Thursday, October 8, 2009

Age of Empires Ch. 5 Post

Chapter 5 of The Age of Empire is mostly concerned with the rise of the proletariat classes into a political force that had not been previously represented. Their numbers were rapidly growing, and they quickly became an important part of the social, economic, and political systems of every industrial nation in the world. They represented the maintaining force behind every major city in the world, as they provided maintenance on gas, water, sewage, railways, and telegraphs. They made civil life possible for all of the classes above them.

By the end of the 19th century, urbanization was occurring at a rate faster than it ever had before, and massive currents of migration flooded the city. Of the workers that had migrated to America, a small amount returned to the old country, but most stayed, to fill any sort of job created by the industrial world that comprised of manual labor. The number of people among this class formed a growing proportion, and it became obvious that one day, they would comprise a majority. It cast a shadow over that established order of politics. The ruling classes began to wonder to themselves exactly what would happen if the workers were to organize themselves politically, and what impact t his would have.

This is precisely what happened in Europe, on an extraordinary scale. Socialist and labor parties appeared almost everywhere they were permitted, and they were growing quite quickly as well. Never before had there been such hope for those who labored in the factories, workshops, and mines. Their power lay in the elementary simplicity of their appeal. The represented the working class in all its struggles against the capitalists and the state. The doctrine of Marxism dominated the majority of these new parties. Its members considered themselves proletarians, and aspired to bring about a revolution much like the one Marx wrote about. However, the proletarian were not a homogenous group like the one Marx described, but rather a diverse group of different kinds of workers, from very different backgrounds. They differed in respect to nationality, language, culture, and religion, and about everything else. This made a global unity very difficult to execute among the proletariat, and hindered the progress many revolutionaries stood for. Organization I n its theory might have been national, but in practice it was extremely localized and decentralized. In nations like Italy and France, the only effective groupings were the alliances of small local unions grouped around local labor halls. Railways were the largest enterprise in the economy, and were virtually impossible to organize.

Most interesting to me was the impact of Marxism on the proletariat classes. The entire class decided to base most of their political views on a man who was not even a proletariat himself was quite interesting. The change from a capitalist to socialist system would indeed revolutionize life, but many of the members of labor parties were unclear on exactly how.

My question is how did the working class become educated in socialist and Marxist thought so vastly and quickly? How did they learn about this new way of thought, and begin to align themselves with it so quickly?


1 comment:

  1. This is a good question and something I was thinking about as well. My initial thoughts are that many workers did not fully understand the economics or politics behind Marxist doctrine but found the opposition to the Capitalist state appealing because it unified them in their cause against the rich. I also think some of the original militant nature of these parties was also appealing to many of the men who were working these hard labor jobs, as it gave them an outlet to express their disdain with their working and living conditions. In terms of the speed of the movement, it just seems like everything was moving fast during the Industrial Revolution, as urbanization and population boomed.