Max Nomad, Aspects of Revolt, 1959.


Every country and every age has had its pariahs, rejected either by the majority of the population or by those in power. A motley crowd, with no general bond of solidarity among themselves, those "undesirables" have always included -- aside from the underworld of crime and the lower depths of slum misery -- the racial, ethnical and religious minorities, on the one hand, and those who might be designated as déclassés, on the other.

One way or another, all of these groups have played their part in the political history of the world. In times of turmoil the social scum has had its hand both in the overthrow of old tyrannies and in the establishment of new ones. Ethnical minorities have played the same role. Irishmen supplied prominent leaders to England's nineteenth century radicalism, to mention only such names as Feargus O'Connor, the top leader of the Chartist movement of the first half of the last century, and Bronterre O'Brien, one of its prominent theorists. Polish refugees and exiles, Mieroslawski, Bem, Dombrowski, Wroblewski, headed the armed forces of various German, Austrian, Hungarian and French uprisings in 1848 and 1871. The large proportion of Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Armenian and Georgian intellectuals, as compared with the Russians proper among the rebels against the tsarist regime, offers a further illustration of this phenomenon. On the other hand, the Czechs of Austria and the Croats of Hungary because of their justified grievances against the Austrian Germans and against the Magyars (Hungarians), contributed in 1848 more than their share in the suppression of the democratic revolution in the Habsburg monarchy.

As a particular target of a multiplicity of prejudices, the Jews, to a certain extent reduced to the status of semi-untouchables, yet at the same time economically and culturally not inferior to their "hosts," retaliated either by bringing forth rebels against a system that rejected them, or by humiliating their "betters" by becoming their saviors. Both the rebels and non-conformists, such as Karl Marx, Moses Hess, Ferdinand Lassalle, Eduard Bernstein, Rosa Luxemburg, Victor and Friedrich Adler, Leon Blum, Morris Hillquit and Leon Trotsky, on the one hand, and conservatives and moderate liberals, such as Disraeli, Stahl, Luzzatti, Baruch, and Mendes-France, on the other, made their dent in nineteenth and twentieth century history.

A revolutionary role has also been played in some colonial or semi-colonial countries, such as Mexico and the Philippines, by the half-castes, the "sons of the dark mother" who rose against, and finally discarded their "legitimate" half-brothers, the "sons of the white mother."

However, the importance of these special minorities of malcontent or rejected "outsiders," as it were, recedes in comparison with the role played throughout history by the déclassés.

There are of course déclassés and déclassés. A member of the propertied classes who has gambled away his fortune, or lost it through no fault of his own; the younger son of a numerous farmer's family who got no share in his father's estate, a man of education -- particularly if he is a member of an ostracized minority -- who can find no rewarding employment; a self-educated worker aching for a non-manual occupation -- they are all déclassés. But their reactions to their misfortunes are different.

The nobleman or the businessman -- or his playboy son for that matter -- who has fallen out of his bed of roses -- will, if he is unable to make a comeback by his own efforts or with the help of his influential connections, use whatever abilities he has either in a subordinate white collar or similar position, or in various parasitic semi-legal or illegal pursuits. In time of political unrest he is likely to join those "outs" who in his opinion have the greatest chances to dispossess certain "ins," either of their property or of their political jobs.

In ancient Rome, the movements connected first with the name of Catiline, and later with that of Caesar, while representing chiefly the revolt of the impoverished masses against the financial oligarchy, were led to a large extent by the déclassé members of the upper strata. Caesar succeeded where Catiline had failed, and as a result the old republican moneyed oligarchy was exterminated to be replaced by army officers and bureaucrats who jointly with the newly rich were to dominate the Roman Empire.1

In the Middle Ages the Italian city republics with their frequent civil wars and violent party struggles, furnished, according to the Swiss economist and historian Sismondi, the first crop of mercenaries, armies of hired soldiers appearing in Italy as far back as the thirteenth century.2 These déclassés whose ranks were later replenished by landless or dispossessed peasants, were in turn usually led by impoverished, i.e., déclassé noblemen who offered their bands' services to the highest bidder. These bands constituted the infantry forces of their time, and their leaders, the condottieri, were more often than not the actual makers of history not only in Italy, but also in Germany and in other countries. By combining warfare with ordinary plunder they did on a large scale what the robber barons, their sires or cousins, had been practicing either alone or with the help of a few henchmen. Those robber barons, by the way, were of course nothing but the propertyless, hence déclassé members of the lower nobility. It is by their depredations, directed mainly against the merchants, that they forced the latter to effect that alliance between cities and ruling princes, dukes, kings or emperors, which eventually, by taming the feudal nobility, resulted in the establishment of the modern centralized State.

