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Why Was Marxism A Minority Ideology Amongst The European Working Class?

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Introduction

Why Was Marxism A Minority Ideology Amongst The European Working Class? The 19th century was a period of social development unrivalled in the changes it brought about. The Industrial Revolution was the fundamental basis of this, not only inflating the economy and making the rich far richer, but enlarging the mercantile classes, and creating a vast working class (proletariat). It was this last group, the proletariat, that were, towards the mid to late 1800's, of political and economic importance, not only due to their crucial role in the industrial process and therefore the economy, but because of their sheer size and potential volatility. Geary identifies three major factors as being crucial to the formation and success of national labour movements: (1) The structure and composition of the work force (2) The nature of the State (3) The availability to workers of alternative, radical ideologies. However, of all the political movements that emerged during this period, the only one that concentrated almost entirely on this section of the population was Marxism. On an intellectual and theoretical level, Marx rejected all the sources of capitalism and the dominance of a minority, unrepresentative class, and drew from ideals that emerged in the French Revolution, especially that the proletariat could become a 'universal class'. ...read more.

Middle

These workers were also less dispensable, and working shorter hours meant they had the time in which they could fully participate. Although this meant that membership numbers amongst the urban working classes in Germany were not as great as those elsewhere (for example Britain), but the organisation, and therefore effectiveness, was greater. Another factor that encouraged political mobilisation amongst the working classes, were the hardships that arose as part of the process of industrialisation. Towards the late 19th century, the growth of industry in Germany was relatively accelerated, with numbers of Germans employed in industry rising from 6,396,000 in 1882 to 11,256,000 in 1907. This meant that the influx of workers from the countryside to urban areas was disproportionate to the state's ability to provide amenities for them. The appalling housing conditions therefore meant that the main social focus took place outside the home, often in pubs, and cafes, which also happened to serve as the focal point of socio-democratic activities. Low wages and appalling factory conditions served to fuel the unrest that could be aired in such public meeting places, but this was hardly exclusive to Germany, as a factor of industrialisation throughout Europe. ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore, generally, there was both a lack of direction and a lack of facilitation to that socialist movement in France, that meant while there was, at times, a demand for socialist principles, but no way in which it could become a mass political movement. It is clear, that whilst socialism was often seen as the 'Red Threat' from the late 19th century until well into the 20th, there was no uniformity to the movement within Europe. In Germany, the advent of WW1, whilst initially bolstering the SPD's hold on the Reichstag, put an end to the political development of the state due to the imposition of the Weimar Republic in the inter - war years. In France, however, there was no real force to the movement due not only to viable and popular alternatives, but a predisposition unfacilitating of a political movement based around the working classes. Therefore, the only real place in which socialism formed a dominant and lasting political movement was in Russia, and the perceived threat, was often, disproportionate to the actual one. In any situation, however, it was the working classes who were the driving force, and the focus of the movement, making any differences within this particular section of society crucial to the Labour movements success and dominance in a wider political sphere. Sarah Sutton Teddy Hall Dr Priestland ...read more.

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