A Class Analysis of British Society at the start of the 21st Century


The petty bourgeoisie includes small shopkeepers, small farmers, taxi drivers, various tradesmen, window cleaners, jobbing gardeners and other such small businesses. It also includes the minority of professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., who are owners or joint owners of private practices.

The table below [Table 3, source David Smith et al] gives some indication of the size of the petty-bourgeoisie, but must be interpreted with caution since, as Grant says, ” To lump all employers together today is to ignore the acute antagonisms that have been developing between the smaller employers and the monopolistic concerns. Owners of small and even medium-sized factories and proprietors of a wide variety of small businesses find themselves continually in conflict with big business and with government policies which favour the larger concerns ” (p.102). Therefore, in considering who constitute the petty-bourgeoisie, it has, perhaps rather arbitrarily, been decided to include only those who have between 0 and 9 employees.

This table shows that in 2010 there were 3,364,020 self-employed people who had no employees. They amounted to 16% of all working people. A further 968,545 enterprises employed 3.6 million people between them, an average of 3.7 workers each, which would normally include the owner.

This would mean that the number of self-employed workers who had either no employees or had no more than 9, would number 3,364,020+968,545=4,332,565, together amounting to 18.6% of all working people. This would appear to be the approximate size of the petty bourgeoisie.

It should be noted that 18.6% of all working people is not a percentage of the population as a whole. Those who are not working are left out of account, including the unemployed. Table 4 leaves out of account those who are not of working age, but does include the unemployed, housewives, students, etc. and all other UK residents aged between 16-64, and hence is working on a total ‘population’ of 40,180,600, as compared to the mere 23.3 million of Table 3, making them 10.78% of the workforce.

The earnings of the self-employed without employees tend to be very low – below the average wage, see Table 5:

The Financial Times of 11 October 201212 produced the graphic at the top of this page, which is most revealing.

It can nevertheless be difficult to assess whether those who are technically “self-employed” really are self-employed or whether they are in fact entirely under the control of some enterprise that keeps them notionally independent for tax purposes or for the purpose of reducing the employer’s exposure to risk. Many ‘contractors’ working on building sites, for instance, are TECHNICALLY self-employed but are really for all intents and purposes working class. Other people who may in reality be petty-bourgeois may notionally have employment contracts, although in reality their pay is significantly above market rates as a result of the personal influence they or their friends have over the decisions of the company which ’employs’ them. As a result, official statistics can only be a very approximate guide.

According to the Financial Times of 9 October 201213, the number of small businesses is rising. It claims that in 1961 there were 800,000 small businesses in Britain, but that by the 1980s the number had risen to 2 million. The latest figure is 4.5 million. However, because of the fact that so many of these ‘small businesses’ are disguised employment, especially in the building trade, it is hard to know what to make of these statistics. Others are really disguised unemployment: “… A third of businesses fail to last two years, and half do not reach four“. ” Some 62.4% of Britain’s businesses are sole proprietors“. The statistics do not say how many of the rest are merely family teams. But ” Small and medium-sized enterprises account for 99.9% of enterprises, 58.8 per cent of private sector employment (13.8m people) … Only 30,000 are medium-sized and 6,300 are large -a figure that has fallen from 7,200 since 2000 “.

Life for the petty bourgeois under capitalism tends to be far from being a bed of roses.

Grant: ” The small shopkeeper is dependent on the big suppliers of branded goods who decide his rate of profit and limit his livelihood to that of a mere agent or distributing point for their products “…

“… the real villains – the big monopoly concerns – have quietly, but very effectively, instituted a control system over the small shopkeepers, farmers and traders, robbing them of any real independence at all “. (p.54)

Over 20,000 businesses a year die before their first year is out! Extraordinary as it may seem, a report by Anyadike-Danes, Bonner & Hart on sources of job creation and destruction in the UK concludes: ” Just over one in four of all jobs in the private sector were either destroyed or created over an average 12 month period” – a remarkable level of turbulence in the UK economy. Nevertheless, one can speculate that many one-person businesses die out only because their ‘owner’ has found a job at last.