A peculiar historical role was played by the déclassés during the seventeenth century. At that time the Turkish army, then at the height of its power, was indebted for much of its strength to the policy of accepting in its ranks capable adventurers from all over the world without inquiring about their past and without placing obstacles to their advancement. As a result, the Turkish army became to a certain extent a sort of Foreign Legion, just as three centuries later the international communist movement was to become a Foreign Legion in the service of another expanding Eastern empire. (In the nineteenth century the imperialist and colonialist policies of various European powers were carried on not only with a view to enriching various capitalist concerns but also to provide jobs for the best connected impecunious supernumeraries of the upper and middle class for whom no positions could be found at home.)

Late in the eighteenth century the dispossessed aristocrats of France became the champions of European intervention against the Great Revolution and the theorists of eighteenth and nineteenth century reaction, as exemplified by the names of Louis de Bonald and Joseph de Maistre. After 1917 the same element was represented by the dispossessed Russian noblemen who, joined by equally dispossessed former capitalists, were in all countries fomenting a war of intervention against Soviet Russia. On the other hand, one has seen such déclassé adventurers of genius as Count Mirabeau joining the forces of the Revolution of 1789, and also such voluntary exiles from Russia's highest society as Bakunin and Kropotkin who championed the revolt of the underdog all over the world.


However, it is another group of déclassés that has played the most important part among those who have influenced the course of history: the impecunious owners of an invisible capital that they had no opportunity to invest profitably. For higher education for which there is no demand is just as worthless as a mineral ore deposit to which the access is blocked.

Contrary to a very popular concept, it was not the feminine dispensers of what is called "love," but those men whose livelihood depended upon some specialized knowledge who constituted what might be called the oldest profession or professions. These first professionals or intellectuals who knew, or claimed to know, more than the common herd were the priests, the magicians, the medicine men, the shamans, the sorcerers, or by what other name they might be designated.

In the course of time the advantage which their alleged knowledge of the unknowable or their real discoveries and inventions gave them over the rest of the population, secured for those first "intellectuals," according to circumstances, a privileged position alongside of or even above that of the ruling groups of warriors and big land owners. With the development of writing certain intellectual skills were also acquired by numerous individuals who applied them to various socially necessary pursuits independent of the purely religious or related functions. Those were the government officials, the lay teachers, the physicians, the lawyers, etc.

As time went on each of these two groups of intellectual workers was torn by the antagonism between the "ins" and the "outs," the privileged and the under-privileged, those whose manner of living equaled that of the owners of the nation's wealth, and those who reluctantly had to content themselves with the crumbs from the tables of the mighty. History is replete with peasant rebellions led either by heretical members of the lower clergy or by educated laymen stemming from the lower middle classes.

The rabid hatred of the rich, characteristic of the first Christian communities, was no doubt first preached by educated and semi-educated malcontents who -- consciously or unconsciously -- were out to substitute a new religious hierarchy of their own for that of the ruling theocracy. The same holds also for the anarchism of the Gnostic sect of the Carpocratians of the second century, who combined certain aspects of the Judeo-Christian mythology with some elements of Greek philosophy; of the communism of the Zoroastrian Mazdakites in Persia four centuries later; of the Christian communist heresies of the Bogomils in the Balkans, and of various more or less related sects which arose in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and in the wake of the Reformation, some of which, like the Italian Apostolic Brethren early in the fourteenth century and the German Anabaptists in Luther's time, rose in arms against in ruling classes. Even in our times one sees large numbers of underpaid Protestant ministers either joining the socialist or labor movements, or -- openly or secretly -- siding with the Communists. During the 1930 and 1940s a fellow-traveling monthly catering to the Protestant clergy was reported to have counted about five thousand ministers among its subscribers.3

Aside from the heretics and non-conformists, it was the monkish element -- likewise composed mostly of those semi-educated unfortunates somewhere between the lower middle classes and the destitute and uneducated -- which made its contribution to history. The Buddhist monks have actually become the ruling stratum in various eastern and southeastern countries of the Asian continent, while the charitable activities of the Christian monasteries and convents added to the power of the Church and to its prestige among the masses.

