On the Strangeness of Leftist Delusions
A peculiar mode of thought I often encounter when reading books by leftish authors (such as The Salaried Masses by Kracauer) is they assume all sorts of past evils have by now been abolished. Leftish thinkers appear to fancy a progress that never took place. In reality, upon scrutinizing various claims, we discover the imagined past evils are not only still there, but they are not evils.
For example, the modern leftish thinker assumes it to be a historical truth that class-based society in Europe was abolished by the end of the nineteenth century. The Marxist revolution took care of it, right? Well, it never happened. The bourgeoisie never went away. The rich simply moved out of their first-floor city apartments and went on to live in gated communities at the edge of the suburbs.
Where Does Wealth Come From?
Before I go on, let’s pause to see where wealth comes from. Wealth is generated by workers, right? Wrong. Marx had it all backward. Do you even know where today’s ultrarich derive their wealth from? The answer is that rich people today earn their wealth from dividends. Such dividend streams come from only four sources:
- land (for agriculture, pastoralism, or to build theme parks, etc.)
- forests (including mining and other resources found there)
- urban housing (homes and offices to rent out to the masses)
- urban industry (factories, but also internet tech, media, and finance)
Traditionally, only one’s ownership over land and forests could generate the wealth needed to employ other people to do all the work. In recent times, however, since the Industrial Age that brought about massive urbanization, two more sources of wealth were added, namely urban housing and industry.
In our time, we might perhaps add “pure tech” (for example, technology patents or cryptocurrencies) as a fifth source of wealth.
The Old European Caste System
Because the sources of wealth (land and forests) were traditionally scarce, European society had to come up with a caste system to structure wealth ownership.
The old Germanic peoples of Northern Europe, for example, used to recognize three castes. These were recorded in the Edda in a story about the god named Heimdall. They are the slaves, the unfree, and the free. Only the free owned land. Only they could employ the unfree as paid farmhands, whereas slaves were considered a household’s property, like furniture.
The slaves (“dark-haired people” as per Heimdall) did not own a house of their own. They lived in quarters within their masters’ household, often sharing a bed with the cattle. (In the cold North, cattle were kept indoors at night as a source of heating.) When their masters died, the slaves were killed off and buried along with their masters’ property.
The middle class consisted of so-called unfree people. Heimdall calls them “blond-haired people but without an education”. They were allocated a patch of earth where they could build a small house. They were allowed to own a small garden but it was barely enough to feed themselves. However, they were free to leave if they could find a better place.
The upper class contained the only people considered free. The English word ‘friend’ still refers to this ‘free’ class. Among such ‘friends’, everyone was considered equal. But you to be a member of the club to be free. In Heimdall’s words, they were “blond and educated”. They were the only group able to live off the labor of the unfree. They alone could afford to keep several slaves.
Europe and America Are Still Class-Based Societies!
Now, keep in mind these three classes: the free (the owners), the unfree (the salaried employees), and the slaves (unpaid or poorly treated workers).
In short, if you can live off the land you own by employing others, or if you can live off forests and mines that you own, or if you own real estate that you can rent out or sell to others, or if you own urban industry such as factories, finance, media, or internet tech, then you belong to the caste of freemen. Unless you’re the CEO and you have to do all the work yourself, in which case you’re still unfree.
If you have to work for a salary, rather than earn dividends, then you belong to the unfree caste. You will have to make a career to get ahead. Although you are allowed to travel and live wherever you please, you are still tied to a job. You cannot live without a salary for too long. Only if you work hard, you may someday own a business or land that you can live off by employing others.
If you are presently living off welfare, and if the best thing that can happen to you next is to get an assembly-line job, you probably belong to the slave caste. Note that if you are a teenager working summer jobs, or if you’re a waitress at a restaurant, you effectively are also a slave. Indeed, the young (who don’t own anything ) are often employed as slaves by society.
What Happened to the Bourgeoisie?
See, the three classes that have been around in European societies for thousands of years still haven’t disappeared. They’ve transformed, but they’re still there.
In our time, especially the caste of unfree has grown exponentially, drowning out everyone else. Slavery may have been abolished, but the slaves, at best, became unfree, not freemen. Without an education, they were told to find jobs on the open market. Many failed and tumbled into crime and destitution.
If, in the past, half of the people were freemen, today perhaps only a small fraction of a percentage of people are still freemen. At the same time, the unfree now make up the large body of what is called the middle class, whereas about ten to twenty percent of the population are lower class - slaves.
Socialistic thinkers may fancy that classes, therefore, have been abolished, since the middle class (the unfree) replaced everyone else. But they haven’t. In reality, we’ve only inflated the middle class.
And to answer the question, What happened to the bourgeoisie?: Well, after the cities began being flooded with unfree people looking for salaried jobs, the bourgeois caste left the cities. But they still own most of the city.
And is that really a bad thing? No, it isn’t. There simply isn’t enough room for eight billion free individuals to do as they please. The caste system keeps everyone but the freemen in check. A communist system can only put a caste of commissars in charge of land and forests, but it cannot change the fact land and forests must remain scarcities.
It would, however, be wrong, as leftists do, to speak of classes in terms of a cultural superstructure imposed on us from above. The class-based system is arived at from within, due to the natural shortages of land, mines, forests, housing, and industry.