The Proletariat (The Working Class). By Karl Kautsky

Continued from December issue

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

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.


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