In this connection one might also mention that in our time the worst paid among the lower rungs of the Catholic hierarchy in such countries as Italy actively support the peasants' claim for a distribution of the big landed estates. One does not have to be a cynic to infer that a more prosperous peasantry would also afford to be more generous to its spiritual leaders.


Quite different was in the past the influence of those educated déclassés whose education did not constitute a part of their religious calling. They were particularly numerous in ancient Greece where the power and prestige of the priests was by no means comparable to the status they enjoyed in the vast agricultural countries of the Orient. For Greece imported much of her food; hence there was no room for the great influence of those who claimed -- and were believed -- to be able to do something about the weather.

Athens, the center of ancient civilization before the rise of Rome and Alexandria, had two sets of educated déclassés. The scions of the landed nobility, such as Plato, Alcibiades, and Xenophon, were déclassés in the sense that they had suffered economically from the rule of the "democratic" merchants whose policy of importing cheap grain from the colonies was ruining the aristocratic land owners. Hence, their enthusiasm for aristocratic Sparta and the support they gave to the enemies of their own city-state.4 (Their teacher, Socrates, though not a member of the aristocracy, might have been prompted in his anti-democratic attitude by the same contempt for the bourgeois Babbitts of his day which in modern times has induced so many intellectuals to embrace the outwardly plebeian, yet essentially aristocratic gospels of Fascism or Communism -- both of them having many things in common with Sparta's military "communism.")

However, much more numerous than the native Athenian intellectuals were those educated Greeks or Hellenized "foreigners" like Zeno the Stoic, who, because of their non-Athenian descent, were forever excluded from the benefits and privileges of citizenship. These were the teachers of "wisdom" -- regardless of whether they are designated as "sophists" or "philosophers." While some of them achieved great affluence, others like Crates, lived in the direst misery. But, rich or poor, their status as permanent "foreigners" would seem to have consciously or unconsciously turned them against the established values.

The more successful among them, such as Aristippus (of the "Cyrenaic" school) -- though by no means rebels espousing the cause of the underdog -- would flout the idea of patriotism and, as rabid cosmopolitans, proclaim that "from every point of the earth the distance to Hades is the same." Or they would scandalize their hypocritical contemporaries by anticipating Stirner and Nietzsche and claiming that everything was permissible if you can get away with it.

Those who were less fortunate -- the real déclassés sans phrase -- embraced the gospel of the ragged Antisthenes whose mother was a Thracian slave woman. Poor and hopeless, he and his disciples, the "Cynics," dressed like beggars, making a virtue of poverty. Cosmopolitans, they preached the equality of all men and the injustice of slavery. Unable to rebel against the social injustices, they merely condemned all that was sacred to the beneficiaries of the system whose vices and corruption they castigated. Laws, riches, glory, the established customs -- all of these, in their opinion, deserved the contempt of the wise and the virtuous. On the other hand, they defended the dignity of manual labor that was despised by the bulk of the citizens. Theirs was a paradoxical sort of rabid-sounding asceticism using a vocabulary of revolutionary class hatred, but refraining from any suggestion of a radical change. It was not a revolt against poverty, but rather a moralist -- or sour grape? -- protest against a cruel civilization.

In his Geschichte des Sozialismus und Kommunismus Georg Adler5 expressed the opinion that the attitude of the Cynics, though essentially non-political, in renouncing all cultural needs, logically led to the negation of the institutions creating culture. He concluded that the anarchism of Zeno the Stoic, which rejected the army, private property, courts of justice, money, and marriage bonds, i.e., all the basic institutions of civilized class society, was the logical consequence of the asceticism of the Cynics.

There were also those among the Greek writers who would offer more concrete proposals than the nebulous communist anarchism of Zeno. One of them, Phaleas of Chalcedon, whose ideas are summarized by Aristotle,6 suggested that land should be equally distributed among all citizens who would have no right to sell it. This would perpetuate equality of private ownership. Trade and industry, however, were to be run by the government, the workers being the slaves of the State. The fact that Aristophanes in one of his plays (Ecclesiazousai) ridiculed certain communist tendencies of his time shows that these were no mere fancies of individual dreamers, but actually existing trends among the educated have-nots of Athens. (To the question who would do the work after everything had been declared to be in common, the advocate of communism replies "the slaves.")