All this would seem to indicate that those of the petty-bourgeoisie who are in that category by virtue of trying to run businesses on their own account but who either have no employees or have fewer than 10 are financially no better off on average than the working class, while suffering greater insecurity. That being so, these lowest sections of the petty bourgeoisie are potentially good allies of the working class. Others are probably not worth pursuing.



Who are the bourgeoisie?

While the bourgeoisie tends to be estimated at approximately 1% of the population, those who can be said to be the ruling class amount to only 0.1%. Other members of the class may well be raking in large amounts of money either from direct exploitation of the working class, or from rents and/or interest extracted from the direct exploiters, but not be large enough to count when it comes to directing matters of state. It goes without saying that the owners of the 0.2% of enterprises of over 250 employees which employ 41% of the working population have a great deal more clout than the owners of the 4.6% of enterprises with 10-249 employees which employ 28%. There is quite a difference in being a billionaire as compared to a mere multi-millionaire.

As Scott explains:

To talk simply of the top 1% … is misleading. The top 1% of the population may be those who are ‘privileged’ – the especially affluent – but this is a much wider group than the capitalist class. The top 1% includes not only the capitalist business class, but also many members of the professions and management who are more appropriately seen as members of the service class. The capitalist class is a considerably smaller group than the top 1% … The core of the capitalist business class comprises about 0.1% of the adult population, about 43,500 people, and it has been estimated that these people held 7% of total wealth in 1966 ” (p.83).

Since then they have come on by leaps and pounds. Peston tells us that between 1979-1990 the real income of the poorest 20% (quintile) of the population rose 0.5% a year, whereas that of the top quintile rose 20% a year during that period. In 2007 David Goodhart and Harvey Cole14 estimated the average annual income of those in the top quintile at £1.1 million each. The 1,000 richest people in Britain alone have wealth estimated at £360bn, which is, incidentally, treble of what they possessed when the Labour Party last took office.

It has been estimated that in 1990 there were 200 families with more than £50m each. Their aggregate wealth amounts to just under 10% of the total GDP .”15

Scott: “… despite the prominence of entrepreneurial capital, the top 200 is dominated by the old, inherited wealth. 104 of the top 200 wealthy families owe the bulk of their present wealth to inheritance “. 16

We disagree with Scott’s terminology here. While we accept that only 0.1% constitute the ruling elite, we do consider that anybody who is in a position to accumulate large amounts of surplus value must be counted as a capitalist – e.g. the employers of 10-249 workers – rather than simply dismissed as a petty-bourgeois. Nevertheless, it is certainly valid to note the distinction between the ruling elite and the capitalist class as a whole.

Scott goes on to describe how modern capitalism functions in Britain: “Capitalist economic locations are defined by property which functions as capital … property which gives control over the lives of other people. This kind of property – shares, land, and other commercial assets – is typically an appreciating asset …

“Giant business enterprises, large landed estates, and massive share portfolios are the foundations of the capitalist class” . 17

“The entrepreneurial capitalist exercises direct and immediate control over all aspects of business operations, and the ideal type corresponds to the image of the entrepreneur in classical economics and classical Marxism. The rentier capitalist is one who has personal investments in a number of units of capital through direct-ownership stakes, members of partnerships and trusts, or shareholdings … The executive capitalist is involved exclusively as office holder in a joint stock company… The executive capitalist is propertyless and dependent purely on the remuneration of office … The finance capitalist is also … propertyless, but occupies directorships in numerous units of capital…” (p.67)….

Where controlling shareholdings are held by financial institutions and corporate interests, rather than by particular individuals and families, property and control over property have become ‘depersonalised’. In such a situation … the powers of corporate rule are exercised by boards of directors whose members have, at most, only small shareholdings in the enterprises which they direct. Although their personal shareholdings may be, and often are, extremely valuable in monetary terms, they amount to insignificant fractions of the total capital of the businesses and provide no basis for personal control of an entrepreneurial kind. Rather, the boards of directors function COLLECTIVELY as capitalists, their powers of corporate rule being dependent upon the impersonal structure of corporate and institutional shareholding.

