Max Nomad, Aspects of Revolt, 1959.


The twentieth century no longer takes at their face value the equalitarian protestations of the eighteenth-century champions of freedom. Not only disrespectful radicals, but even very respectable conservatives more often than not assume a sarcastic tone whenever they refer to the phrase about all men -- including Negro slaves, hunted Indians, and poor Whites -- being "created equal."1 And this holds also for the "Rights of Man" of 1789, which 150 years after their proclamation came to mean in Algeria -- "that nine hundred thousand Europeans should have the same voting power as nine million Africans."2

The equality of opportunity extolled by the modern democracies has incurred no less merciless criticism. For it gives, in the words of Bernard Shaw, any one able to spell, who owns a fountain pen, the opportunity to become a famous playwright. It enables any office-boy to become president of the billion dollar Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and any manual laborer to become a $50,000-a-year union president. In a similar way political equality gives any starving Puerto Rican immigrant the same power to determine by his vote the policies of this country as is wielded by any equivalent of Mr. Morgan.

Some anticapitalist thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have denounced all these sham equalities in the name of real equality. In their opinion, "the illusion of purely theoretical equality [of rich and poor] contributed to maintain real inequality."3

The first movement which championed real equality -- i e. equality of incomes -- was inspired by the ideas of Morelly's Le Code de la Nature (1755). Its leader was Gracchus Babeuf (1760-1797) who headed the "Conspiracy of the Equals," 1796, against the regime of the Directory, three years before the seizure of power by Bonaparte. One of Babeuf's associates, Sylvain Marechal, author of the Manifeste des Egaux, expressed the ideas of the "Equals" in the following terms: "As long as there are servants and masters, as long as there are poor men and rich men, so long there will be neither liberty nor equality! The Revolution has not been consummated at all!"4

Babeuf's egalitarian ideas, as propounded by his follower Buonarroti in La Conspiration pour l'Egalite dite de Babeuf (Brussels, 1828, Vol. I, pp. 86-89) found an echo in various communist groups of France in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Similar ideas permeated also the writings of Etienne Cabet (1788-1856), author of Voyage en Icarie, and those of Robert Owen (1771-1858) who, in his The Revolution in the Mind and Practice of the Human Race (pp. 72-74) likewise championed communism in the egalitarian sense of the word. Equality of incomes was also postulated by William Godwin (1756-1836) in his Political Justice (1793), the first anarchist work of modern times. In the second half of the nineteenth century the Russian anarchist theorist Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) preached the ultra-utopian idea of "anarchist communism" or "communist anarchism," according to which every individual had the right to satisfy his requirements from the public warehouses, whether or not he contributed his share of work. An idea which, based upon the optimistic concept of man's inherent goodness and decency was even more "radical" than the postulate of equality of incomes and, as one of its critics remarked, unwittingly championed a new form of parasitism.

Ideas akin to Kropotkin's optimism were expressed by Ernest Belfort Bax (1854-1926) who, in his time, occupied a prominent place among the socialist thinkers of England. In an article in which he championed equality of incomes, he argued that "inasmuch as the gifted man is placed by nature on a higher level than the ordinary man . . . he should rather forego a portion of his own legitimate share. The utmost, however, that is contemplated by the Socialist is his being placed on an equal economic footing with his naturally inferior brother."5 It is possible that the arguments in favor of equality of rewards used by Edward Bellamy in his Looking Backward (Chapter IX) were inspired by this reasoning of the famous English Socialist.

Though not given to Utopian dreams, both Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), the famous French conspirator, in his Critique Sociale (Paris, 1885, p. 185), and Eugen Dühring (1833-1921), the villain and the victim of Friedrich Engels' Anti-Dühring, in his Cursus der National- und Social-okonomie (Berlin, 1876, p. 320) explicitly demanded equality of rewards as the basic principle of a socialist commonwealth.

The most famous advocate of equality of incomes was of course Bernard Shaw. In The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928) he wrote, on page 94, "Socialism means equality of income and nothing else." And three pages further on he repeats the same idea by saying "the first and last commandment of socialism is 'Thou shalt not have a greater or less income than thy neihbor.'" It was in this spirit apparently that -- not having as yet fully gone overboard in his admiration for Stalin -- he remarked on March 8, 1933 that "all existing Communists should be exterminated as the first step towards true communism."6

Sixteen years after the publication of the above mentioned volume, G. B. S. gave the world another book entitled Everybody's Political What's What? in which he became more explicit with regard to his equalitarianism. He had in the meantime become an admirer of Stalin, the same Stalin who, in widely reported speeches, had proclaimed inequality of rewards as the main principle of the Soviet regime. The world's greatest playwright and wit found no difficulties in harmonizing his equalitarianism with Stalin's opposition to it. He simply declared that inequality was necessary and inevitable until the time when productivity had risen to such a level as to enable society to grant everybody a minimum yearly income of five thousand pound sterling ($14,000). "When the entire population is brought up to our five-thousand level, the main objects of equality of income will be secured; and the Government, though it still must take care that no class gets poorer, need not prevent any individual becoming richer if he or she can, and thinks it worth the trouble."7 Until that blessed time no believer in equality of incomes need have any compunction of having, as did Bernard Shaw, seven servants attend to his needs. For, as Franz Schoenberner says in his Confessions of a European Intellectual, it is enough if a man has the revelation of a great ethical truth and is able to express this truth in his work. It is, in general, too much to ask that he himself, in his personal life, should live up to his own ideal."

