Negation of the bourgeois proletariat: the roots of misunderstanding

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Negation of the bourgeois proletariat: the roots of misunderstanding
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I have often spoken of the bourgeois proletariat, and I regret that it aroused only a feeble interest in the Communist Left.

It is simple, almost, it is only me who speaks about it.

Yet I have shown that it was an important, if not fundamental, concept in Marx, Engels and Lenin to explain the economic root of opportunism.

How to explain that an organization of proletarian origin degenerates, and associates itself with bourgeois politics?

Two interpretations oppose:

"The organization was the victim of the ideological influence of the bourgeoisie, through its means of propaganda"

"With economic development, a section of the proletariat is detached from the mass of the proletariat by its national, trade union, university privileges ... Its salary is higher, its situation is more stable and more secure thanks to social insurance and diplomas; for this section of the proletariat, the communist revolution is a degradation of its social and economic position, so it is opposed. It fights with the mass of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie if it can improve its own situation by this means; it fights with the bourgeoisie against the mass of the proletariat if it can retain its privileges by this means. Its intermediate economic situation between the mass of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie explains its permeability to bourgeois ideology and its opportunism. "

There have always been intermediate classes in class society, but it would be a mistake to classify them uniformly as "petty bourgeoisie" without rigorously defining them from an economic and social point of view. The degeneration of organizations from the proletariat is usually not petty-bourgeois, but bourgeois-proletarian.

The concept of bourgeois proletariat, of this social stratum, which has an immediate economic interest in the permanence of bourgeois society, although it is not bourgeois, explains all the ideological deviations by their economic roots:

If there is an economic privilege linked to nationality in a territory, then this favors the corresponding ideology: nationalism. A section of the proletariat privileged because of its nationality, will be more likely to associate with the bourgeoisie because of its nationalist policy.

If there is an economic privilege related to the professional bodies, then that favors the corresponding ideology: corporatism. A section of the proletariat privileged because of its professional body (diplomas, union, large companies, civil service, university, grandes écoles...), will be more likely to associate with the bourgeoisie because of its corporatist policy.


The concept of bourgeois proletariat explains the degeneration of the USSR.

What are the Stakhanovists? What are party members, senior officials, state enterprise and state leaders? Different strata of the bourgeois proletariat: from the poorly privileged proletarians to the ruling caste which has a social and economic situation almost identical to the private bourgeoisie.

The degeneration of the USSR can be explained by the detachment of a section of the proletariat which is gentrified, not only by a higher level of consumption, but also and above all by its position in the relations of production and exchange.


Why does the Communist Left completely ignore this concept of the bourgeois proletariat?

Because, like any organization resulting from the proletariat, it also welcomes within it elements of the bourgeois proletariat.

Although elements of the bourgeois proletariat may, by reason of their personal history, be good Communists, they exert, as a subclass, a pressure towards conciliation and opportunism, which derive from their economic privilege in the sphere of consumption and in the relations of production.


This is why I have proposed that the individual consumption of communists does not exceed the average of the world's individual consumption, in purchasing power parity. The excess must be collectivized within the party. The average of world individual consumption, in purchasing power parity, constitutes a simple economic limit which enables us to define the bourgeois proletariat.

This is why I also propose that the professional career of a communist be put to good use by the party, since it exceeds a "medium" situation, which remains to be defined. However, it roughly corresponds, in capitalist society, to a real income above the world average, in purchasing power parity, easy to determine.

Finally, I propose that the individual savings that can constitute a communist, whatever its form (money, real estate...), does not exceed the average of the global individual savings, in parity of purchasing power. The surplus in turn must be collectivized.


By intervening on the economic substratum of the party, to limit the development of bourgeois proletarian interests, we will observe a reorientation of the interest of the party towards the mass of the world proletariat, and a relative disinterest for the privileged layers of the national-corporative proletariat.

In the end, in the party as elsewhere, it is not the ideological struggles that decide the political orientation. It is the economic substratum.

Maybe what you have in mind

Maybe what you have in mind can also be called 'PMC':

I don't directly have a disagreement with the principle in itself of capping the income of party members to a certain limit (there are questions in the details). If the party is serious about revolution, it ulitmately means members' (and non-party member workers') life are in some way in the hands of the party in the crucial moment, so in comparison to this the sacrifice of some income seems a small price. For me one question of detail is, what the money will be used for? Like, I can agree with the beautiful principle of capping income (in order to prevent an opportunist layer to grow and corrupt the ideology), but the practical fact is it is a method of raising money. And then we're justified to ask, what it will be spend on.

the party

But there is, at this juncture in history, no proletarian party, only small proletarian groups. That is the first thing to understand. 