The executive capitalist is the director of a single unit of capital, while the finance capitalist is a ‘multiple director’ sitting on the boards of a number of companies. The executive capitalist is typically a full-time official of an enterprise, occupying a post at the heart of its system of rule … Executive capitalists stand at the heads of the corporate bureaucracies which are filled by those in service locations [professionals working closely with the bourgeoisie], and the typical executive capitalist is one who has risen from a service location relatively late in his or her career. For this reason, the executive capitalist location is a relatively insecure basis for membership of the capitalist class. A person who occupies a capitalist location for their whole of their life has a considerably greater chance of enjoying the advantages of a privileged lifestyle and of passing them on to their children. The late entrant … may earn a large enough income to enjoy this life style for a period, but only the most highly paid and most financially astute will be able to continue to enjoy them in retirement …

Occupants of [finance capitalist] locations have insignificant personal stakes in the enterprises of which they are directors, but they have accumulated large numbers of directorships and represent the interests of the controlling institutions on the boards of the controlled companies. The typical finance capitalist holds non-executive directorships and depends not on high earnings from a particular enterprise but on the accumulation of fees from numerous directorships “.18

“… particular individuals may occupy a number of locations simultaneously. Rentier capitalists, for example, were well-placed for recruitment to the boards of companies which came under institutional control during the 1930s, and as the shareholding institutions sought to cement their growing links with industrial companies, the rentiers were important recruits to these boards as well. Thus many finance capitalists were – and are – also rentier capitalists with extensive personal interests in the success of the capitalist system as a whole. Similarly, entrepreneurial capitalists, as their interests in their own companies decline, become attractive recruits to the ranks of the finance capitalists, and may also diversify their holdings to adopt a rentier stance towards the system of property. Many top salaried executives who lack a propertied background are able to achieve entry to the ranks of the finance capitalists. Executive entrants, however, are in an insecure position unless they are able to convert their high incomes into property holdings and enter the ranks of the rentiers .”19

The boundaries between rentiers and entrepreneurs, executives and finance capitalists are blurred by the overlap and mobility which exists among the occupants of these locations. For this reason, neither the typology of the locations nor the distinction between land ownership and other forms of property ownership should be seen as defining class SEGMENTS “.20

Historical development of the capitalist class

This British capitalist class, which, incidentally is as much Scottish and Welsh as it is English, has developed as a result of a merger between former feudal lords and the bourgeoisie, which took place after the bourgeoisie broke the back of feudal rule in the revolution of 1688.

Confusion still lingers because of the fact that at one time the aristocracy21, i.e., the class of the feudal lords, was the ruling class (or upper class), while the bourgeoisie were the middle class. Even Marx was known to refer to the bourgeoisie as a middle class although, in Britain at least, it was in his day already rapidly ceasing to be so. The ‘upper’ class now is the bourgeoisie which has, incidentally, incorporated within its ranks all that remains of the feudal aristocracy. As Engels correctly pointed out: “the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations [Britain] would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy …”22 (‘Letter to Marx’, 7 October, 1858). It is an aim that has most definitely been achieved.

In Grant’s words, ” A proportion of the old dominant class of landed aristocracy were astute enough or lucky enough to become acclimatised to the new conditions and acquired manufacturing and business interests which allowed them to maintain their old position as part of the dominant class. It was as though the old ruling class were being absorbed into the new regime “.23

The progression of capitalism to monopoly and imperialism completed this merging together into one class of the landlords and the industrial capitalists. The ownership of land and of industrial undertakings interwove to such an extent that it became no longer possible to refer to landlords and capitalists as two separate classes, with differing class interests; they became one single capitalist class “.24

