Utorak, 18 Maj 2021 10:57

Friedrich Engels: The Industrial Proletariat Istaknut

Book cover design for The Condition of the Working Class in England Book cover design for The Condition of the Working Class in England

The order of our investigation of the different sections of the proletariat follows naturally from the foregoing history of its rise. The first proletarians were connected with manufacture, were engendered by it, and accordingly, those employed in manufacture, in the working up of raw materials, will first claim our attention. The production of raw materials and fuel for manufacture attained importance only in consequence of the industrial change and engendered a new proletariat, the coal and metal miners. Then, in the third place, manufacture influenced agriculture, and in the fourth, the condition of Ireland; and the fractions of the proletariat belonging to each, will find their place accordingly.

We shall find, too, that with the possible exception of the Irish, the degree of intelligence of the various workers is in direct proportion to their relation to manufacture; and that the factory hands are most enlightened as to their interests, the miners somewhat less so, the agricultural laborers scarcely at all. We shall find the same order again among the industrial workers and shall see how the factory-hands, eldest children of the industrial revolution, have from the beginning to the present day formed the nucleus of the Labour Movement, and how the others have joined this movement just in proportion as their handicraft has been invaded by the progress of machinery. We shall thus learn from the example which England offers, from the equal pace which the Labour Movement has kept with the movement of industrial development, the historical significance of manufacture.

Since, however, at the present moment, pretty much the whole industrial proletariat is involved in the movement and the condition of the separate sections has much in common because they all are industrial, we shall have first to examine the condition of the industrial proletariat as a whole, in order later to notice more particularly each separate division with its peculiarities.

It has been already suggested that the manufacture centralizes property in the hands of the few. It requires large capital with which to erect the colossal establishments that ruin the petty trading bourgeoisie and with which to press into its service the forces of Nature, so driving the hand-labor of the independent workman out of the market. The division of labor, the application of water and especially steam, and the application of machinery, are the three great levers with which manufacture, since the middle of the last century, has been busy putting the world out of joint. Manufacture, on a small scale, created the middle-class; on a large scale, it created the working-class and raised the elect of the middle-class to the throne, but only to overthrow them the more surely when the time comes. Meanwhile, it is an undeniable and easily explained fact that the numerous petty middle-class of the "good old times" has been annihilated by the manufacture, and resolved into rich capitalists on the one hand and poor workers on the other.

Source: The Condition of the Working Class in England byFriedrich Engels, Panther Edition, 1969, from text provided by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Moscow


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