And secondly, how does a proletarian party, or even a small proletarian group, arise from a bourgeois proletariat?

The money raised can be used

The money raised can be used to:

  • to found a daily newspaper, like,
  • to found a school of Marxism, which could be formed within, or in association,
  • finance operations, that is to say, send an agent to the place of a labor movement as a correspondent or as an agitator.

Nevertheless, there is no illusion: many "communists" will actually leave the party as soon as their income exceeds a certain limit, so as not to pay the dues.

The party will also find itself directly in competition with the family's institution: all the money spent in the family can not be spent in the party.

Some orders of magnitude. On average, in the world:

  • Average individual consumption is around 50% GDP per capita.
  • Average individual income is around 100% GDP per capita.
  • Average individual savings are around 150% of GDP per capita.

In 2018, respectively, in purchasing power parity: $ 9,000, $ 18,000 and $ 27,000.

As long as you individually consume less than $ 9,000 PPP per year, as long as your savings are less than $ 27,000 PPP, the party will charge you an insignificant contribution. But it takes everything above.

Thanks for the answer, but I

Thanks for the answer, but I'm don't know if for you the problem really is about shortage of money to launch various initiatives. If that were your real concern, then there are other ways to raise money besides dues from members (eg simply ask for donations from the public). There is also the counter-example of the SPGB, of a party that has more than enough money in its treasure, but has no good projects/ideas to spend it on. In any case, if the only limit osbtructing a party's expansion of activity was its money shortage, then that would be almost the simplest of its problems.

The goal is not to raise more

The goal is not to raise more money for the party. The goal is to ensure the proletarian orientation of the party, because in the final analysis, the oportunist deviation comes from the bourgeois proletariat.

@Alf I said the opposite. I said that elements of the bourgeois proletariat can enter the proletarian party, or that proletarian members of the party can enter the bourgeois proletariat because of the evolution of their professional career.

There must therefore be economic mechanisms to prevent party members from economically detaching themselves from the mass of the proletariat.

And an easy-to-use mechanism is the use of maximum:

_ maximum individual consumption,
_ maximum individual income,
_ maximum individual savings.

All that is above is collectivized.

By fixing this maximum at the level of the world averages, we make sure that the militants have no economic interests in the preservation of the bourgeois order, because the bourgeoisie ensures the stability of the social order by corrupting a small section of the proletariat, the bourgeois proletariat, by privileges.


What is counterintuitive is that it is not the ideological struggle that really determines the political orientation of the party, but the economic situation of its members.

For example, I know that people with higher than average global consumption / income / savings will tend to oppose these proposals.

It's inevitable, whatever the arguments.

The old socialist principle

The old socialist principle for politicial representatives was that their pay level should be that of the average worker, and in case it is above it must go to the party. It's perhaps not exactly the same situation for income earned from non-political/ordinary workers; but I could see the case for it. Perhaps it makes more sense even for the "privileged" to just pay the cash, instead of just tiresome verbal guilty performance pretending to be mindful of those "more oppressed". On the other hand, when such a high-income person is willing to actually put their money where their mouth is, they could now feel a better moral person (than those "more oppressed"), since they actually fund the party from their own pocket, and since they no longer have a privilege in wealth, they can't be suspected of corrupt bourgeois ideological influence more than anyone else in the party.

If I understand your English,

If I understand your English, (and maybe I do not understand correctly) you say that a person paying high contributions because of his high income, so that his standard of living is limited to the world average, should be suspected of opportunism?

On the contrary, I think that if the contributions are under the control of the party, and not, by an indirect means, under the control of the person who pays the contributions, we must not suspect him of anything.

We must be careful not to put activists in a double bind situation:

  • on the one hand, they are asked to pay high contributions in order not to be suspected of being opportunistic,
  • on the other hand, they are suspected of opportunism, because they have paid high contributions. 
No, if the person pays a high

No, if the person pays a high contribution, he ideally shouldn't be suspected of opportunism anymore, at least not to a greater degree than anyone else now. I say that this could be a reason to motivate someone to do this. In other words, the high-income person doesn't want to risk (being accused) of opportunism, therefore he pays the demanded contribution, and now he is "safe" from such suspicion/guilt (of being "privileged/opportunist").