This process is to be explained, as does Scott, by realising that ” A power bloc or its dominant group may seek to maintain its dominance by enlarging the power bloc through the co-optation of the leading elements of a rival group. In this way, it is hoped that the opposition of the incorporated group will be defused “.25

It was not a difficult fusion to effect seeing as ” The landed aristocracy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a capitalist class, albeit one rooted in agrarian rather than industrial capitalism 26 and ” The English old society … was undoubtedly the most commercialised and capitalistic in Europe. Its landed class was a capitalist class with strong links to the merchant classes of the towns and cities. But the merchants, for their part, were not the purely urban ‘bourgeoisie’ that was to be such an important feature of many other European societies. English merchants were closely affiliated with the capitalist landowners, and there was a high degree of cultural uniformity in their outlooks .” 27

Land and finance in England were the basis of a unified power bloc, which was able to use its strong position in parliament to counter the power of the monarchy. The landed element in this power bloc was the dominant force in a power elite which monopolised the levers of political power “. 28

In Britain, the long-standing interpenetration of land and financial interests provided the basis for the formation of its particular power bloc “.

And further: ” It has been estimated that there were about 400 ‘magnate’ landowners in the eighteenth century, together holding between 20 and 25% of the total land. And there were anything up to 4,000 ‘county gentry’ landowners, together holding between 50 and 60% of the land …” 29

“The landowners’ long involvement in sheep farming and wool production linked them closely to the cloth trade, and, hence, to the mercantile interests of the towns. During the eighteenth century, many of them became involved in mineral development and so acquired a wider range of business interests. Landowners invested in public funds and held money in bank deposits, many were involved in the financing of overseas trading ventures … Despite this strong commercial orientation, however, the landed class remained distinct from the urban monied class of merchants and financiers, and their capitalist outlook was contained within the normative framework of elitism and patriarchy which defined their relationship to the local communities and shaped their conception of the wider national society “.30

Besides: ” The greater involvement of industrial and commercial enterprises in the management of urban and industrial land has been matched by the formation of farming companies whose forms of ownership are the same as those in other sectors of the economy. Specialist firms in food production have bought farms and transformed themselves into vast ‘agribusnesses’, whose shares have been acquired by insurance and investment companies. … As a result, the interests and involvements of the executive and finance capitalists have spread from industry into farming and land “.

It should be noted that the shift in power from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, although it has at times involved bloody showdowns, has also been characterised by bribery and collaboration. This included inter-marriages between the higher echelons of the bourgeoisie and the most cash-strapped nobility, and the practice that is only now beginning to fade, of putting hereditary peers on the boards of major monopoly companies where they could collect very generous fees merely for “allowing the use of their names“. Nowadays, with the reform of the House of Lords causing hereditary peers in that institution to be replaced by life peers appointed by the government in power, mainly from among leading members of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie is able to award itself its own titles, freeing it from the need to marry hereditary aristocrats or to invite them onto their boards. As a result one can expect further decline of the aristocracy as such and their disappearance altogether as a significant social force in a relatively short period of time.31

The disappearing bourgeoisie

Because the capitalist class is such a tiny proportion of the population, as indicated above, it is extremely vulnerable, and one of the way it seeks to maintain its predominance is by making itself invisible. This is done by encouraging academic studies that ‘prove’ that the bourgeoisie no longer exists.

With the development of monopoly and with finance capital merging with industrial capital and taking control, it can now appear as though it is impersonal corporations now who rule the world. Individual capitals are not large enough for effective monopolisation, and it is through corporations that they are merged for this purpose:

Scott: ” Aaronovitch32 argues that the capitalist class has not disappeared; it has survived and prospered over the course of the 20C. The development of the joint stock company and the growth of the banking and credit system have not destroyed the link between ownership and control, they have merely changed its character … the growing involvement of banks, insurance companies, and other financial ‘institutions’ as lenders and as shareholders has created a tight fusion of banking and industrial capital, and has led to the creation of great conglomerates and combines which could not have been produced through personal family capital alone. Nevertheless, these huge concentrations of capital are still subject to private ownership and control. Not all their shareholders are small-scale passive investors. On the contrary, the largest shareholders ‘constitute collectively a decisive owning class’. Some are ‘absentee shareholders’, while others are active directors, but they are all part of a propertied, capitalist class dominated by the ‘finance capitalists’ who direct many companies through an extensive system of interlocking directorships .

