Lenin and the "Aristocracy of Labor"

  • Eric Hobsbawm
Keywords: History, Marxism


The following brief essay is a contribution to the discussion of Lenin's thought, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his birth. The subject is one which can be appropriately treated by a British Marxist, since the concept of an "aristocracy of labor" is one which Lenin clearly derived from the history of British nineteenth-century capitalism. His concrete references to the "aristocracy of labor" as a stratum of the working class appear to be exclusively drawn from Britain…. The term itself is almost certainly derived from a passage by Engels written in 1885 and reprinted in the introduction to the 1892 edition of The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 which speaks of the great English trade unions as forming "an aristocracy among the working class."

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