Moreover, not only is this person "in the clear" now, but has even demonstrated a moral act, which the below-average income persons aren't able to show. So the person has now even become "better" than the rest in a moral sense (and even practical sense: since they are the biggest funders of the party).

Perhaps this could create moral friction/resentment, because now the poorer(/more oppressed) person can no longer so easily accuse the richer person of being bourgeois opportunist/priviliged.

Perhaps some will say that the rich person's monetary contribution can never "do justice" to the poorer person, that is, to really ever make them truly equal in each other's eyes. Can mere vulgar money ever really "pay off" the fundamental difference in "oppression-levels"?

Here is a recent piece

Here is a recent piece suggesting that one of the major political features today is not so much a "bourgeois proletariat" as it is a "decomposing professional-managerial class."



It's not a moral issue. In any case, the reason for this "moral" resentment also has material causes. It could be that high-paying members might have an organisational influence on the party, precisely because of these high contributions.

But from a methodological point of view, after having noticed something in the sphere of ideology (opportunism, moral resentment...), we must look for its roots in the material sphere.

We can help ourselves with history. In the USSR, there have been attempts to set up a maximum income, and the bourgeois proletariat has constantly questioned and circumvented this maximum until its abolition, and the enrichment of this caste knows no bounds.

This is how the principle is confirmed that:

"Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production."

Karl Marx, Critic of the Gotha Program, Ch. 1.

But consumption is part of production, both simply meaning "transformation": either by looking at what is lost in the process, or by looking at what is created. "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed", as Lavoisier says.

Thus human consumption is the material, cultural and social production of social classes, whereas material production is the consumption of "the soil and the labourer" (Karl Marx, The Capital, Ch. 15).

This is why we must not neglect the sector of human consumption, which is the sector of production of social classes.

@jk1921 This article is

@jk1921 This article is interesting, but the concept does not date from the 1970s. The concept followed the material development of this caste, and had several names: workers aristocracy, unionized workers, stakanovists, bureaucracy, class of engineers ...

The advantage of the Marxist denomination of "bourgeois proletariat" is that it brings together in the same category persons who are wage-earners, but who, because of their position in the global relations of production and consumption, move away from the mass of the international proletariat, and tend gradually towards the national bourgeoisie.

The history of the USSR proves that this caste can replace the bourgeoisie in the relations of capitalist production, and eventually become bourgeois in the traditional sense of the term.

Of course, the movements of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both belong to the bourgeois proletariat, but this is not the same layer of bourgeois proletariat.

The hostility of Bernie Sanders to the opening of the borders and to the imigration blatantly demonstrates that he defends the interests of a section of the proletariat which has detached itself from the mass of the proletariat, a national section of the proletariat which has detached itself from the international proletariat.

The bourgeois proletariat separates itself from the mass of the proletariat by two main ways: national privilege and corporatist privilege.

We must not forget the national privilege, that is why the bourgeois proletariat must be defined on the basis of world averages, in parity of purchasing power, and not of national averages.

You say it's not a moral

You say it's not a moral issue, but I only gave this as a psychological reason that a high-income person would ever overcome their own material self-interest, in order to follow your proposal. The person himself would consider this act a show of his willingnes/dedication to a higher cause, and so it can be called a display of moral character. That is, the person overcome the material temptation. Whereas the poorer person would not even be in the position to show such a "moral" act, since they were never even in danger of temptation (of material comforts). But okay, we will not sing moral praises for the high-income person's dedication. The only issue is negative: to prevent bourgeois deviations stemming from a materially privileged job position. Now, you noticed that, if your proposal were to be followed, the party becomes greatly dependent on the contributions of its high-income members, and perhaps this translates into greater organizational influence of these members. Well, yes, this would mean that your proposal doesn't yet eliminate (but perhaps even increases) the influence of possibe bourgeois ideological deviations in the party.

So *ideally* these high-income contributors shouldn't be suspected any longer of being a greater peddler of bourgeois deviations, but in practice, they will continue to be so suspected by the rest of the poorer party-members. And so even though the high-income members did the "moral" act of putting their money where their mouth is, they will still be "morally" suspected of being more easily corrupted by bourgeois deviations (due to their continued position in a high-income job). The issue (whether moral or not) is not resolved by money contributions.

