Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844, by Frederick Engels

This is 12 hours of listening to the itemizing of the social ills of England, Scotland, and Ireland over a ten year period.  For reference, Dickens work, A Christmas Carol, was written a year earlier in 1844.  The discussion covers a large amount of territory, beginning with the long, hard work in the factories, the accidents and diseases, and ailments such as asthma from inhaling metal dust.  The pay amounts to barely enough to cover an existence, which is of the most horrid sort, given that masses of workers are thrown into common housing.  The result is stunted growth, whether it be physical or mental.  Added to this are the social problems caused by women and children working, destroying family relations, encouraging prostitution and leading to illegitimacy and the spread of STDs.  It is a painful bit of listening, and no doubt there is much truth to it.  Compounding the problems were about a million Irish immigrants looking for work, but we must note that the Irish Potato Famine doesn't occur until 1845.

Mixed in with this longwinded description is a large quantity of vitriol directed at the Bourgeoisie and Christianity.  More specifically, he was hostile to capitalism, Christian education and monogamy.   One argument that caught my attention was his rejection of the possibility of Bourgeois charity.  His  argument is that if the Bourgeois hadn't cheated the Proletariat, they should have had no money to give, while also noting the Proletariat are more generous among themselves and the Bourgeois charity is negligible.

My response to all this is that yes, there were a lot of horrors in the early stages of industrialism, which were largely rectified over the decades.  We cannot say the same for his communist children, however, as these horrors all live on today in Communist countries.  Yes, the Bourgeois can be unfeeling, but communist leaders have been even more brutal and callous over time than the Bourgeois.  And besides this, there have always been poor in every country and every age, thus, this work had shock value only to the naive.  After all this fist shaking at the Bourgeoisie, I am finally wanting to ask him in return, "What about you, Fred?  What do you propose?  After you burn everything down, what would you put in its place?".

3 comments:

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

Exactly, what is the alternative after burning the "house" down? What shall be built on top of it and how? Communists never have the answers to these questions.

The rights of workers and better working conditions are the only positive socialist contribution, in my view; although many capitalists at the time (called philanthropists) were starting to do just that before the socialist/communist movement was born.
An interesting detail about Karl Marx and his Women's rights: according to one of my collaborators, Marxism was detrimental to the profession of prostitution because it taught women how to be a prostitute without having to charge a wage for the service (causing thus unemployment in the prostitute class) - I'm sure Karl Marx must be proud from where he stands now (in hell).

I dream of the day when some people wake up from their marxist nightmare.

Cheers

Looney said...

Max,

My readings (i.e. listenings) of these works has changed one of my opinions on Marxism: I no longer consider it to have been a system. The basic stream of rhetoric is that capitalism is nothing more than social anarchy, and by simply overthrowing social anarchy we will be left with social order! Similarly, by overthrowing unreason and oppression, a society founded on reason and justice will inevitably result! This seems to be the common thread between Marx/Engels and Lenin/Trotsky.

Perhaps your collaborator could do an article and give us the sources? I was mainly struck with the fact that Cuba earns a big portion of its "hard currency" from child prostitution serving the Bourgeois states. It is tempting to form a link with my country's current efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and the need for pedophiles to get access to ... But I should probably leave that alone. Vietnam is also a big source for the prostitution slave trade.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney,

Not a system, then what: an ideal simply?
Yes, and we saw how well that worked for the Soviets and every country that followed that silly model: they oppressed, persecuted, tortured, murdered more people than any democratic regime under a capitalist system.

"Perhaps your collaborator could do an article and give us the sources?"

She already has (in my Portuguese blog, when criticising the Pope's "new" Marxist stance) and for sources she invokes examples from the Movements of 68 (feminist and others) and data showing the surge in STD's since then.
Cuba is a joke but by opening the doors to it may bear the price that you mentioned but it also exposes it to more scrutiny and control. Let's see.

Have a blessed weekend.