Aaronovitch instances the Cowdray, Rothschild, Samuel, and Oppenheimer families, together with the heads of large and impersonally owned groups and banks – Drayton, Bicester, Kindersley, Keswick and so on…” 33

Scott informs us that: ” In 1957, two thirds of the capital in large British enterprises was owned by families and individuals, and financial institutions held one fifth. By 1981, these proportions had been almost reversed: families and individuals held 28% and institutions held 58%. In percentage terms, entrepreneurial and rentier holdings declined as significant elements in the capital of many of the largest enterprises, and the various forms of family control began to give way to control through a constellation of interests. Rentier families now invest alongside the big institutions and through the institutions themselves. The merchant banks and investment branches of the large clearing banks, for example, manage the investment portfolios of many wealthy families, and the involvement of these families on their boards is one way of ensuring that they are managed in accordance with their interests “. 34

These are the circumstances in which it has been seriously argued that the bourgeoisie as a class has disappeared from the scene altogether, as it is now the monopolist corporations that control the economy. A foremost purveyor of this strange notion was James Burnham in his book The Managerial Revolution35 who claims that it is hired managers who are becoming the real masters of society. However, facts show that the bourgeoisie still as a class continue to control the monopolist corporations, although the arrangements for doing so are informal. Cole, however, opposes the ideas put forward by Burnham:

Marx put stress on the possibility that … concentration of control over production might proceed side by side with a DIFFUSION OF OWNERSHIP allowing a large number of small shareholders who would receive … a large proportion of the profits of production but … would have … no voice in the control of production “. As far as ownership of shares is concerned, this has certainly come about. However, the huge salaries paid to those in control of the company ensure that profits go to those who control rather than those who nominally own (e.g. pension funds). 36

Large ‘salaries’ are indeed a major means of providing to the capitalist class the lion’s share of the surplus value produced by the working class. If all profit were distributed among shareholders as dividend, then a good deal of it would enure to the benefit of the millions of small investors who have interests in pension funds and insurance companies, as well as other large institutional investors. However a much larger proportion of the profit can be diverted in the direction of the ruling class by distributing it as ‘salary’ to the well-connected individuals who ‘manage’ corporations (including the institutional investors and former nationalised industries). This is why the ‘salaries’ of top corporate executives and non-executive directors are way above the market rate, and why they keep rising even when the companies in question make losses under their stewardship, and why massive golden handshakes are given out on retirement or resignation, when the ‘services’ of the directors in question are no longer needed. According to Sampson, CEOs have steadily increased their “salaries” relative to most other professions. In 2002, for example, the average pay in the top 100 companies of the CEO went up another 9% (despite falling share values) to £1.7 million (excluding pension benefits).37

Scott makes it clear that for the most part the people who get to be in the happy position of writing their own salary cheques were born into the capitalist class:

There are many families in the league of the very rich who appear to be new entrepreneurs with self-made, first-generation fortunes. Research …, however, has shown that most of these people were ‘self-made’ in only a very limited sense. The self-made entrepreneurs who rose to these heights did not start empty-handed, but generally had some ‘seed corn’ of inherited wealth … The channel of mobility into the capitalist class, therefore, was from the entrepreneurial middle class to entrepreneurial capitalist locations, and their children may be expected to form the rentiers of the future “.38

Although people are appointed to corporate boards and do not directly pass on their positions to their heirs, the rich are in a position to ensure that their children will in their turn secure exploitative posts throughout their adult lives. Scott explains:

The rentiers with system-wide interests in the modern capitalist economy are those whose interests are most closely tied to the sphere of impersonal capital: their own financial holdings are invested in and managed by the financial institutions, and they constitute a large pool of families from whom the finance capitalists who sit on the boards of the institutions are recruited. Alongside the entrepreneurial capitalists, ‘passive’ rentiers, and executive capitalists is the ‘inner circle’ of finance capitalists with directorships in two or more very large enterprises in the system of impersonal capital “.39

Rentier capitalists depend upon the system of impersonal possession, but the reproduction of the system of impersonal possession does not necessarily result in the reproduction of the rentiers themselves. The rentier capitalists who monopolise executive and finance capitalist locations depend upon other mechanisms for the reproduction of their rentier locations and class privileges” 40 – “the mechanism being revealed as the old boy network. … Recruitment to the ‘capitalist locations reflects the advantages accorded by the possession of a particular kind of social background. This background of property and privilege allows the link between capital and class reproduction to be sustained. Rentiers are able to monopolise access to these locations through the informal networks of social connections which bind the wealth together “.41 And further:

The public schools and Oxbridge colleges are the foundation of these [old boy] networks which interconnect the various upper circles. Membership of the principal London clubs reinforces these connections by providing a venue for informal meetings among the old boys who may meet in other business and political contexts and by providing opportunities for pursuing careers and interests. … For those who lack multiple directorships or are not yet involved at the centre of the major business organisations, ‘participation in the club world doubles the probability of serving on a public board” … It is in and through the informal social networks which connect these upper circles that class reproduction is ensured “.42

Connections between the ruling class and the state apparatus

In response to those who would claim that although there may well be a wealthy capitalist class, Britain is a democracy run by its freely elected representatives, not by the capitalist class, Scott tells us that:

A ruling class exists when there is both political domination and political rule by a capitalist class. This requires that there be a power bloc dominated by the capitalist class, a power elite recruited from its power bloc, and in which the capitalist class is disproportionately represented, and that there are mechanisms which ensure that the state operates in the interests of the capitalist class and the reproduction of capital. In this sense … Britain does … have a ruling class “.43

The same informal social networks provide the mechanisms that link the ruling elite to the state apparatus and ensure that those who are in government know what is required of them. Quite apart from the fact that a majority MPs are themselves from wealthy families,44 the social connections between those who run the state machinery and the kings of finance and other big rentiers are brokered through the same top public schools, universities (chiefly Oxbridge) and gentlemen’s clubs:

Throughout the whole century or more since 1868, the proportion of cabinet ministers coming from a background of land, business and the professions has varied from 100% at the beginning of the period to something over three quarters at its end… the public schools and Oxbridge, also, continued to play their part in socialising the sons of the power elite and in enhancing their movement into positions similar to those held by their fathers. The importance of public schooling in securing access to the state elite in recent years is apparent from the fact that virtually all cabinet members between 1951 and 1964 had been to public schools. By 1983, the public-school contingent had fallen slightly, to just below three-quarters. … Over three quarters of cabinet ministers in 1983 were from Oxford or Cambridge universi ties – exactly the same proportion as 30 years earlier …”45

The truth of this is substantiated by the following statistics reproduced from Scott’s book (Table 6). [cont. overleaf]

Civil and foreign service, military and judicial recruitment 1939-1970

People ’employed’ in these top jobs in the machinery of state must be regarded as themselves bourgeois. Beneath them are parliamentary private secretaries who, though also civil servants in receipt of a wage, have salaries equivalent to those carrying out a petty-bourgeois intellectual profession. But these high-ranking civil servant, like government ministers, will have far greater ‘revolving door’ opportunities than the ordinary petty-bourgeois professional for later employment at bourgeois levels of finance and industry, which place them in the bourgeois category. However, so long as they are employed in the civil service their salaries are relatively modest, and they are expected to turn up for work every day. The higher echelons of the civil service are overwhelmingly recruited from Oxbridge, having attended public school alongside the offspring of the bourgeoisie and aristocracy.