During the Dark Ages -- the thousand years that followed the decline of Greco-Roman civilization -- little scope was left for those men of education who were not of the cloth. All the positions of importance were held by clergymen. The not overly numerous laymen who were either poets or scholars were in a sense déclassés morally. For they were either flunkeys or parasites of a feudal lord or of a ruling prince. It was only with the growth of the cities and the spread of printing that a class of educated men sprung up who were neither priests nor monks and who were ready to defend the interests of the rising urban middle class.

However, it was not until the eighteenth century that these intellectuals dared openly to defy the established order based upon aristocratic privilege. Until that time even the greatest scholars were little more than pen-hirelings of the powers that be. In the seventeenth century it was taken for granted7 that scholars, philosophers, and writers in general should be at the service of a king, or a pretender, for that matter, to mention only such men as Grotius, Hobbes, and Locke. Even a man like Ulrich von Hutten, sixteenth century Germany's greatest poet and satirist and perhaps one of the world's most glorious rebels and déclassés, was forced, during various periods of his life, to rely on the favor of princes.

In the eighteenth century the growth of the urban middle class was accompanied by a numerical increase of men with higher education but no positions commensurate with their abilities. That was the period of transition from decaying feudalism to modern industrialism -- a period during which all the political power was still in the hands of the nobility and the clergy. The leaven of that transition which culminated in the overthrow of the ancien regime, were the intellectuals of the French capital which offered them a market for their products, as it were, thus making them independent of aristocratic patrons.8 It was the so-called philosophes, the counterparts of the intellectual elite of today, who by their contributions to Diderot's Encyclopedie and by their other writings undermined the moral authority of the old regime. Outstanding among them, both as rebels and as déclassés, were Diderot and Rousseau. The former, at times so poor that he had to write such pornographic trash as Bijoux Indiscrets, was suspected by his contemporaries of the authorship of Morelly's communist Le Code de la Nature; while Rousseau's writings were to become the inspiration of Robespierre and other intellectual leaders of the Revolution. (It is beside the point that his Contrat Social is a confused mixture of both the democratic doctrine of popular sovereignty and of the totalitarian concept of outlawry of all minority opinions.)

The radical views of the French intellectuals, particularly those of Rousseau, had their repercussions in Germany where the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period represented a spiritual revolt among the educated sons of the German middle and lower middle classes. The social status and the rebellious feelings of that section of the German intelligentsia can be clearly visualized if one considers that during that period a man like Mozart was employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg at the equivalent of 67 dollars a year and had to take his meals with the domestic servants. Schiller's personal revolt against his tyrannical princeling, and his first revolutionary plays, are to be viewed as one aspect of that spiritual insurrection of Germany's déclassé intellectuals, which had affected a large section of the German middle classes.


During the Great French Revolution and the years immediately preceding it, the educated déclassés from all over France crowded the capital where they lived in a destitution which is hard to describe. It was they who spurred on the opponents of royalty, of the nobility, of the Church and of the old bureaucracy, who steeled their resistance against both the domestic and the foreign enemies of the great change, and who supplied a very large portion of the officers of the revolutionary armies. And it was the revolutionary refugees from Central Europe who in 1792 -- before the outbreak of the armed conflict between revolutionary France and her neighbors -- conducted a vigorous campaign in favor of a revolutionary war that would bring about the fall of the reactionary regimes of their own countries.

The ferment produced by the French Revolution had its profound influence upon the intelligentsia and particularly its impecunious sections all over Europe, who were engaged in a struggle for democracy or national unification. The impact was particularly strong in England where between 1792, when the London Corresponding Society was founded, and the late 1850s groups of radical déclassés, known at various periods as "Jacobins," "Levellers," "Spencean Philanthropists," and "Chartists," fought for more democracy and the extension of the franchise. The Chartists of the 1830s and the 1840s, by arousing Disraeli's attention, unwittingly inspired the latter with the idea of the "New Toryism," an embryonic anticipation, as it were, of the New Deal and the Welfare State.

In France, Napoleon, with his promise of the "career open to talent" regardless of origin or wealth, was for awhile the idol of the educated but impecunious younger generation. When the Bonapartist epic lost its lustre, many French déclassés, inspired by Filippo Buonarroti's Conspiration pour l'Egalite (1828), fell back upon the communist-equalitarian ideas of Babeuf, the organizer of the first attempt of a group of communist déclassés to establish a revolutionary dictatorship in 1796; hence the members of the secret societies of the 1830s and 1840s were generally referred to as "Babouvists."

