- Created: Thursday, 22 June 2017 12:25
- Written by FRFI
6. Imperialism and the labour aristocracy
Imperialism not only divides the world into oppressed and oppressor nations: it creates a split within the working class within the imperialist nation. Both Marx and Engels pointed to the creation of a labour aristocracy within the British working class after the defeat of Chartism in 1848; Engels argued that British capitalism’s monopoly position in the world market allowed it to bribe an upper section of the working class, secure its political support, and through it, to control the whole working class. By the First Imperialist War, such a division existed in all Imperialist powers, as the ruling class used a small proportion of their colonial super-profits to buy off a tiny labour aristocracy which in practice controlled the parties, trade unions and the press of the entire working class.
The outbreak of the war in 1914 showed that the split had become irrevocable, as the organisations controlled by the labour aristocracy sided with ‘their’ ruling class and enthusiastically supported the slaughter in the name of ‘national defence’ and ‘democracy’. One significant party held out against the tide of chauvinism, social imperialism and opportunism that swept through the socialist movement of the day - the Russian Bolsheviks. Their consistent opposition to the war and to those ‘socialists’ who supported the brutal slaughter was the basis for the triumph of the Russian Revolution in October 1917.
The state of the unions by Robert Clough, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 193
How the SWP discredits the Venezuelan revolution by Alvaro Michaels, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 190