My prediction is that the

My prediction is that the "law of the maximum" within the party will deter most of the bourgeois proletariat from joining the party.

The bourgeois proletariat will therefore be a minority within the party. If the party is organized according to the principles of democratic centralism, the surplus money will remain under party control.

Moreover, the law of the maximum offers the militants a standard of living and financial security sufficient to participate in the finances of the party.

If, in 2018, your individual consumption was $ 9,000, your super-gross income $ 18,000 and your savings $ 27,000, you should not have a hard time paying 180$ a year, more than enough to make the party work.

$180 a year amounts to 1% of

$180 a year amounts to 1% of what you gave as the world average income (and 2% of what you gave as average consumption: $9000, eg as is the case in Turkey). If your prediction is true that anyone above this income will not join, then it means, in your best case scenario that all other members are exactly at the average income, as a rule each member will pay $180 a year. I tend to guess that would be enough for the party work. If the party has 100 members= $18,000 party funds, or $1500 a month.

I think the CPGB's publication Weekly Worker has a monthly fund target of £2000 (for printing, shipping costs, etc.), from donations (not specifically dues). But if you were just to focus on a news website, (as is the general trend perhaps, less-and-less paper print), then perhaps it requires less money.

Would it better help prevent bourgeois deviations, I don't know.

The maximums also make it

The maximums also make it possible to define a clear political line for the entire international proletariat.

No communist will have a standard of living higher than the world average.

Let me tell you that if a party puts this in its statutes, it will have a non-negligible effect on the confidence of the proletariat in that party.

The party will finally reject corporatist or nationalist movements favoring privileged sections of the proletariat.

It will defend the right to work for all: it will reject the pretensions of the bourgeois proletariat to prohibit the recruitment of non-national or non-graduated proletarians.

It will defend any measure of homogenization of the proletariat, in particular freedom of migration, and the freedom to recruit non-graduated proletarians.

Recruiting non-national and non-graduate proletarians increases the wages of the mass of the international proletariat as a whole, to the detriment of the national bourgeois proletariat. On this point the interests of the masses of the proletariat and the bourgeois proletariat are irreconcilable.


In 2019, there are 2.7 billion smartphones in the world.

Continuing to sell paper is nonsense.

Who pays?

Are we talking about "professional revolutionaries" here, paid by the party for their basic needs? 

There are a lot of "details"

There are a lot of "details" to discuss further (such as PPP calculations), but just to take perhaps the easiest example, of the US, ( what would a maximum limit in income of $18,000 (as a defintion of who is in the "bourgeois proletariat") mean concretely? Wiki says the minimum wage (7,25/h) amounts to an income of $15,080 a year. The percentage of workers who earn less than 17,499 a year is 31,44%. But let's be more generous, and take all those earning below $19,999, then we get nearly 35% of the workers, which seems to be about 78 million people. That means conversely, that about 65% of the work force must be written off as 'bourgeoisfied'.

I don't know how it is in other Western countries, but if it's a similar picture, that means the majority of workers in the West are 'bourgeoisfied'.




I did a new research on

The entire discussion of the bourgeois proletariat is formulated under the term "labor aristocracy".

ICC categorically rejects this notion as "non-Marxist".

However, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, all agree that a section of the national proletariat sees its interests threatened by the competition of the international proletariat and for this reason adopts pro-bourgeois positions.


“But the English bourgeoisie has also much more important interests in the present economy of Ireland. Owing to the constantly increasing concentration of leaseholds, Ireland constantly sends her own surplus to the English labour market, and thus forces down wages and lowers the material and moral position of the English working class.

And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.

This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.”

Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt, 1870.

Moreover, where does the Stalinist bureaucracy come from to restore capitalism in the USSR? From bourgeoisie? From proletariat?

If you study their social and economic origin, they are employees.

In other words, members of the proletariat. A special section of the proletariat, which turns into a bourgeoisie...

At least speaking for myself,

At least speaking for myself, I wouldn't categorically reject the general term of a labor aristrocracy, though my impression is that this was limited to a minority/elite, and not to the majority of workers. The details that I would dispute in your definition is for example the average PPP (which seems a rather "bourgeois" ideological concept). If eg the labour hour's intensity is different in third-world country (say, by half) than in the West, than just to fairly compare wages between them, one should double the wage figure in the third-world country, since the hour paid is really only equal to half an hour of Western labour intensity. Then, if you take into account skill differences, quality of labour, etc.