The rise of the super-conspirator Auguste Blanqui and the eclipse of the various Babouvist groups resulted in the coining of the term "Blanquist" to cover those educated malcontents who combined the anticapitalist grievances of the power-and-job-hungry déclassés and of the just plain hungry manual workers, to engage in conspiracies aiming at the immediate seizure of power. For all their rather simple philosophy or lack of philosophy, the Blanquists with their advocacy of a revolutionary dictatorship, served as an inspiration for those revolutionary déclassés who were to succeed them on the international arena: the early Marxists, the Bakuninists, the Leninists, and -- paradoxical as it may sound -- the Fascists. (At the outset of his Fascist career, the Italian dictator frankly mentioned the famous French conspirator as one of his teachers.)

Blanqui was quite candid about the great role he attributed to the déclassés in the social struggles of his time. "The déclassés," he wrote, "the invisible army of progress, are today the hidden leaven which secretly raises the mass and prevents it from falling into apathy. Tomorrow they will be the reserve of the Revolution."9 In the 1870s the mood of these déclassés was reflected by the Communard (1871) Jules Valles, the once famous author of Jacques Vingtras, where the following advice is mockingly given to men like himself: "Write books! But I am not quite sure that they will be printed or that they won't be persecuted. Better still, believe me, come into an inheritance, or play the stock market, or go into the banking business... or start a revolution!"

Similar to that of Blanqui was the opinion of the outstanding Russian rebel Bakunin who, in a speech delivered at the Convention of the League for Peace and Liberty held in Bern in 1868, declared that there were in Russia's higher educational institutions "40,000 young déclassés for whom revolution was the only way out of their present misery."10

These views about the historical role of the déclassés were not shared by Marx and Engels. In their Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, they referred to the non-working class elements joining the revolutionary movement not as déclassés having a grudge against the capitalist system, but as "bourgeois ideologists who had raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole." Some men of this kind were no doubt in the movement, but the majority of the educated rebels undoubtedly consisted of déclassés who had their own ax to grind. Marx's and Engels' reluctance to admit it might be explained by their apprehension lest their own radical attitude be interpreted as a sour-grapes hostility to the capitalist fleshpots. But there were also other more weighty reasons. Having spent so much theoretical ardor on proving that their philosophy was the expression of the aspirations and interests of the working class, they consciously avoided even the slightest suggestion that the overthrow of the capitalist system might be in the interests of the educated but impecunious members of the middle and lower middle class. For this in turn might arouse the suspicion that these déclassés were using the movement for their own enthronement over the masses. So to clear themselves of the suspicion that their own opposition to capitalism might have a similar not strictly working-class motivation, they referred to the déclassés only when they spoke about the following of their rivals in the revolutionary camp, and then, as a rule, in a contemptuous, disparaging tone. Suffice it to mention only the famous sentence about "a bunch of déclassés, the dregs of the bourgeoisie. .. lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and without knowledge, pool room students, commercial travelers and other salesmen, and particularly journalists of the small press."11 Marx and Engels had obviously forgotten that twenty-five years before perpetrating that passage against the Bakuninists in 1873 they had in their anticapitalist zeal enrolled "the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science" in the class of "paid wage laborers" of the bourgeoisie.12 Thus, according to their polemical logic "a paid wage laborer of the bourgeoisie" becomes the "dregs of the bourgeoisie" when, unable to make both ends meet, he joins a competing revolutionary group. It is worth noting, by the way, that nearly twenty-five years earlier, in his history of French secret societies, Lucien de La Hodde, journalist, conspirator and police informer, used almost the same words for expressing his contempt for his former "comrades." He called them "lawyers without clients, physicians without patients, writers without readers, merchants without customers;"13 and in a pamphlet against the Italian revolutionary movement written in 1850 by the reactionary Viscount d'Arlincourt, that phrase occurs once more, reading as follows: "all lawyers without clients, all physicians without patients, all professors without students, all bankrupt debtors sued by their creditors," and so on.14 Marx found himself decidedly in very bad company when in the heat of a bitter factional struggle against his Russian rival, Michael Bakunin, he furiously lashed out against the revolutionary déclassés.