For all his tomfooleries, Shaw was undeniably right when he asserted that the socialist ideal was meaningless without equality of incomes. For once there was no such equality, the division of men into rich and poor was perpetuated in a new, this time non-capitalist, setup. With the only difference that under this new social system, as exemplified by the U.S.S.R., the place of the privileged capitalists and big land-owners is taken by various groups of the intellectual elite -- office-holders, managers, scientists, writers, and so on. This may be an ideal arrangement for those who at bottom never wished for anything more "ideal" than their own propulsion into the ranks of the privileged, but it certainly does not mean much to the unskilled and uneducated who, though they are told that they are "equally owners of the means of production,"8 would, for an indefinite period, remain at the bottom of the income ladder -- even "worse off than Tantalus for he at least had not created the fruits for which his thirsty palate is doomed to languish in vain."9 Yet, according to the Socialists and the Communists, those unskilled and uneducated would not constitute a class different from that of the office-holders and managers. For, strange as it may sound, Marx and his disciples -- whether of the democratic or the totalitarian school -- did not recognize any class difference between the rich and the poor. It has always been their contention that the class status of a person is determined not by the size of his income but by the source of his income, in other words, that it depends upon whether the recipient of the income is an employer or an employee. The Marxists thus establish a theoretical solidarity of interests between a salaried man who, like the late ex-Governor Al Smith, got $50,000 annually as manager of the Empire State Building, and the lowest paid porter or scrubwoman of the same building. For all its preposterousness, this 18 the theoretical ground upon which the apologists of the Soviet regime base their contention that the house built by Lenin and Stalin is a "classless" society, for everybody is an "employee" of the State which (a) "belongs" to all workers of brain and brawn, and (b) is "withering away." With the exception of the afore-mentioned equalitarians practically all outstanding anticapitalist thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries rejected the idea of equality of incomes. Saint-Simon's most famous disciple, Saint-Amand Bazard (1791-1832), the real founder of the Saint-Simonian school of authoritarian socialism, in a letter addressed to the French Chamber of Deputies in 1830, expressly repudiated any idea of an "equal division . . . . . of the fruits of labor."10 Charles Fourier (1772-1837) too, for all his Utopian vagaries, definitely rejected the idea of equality. While seven-eighths of the membership of his phalansteres were to consist of workers and peasants, capitalists and savants making up the remaining one eighth, less than half of the proceeds, five-twelfths, to be exact, would go to labor, while four-twelfths would go to those who invested their money in the community, and three-twelfths to what Fourier called "talent," i.e., the intellectual workers. He declared expressly that differences of property and enjoyment were indispensable for universal harmony and that "all equality is political poison."11 At the ultra-revolutionary end of the anticapitalist rainbow the economic system vaguely visualized by Michael Bakunin (1814-1876) postulated the formation of voluntary producers' cooperatives which would reward their members according to their works.12

Karl Marx's views on that subject are laid down in his famous letter to the Convention of the German Socialists held at Gotha in 1875. In that letter which is known as the Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx emphasized that during the "first phase of communism" there would be no equality of rewards. It is only under the "higher phase of communism," apparently after many generations or centuries -- that the principle of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" would be applied. (Even this formula is as hazy as it is deceitful. For who is to determine a man's needs? In theory, himself, but in reality none other than the office-holders, the same men who, in present-day Russia, determine that a high-class manager "needs," or let us say, "deserves," several times as much as a plain worker.)

That aspect of socialism, as far as distribution is concerned, was particularly emphasized by Otto Bauer (1881-1938), next to Karl Kautsky the most outstanding theorist of the democratic wing of Marxism. In the May, 1936, issue of Kampf, the theoretical organ of the "Austro-Marxists," he wrote: "Socialism is not equalization. It levels society by abolishing the classes, thus removing the privilege deriving from descent or property. But it differentiates society by rewarding those whose achievements for society are particularly outstanding and by raising them above the masses in matters of income and social prestige." Bauer did not emphasize the words italicized in this paragraph. Had he done so, it might have perhaps occurred to some of his readers that to combine the concept of the abolition of classes with that of inequality of incomes was not unlike combining abolition of race discrimination with the maintenance of Jim Crow.


Marx's above-mentioned Critique of the Gotha Program was to play an important role in those writings of Lenin and Stalin in which they touched upon the subject of rewards under the economic system established by them. In his State and Revolution, written shortly before the seizure of power by his followers, Lenin could not help bringing up the question of distribution under the system of "proletarian dictatorship," the political aspect of the "first phase of communism." The father of Bolshevism knew very well that he found himself on very dangerous ground. He had to appear as an equalitarian in order not to step on the toes of the party's working class element which at that time was exposed to a barrage of anarchist propaganda. And he had to take care not to be too explicit about his equalitarianism, lest its insincerity or plain demagogy become too apparent as soon as the realization of that "first phase" was attempted. So he followed in the footsteps of his teacher, Karl Marx, who dealt with that subject in a way that lent itself to the most contradictory interpretations. In the Critique of the Gotha Program Marx had written that "the first phase of communism" represented a system that was still "in every respect tainted economically, morally, and intellectually with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it is emerging." Hence the

"equal right" of the new system was "still handicapped by bourgeois limitations. The right of the producers is proportional to the amount of labor they contribute; the equality consists in the fact that everything is measured by an equal measure, labor. But one man excels another physically or intellectually, and so contributes, in the same time, more labor, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measure. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal work. It recognizes no class differences because every worker ranks as a worker like his fellows: but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus capacities for production, as natural privileges."13
In other words, there is "equality" -- even though an engineer or manager, because of his intellectual superiority, is paid ten to fifty times as much as an unskilled worker. For that "natural privilege" consists not only in being able to perform more skilled or more complicated tasks, but also in the right of being remunerated in proportion. This, however, Marx was carefuly not to point out bluntly. (One should not forget that the alleged "natural privilege" covers not only the greater natural endowment, but also the purely economic fact that most men were born on the wrong side of the tracks and had never had a chance to acquire any "endowment," i.e., to learn a skilled trade or a profession. These would obviously remain on the bottom of the income ladder during the "first phase." Marx's apologia for inequality during that "first phase" thus differs only in terminology from the hoary argument that a man's poverty is his own fault.)