But leaving that all aside, there's another mere detail that I find quite arbitrary in your proposal: if a member's income is $18,000 a year they pay $180, but if they earn, say $19,000 a year, they should pay $1,180 in party dues. if these two people are in the same country, then this seems rather unfair. It would be more reasonable to have a progressive rate of dues, ie rising percentage; so 1% for 18,000, then perhaps 2% for those earning 19,000, ie $380 (but not sudden jump to $1,1180 as in your proposal). This seems more reasonable and probably the principle is already applied.




if a member's income is $18,000 a year they pay $180, but if they earn, say $19,000 a year, they should pay $1,180 in party dues.

As long as he has not reached $ 27,000 in savings, he continues to save on his own account, or in another form. This saving allows him to leave the party freely.

Nevertheless, this principle of functioning is that precisely no Communist has a standard of living above the average, whatever his work.

If he earns super-net $ 30,000 (net of taxes, net of social contributions, etc.), has a saving of $ 50,000, and has no dependents, he pays $ 21,000 a year, and 23,000 $ of his savings belong to the party.

Indeed, if a Communist has a specialist job with a high salary, he does not benefit. His standard of living remains that of an average worker in the world.

Earlier you said that if

Earlier you said that if (ideally) each member contributed $180 a year, that already would consitute sufficient funding for party activity. In the (in your view, unlikely) case persons do join the party who earn above the world average of $18,000, that means all their money contributions will far exceed $180 a year (easily by several thousands $). By your own opinion, all that money would not be needed for a proper party function. (In your view the party will not even run a paper publication.) So if the money would not be needed for the party activity, then those high-income party members will be prevented from using it for their own consumption for the sole reason that it will make them less tied to bourgeois ideology, and as they're members of the party, so will the party be less open to bourgeois ideology (so goes your reasoning).

But if the party is strong enough to demand such monetary contributions from them (or pro-actively exclude from joining by the mere propsect of having to pay such high dues), then why isn't it able to exclude people on the basis of their explicit signs of bourgeois ideology? Suppose there are members who earn less than $18,000 and who nevertheless defend bourgeois ideological positions in the party, then should not the party exclude them on this basis (of ideological position) alone? And if the party can exclude people on the basis alone of their ideological position, then there is no need to de facto exclude them on the basis of income (so long as they don't defend a bourgeois ideological position, then it is irrelevant to the party's ideological "purity" what the income of some of its members may be).



why isn't [the party] able to exclude people on the basis of their explicit signs of bourgeois ideology?

Because signs of bourgeois ideology is not at all explicit.

From when do you decide a person has a bourgeois ideology? When does he disagree with you? An exclusion is something serious. Only the congress can decide that, and for serious reasons.

When it comes to money, things are much simpler. At maximum, all activists are equal, have the same standard of living, the same security savings, whatever their job elsewhere.

If an activist claims a higher standard of living than others, we would be forced to ask him: why?

  • Because the bourgeoisie has given me a superior nationality, a nationality which has more rights than others, for example American nationality.
  • Because the bourgeoisie has integrated me into a higher professional body, a profession which has more rights than the others, for example the body of engineers.

Once an activist claims higher rights today, he will claim higher rights tomorrow. He will eventually organize himself collectively to demand higher rights for his caste, ie the bourgeois proletariat, and it is the beginning of the degeneration, it is the development of the nomenclatura, the bureaucracy, the renascent bourgeoisie.

If as you say, the ideology

If as you say, the ideology is not explicit, then today nobody would already explicitly answer such a question by claiming for themselves a higher standard of living and higher rights than others (in general, or within the party). The person will piously answer that his own privileged situation (compared to others less fortunate) has no justification.

Acting consistent to your proposal of "good example", they should quit their job as an engineer, or renounce their American citizenship, because whatever they may ideologically say or even do (such as pay the money to the party) so long as they are within a privileged layer of the existing system, they remain suspect in your view of "eventually" defending the development of their own "nomenclatura" or nation.

You basically admit this, and so you de facto exclude them from the party, for the sake of keeping the party's orientation strictly communist. It isn't meant to change anything about the reality of wage differences, nationality differences, etc. It's a case of purely "virtue-signaling" by the party, without adding any greater theoretical or programmatic clarity.