Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Need for the Differentiation of the Working Class

EVERY INDIVIDUAL member of the working class cherishes the hope of rising into a higher social sphere which will guarantee to him a better and less restricted existence. The workman's ideal is to become a petty bourgeois.1 To noninitiates and to superficial observers the working-class members of the socialist parties seem always to be petty bourgeois. The proletariat has not been able to emancipate itself psychically from the social environment in which it lives. For example, the German worker, as his wages have increased, has acquired the disease which is in the blood of the German petty bourgeoisie, the club-mania. In every large town, and not a few small ones, there is a swarm of working-class societies: gymnastic clubs, choral societies, dramatic societies; even smokers' clubs, bowling clubs, rowing clubs, athletic clubs -- all sorts of associations whose essentially petty bourgeois character is not destroyed by the fact that they sail under socialist colors. A bowling club remains a bowling club even if it assumes the pompous name of "Sons of Freedom Bowling Club."

Just as little as the bourgeoisie can the socialist workers be regarded as a great homogeneous gray mass, although this consideration does not modify the fact that since proletarians all live by the sale of their only commodity, labor, the organized socialist workers are, at least in theory, conscious of their own unity in their common opposition to the owners of the means of production and to the governmental representatives of these. Yet it cannot be denied that the actual system of manufacture which unites under the same roof all the different categories of workers employed in a modern establishment for the production of railway-carriages, for instance, does not serve to overthrow the barriers which separate the various sub-classes

____________________
1
According to Tullio Rossi Doria ( Le Forze Dermocratiche ed il Programma socialista, "Avanti," anno xiv, No. 30), every struggle for higher wages has the same end in view. But as a rule the struggle for higher wages is carried out by a trade union, and the aim of the trade unions is to secure a better position for the manual workers, not to make them petty bourgeois. The organized workers as a whole desire to live like the petty bourgeois, but not to fulfil the economic function of these. They wish to remain manual workers.

-271-

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