In expanding upon these ideas of Marx, Lenin glosses over the unequalitarian aspects of this passage which, as a matter of fact, he does not quote. Instead, he uses such expressions as "equality of labor and equality in the distribution of products," "for an equal quantity of labor an equal quantity of products," "equality of labor and equality of wages," "every worker receives from society as much as he has given it," "the whole of society will have become one office and one factory, with equal work and equal pay."14

In the mind of practically every reader these phrases create the impression that in the "first phase of communism" equality of incomes was going to be established. The only draw-back in this equality, as Lenin puts it, would seem to be merely the fact that "different people are not alike: one is strong, another is weak; one is married, the other is not; one has more childern, another has less, etc.

Thus it would seem that the only difference between the "first phase of communism" and the "higher phase" was the circumstance that under the former there was equality of incomes enforced by the authority of the State, while under the "higher phase," to use Marx's words, quoted by Lenin, "it will be possible to pass completely beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois rights, and for society to inscribe on its banners: from each according to his ability: to each according to his needs!"

It is hard to say whether Lenin misunderstood his Teacher's plea for inequality of rewards for intellectual and skilled, as against manual and unskilled labor -- which is hard to assume in a man of Lenin's genius; or whether he thought it more expedient to disregard this fundamental aspect of Marx's views and to indulge in equalitarian or near-equalitarian promises for the immediate future which, of course, were never kept.15 At any rate, both in his "April theses" of 1917 and in State and Revolution published a few months later, Lenin demanded that government office-holders be paid not more than skilled manual workers. This was open advocacy of near-equalitarianism, for it is hard to conceive that in speaking of government officials he should have meant only letter-carriers and garbage removers.

The actual practice of the Soviet regime has made hash of all the equalitarian or near-equalitarian promises regardless of the question of whether Lenin's phrases were or were not deliberately concealing the very opposite of what they seemed to convey. For they altogether ignored the unskilled and semi-skilled, i.e., the enormous majority of the labor force.

Russia's top stratum, after the victorious Bolshevik Revolution, consisted of the former revolutionary conspirators who had been the driving force of the great upheaval. Though calling themselves Communists, they took it for granted that they were to have the cream of all the good things that were still left after all the turmoil of war and revolution. The idea that it behooved men claiming to be the saviors of the downtrodden to live on the same rations as their charges did not occur to them. As in the proverbial case of the Spanish monks and the American Indians, the Communists worked for the future salvation of the masses and the masses were compelled to work for the present comforts of the Communist office-holders. True, for many years the salary of a Communist was supposed not to exceed the maximum of 300 rubles monthly; but in practice this salary constituted mere "pin money"; for all the real expenditures, such as automobiles, country-houses, etc., were supplied by the State over and above the nominal salary.16 This restriction, by the way, has been rescinded long, long ago.

To stimulate production the Soviet leaders decided to raise the managerial-technical personnel to the status of the best-paid stratum of the population. In the early 1930s the principle of preferential treatment was established in favor of another stratum as well. Skilled labor had always been at a premium in Russia; so in order to keep that element loyal and satisfied the Stalin regime engaged upon a policy of a much greater differentiation between the wages of skilled and unskilled workers than is customary in capitalist countries. An article published in 1935 in the theoretical organ of the Soviet Communist Party, bluntly stated that on a collective farm the work of a tractor driver is valued and paid six times higher than that of a plain agricultural laborer.17

Four years before the appearance of that article, Stalin18 solemnly proclaimed inequality as the guiding principle of a better world in the making. "It is unbearable," he said, "to see the locomotive driver receiving the same wages as a copyist." That sentence meant that from now on not only the unskilled manual workers, mostly raw peasants from the countryside, but also those white collar employees whose education did not go beyond spelling and figuring, would stay in the lowest income brackets. And that everything would be done to give satisfaction not only to the technical experts but also to the highly skilled workers who alone will be entitled to three square meals a day and a warm overcoat in winter. The same principle of extreme inequality was applied to the army as well. It was widely reported during World War II that the disparity between the pay of a private soldier and that of an army marshal was in the proportion of one to one hundred and fourteen.19

At the seventeenth Convention of the Communist Party held in 1934 Stalin elaborated theoretically on the subject of inequality. In his speech -- published in pamphlet form in most foreign languages as well -- he paraphrased that passage from Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program which was quoted above. The head of the Soviet regime chose to apply the designation "socialism" to that period following the overthrow of capitalism which Marx called the "first phase of communism;" and he called "communism" that phase which in the Critique was referred to as "the higher phase of communism." Under the former, everybody was to be paid according to the quantity or quality of work performed, while under the latter the principle of "to everybody according to his needs" was to reign supreme. Marx had not been very specific about that "higher phase of communism." In fact, that "higher phase" was a mere pipe dream penned with his tongue in cheek for the benefit of those emotionally in need of a Utopia. And Lenin frankly stated that "it has never entered the mind of any socialist to 'promise' that the highest20 phase of communism will arrive." Stalin, however, whose realm was supposedly approaching that "higher phase," had to be more explicit; for officially Russia had already become a "classless society," all capitalists -- the only real exploiters and parasites, according to Marx -- having been thoroughly eliminated. He was therefore eager to emphasize the fact that "Marxism proceeds from the point of view that the tastes and the needs of human beings with regard to quality and quantity are not equal and cannot be equal, either in the period of socialism or in the period of communism." If words have any meaning at all, then the remark about "quality" and "quantity" meant that the weaker or less educated worker apparently needs no more than, let us say, twenty-five dollars a week, while the select one needs twice, or ten, or fifty times as much. For just as everything is decided by the government, the "needs" will no doubt likewise be determined by the same agency. Apparently conscious of the ugly implications of his words, Stalin immediately proceeded to mitigate them -- at least for the great majority of the unsophisticated drudges who might not be cheered by this prospect of being always on the bottom rung in matters of "quality" and "quantity." So he added that it was tantamount to "slandering Marxism" if one were to assume "that according to Marxism all humans had to wear the same clothes and to eat the same foodstuffs in the same quantities."

