The Abyss between “Dr. Leftist” and the Mass Worker


A sociological survey reveals the bourgeoisification of the leading strata of the ex-Stalinist “Party of the European Left”


Article (with 2 Tables) by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 17 June 2022,




Marxists have repeatedly pointed to the wide gap between the dominating strata in so-called “left-wing” parties and the mass of the working class and the oppressed. This process has not only taken place within the social democratic parties. We have seen the same development in Stalinist and ex-Stalinist parties. A sociological survey which has been published recently by transform – the think tank of the ex-Stalinist “Party of the European Left” – fully confirms this assessment. [1]


The “Party of the European Left” (PEL) is an alliance of mostly ex-Stalinist parties. The most prominent members of this alliance are the LINKE in Germany, the French PCF, IU and PCE in Spain, and SYRIZA in Greece. Since January 2020, the two Spanish parties are part of the government led by the social democratic PSOE. And SYRIZA governed Greece in the period 2015-19, in coalition with the extreme right-wing party ANEL.


The sociological study of transform is based on surveys of delegates of PEL congresses in the years 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. Hence, it provides a good overview about the social composition of the leading strata of these parties.




Figures don't lie




Let us now point to the most remarkable results of the survey. First, it reveals that only 6% of all delegates are employed in the industrial sector! And skilled and semi-skilled workers make up only 2,5 % each of the leading strata of these parties!


Even the author of this survey has to admit that these figures “reflect the weak connection of parties of PEL with the traditional industrial proletariat.”. However, she tries to relativise this extraordinary development – given the fact that these parties have been part of the labour movement since many decades – by adding the remark “as far as such a proletariat still exists in the south and central-east European countries.


This is a silly rehash of the usual bourgeois cliché that the industrial working class is “moribund”. As we have demonstrated in various works, the industrial working class has in fact expanded globally in the past decades. And while there has been a certain decrease in the richest, most parasitic, imperialist countries, even here industrial workers still represent a sizeable sector of the proletariat. [2] According to the 2019 edition of the OECD Labour Force Statistics, 23.9% of all employed in the European Union work in industry. [3]


Neither is it true that the industrial proletariat is “moribund“ in the south and central-east European countries. According to the same OECD survey, the share of those employed work in industry is mostly between 20% and 35%. (See Table 1)


In fact, the share of industrial workers among the total proletariat is even larger. As Marxists have argued for long, the bourgeois category “employees” includes not only workers. Generally speaking, one can say that in the rich imperialist countries, a considerable minority of wage earners are not part of the working class but are part of the salaried middle class (supervisory personnel, police, lower-grade manager etc.). In an extensive analysis of the class’s structure, we have estimated that, in the imperialist countries, the number of wage earners – making up to 90% of the total working population – can be divided into two, with approximately 2/3 working class while 1/3 are middle layer. [4] Since nearly all industrial workers do not belong to the salaried middle class, their share among the proletariat is actually higher than the above-mentioned official figures suggest.




Table 1. Employment in Europe by Sector: Industry as a Percentage of Employment, 2018 [5]


Czech Republic                                 37.5%


Germany                                             27.3%


Greece                                                   15.2%


France                                                   20.0%


Italy                                                       26.1%


Poland                                                  31.7%


Portugal                                               24.8%


Slovakia                                               36.5%


Spain                                                    20.3%


European Union                               23.9%




Compare this with the share of industrial employees of only 6% among the PEL leading strata! In fact, this gap to the mass of the proletariat is even wider as we can assume that many PEL delegates working in industry have a privileged position with an income above average (the labour aristocracy) or are full-time bureaucrats.


To avoid any misunderstanding: we do not reduce the proletariat to the industrial workers. Large parts of those employed in the service sector – from retail workers to office clerks – are also part of the proletariat. But one can exclude that the leading strata of PEL parties has significant links with these layers if they hardly have any with the industrial workers!


It is therefore not surprising that more than 70% of the PEL delegates in the survey consider themselves as “middle class” and only ¼ as working class!


There is also another fact which reflects the specific social character of the leading strata of the ex-Stalinist parties. According to the transform survey, more than 80% of the delegates are academics! In contrast, merely 6% have “only“ a professional qualification.


Again, compare this to the composition of labour force in the rich imperialist countries. According to another OECD study, more than 60% of the employees are either low-skilled or medium-skilled. (See Table 2) What a gulf between the mass workers and the academic-dominated bureaucracy of the PEL parties!