At the time of Marx's conflict with Bakunin -- and later with Blanqui's followers within the First International -- the adventurous revolutionary déclassé was, outside of France, a mass phenomenon in those politically and economically backward countries of southern and eastern Europe which were the exclusive hunting grounds of the Russian heretic. At that time Marx and Engels, the founders of what they themselves called "scientific socialism," were afraid lest those déclassés actually provoke revolutionary uprisings and thus grab for themselves the prestige of active opponents of capitalism. For Marx and Engels no longer viewed Revolution as an immediate necessity, but rather as a very distant "inevitability" that may occur as a result of a war and may be dispensed with in democratic countries like England or the United States.15

This was inadvertently admitted in so many words in an article published in Vorwaerts of March 16, 1877, where Engels, no doubt with Marx's consent, wrote:

"From its outset, the movement in Italy was under Bakunin's influence. While the working masses were imbued with a passionate but very vague class hatred for their exploiters, a band of young lawyers, physicians, litterateurs, clerks, etc., usurped, under Bakunin's personal command, the leadership in all places where there were revolutionary workers. They were all members, in various degrees of initiation, of Bakunin's secret 'Alliance' which aimed at subjecting the entire European labor movement to its leadership and thus fraudulently securing power for the Bakuninist sect in the coming social revolution."16
This attack was very disingenuous. For was the Paris Commune of 1871, which was glorified by Marx and Engels as a "dictatorship of the proletariat," anything else than a rebellion inspired and led by déclassés? Suffice it only to mention such names as that of Jules Valles whom the great poet Jean Richepin called "the most curious and the most complete of the déclassés of the pen," and who dedicated the second volume of his Jacques Vingtras "to those who, nourished on Latin and Grec, starved to death." Suffice it also to mention, by the way, that Verlaine and Rimbaud, two of the brightest stars on France's poetic firmament, and déclassés of course, like most of the litterateurs of their time, were among the supporters of the Commune. But it so happened that the radical intelligentsia of France was not in the camp of Marx's rival Bakunin, but under the influence of Blanqui whose ambitions were strictly French and whose following at that time was not thinking of disputing Marx's claim to control the international socialist movement. Sixty years later, after the passions aroused by the Marx-Bakunin rivalry for power within the international radical movement had cooled -- particularly in view of the complete disappearance of the anarchist movement -- Karl Kautsky, the outstanding spokesman of democratic Marxism after the death of the Teachers, could afford to dispense with the insulting tone affected by Engels. On pp. 224-225 of his Sozialisten und Krieg (Prague, 1937) he explained Bakunin's success in Spain and Italy by the "dissatisfaction of many unemployed intellectuals" whose "impatience caused by personal motives" made them reject "Marx's pointing to economic development which prepared the ground for social revolution" and accept "Bakuninism which promised them immediate satisfaction of their wishes."

In contrast to Bakunin's following, Marx's adherents in Germany and in the other more or less industrial sections of democratic or near-democratic Europe were either self-educated ex-workers anxious to assume the leadership of the nascent trade union movement, or college-bred would-be labor politicians, journalists and other intellectuals and semi-intellectuals whose situation was not nearly so desperate as that of their Spanish, Italian and Slavic counterparts. These Marxist near-déclassés were out for left of-center trade union and political careers, and during the peaceful and almost prosperous half-century preceding World War I, they became the leaders of the socialist mass parties and of the socialist-inspired trade unions of the Western world, gradually evolving into typical professional politicians. For all their "proletarian" verbiage, any hankering for revolutionary adventure was as alien to them as is the desire for martyrdom to a contemporary ecclesiastic. Out of their ranks there came forth honest journalists, politicians and statesmen, but also cynical demagogues and turncoats. But they were no longer the leaven of history such as the déclassés of yore had been for good or for evil. The situation was somewhat different in economically and culturally backward countries like Italy, where, after the ebbing away of Bakunin's influence the radical anticapitalist movement remained officered almost exclusively by impecunious intellectuals who had adopted the Marxist philosophy. In 1907 Arturo Labriola (not to be confused with the Marxist philosopher Antonio Labriola) who at that time was a prominent Syndicalist, wrote that the socialist movement included "many intellectuals whom the miserable condition of our country kept out of profits and jobs."17 That's why the Italian socialist movement produced such ultraradicals as Mussolini whose dissatisfaction and impatience made them look for a short cut to power.