That expression of "wearing the same clothes and eating the same foodstuffs in the same quantities" was one of Stalin's stock phrases on that subject; he had used it almost word for word in 1932 during his interview with Emil Ludwig. It was of course a deliberate distortion of the idea of equality of incomes which he was attacking. For that idea meant merely that a laborer, if he put in a whole day's work, was entitled to the same amount of money as the office-holder or technician for the same time, and that, within the limits of that sum, he could buy any quantity or quality of goods or services he preferred. It is beside the point whether or not such a system is a Utopia. The very fact that Stalin had to attack so often the "equalitanan idiocy" indicates that to the workers at large, or at least to the lowest paid among them, that "idiocy" must have a greater appeal than the wisdom of the ever increasing inequalities. In that speech21 Stalin thus denned equality as conceived by Marxism and Leninism: "By equality Marxism means, not equality in personal requirements and personal life, but the abolition of classes, i.e.,

  1. the equal emancipation of all toilers from exploitation after the capitalists have been overthrown and expropriated,
  2. the equal abolition for all of private property in the means of production after they have been transformed into the property of the whole of society,22
  3. the equal duty of all to work according to their ability and the equal right of all toilers to receive according to the amount of work they have done (socialist society),
  4. the equal duty of all to work according to their ability and the equal right of all toilers to receive according ot their requirements (communist society).
And Marxism starts out with the assumption that people's tastes and requirements are not, and cannot be, equal in quality or in quantity, either in the period of socialism or in the period of communism." And Stalin fortified his argument about the four equalities enjoyed by the underdog by the following quotation from Friedrich Engels' Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft: "the real content of the proletarian demand for equality is the demand for the abolition of classes. Any demand for equality which goes beyond that of necessity passes into absurdity."23 Thus "equality" becomes identical with the conversion of private capitalist into collective bureaucratic-managerial ownership, a process which is dubbed "abolition of classes." This is apparently also how equality is understood by Mr. Gaitskell, top leader of the British Labor Party. "By equality," says a June 29, 1955 dispatch in the New York Times, "Mr. Gaitskell . . . means not that everyone should have the same income, habits and tastes, but that there should be 'a classless society in which the differentials of income are based on acceptable criteria, such as skill, responsibility, effort, danger and dirt.' " Thus both the Soviet Communists and the British Laborites see a "classless" society under a setup in which a new aristocracy of "skill, responsibility, effort and danger" will have incomes as much superior to those of the common herd as are the bank-director salaries of the American trade union leaders to those of the rank and file. It is beside the point whether a real equality of incomes could ever be realized. The point is that a non-capitalist society -- democratic or totalitarian style -- is no less of a class system than is a full-fledged capitalist society, except for the fact that an office-holding and managerial elite has stepped into the shoes of the former individual property owners.


The Russian Communists' stock excuse for maintaining inequalities of income is the argument that they are necessary for stimulating the less skilled or unskilled workers to acquire higher skills which would enable them "to do better paid work . . . and to get twice or three times as much" as he or she is getting now.24 That acquisition of higher skills was the subject of an article entitled "Monopoly of Education and Social Advancement" published in the July, 1935 issue of Die Neue Front, an independent left-wing socialist refugee publication printed in Paris. It dealt with the changes in the social status that took place among the 20,000 workers, mostly unskilled, employed by the Stalingrad tractor works. "In the course of five years," the article which is based on information given by Pravda and the organ of the heavy industry, said, "5,153 formerly unskilled workers and laborers advanced from the first and second wage group to the third group; 1,844 workers advanced further to a higher wage group; 667 persons whose original status is not given, became foremen and inspectors; 768 workers and white collar employees of the plant were trained in the Automobile and Tractor 'Technicum' (technical school) and obtained the degree of 'technician,' 120 workers and white collar employees of the plant were trained in the Automobile and Tractor Institute and obtained the degree of engineer; 88 engineers and technicians advanced to leading administrative positions; 58 former engineers and technicians obtained responsible positions on the board of management. According to the report published in the organ of the heavy industry they had started their activities as technicians or engineers, even though Pravda, for propaganda purposes, classified them as 'workers and employees.'"

Thus in the course of five years inequality of wages may have worked as an "incentive" only in the case of about 7,000 out of 20,000 workers; the point of departure of those who became foremen or supervisors is not given; those who became "technicians" and "engineers," were vaguely listed as former "workers and office-employees." And not a single worker ever rose to the position of any of the fifty-eight real bosses of the establishment. As a result the roughly sixty per cent of the workers of the plant who failed to make the grade, and the roughly thirty per cent of those who rose to the next higher wage scale will apparently reproduce in their offspring the bulk of the unskilled and skilled workers needed to produce the comforts for the lucky eight or ten per cent of the "classless" society -- just as under the capitalist class system.