Table 2: Share of Employment by Broad Occupation (Skill), World and Regions, 2013 [6]


                    Low-Skilled                          Medium-Skilled                   High-Skilled


Developed Economies                   9.8%                                      50.9%                                    39.3%




The mass of the working class and the reformist party elite: two different worlds




These figures demonstrate beyond doubt that the reformist party elite lives in a completely different world than the mass of the working class. The RCIT and other Marxists have pointed for a long time to this development in various works. [7]


The political expression of this process could be seen in the last years in the failure of these so-called “left-wing” parties to play any role (or even to relate to) in important mass movements of the working class and oppressed in Western Europe (e.g. the Yellow Vests in France, protests against Islamophobic attacks against migrants, protests against anti-democratic attacks under the pretext of COVID, [8] etc.). Their inability to relate to the impressive mass movements in the Arab Revolution – most importantly the heroic Syrian Revolution! [9] – is another example.


The role of SYRIZA – the PEL member in Greece – as the government party in 2015-19 executing the EU austerity program is another telling example for the bourgeois character of these parties. Currently, we see the same development in the context of the Ukraine War. While one sector capitulates to NATO policy (the Spanish PEL parties are even part of the government coalition), another sector appeases to Russian imperialism. [10]


True, this is not a completely new development. The social gap between the dominating strata of reformist parties and the mass of the working class and the oppressed exists already since the beginning of the imperialist epoch. V. I. Lenin – the founder of the Bolshevik Party and the leader of October Revolution – noted in 1916: „… objectively the opportunists are a section of the petty bourgeoisie and of a certain strata of the working class who have been bribed out of imperialist super-profits and converted to watchdogs of capitalism and corruptors of the labour movement.“ [11]


At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the fact that since then, the process of bourgeoisification of the reformist parties has massively deepened. Today, “Dr. Leftist” and the mass worker talk different languages and live in different worlds.


The RCIT considers it as an urgent task of authentic socialists in rich imperialist countries to build a revolutionary party which is rooted among the lower and oppressed sectors of the working class and which orientates to their struggles.




[1] Cornelia Hildebrandt, Zu den Repräsentant*innen der Europäischen Linkspartei, 31 May 2022, (All figures are from this article if not stated otherwise.)

[2] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Wien 2013,, e.g. pp. 69-80, pp. 179-188, pp. 228-240; see also by the same author: Marxism and the United Front Tactic Today. The Struggle for Proletarian Hegemony in the Liberation Movement in Semi-Colonial and Imperialist Countries in the present Period, RCIT Books, Vienna 2016,, pp. 30-42

[3] OECD Labour Force Statistics 2019, OECD Publishing, Paris,, p. 27.

[4] Markus Lehner: Arbeiterklasse und Revolution. Thesen zum marxistischen Klassenbegriff, in: Revolutionärer Marxismus Nr. 28 (1999)

[5] OECD Labour Force Statistics 2019, OECD Publishing, Paris,, p. 27.

[6] International Labour Office: World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015, pp. 72-89, Supporting Data

[7] See on this e.g. the above-mentioned book by Michael Pröbsting: Marxism and the United Front Tactic Today; see also RCIT: The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto, 2012,

[8] The RCIT has analysed the COVID-19 counterrevolution extensively. Starting from 2 February 2020 we have published about 100 pamphlets, essays, articles and statements plus a book which are all compiled at a special sub-page on our website:

[9] The RCIT has published a number of booklets, statements and articles on the Syrian Revolution which can be read on a special sub-section on this website:

[10] We refer readers to a special page on our website where more than 80 RCIT documents on the current NATO-Russia conflict and the Ukraine War are compiled: The most important documents are: RCIT Manifesto: Ukraine War: A Turning Point of World Historic Significance. Socialists must combine the revolutionary defense of the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion with the internationalist struggle against Russian as well as NATO and EU imperialism, 1 March 2022,; RCIT: Ukraine War: An Action Program for Authentic Socialists, 1 March 2022,; Medina Gunić: A new turning point in Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, 25 February 2022,; RCIT: Down with Putin’s Imperialist War against the Ukraine! Neither Russia nor NATO - against all imperialist powers! For an independent popular struggle to defend the Ukraine! For a workers government to defeat the Russian invaders! No to imperialist sanctions! For an independent socialist Ukraine! 24 February 2022,; see also our joint statement with UIT-CI and LIT-CI,

[11] V.I.Lenin: Imperialism and the Split in Socialism (1916), in: LCW Vol. 23, p.110