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Response to Industrialization

     During the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution began in Manchester, England. England was able to prosper because of increased food production, a supply of capital for investment in new machines and factories, profits from foreign trade and the cottage industry, and a well-developed bank and flexible credit facilities. New roads, bridges, and canals made transportation throughout this small country easier and more efficient. England was also supplied with coal and iron ore which made the steam engine and railways important to new modes of transportation.

     Belgium, France, and the German states experienced a similar growth in prosperity as England but at a later date. Although the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity to England, the only people that benefited from the proletariats hard-work was a small group of capitalists. Middle class capitalists were the representatives of the working class in government. The bourgeoisie only benefited by getting legislation passed that would help their businesses and make them more money. The working class, especially children, was exploited by their capitalist employers. Marxism was a response to the failure of European society to address the problems created by industrialization.

     English Calvinist views were strong during the Industrial Revolution. Employers followed Max Weber's "Protestant Work Ethic Theory" and took pride in being strict with their employees, who worked long hours to keep their jobs. They did anything for money and employers took advantage by paying low wages; if they did not work, they did not eat and workers were disposable. Most of them had only one forty-five minute break during the whole work day. The working class enjoyed little relaxation or family time. Since "the work of the proletarians had lost all individual character" and the work was very "monotonous," workers became worn out and even mindless. Work became mechanical and workers lost their incentive to work hard at their jobs. Working conditions were hazardous in the factories. Since only a few small windows were located on the top of the factory, air couldn't circulate. Workers breathed in tiny dust fibers from the fabrics. In the coal mines, workers suffered from black lung disease from inhaling coal dust. they also faced the risk of cave-ins. Many of them were dangerous to work with because they were unskilled.
          Child labor was preferred by employers. Children adapted quickly to the new machines and the factory system. Adults were used to the old cottage system and learned at a slower pace than the children because of their old ways; therefore, they were less productive and viewed by their employers to be slacking-off. Although their work was lighter and less exhausting than the adults, they became extremely fatigued after many hours of working. The Sadler Commission Report on Child Labor stated that to keep them alert and awake "they were strapped quite frequently." Employers also threw buckets of water on them to keep them attentive. Eventually in 1833, a commission of medical examiners testified on the results of child labor in favor of the Factory Act. In it they stated that they found many cases of "deformity," "stunted growth," and "relaxed muscles." They concluded that the children worked too many hours under cruel conditions. Infants, especially girls, worked in mining towns; "they endured the punishment of the direst criminals" which substituted their deaths. Some said that death would have been a better fate.

          Since machinery was no longer driven by water, factories no longer had to be built around rivers; factories moved to big towns. "Clouds of smoke drifted across the country" and some "rivers ran purple with ill-smelling dye." Workers lived in the overcrowded slums of those big towns. They packed into tenements that were clustered together. Therefore, fires were a frequent hazard. Living conditions were unsanitary and disease spread rapidly because they lacked a sewer system; waste was thrown into the streets. Since many people were poor and miserable, towns suffered a high crime rate.

          Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism, believed that history moved through phases, eventually resulting in socialism. The beginnings of Marxism can be found with the publication of the Communist Manifesto as a response to the failure of the 1848 revolutions. In it, he clearly intended to rouse the working classes to action. From Hegel's dialectic he arrived at the idea that "the history of all existing society is class struggle" between "oppressor and oppressed." New classes took the place of old ones and create new forms of struggle. According to Marx, a worldwide working class revolt was necessary, otherwise they would always be neglected and poor. The ruling classes would be disposed and new rules would be adopted. He wanted the workers of the world to unite to "face the last fight." The system could be abolished by the opposition of those who suffered from it. "Having outlived its usefulness, capitalism must give way to a new social order--a social order wherein government shall rest on industry." Only by revolution could he achieve his goal of no role of government and no private property. Everything was to be shared equally, and no one was to make more money than necessary for survival. After their victory, the proletariat would form a dictatorship to reorganize the means of production. A classless society would emerge and the state would disappear since it no longer represented the interests of a particular class; class struggles would then be over. Marx believed that the emergence of a classless society would lead to progress in science, technology, and industry and to greater wealth for all. Marx derived his doctrine of surplus value from British classical economists. He maintained that it was the difference between a product's real value and the wages of the worker who produced it. Mill owners were retarding economic growth, causing depressions, and setting the stage for revolution by pocketing this surplus value.

     Early socialists were labeled by the Marxists as utopian.   They believed that human cooperation was superior to the competition of industrial capitalism. To the Marxists, such ideas were impractical dreams. Marx had criticized the utopian socialists for their failure to approach the labor problem scientifically. Despite opposition from authority, he continued to write on the political economy. Marx only finished one volume of Das Kapital because of his preoccupation with organizing the working-class movement. After his death, the remaining volumes were edited by Friedrich Engels. When they met in Paris in 1844, they discovered that they shared similar views and were lifelong friends ever since. They joined the Communist League together in 1847. In 1864, Marx became the dominant personality on the "First International" General Council and devoted much time to its activities. Marx also supported the Paris Commune as a genuine proletarian uprising in 1871. Although Marx died in 1883, his ideas and support remained strong.

          To conclude, Marxism was a response to the needs of the working class. It appealed to many because European society had failed to recognize the problems created by industrialization. Workers were exploited; they were underpaid, overworked, and impoverished. They made enough money to feed one person, not a whole family. Even children suffered from the capitalist system. Working conditions were hazardous and living conditions were just as harsh. Marx offered the proletariat a new way of living and gave them new hope of survival.

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