In proportion as these inequalities increased, simultaneously with the greater consolidation of the army and the secret police, the Communist rulers began gradually to dispense with the "proletarian" masquerades in which they had been indulging. At the outset the champions of the working class had been coquetting with an outward show of poverty, wearing caps and shabby clothing so as not arouse the envy of the workers. (It was in accordance with the same technique that during the first years after the seizure of power by Hitler the active Nazis were instructed to shun sumptuous banquets and similar affairs.) Stalin's proclamation of inequality as the basic tenet of socialism was the signal for the speedy abandonment of all the afore-mentioned masquerades of the initial phase of the Revolution. The Russian cities eventually resumed the normal aspect of the Western capitalist world with their external manifestations of wealth and poverty. In the December 22, 1935 issue of the New York Times, Walter Duranty, a correspondent consistently friendly to the Soviet regime, remarked that the "differentiation of wages ... must lead to a new class differentiation in what claims to be a classless society, a new class of bureaucrats and directors of state enterprises, a new class of high paid upper workers all of whom together will form, or are forming a new bourgeoisie." Since Duranty wrote these lines the introduction, in 1940, of tuition fees for the last three years of secondary schools and for universities rendered the acquisition of higher education an outright monopoly of the new bureaucratic and managerial aristocracy. Inequalities of social and economic status have thus become hereditary institutions. It was reported that those tuition fees were later abrogated. But fees or no fees, the fact remains that an ordinary worker cannot afford to send his children to a university unless they are sufficiently gifted to get a scholarship, while all children of the bureaucratic-managerial elite, regardless of their abilities, have the economic opportunity to enter higher educational institutions.

The Soviet regime is of course very careful not to give any exact income statistics. It will at best publish the data about how much was produced, but not how the national product was distributed. This alone speaks volumes and gives plausibility to the assumption that about fifty per cent of the national income is pocketed by about one tenth of the population composed of the office-holding, managerial, military and cultural elite of the nation (including their families). This is illustrated by the information given by Science News Letter, an American non-political publication, which threw cold water on the hopes of those who think they could induce Russian scientists "to desert their country en masse." For as a member of the Soviet Union's new "classless" aristocracy the "Russian scientist, particularly in the post-Stalin period ... receives as much as ten times the earnings of the average factory workers."25 Which, according to the Marxists-Leninists, does not disprove their claim that there is economic equality in the U.S.S.R. For, as they never tire of saying, both workers and scientists are "equally owners of the means of production."


The rise of a new privileged class coupled with totalitarian tyranny, in a society whose rulers claim that by expropriating the capitalists it has emancipated the workers from the yoke of exploitation, has suggested to many democratic socialists the idea that it is necessary to introduce a certain number of correctives into the concept of anticapitalism. Anticapitalism, or collectivism, they contend, can mean liberty and equality only if it is coupled with democracy in the meaning of political freedom and a multi-party system. Some of them also suggest that the idea of a pluralistic or mixed economy -- state, municipal, cooperative and private ownership -- be substituted for the concept of complete nationalization, i.e., of exclusive government ownership, thus avoiding the potential threat of an all-powerful centralized bureaucracy.

The question now arises: will those correctives actually result in the establishment of that equalitarian and "classless" harmony that is inseparable from an ideal commonwealth?

The inauguration of democratic socialism can be envisioned only as a gradual process, occurring either under the impact of legislative measures adopted by a progressive laborite or socialist majority, or as a result of the pressure of mass strikes, or both. (I am not considering here the eventuality of a revolutionary overturn, Bolshevik style, for in that case the result would most likely be a totalitarian form of collectivism which is the antithesis of democratic socialism. I am also leaving open the question whether the transition from a totalitarian collectivist regime to a democratic form of socialism will be effected as a result of military defeat, of a "palace revolution" involving the struggle for power among various sections of the bureaucratic apparatus, of mass sabotage of the industrial workers, or of a gradual evolution, as some optimists believe.)

It requires no great imagination to assume that the greatest influence under a system of democratic socialism will be wielded by those strata of the population which are in possession of a higher education and are therefore in charge of the political and economic aspects of the country's administration. In other words, by the politicians, the office-holders, the managers, the technicians, the economists. Their political and economic power will quite naturally be translated into incomes that are higher than the average income of the uneducated or less educated strata, that is, of the manual workers and the lower ranks of the white collar employees. One does not have to be a cynic to take it for granted that they will use their power to perpetuate their privileged incomes within their own social group by making higher education accessible only to their own offspring (plus the few customary scholarships for the brighter children of the manual workers). For higher incomes are the source of higher education (for the offspring), and vice versa.

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that a newly established democratic-socialist regime, while maintaining inequality of incomes, should yield to the pressure of the masses or follow the promptings of an unearthly generous impulse and actually proceed to make higher education accessible to the offspring of all classes of the population. Logically that would result in the eventual emergence of a more or less homogeneous population of civilized human beings no longer divided into, let us say, those who read the New York Times and those who buy the tabloids. But would it actually? It would take years and years before the higher educational system could be made to accommodate all the graduates of the high schools and their equivalents. During that period of transition the equalitarian enthusiasm of the new socialist bureaucracy would have time to evaporate and the new office-holders and managers would have the opportunity to consolidate their power and to establish themselves firmly as a privileged class, differing from a totalitarian bureaucracy only in the application of civilized democratic methods in the maintenance of the status quo, i.e., of its higher incomes. Their class interests will prove stronger than any principles proclaimed during the preceding period. Sooner or later higher education, the key to all privileged positions, will be made a hereditary monopoly of the families of those entrenched in power, tuition fees or no tuition fees, just as in the U.S.S.R. The loftiest principles cannot withstand the impact of man's predatory urge to take advantage of his weaker fellow man. And the man with higher education has the same advantage over the uneducated as the man with a machine gun has over a group of men armed with pitchforks.

