uncle abroad are not taken into account by sensible persons when considering the position of the working class. But under exceptionally favourable circumstances a better-paid worker may here and there succeed in saving—owing to his more abstemious way of living—sufficient to commence a small concern as handicraftsman or to open a shop, or to send his son for a course of study in order to become one of the “better” class. It has always been ridiculous to point to such possibilities for the workers for improving their own position or that of their children. In the ordinary course of things a workman may be glad, if he is at all able to save, to put by so much in good times, as not to be quite destitute when he falls out of employment. But to-day it is more ridiculous than ever to attempt to console the workers with such prospects, for the economic development not only makes it less possible for the worker to save, it also makes it impossible even if he succeeds in earning sufficient to raise himself and his children above the proletarian existence. To commence working on his own account means for him to get from one misfortune into another, and to return as a rule to his previous misery, recognising that petty enterprise cannot be maintained, but only results in the loss of previous savings.

More difficult even than commencing an independent petty enterprise, almost hopeless indeed, to-day is the attempt of the proletarian to send his son to college. But supposing such an attempt has been successful, of what use is his education to the son of the proletarian who cannot turn to account his acquirements, who has no protection, especially now when hundreds of lawyers, engineers, chemists, and commercial graduates are walking about in search of employment ?

Wheresoever the proletarian may turn, everywhere he discovers proletarian conditions of life and work. Proletarian conditions are increasingly forced upon Society; the masses of the population in all civilised countries have already sunk to the proletarian position. As far as the individual proletarian is concerned the last prospect has long vanished of rising by his own effort and on his own account out of the morass into which the present system of production has thrown him. He can only raise himself by raising the entire class to which he belongs.