Nevertheless, all levels of the civil service have been feeling the effects of privatisation, which has subjected to downward pressure the standards of living of its personnel. ” Thatcher insisted on bringing businessmen into Whitehall to resist costs, and she set up an efficiency unit in the Cabinet Office … the reformers certainly made progress in cutting back the workforce: over twenty years the number of civil servants dropped from 746,000 to 480,000. Even senior civil servants are being passed over in favour of soliciting advice from (paid) think tanks “.46

Whereas the petty bourgeois and proletarian elements of the civil service have to grin and bear it, the upper echelons of the civil service are simply moving out of employment: according to Andrew Adonis,47The old public sector elite has not stayed and fought [against privatisation]. It has fled to the moneypots with barely a glance backwards“. Instead of the civil service, then, it is to the merchant banks to which the gilded youth are flocking.

Nevertheless, it is still the case that “…A very small proportion of the higher Civil S ervice must … be considered as part of the capitalist class itself, as, though in theory they are servants of the public, in practice they act for the class which has in its hands the reins of industrial, financial and political power – the capitalist class. The very top section of Civil Servants are so integrated with the capitalist class as to have an important place within it “.48

Internationalisation of the ruling class

With imperialism and the export of capital, both from the UK to other countries and from other countries into the UK, it would seem that the ruling elite has these days become very international.

Most of Britain’s biggest companies are now multinational corporations with interests around the world, largely beyond the reach of any single government… Their boards’ decisions affect millions … They are constantly influencing the government’s policies … yet much less is known about their directors … than about politicians “.49 No patriotism can be expected from such ‘British’ companies. Shell and BP refused to give Britain priority during the 1974 oil crisis or help Blair in 2000 when truckers blacked refineries. The government appears more of a dependency of BP than vice versa (S298). Nevertheless, according to Sampson, Blair went to war against Iraq even though Shell and BP were opposed to it. This would appear to indicate that Blair was taking his orders from the US bourgeoisie rather than the English bourgeoisie.

Scott: ” Not only do many of the entrepreneurial capitalists have substantial interests overseas – this especially the case for Goldsmith, Weston, Swire and Vestey – but a number of overseas entrepreneurial capitalists have chosen to settle in Britain: the Rausings from Sweden, Getty and Feeny from the US, Hinduja from India, and Livanos from Greece .”50


The above then are the preliminary finding of this class analysis of British society at the beginning of the 21st century. Before this study can be finalised, it is desirable that certain additional work should be done, with which the assistance of anybody able and willing to assist would be much appreciated:

1.General comments are invited on the content of the above and the accuracy of its conclusions;

2.Further live examples are needed to illustrate what is happening at the moment;

3.More statistical evidence – We have had sometimes to use statistics quoted in books half a century old through lack of skill in tracing down comparable up-to-date figures – We have not wilfully concealed any subsequent statistics because of their contradicting my thesis, We just haven’t been able to access them.

Finally, there was never the same urgency in compiling this class analysis as faced Mao when he wrote his Report on Classes in China or Lenin when he wrote Development of Capitalism in Russia, as our enfeebled working-class movement is not threatened by errors on this score of being torn apart. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this work, rather than provide yet more scope for people to find disagreements with us that they use as an excuse of keeping out of the CPGB-ML and the service of the working class that membership of the party entails, will in fact help in a general way to clarify matters in which ways that will assist our party in the course of the revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism to distinguish contradictions among the people from contradictions with the enemy. If it can then help us to develop effective ways of resolving the former while maintaining the most implacable struggle against the latter, it will have done its job.