Man is not an equalitarian animal. The man with higher education takes it for granted that he should get a higher remuneration than that received by the manual worker; and among the manual workers there is a similar attitude on the part of the skilled with regard to the unskilled, of the whites toward the colored, and so on. The differences in the salaries of the functionaries of the various labor and radical organizations testify to the fact that greater recompensation is the unavoidable accompaniment of greater skill, ability and education -- even in those circles which festive occasions are willing to render lip service to the principle of equality. And the example of the American labor unions -- bona fide as well as the racketeer-ridden -- in which a fabulously well paid hierarchy holds the rank and file in almost complete subjection, shows the potentialities of class rule based upon the predominance of a well-knit, more or less educated minority over an uneducated majority -- democratic freedoms or no democratic freedoms. In an embryonic form the class conflict within the democratic socialist system of the future could be observed within the world's strongest socialist party at a time when it was still entirely dominated by the ideas of Karl Marx. At the 1892 convention of the German Social Democratic Party held in Berlin, some delegates, representing the usually very radical workers of the German capital, objected to the high salaries paid the intellectual workers employed by the party as editors, lecturers, and the like. In their opinion the maximum salary should not have exceeded 3,000 marks, more than double of the then annual earnings of a skilled worker. On that occasion Wilhelm Liebknecht (the father of Karl Liebknecht), editor in chief of the Berlin Vorwaerts, central organ of the Social-Democratic Party, justified his high salary of 7,200 marks with the following argument: "My salary may seem high to some of you; but I could not possibly manage with less if I am to give my children the education which they need in order to be well prepared for the struggle for existence."26 It never occurred to the Grand Old Man of German socialism, whose prestige equaled that of Bebel, that manual workers employed by the Party in its various enterprises wight have similar ambitions with regard to their children. Two years later, at the Socialist Party Convention held in Frankfurt (1894), that question came up once more. At that time August Bebel, the top leader of the Socialist Party, in referring to a certain prominent editor of a party daily who had once earned 6,500 marks in the employ 0f a bourgeois newspaper, asked the audience: "Do you think he would remain one hour at his present post [at which he was getting 5,000 marks] if you should accept the Berlin proposal?"27 To which a Berlin delegate replied that he "greatly respected the mental abilities of those comrades, but if they turn their back upon us [on account of the lower salary] then let them go. For in that case they have never been Socialists."28 In the end Bebel defeated the motion by threatening to resign as chairman of the party.29 Need one discuss the argument that this was inevitable under capitalism, and that the socialist intellectuals would depart from their non-equalitarian attitude as soon as the elimination of the capitalists has raised them to full power?

A few years after these unpleasant discussions England was deluged by a socialist best-seller entitled Merrie England. Its author was Robert Blatchford, the editor of Clarion, an organ of the Independent Labor Party, an organization whose leaders and members were to become the most active militants of the British Labor Party. Such was his popularity within the British socialist movement that Henry M. Hyndman, at that time the outstanding Marxist in England, "permitted him to act as chairman at one of his electoral meetings."30 Blatchford had never read "a single line of Marx,"31 yet he unwittingly popularized the non-equalitarian ideas expressed in an obscure way in Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program. On page 82 of his Merrie England he says that "For convenience sake socialism is generally divided into two kinds. These are called 1. Practical socialism. 2. Ideal socialism. Really they are only parts of one whole; practical socialism being a kind of preliminary step toward ideal socialism, so that we might with more reason call them elementary and advanced socialism."32 And three pages further: "You will observe that under practical socialism there would be wages paid; and, probably, the wages of managers would be higher than the wages of workmen; and the wages of artists, doctors and other clever and highly trained men would be higher than those of weavers or navvies. Under ideal socialism there would be no money at all, and no wages."33 He repeats this idea in another section of his book: "But observe, once more, that it could only be under ideal socialism that the official and the scavenger would be equally paid.34

These were the views of the "then most popular writer of the British socialist movement."35 Views which recall Heinrich Heine's sarcastic remark in his piece about Louis Blanc: "It is true, we are all brothers, but I am the big brother and you are the little brothers; hence I am entitled to a larger portion." (This was also the brotherly equality practiced in the first Christian communities in which the custom was established that "those who preach and teach are entitled to a double honor," i.e., to a double portion.36)

Referring to the "big brothers," i.e., the ruling elite that would emerge after the elimination of the capitalists, the author of an article in the May, 1935 issue of the Austro- Marxist theoretical monthly Der Kampf (edited in Prague by the outstanding democratic Marxist Otto Bauer) wrote on p. 238: "This elite is no privileged class in the meaning of the classes of the capitalist society because it has no property in the means of production and circulation through which it could exploit the labor of others. Nor is it a privileged estate in the sense of the feudal society. For its composition changes continually. Everybody has the opportunity through higher output to rise into it. Membership is not hereditary." And he comes to the conclusion that "the formation of this elite is not in contradiction to the aim of the social revolution, to the development of a classless society." A glance at the higher educational institutions in the USSR, where the bulk of the students consists of the offspring of the bureaucratic-managerial elite could have made him realize that membership in that elite is as hereditary as membership in the capitalist or power elite in the rest of the world. The fact that the ranks of this elite are occasionally replenished by "intruders," i.e., recipients of scholarships stemming from the working class, is no argument against the hereditary character of the managerial class, for the composition of the hereditary capitalist class is likewise subject to changes due to the penetration of self-made parvenus rising from the poorer strata of the population.

During the early 1920s, in anticipation of the dangers of totalitarianism, as it were, Otto Bauer rejected the idea that the government should manage the socialized industries. It would, he wrote at that time, "become too powerful as against the people and the legislature; such an increase of government power would be dangerous to democracy." He saw a way out of this danger in public corporations, headed by representatives of labor, the technical managers, the consumers and the government. He was apparently not troubled by the idea that, as a body, a these "representatives," the cream as it were of the nation's organizational talent, would along with the regular government office holders, constitute part of the new sel perpetuating ruling class of "knows" bossing it -- "democratically" to be sure -- over the great mass of the "know- nots. This idea of a disinterested "proletarian" elite that was to run the industries for the benefit of the uneducated rank and file was just as realistic as the older concept of the democratic Socialists, as expressed at the turn of the century by Karl Kautsky, dean of the Western Marxists, in his Die Soziale Revolution (Part I, p. 45, Berlin, 1902). He argued that the Socialist Party's participation in the activities of the legislative bodies was necessary "for the purpose of rendering the proletariat more and more familiar in a practical way with the tasks and ways and means of the national and municipal administration and of the big economic enterprises, that is, for the purpose of attaining that intellectual maturity which the proletariat needs if one day it should want to replace the bourgeoisie as the ruling class." Thus, in the view of the democratic Socialists, the working class has the choice of either being "emancipated" by a disinterested elite that has stepped into the shoes of the compensated ex-capitalists, or of waiting for its "emancipation" until the blessed Greek calends when the readers of the tabloids and of the crime comics will attain the "intellectual maturity" necessary for managing the complicated political and economic fabric of modern society.

