Outline of the Labor Movement and Socialism

Outline of the Labor Movement and Socialism - THE LABOR...

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THE LABOR MOVEMENT AND SOCIALISM I The Luddites II The Chartists III The Formation of Unions IV The Revolutions of 1848 V Karl Marx and the First International VI The Paris Commune of 1871 I The Luddites One of the unintended consequences of the Industrial Revolution was that the industrial working class emerged as a new political subject demanding economic rights from the state. The history of the labor movement runs parallel to the history of industry. Just as industry gradually became more complexly organized and more powerful, so too did the labor movement. The first expressions of the labor movement were generally unorganized, sporadic and lacking in solid direction and analysis. But through a series of ‘evolutionary steps’ towards more precise forms of organization, the labor movement became – by the late 1800s – a major political force in all industrialized countries. ‘Socialism’ became the general orientation of the international labor movement by the second half of the 1800s. What this meant was that the ‘capitalist system’ of property relations was being challenged to its core. The first group of people to mount a coordinated protest against the emerging industrial system in England were not the factory workers, but the skilled craftsmen who were being put out of business by the industrial competition. Specifically, it was the professional weavers who were organized in guilds. Their products could not compete in price with the machine-produced ones coming out of the factories. These angry craftsmen were interested in defending their way of life, which they left was being undermined by the new systems of work and the new machines in the factory. Therefore, they began a ttacking textile factories in England and breaking the new machines that were putting them out of business. This group of people became known as the ‘Luddites’ – after a mythical figure named ‘Ned Ludd’, a weaver who had supposedly broken machines in a fit of anger in the 1700s. The Luddites became legendary in the early 1800s, and the name is still used today to signify ‘someone who doesn’t like technology’. But the Luddites ultimately failed in their pursuits. They wanted to turn back the clock to an earlier pre-industrial age where the professional craftsman held a privileged position. In this regard, their ‘reactionary’ goal overlapped with the sentiments of many of the Romantic writers of the early 1800s (Shelley and Byron) who also viewed the new industry as ‘dehumanizing’ and wished to return to an idyllic rural past. 1
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II The Chartists The industrial working class in Britain first gave a broadly organized expression to its demands for better working conditions in the Chartist Movement of 1838 to 1850. The Chartists wanted to present a petition to the British parliament called ‘the People’s Charter’ which asked for the political rights of the industrial working class – this included the right for all working men to vote (many times the voting right was denied because of
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This note was uploaded on 01/11/2010 for the course HIST 015 taught by Professor Patch during the Spring '07 term at UC Riverside.

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Outline of the Labor Movement and Socialism - THE LABOR...

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