Bland, WB : ‘Classes in modern Britain’, Article From COMPASS Theoretical Journal of the Communist League UK; No.1. February/March 1975 . (First published in HAMMER OR ANVIL, April/May, 1966). Available on the web at: http://ml-review.ca/aml/BLAND/WBBSIZECLASS.html

Cahill, K : Who owns Britain, Canongate, Edinburgh, 2001

Cole, GDH : Studies in class structure, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1955

Crompton, Devine , Savage and Scott: Renewing Class Analysis, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 2000

Grant, A : Socialism and the middle classes, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1958

McCreery, M : ‘Notes on the lower middle class and semi-proletariat in Britain’, The Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity, January 1964 – made available online by the Encyclopaedia of anti-revisionism on-line at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.firstwave/mccreerynotes.htm

Peston, R ., Who runs Britain?, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2008

Sampson, A, Who runs this place?, John Murray, London, 1988

Scott, J: Who rules Britain?, Polity Press and Basil Blackwell Inc., Cambridge, 1991

Seltman, PEJ : Classes in modern imperialist Britain, London, 1964.

David Smith, DVL Smith Ltd & William Scott, Brass Tack: ‘Can we survive as a nation of shopkeepers?’, paper presented to Business Intelligence Group Conference 2012 , http://blog.dvlsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/BIG-Paper_final-DVLS-21-04-12.pdf


12. Andrew Bounds and Kent Allen, ‘Premier has big hopes for small businesses’.

13. Andrew Bounds, ‘Businesses grow against the wave’.

14. Prospect Magazine, August 2007

15. p.83

16. p.84

17. p.65

18. p.69

19. p.69-70

20. p.72

21. The word ‘aristocracy’ is derived from the Greek, meaning ‘rule by the best’!

22. And also a bourgeois proletariat, i.e., the labour aristocracy, which we have dealt with above. However, while the British aristocracy have become literally bourgeois exploiters, the labour aristocracy has largely retained its proletarian (if privileged) economic status while becoming subjectively class collaborationist. Mind you, top union officials may well help themselves to salaries well above the market rate for their skills as well as making contacts that get them into the lucrative world of the non-executive directorship, the consultancy contract and the lecture circuit, in which case they do become petty-bourgeois in economic terms as well.

23. p.47

24. p.48

25. p.121

26. Grant, p.40

27. Grant, p.42

28. p.43

29. p.47

30. p.48

31. This does not prevent them being very dominant in the field of land ownership, as capitalist landlords and in agribusiness. See: Kevin Cahill informs us that a mere 700 families own land the size of 4.5 English counties worth £23m per family on average. It cannot be assumed that all those families, or even the majority, are of aristocratic descent. However, hereditary peers do feature prominently among Britains’s largest land owners, the Duke of Buccleigh owning 270,000 acres (422 square miles), the Blair Trust 150,000 acres, the Duke of Westminster 140,000 acres (much of it especially valuable land in central London), the Duke of Northumberland 110,000 acres and the Earl of Seafield 101,000 acres (a mere 158 square miles). Finding it hard to make ends meet, some land-owning aristocrats like the 19th Earl of Derby (30,000 acres) and Lord Camoys (Stonor) have had day jobs as merchant bankers.

32. Sam Aaronovitch, Monopoly, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1955

33. p.14

34. p.87

35. Pelican Books, London, 1942.

36. Preface p. ii.

37. p.310

38. p.84-5

39. p.89-90

40. p. 91

41. p.92

42. p.117

43. p.124

44. John Scott tells us, for example, that ” In the period 1830-66, between two thirds and three quarters of all MPs were from landed families; between one third and one quarter were manufacturers, merchants, or bankers ” (p.62). There is no reason to think that all that much as changed since that time.

45. p.132

46. Sampson p.111

47. Quoted by Sampson at p.278

48. Grant p.58

49. Sampson p.297.

50. p.84



Employment (millions)

Percentage of all enterprises

Percentage of all employment

All Enterprises





SMEs (0-249)





All employers





No employees




















250 or more






Apr 2011-Mar 2012

no of self-employed

total working pop

% self- employed




Note that the self employment rate for men (at 13.2%) is much higher than for women (5.6%).



0 employees

1-9 employees

10-49 employees

50-249 employees

Average profit







% from public school or Oxbridge in the years:





Top civil service

Fee paying school











Fee paying school










Top army

Fee paying school










Top navy

Fee paying school






Top airforce

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Top judiciary

Fee paying school