The inevitability of the perpetuation of inequality and class rule after the abolition of capitalism was best formulated by the Austrian "juridical" socialist Anton Menger (1841-1906), an outstanding authority on the history of socialist ideas, who had no illusions about the "stateless" or "classless" character of socialism. "Even under the most fortunate circumstances," he says in his Neue Staatslehre, (Jena, 1903, pp. 274-275) "lt is unthinkable that there could be an equal distribution of technical knowledge, what with its present enormous extent and diversity and its continuous boundless growth. Hence the big difference in technical training will continue to exist in the people's Labor State as well and to constitute a dangerous element of inequality and of claims to domination by individuals and groups."


The vicious circle of higher incomes securing higher education (for the offspring) and higher education securing privileged positions with higher incomes under either totalitarian or democratic collectivism, points to the fallacy of all socialist theories insofar as they promise that what they call the "emancipation of the working class" woidd be the result of the abolition of private property of the means of production. In the opinion of the Polish revolutionary thinker W. Machajski they altogether disregard the question of the abolition of the educational privilege which, after the elimination of the capitalists, could be effected only by wiping out the difference between the incomes of the office-holders and managers, on the one hand, and those of the manual workers and low-paid white collar employees, on the other. For this alone -- again according to Machajski -- could enable the offspring of the latter to obtain the same higher education as the progeny of the office-holders, managers and other intellectual workers.

There are very valid reasons for assuming that this equalitarian "happy ending" of all social conflicts will forever remain a Utopia. In the first place, the ideal of classless equality is frustrated by the very conditions of the underdog's struggle against his masters. Spontaneous, i.e., leaderless, his revolt is invariably defeated. If it is organized and victorious, the fruits of victory are reaped b, the educated organizers who, in Orwell's immortal phrase, will claim and obtain a share that is "more equal" than that of their followers. Even if and when they happen t< be disinterested idealists, they are as a rule unable to se beyond their own class or group interests which tell then to fight the capitalists but blind them to the privileges <» their own class. They see themselves as mere "worker I and they cannot and would not realize that their own elevation to a ruling and better paid stratum after the elimination of the capitalists actually constitutes the establishment of a new class system. Not to speak of the cynics who are fully aware of the reality behind what they call "emancipation of the working class."

Secondly, in their rejection of equality of incomes, the leaders -- whether democratic Socialists or totalitarian Communists -- are indirectly supported by the bulk of the underprivileged masses themselves, even though occasionally the latter grumble against inequality, as evidenced by Stalin's violent diatribes against the demand for equality. For the underprivileged are themselves subdivided into different income groups each of which, if it thinks of equality, wants it only with those who earn more. The skilled worker aspires to the salary of the foreman or engineer, but he indignantly rejects the idea that a laborer should earn as much as he does. And the white laborer, as a rule, feels the same towards women, non-whites and immigrants. And these, too, have their subdivisions until the very poorest are reached whose interests are simply ignored by the rest. Witness the fate of the American agricultural laborers whose union was left by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to the tender mercies of their employers as soon as the law-makers of the "right-to-work" States (i.e., the States that had outlawed the union shop) had promised in 1956 to exempt all the other unions from the rigors of their anti-trade union legislation.37

The general acceptance of the principle of inequality Points to the sad conclusion reached by Robert Michels in 1911 in his Soziologie des Parteiwesens38 to the effect that while the preachers and activists of the various schools of socialism may some day win, the socialist ideal of an equal-rtanan, classless commonwealth that has wiped out all ^equalities of the standard of living is fated to remain -- an ideal.

But even supposing that the human race should eve reach that point when every one of its members has chance to get higher education, it would henceforth be faced by a new problem: the income and power inequalities created not by the economic division of the human race into "haves" and "have-nots" or "knows" and "know-nots" (which -- let us assume -- by that time would have disappeared), but by the natural division into the more and the less gifted, or the more and the less energetic -- with the better endowed invariably claiming and obtaining more power and more luxuries than their mere average fellow humans. This would no longer be a class antagonism between poor and rich, or between uneducated and educated, but between homo ordinarius and a sort of natural elite owing its ascendancy to its "natural endowments" rather than to organized force and fraud.

Theoretically such a system would result in a continuous change of the personnel of that elite of merit and in the establishment of what is sometimes called "sophocracy," or the rule of the wise. But human nature being what it is and refusing to change, one may safely and melancholi-cally assume that the members of that "natural" elite will try and succeed in securing undeserving positions of power and prestige to their children even though these may boast of no other merits than to have gone to the trouble of being born in the family of a member of the elite. This, in turn, would give rise to permanent struggles for power and prestige between ambitious and better endowed "outs stemming from the common herd of the non-elite, and the less endowed "ins" who are merely the beneficiaries of the time-honored principle of inheritance. Pareto's "circulation of the elites" would thus remain valid -- even in the dreamland of Utopia.


1 "The proud, slave-holding, Indian-hating aristocrats who were responsible for the Declaration of Independence meant that certain property-holders on this side of the Atlantic were equal to certain property-holders on the other side -- that was all. Negroes and Indians and poor Whites and women were not equal to Virginia planters and political leaders." George B. Cutten, President of Colgate sity, in The New York Times, July 1, 1923.

