Posts Tagged ‘‘The Revolutions of 1848’’

A 19th Century Magdeburg Citizen on the Difference between Paupers and Proletarians

April 13, 2014

One of the documents reproduced in Peter Jones’ The Revolutions of 1848 (Harlow: Longman 1981) pp. 78-9 are the observations of an anonymous citizen of Magdeburg in Germany of the fundamental psychological difference between paupers and proletarians. Paupers accept their poverty, while the proletarians actively resented it and the order that caused it. The extract runs:

… the proletarian is aware of his situation. This is why he is fundamentally different from the pauper, who accepts his fate as a divine ordinance and demands nothing but alms and an idle life. The proletarian realised straight away that he was in a situation which was intolerable and unjust; he thought about it and felt a longing for ownership; he wanted to take part in the joys of existence; he refused to believe that he had to through life in misery, just because he was born in misery; moreover he was aware of his strength, as we pointed out above; he saw how the world trembled before him and this recollection emboldened him; he went so far as to disregard Law and Justice. hitherto property had been a right: he branded it a robbery.

We too have a proletariat, but not so well developed. If one were to ask our artisans, who have been ruined by competition and much else, our weavers who are out of work, silk-weavers, those who live in our cassematte and family-homes; if one were bold enough to penetrate these cabins and hovels; if one spoke to the people and took in their conditions; one would realise with a shock that we have a proletariat. Nevertheless, they are not daring enough to voice their demands, for the German is generally shy and likes to hide his misfortune. But misery grow, and we may be quite sure, even as one day follows another, that the voice of poverty will one day be terribly loud!

The policy of successive administrations since Thatcher has been to try to turn the working class from proletarians into paupers. She destroyed the traditional working class heavy industries as part of a deliberate policy of destroying the unions and creating a huge reservoir of the unemployed. See Kittysjones’ recent post on the academic report discussing this, Tory dogma and hypocrisy: the “big state”, bureaucracy, austerity and “freedom” at http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/tory-dogma-and-hypocrisy-the-big-state-bureaucracy-austerity-and-freedom/. The Tories have then promoted an active psychological policy in which the unemployed and the poor are made to believe that their poverty is somehow their fault, rather than the economic structure of society. This also has the deliberate effect of discouraging the new paupers from enjoying an idle life. So if the Tories don’t want the proletariat to feel they are powerful, they do need them to feel that they can somehow do something about their conditions, a deliberate channelling of part of the surviving proletarian psychology – the desire for ownership – into a form that will accept the increasing stratified economic and social structure. However, increasing numbers of people are seeing their desire for dignity and property frustrated and denied, as they are priced out of the property market, and suffer from the rising prices of the energy companies. And for the unemployed, thanks to government welfare reforms and benefit sanctions, even food has become unaffordable and people are forced to go to food banks to stop themselves from starving.

This cannot and must not continue. The Tories and Tory Democrats should be voted out at the next election as the working people of this country show their awareness of their strength. The voice of the poor, the disabled, the unemployed must be heard. And it must be very loud.

Maria Miller, Government Corruption and the French Revolution of 1848

April 13, 2014

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Maria Miller: Tory MP forced to resign for expenses fiddling, paralleling the 1847 prosecution of French Minister Teste for corruption.

One of the causes of the French Revolution of 1848 was a couple of scandals involving government ministers. The duc de Praslin was arrested and brought to trial for battering his wife to death because he was in love with an English governess. He committed suicide before being sentenced. A former Minister of Public Works, Teste, was tried in 1847 for using his position to gain industrial concessions. The effect of the two scandals was to reinforce opposition to the Prime Minister, Guizot, and ‘together these cases were taken as a revelation of the manner of life of the governing classes’. (Peter Jones, The 1848 Revolutions (Harlow: Longman 1981) 30).

We’ve had a series of scandals concerning child abuse committed by senior members of the Tory party and Cyril Smith, the Liberal MP. Maria Miller has just been forced to resign despite opposition and support from David Cameron because of the way she fiddled her expenses. She then showed her absolute contempt for parliamentary standards by issuing a derisory thirty-second apology, while one of her aides threatened the Daily Telegraph when they broke this story. And there is the continuing scandal of the Tory and Tory Democrats MPs pushing through the privatisation of the NHS in order to gain government contracts for their own healthcare companies.

For many people now, like the French public in 1848, these scandals – and particularly the expenses fiddling and government corruption – show the corrupt morals of the governing classes. Cameron and Clegg had better act before the mob star5ts gathering outside Whitehall, singing the ‘Marseillaise’.

The Conditions of the Working Class in 19th Century Lille

April 13, 2014

Priti Patel

Priti Patel, one of the authors of Britannia Unchained, who wish to reintroduce Third World Conditions 21st Century Britain.

Neoliberal ideological looks back to the 19th century as the great age of European industrial expansionism through laissez-faire economics. They believe that if similar conditions were created in modern Britain and Europe through an extensive programme of privatisation, deregulation and the curtailment of government welfare spending, industry would similarly prosper and expand.

The 19th century was also a time of immense poverty, misery and suffering for the new, industrial working class, who poured into the cities as the labour force for the new factories. They lived in conditions of grinding poverty comparable to those of the poor of today’s Developing World. Adolphe Blanqui, in his Les Classes Ouvrieres en France pendant l’annee 1848, published in Paris in 1849 gives a description of the appalling poverty endured by the working class population of Lille.

A succession of islets separated by dark and narrow alleyways, at the other end are small yards called courettes which serve as sewers and rubbish-dumps. In every season of the year there is damp. The apartment windows and the cellar doors all open on to these disease-ridden alleyways, and in the background there are pieces of iron railing over cess-pits which are used day and night as public lavatories. The dwellings are ranged round these plague-spots, and people pride themselves on still being able to gain a small income from them. The further the visitor penetrates into these little yards, the more he is surrounded by a strange throng of anaemic, hunchbacked and deformed children with deathly pale livid faces, begging for alms. Most of these wretches are almost naked and even the best-cared-for have rags sticking to them. But these creatures at least breathe fresh air; only in the depths of the cellars can one appreciate the agonies of those who cannot be allowed out on account of their age or the cold weather. For the most part they lie on the bare soil, on wisps of rape-straw, on a rough couch of dried potato-peelings, on sand or on shavings which have been painstakingly collected during the days work. The pit in which they languish is bare of any fittings; only those who are best-off possess a temperamental stove, a wooden chair and some cooking-utensils. ‘I may not be rich,’ an old woman told us, pointing to her neighbour lying full-length on the damp cellar floor, ‘but I still have my bundle of straw, thank God!’ More than three thousand of our fellow-citizens lead this horrifying existence in the Lille cellars.

Cited in Peter Jone, The 1848 Revolutions (Harlow: Longman 1981) 78.

It was partly due to these appalling conditions that the working class revolted in 1848 to overthrow the monarchy. And France wasn’t alone in the suffering of its poor. Similar conditions of appalling poverty were found throughout Europe, including England and Germany.

The Tories and Tory Democrats wish to see these conditions return. Priti Patel and the other authors of Britannia Unchained argued that Britons should similarly work much longer hours for lower pay for Britain to compete with the emerging economic powerhouses of the Developing World, such as India and China. If they have their way, the laissez-faire economics they embrace and advocate will lead to similar grinding poverty, while enriching the prosperous few. Just like in the 19th century, the age they so admire.