Marx and Engels would have preferred to have their anticapitalist ideas preached and the socialist movement officered by self-educated ex-workers rather than by intellectuals coming from the middle classes. For the ex-workers -- the Teachers apparently deluded themselves -- would, because of their plebeian background, be less likely to use the socialist movement merely as a springboard for the purpose of becoming plain ordinary politicians accepting the legitimacy of the capitalist system. The déclassés or semi-déclassés who in the democratic countries joined the socialist movement with a view to eventually graduating as bourgeois politicians pure and simple,18 were to the founders of Marxism just as unwelcome as were the declasses of the non-democratic or economically backward countries who, in accepting the gospel of Bakunin, were ready at any moment to rise against the capitalist system. So in a letter dated October 27, 1890, written to Marx's son-in-law Paul Lafargue, the then leader of the French Marxists, Engels thus voiced his disgust with those careerists; "For the last two or three years a horde of students, litterateurs, and other young déclassé bourgeois, have swamped the party; they have come just in time to occupy most of the editorial jobs in the new newspapers which are springing up, and they are in the habit of considering the bourgeois university as a sort of socialist Saint Cyr [the French equivalent of West Point] which gives them the right to enter the ranks of the party with an officer's, if not a general's commission."19

Neither Marx nor Engels ever pondered over the question of the déclassés in the country in which they spent most of their lives. There were neither Bakuninists nor Blanquists to bother them there, for there were practically no educated déclassés in England. But neither was there during their lifetime any socialist movement to speak of, in scandalous contradiction to their theory according to which a flourishing industry should have naturally given birth to anticapitalist tendencies among the working masses. The British trade unions were indifferent to socialist ideas, and in 1872, at the Hague conference of the [First] International, Marx spoke bitterly about their leaders having "sold themselves to the Liberals."

The absence of a socialist movement in England during the second half of the last century, at a time when socialist parties were flourishing all over the rest of Europe, greatly troubled Continental socialist leaders who were at a loss to know what was wrong with the workers across the Channel. Particularly as there had been a radical movement in England during the first half of the nineteenth century, either in the form of the non-political socialism of the Owenists who had helped in the organization of the trade unions, or in the form of the political radicalism of the partly socialist Chartists who had fought for manhood suffrage. So they asked Karl Marx about it. This is how the well-known American Marxist Daniel De Leon reports this incident in his Flashlights of the Amsterdam Congress: "At Amsterdam [the International Socialist Congress held at Amsterdam in 1904] Bebel [top leader of the German Socialists from the late 1860s until his death in 1913] told of a conversation he had with Marx and Engels in London. Having expressed to them his astonishment at the backwardness of the movement in Great Britain, despite the country's advantages and their own unquestioned influence upon their surroundings, he was answered: "Indeed, things would be different here, were not the British capitalists so peskily shrewd: they deaden the labor movement by corrupting its leaders."20

"Corruption" there certainly was, but not in the vulgar sense implied in Marx's remark as reported by Bebel and De Leon; otherwise one might wonder why the capitalists of the other countries did not use the same "shrewd" methods to dispose of the socialist movement. The fact was that the expansion of British industrialism and imperialism which marked the second half of the last century brought in its wake an abundance of jobs for the educated members of the lower middle classes and steady well-paid em-ployement for the skilled workers organized in the trade unions. Hence anticapitalist ideas could no longer find any response either among the manual workers or among the college-bred intellectual workers.

The situation changed, however, at the turn of the century. By that time the number of intellectual workers had greatly increased and many of them could no longer look forward to steady and remunerative employment. So some of them began to turn to socialism. The organzed workers, too, had valid reasons for dissatisfaction. They no longer could command the high wages which British industry could afford to pay them before its monopoly on the world market was challenged by Germany. The unions were, moreover, greatly disturbed by a court decision (the Taff Valley case) which threatened their very existence. All these circumstances led to a rapprochement between the hitherto non-socialist trade unions and the diminutive socialist parties and groups composed chiefly of malcontent intellectuals and ex-workers, or, as in the case of the Fabian Society, of those upper middle class intellectuals who believed that the gradual introduction of socialism was the best method for avoiding grave social conflcts in the future. In the early 1900s that rapprochement resulted in the formation of the British Labor Party, a party which is out to establish a semi-capitalist-semi-socialist super-welfare state with the power equally divided between the no longer déclassé Cambridge and Oxford men, on the one hand, and the no longer horny-handed trade union leaders, on the other.