2 Manchester Guardian, March 3, 1955.

3 Felicien Challaye, Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire et Syndicalisme Reformiste, Paris, 1909, p. 13.

4 G. Walter, Babeuf, Paris, 1937, p. 192.

5 "The Modern Revolution" in Today for July, 1884, pp. 71-72. Quoted in G.H. Orpen's Annex to E. Laveleye's The Socialism of Today, London, 1885, p. 321.

6 New York Times, March 9, 1933.

7 Bernard Shaw, Everybody's Political What's What, New York, 1944, p. 57.

8 Well-known Communist formula. See footnote 22 on page 32 ol this volume.

9 Famous passage from Ferdinand Lassalle's Offenes Antworschreiben.

10 Quoted in Alexander Gray's, The Socialist Tradition, London-New York, 1947, p. 168.

11Charles Fourier, Theorie de l'Unite Universelle, Paris, 1841, Vol. III, p. 517 (Quoted in Selections from the Works of Fourier: London, 1901, p. 189) and Charles Fourier, Nouveau Monde Industriel, Paris, 1829, p. 135 (quoted in Alexander Gray's op. cit. p. 185).

12 M. Bakounine, Federalisme, Soeialisme et Antitheologisme in Oeuvres, Paris, 1895, Vol. I. page 55. See also Max Nettlau, Der Anarchismus von Proudhon zu Kropotkin, Berlin, 1927, pp. 93, 102 (footnote 84), 104.

13 Did Marx deliberately use obscure and unintelligible verbiage in presenting his views on the subject? The well-known Marxist historian, Franz Mehring, in his biography of Marx, frankly admits that the Critique went over the heads of the delegates to the Socialist convention to whom it was addressed.

14 V.I. Lenin, , Chapter V, subdivision 3.

15 The fact is that Lenin was not very scrupulous in his choice of arguments, to put it mildly. On one occasion he had been confronted with the statement made by Marx in 1872, at the time of the congress of the First International held at The Hague, to the effect that violent revolutions might not be necessary in democratic countries like the United States, England or the Netherlands. As a devout Marx-worshiper Lenin would not admit that on an important question his views differed from those of his teacher. So he gave the perfectly ridiculous reply that Marx was right at that time because at that time the countries concerned had neither a standing army nor a well-established bureaucracy. Another instance of his disingenuousness was the statement he made in his State and Revolution (Chapter 3, subdivision 2) to the effect that "the great majority of functions of the old 'state power' have become so simplified and can be reduced to such simple operations of registration, filing and checking that they will be quite within the reach of every literate person and it will be possible to perform them for 'workingmen's wages' which circumstances can and must strip those functions of every shadow of privilege." Lenin merelv "forgot" to expand on what would be the status of the economists, managers and technical experts whose functions require more than mere "reading and writing" expected from a filing clerk or a fetter carrier.

16 In a moment of impish non-restraint Walter Duranty, a journalist generally considered as very friendly to the Soviet regime, expressed his wonderment in the New York Times as to how the Kremlin crowd could afford keeping French and English governesses for their children -- all on a salary of 300 rubles monthly (for the commissars, not for the governesses who, as foreigners, certainly got more.)

17 A. Leontiev, "Socialism and Equality," published in Bolshevik (Moscow) of March 15, 1935 (p. 50). The article appeared in German translation in the April, 1935 issue (p. 41) of Unter dem Banner des Marxismus, Moscow.

18 In a speech delivered on June 23, 1931, New York Times, July 6, 1931

19 New York Times, February 21, 1956, article by Harry Schwartz. According to a AP dispatch in The New York Times of November 5, 1932 which was passed by the Moscow censor, a private soldier would receive under the new scale six rubles monthly, while a senior sergeant would get thirty rubles. The actual pay of commissioned officers was not made public.

20 V. I. Lenin, State and Revolution, Chapter V, subdivision 4. -- In his Critique of the Gotha Program Marx did not use the expression "highest phase of communism;" he spoke of the higher phase. Sucn "alterations" of the text (there is also another word for it) are not accidental. They serve the purpose of obscuring the issue.

21 Joseph Stalin, Report on the Work of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. published in English. Moscow, 1934, pp. 74-75.

22 The Communist claim that the wealth of the nation has become the "property of the whole of society" is lampooned in Russia as follows by those who are not impressed by it: Says the Communist office-holder to the workers and peasants: "The land is yours, the grain is mine; the factory is yours, the goods are mine; the river « yours, the fish are mine."

23 P. 104 of the German original (Part I, Chapter X, paragraph before the last). This Marxian classic is usually referred to a Anti-Dühring both in the original and in the English translation.

24 A. Leontiev, op. cit. p. 50 of the Russian or p. 41 of the German version.

25 Science News Letter, February 16, 1957.

26 Protokoll über die Verhandlungen des Parteitags, 1892, Berlin, 1892 p. 122.

27 Protokoll über die Verhandlungen des Parteitags, 1894, Berlin, 1894, p. 71.

28 Ibid. p. 74.

29 Loc. cit. It is worth mentioning that in his best-selling propaganda classic Die Frau und der Sozialismus Bebel advocated equality of rewards (Chapter XXI, Section 7, p. 406 of the 1913 edition.)

30 Neue Zeit, Stuttgart, theoretical organ of the German Socialist Party, February 11, 1910, p. 719.

31 M. Beer, A History of British Socialism, London-New York, 1948 Vol. II, p. 309.

32 Robert Blatchford, Merrie England, New York, 1895. p. 82.

33 Ibid. p. 83.

34 Ibid. p. 112.

35 Neue Zeit, loc. cit.

36 G. Walter, Histoire du Communisme, Paris, 1931 Vol. I, p. 83.

37 The Reporter, New York, November 1, 1956, pp. 19-20. 1915.

38 Published in English under the title Political Parties, New York, 1915.