First Worldists Deny the Labour Aristocracy when it Suits them

One of the most agonizing things is watching first world people try to claim that they suffer from the kind of oppression that third world people do. According to First Worldist theory, both the first world and third world are in the same class position.  Both are technically employed, so therefore they’re in the same class. Of course, this position completely rejects Lenin’s work on the labour aristocracy. If being employed is enough to make someone automatically exploited, then the labour aristocracy can’t exist according to them. Even in Lenin’s description, the labour aristocracy is still employed. Not only that, but Lenin said it had already grown from whence it started.

The monopoly of modern finance capital is being frantically challenged; the era of imperialist wars has begun. It was possible in those days to bribe and corrupt the working class of one country for decades. This is now improbable, if not impossible. But on the other hand, every imperialist “Great” Power can and does bribe smaller strata (than in England in 1848–68) of the “labour aristocracy”. Formerly a “bourgeois labour party”, to use Engels’s remarkably profound expression, could arise only in one country, because it alone enjoyed a monopoly, but, on the other hand, it could exist for a long time. Now a “bourgeois labour partyis inevitable and typical in all imperialist countries; but in view of the desperate struggle they are waging for the division of spoils it is improbable that such a party can prevail for long in a number of countries. For the trusts, the financial oligarchy, high prices, etc., while enabling the bribery of a handful in the top layers, are increasingly oppressing, crushing, ruining and torturing the mass of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat.[i]

Lenin not only saw the labour aristocracy, he saw it growing. This was written as World War One was taking place. Since that time we have seen the gap between the rich and poor countries grow to an even greater polarization. In the 1820s, the gap between the two was 12 to 1. Today that gap stands at 72 to 1.[ii] This imbalance in global wealth is what created the labour aristocracy. On what basis should we conclude that the expansion of this gap would not have a corresponding effect? This underwent a quantitative change as the wealth gap increased. Should we not expect a qualitative change to take place at some point? No, First Worldists adamantly deny this, they deny the most simple and basic law of dialectics. Why? Because it doesn’t fit their narrative as the self-identified “wretched of the Earth.”

There has been an astronomical rise in the living standards of first world people since World War One. This rise could only have been purchased with the super-exploitation of the third world, which is a very real thing. Something that has grown over time. It does not take very much to see that as living standards increased, the radicalization of the population decreased. The rise of this attraction to a bourgeois labour party certainly explains the rising popularity of Kashama Sawant, Bernie Sanders, and Jeremy Corbyn. How many people who have claimed to be Marxist have jumped on this reformist bandwagon? Particularly as it relates to Bernie Sanders? Is this not why the word socialist has mongrelized into social democracy?

Most perplexing, are Marxists who acknowledge that the labour aristocracy exists, but deny it applies to first world people because they’re employed.[iii] Whether or not someone is employed, is not the defining characteristic of the labour aristocracy. Lenin made this quite clear. He defined it as workers in the advanced countries that benefit from the super-exploitation of the oppressed countries, to the point where revolution is no longer their interest. This wholly describes the first world today. These “dogmato-revisionists” who pass themselves off as Marxists in the first world, live in denial of this. They claim they acknowledge the labour aristocracy, yet they deny the very phenomena which defines it. They outright reject Lenin while claiming to hold his banner. They refuse to truly acknowledge their privileged position in the global order. In their own minds, they see themselves as victims of imperialism, not beneficiaries of it.

Even Engels said there was no revolutionary potential among the workers of England as far back as 1858:

“…The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.”[iv]

Or in 1883:

“Do not on any account whatever let yourself be deluded into thinking there is a real proletarian movement going on here. . . ”[v]

If this was true then, why is it supposedly false now?

First world people have abandoned the possibility of actually doing revolution. This is very clear to anyone who is honest enough to look. Any party which rightly rejects the idea of revolution via reform is left scratching their heads in confusion as to why the “masses” are not following them. No group which advocates revolution has support outside of its own membership. It is time for first worldists to acknowledge the truth before their eyes.


[i] V.I. Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, October 1916

[ii] How Was Life? Global Well-being since 1820, Income inequality since 1820, OECD iLibrary

[iii] – special thanks to Tom Watts who actually wrote the article

[iv] Engels letter to Marx, dated October 7, 1858

[v] Frederick Engels to Bebel August 30, 1883