ABSTRACT

In the Federal Republic of Germany, Communist or Socialist ideologies encountered a number of obstacles. As in all advanced industrial societies, living standards and wage levels no longer confirmed the Marxist prognosis of an impoverishment of the labour force. 1 The expansion of the white collar sector and the changes in the structure of employment have obliterated or at least obscured the social sector which was to spearhead revolution and fundamental change: the proletariat. Left-wing opposition to contemporary politics and society could either turn Marxism into an orthodoxy and proclaim its principles regardless of discrepancies with social realities today, or they could try to rephrase their aims and reconsider their approaches in the light of new experiences. The rapid economic recovery in the Federal Republic made such a restatement particularly urgent: after a slow start in the forties and early fifties, wage levels, living conditions, the general level of prosperity in West Germany rose sharply, overtaking most European countries. 2 Even among the lower paid, ownership of cars, washing machines, televisions, savings have risen. West German workers no longer see themselves as “proletariat” and adhere to a separate working class/proletarian culture or consciousness.