It is worthy of note that Marx who correctly explained the success of his ultra-revolutionary rival Michael Bakunin by "the superabundance of déclassé intellectuals in economically backward countries, balked at the idea that it was the absence of large numbers of educated déclassés or semi-déclassés which, inversely, resulted in the absence of any radical movement. For that would have implied an admission that socialism was a "petty-bourgeois" rather than a "proletarian" theory. It was only twenty years after the teacher's death that his two outstanding disciples, Kautsky and Lenin, prompted by conflicts within the socialist movements of their respective countries, felt compelled to admit the "bourgeois" origin of socialism. (See the last chapter of this volume. That chapter also deals with the specifically American aspect of the same problem.)

The déclassés and their leadership that sprung up since the two World Wars, partly as a result of economic dislocation, but chiefly as a consequence of the over-supply of the educated and near-educated, have taken up the banner of revolt that had once been flaunted either by the leftist followers of Blanqui and Bakunin, or by the social scum used by Louis Bonaparte for his coup in 1851. But what had been a dream or a farce about a century ago has become a bloody nightmare in our time. The leaven of yore has turned into a deadly seed that has engendered the twin monsters of totalitarianism.21


1 In his Economic Foundations of Society, London, 1902, p. 347, the Italian sociologist Achille Loria makes the point that "all revolutions undertaken by the non-proprietary classes alone [were] foredoomed to failure" if they were not supported by the impoverished members of the privileged classes. He uses the expression "unproductive laborers," meaning apparently intellectual workers in counterdistinction to manual workers to whom economists usually refer as "productive workers." In the preface to their translation of Loria's Karl Marx, Eden and Cedar Paul, in referring to that passage of Loria's earlier work, correctly remark (p. 28) that in using the term "unproductive laborers" the Italian scholar had in mind the "disgruntled intellectuals."

2 Karl Kautsky, Die Vorläufer des Neueren Sozialismus. Von Plato bis zu den Wiedertdufern, Stuttgart, 1895, p. 156. (Volume I of Die Geschichte des Sozialismus in Einzeldarstellungen).

3 According to a report published by the New York Times, October 26 1933, one religious preacher out of five was unemployed.

4 Warner Fite, The Platonic Legend, New York-London, 1934, pp. 101, 111, 130-131, 173.

5Georg Adler, Geschichte des Sozialismus und Kommunismus, Leipzig, 1899, pp. 47-48.

6 Politics, Book II, Section 7.

7 Franz Oppenheimer, System der Soziologie, Vol. II, Der Staat, Jena, 1926, pp. 56-57.

8 Karl Kautsky, Krieg und Demokratie, Berlin, 1932, p. 161.

9 Auguste Blanqui, Critique Sociale, Paris, 1885, Vol. I, pp. 219-220. See also Blanqui chapter in Max Nomad's Apostles of Revolution.

10 Quoted in Karl Kautsky's Sozialisten und Krieg, Prague, 1937, p. 221.

11 [F. Engels, P. Laf argue and Karl Marx], L'Alliance de la Democratic Socialiste et l'Association Internationale des Travailleurs, London, 1873, Chapter V. (Published in German under the title Ein Komplott gegen die Internationale).

12 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party Chap. I.

13 Lucien de La Hodde, Histoire des Societes Secretes, Paris, 1850, p. 13.

14 Le Vte d'Arlincourt, L'ltalie Rouge, Paris, 1851, pp. 3-4.

15 B. Nicolaievsky and 0. Maenchen-Helfen, Karl Marx, Philadelphia, 1936, p. 364.

16 Quoted in the Marxist theoretical weekly Die Neue Zeit (Stuttgart) October 3, 1913, p. 11.

17Arturo Labriola, Syndicalisme et Socialisme, Paris, 1907, p. 14.

18 A typical representative of this kind of radical was the Prime Minister Pierre Laval of infamous memory of whom the socialist daily Le Populaire, Paris, said on February 18, 1932: "He was at first a Socialist and he violently attacked capitalism. That was the time when, as a lawyer without clients, he held that the social system needed a nice little revolution."

19 Published in the Communist L'Humanite, Paris, of May 29, 1934.

20 Flashlights of the Amsterdam Congress, New York (n.d.) p. 41.

21 See also the chapters entitled "The Permanent Civil War" and "The Breed of Brutus" in this volume.