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Class Consciousness in Workers in Nineteenth-century Europe

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Account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth-century Europe.

INTRODUCTION

The standard of living could account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe. More specifically the food that was needed but they didn't have enough of. Food was withheld from people due to food shortages. In Anthology document 5.13c 'French Minister of Interior to Louis XVIII, 1817' Laine puts the blame of food shortages to rain which spoilt the harvest. This has led to a lack of food for everyone. Anthology Document 5.13a, a Cornish letter, 1795. Which describes this food crisis saying that (CIT) "Many farmers refuse to sell it in small quantities to the poor, which causes a great murmuring". This meant that it was increasingly more difficult to buy food to sustain them. Workers needed their daily bread to work and bread was an essential for a working family. With farmers refusing to sell food to the poor working families, it was becoming increasingly clear that there was a divide between people who could buy the food in large quantities and the poor. Also Document 5.13b, a letter 'Revd A.B Haden to the home secretary, 1800' who writes about the withholding of corn and that it is not right. (CIT) "I have too high a respect for a British parliament even to suspect that it was ever intended that protection should extend to the withholding of corn". If the idea of farmers withholding food from certain types of people wasn't making it difficult enough for the workers in the nineteenth century, the price of food itself was. This made the workers self-aware of the divide between those who could and couldn't afford food. Anthology Document 5.13c tells us the rise in price of corn rose from (CIT) "28 francs 50 centimes" to "31 francs 51 centimes". These living standards for workers and poorer families account for the emergence of class consciousness as people had begun to see a difference in living standards for workers and others.

Revolution amongst workers can account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in the nineteenth century Europe. There was many who were not happy with their current situation. And these people were in different social groups. Businessmen wanted to reduce 'the authority of the vestiges of feudalism'. Peasants refused to pay tax. The biggest group was the workers whose revolution led to a class consciousness is workers. who saw themselves apart from the rest, and fought to protect their jobs from industrialisation, to improve the working conditions and to put them equally standing with their superiors. Anthology Document 5.17 'Decrees of the French provisional government, 25 February 1848' is a result of worker's revolution. They are public documents which promise workers (CIT) "The right to work" and that "the Tuileries will serve as a hospital for workers injured in industry". These decrees came from the provisional government which was created after the revolutionary action brought about the abdication of the king. This revolutionary action taken by the workers suggests that it can account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers. They now see themselves apart from the rest of society and demand to have rights to things others already have. To illustrate this further Anthology Document 5.18 'Manifesto of the Delegates of the Corporations to the workers of the department of the seine'. In this they refer to the workers as (CIT) "Producer". They argue that the producer is essential to society. With this, the workers are separating themselves from the rest of society, thus gaining class consciousness. They now saw themselves as separate, and important enough that they seemingly unknowingly formed into a separate class or group. Therefore, the emergence of a class consciousness in workers in nineteenth-century Europe was because of revolutionary action taken.

Political print by influential individuals can account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe. Print was used to make workers more aware of a class divide. The first example of this encourages an awareness of a class divide, Anthology Document 5.16 'The Communist Manifesto, 1848'. Karl Marx wrote this. The aim of this manifesto is to (CIT) "spell out the league principles based on the 'Scientific Socialism'". Scientific Socialism is a term to describe social-political-economic theory. The first mention of the development of a new class is where it states (CIT) "It has established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones". If a worker was to read this, it could prompt the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers. Someone is literally telling them that there is a new class. The manifesto then goes on to say (CIT) "the place of manufacture was taken by the giant modern industry, the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires". This quote from the manifesto introduces what 'middle class' is. They are the ones who own the factories and have all the money. Just reading this, workers start to have a class consciousness. That there is a huge political and economic difference between them. Therefore, political print such as 'The communist manifesto' can account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe. Another important piece of print is Anthology Document 5.15 'The prospectus for L'Artisan, journal de la classe ouuriere, 1830'. This was founded by printing workers and was essentially a newspaper to make people aware of what the working class was and how it was important to society. It states (CIT) "the most numerous and the most useful class in society, without tradition, is the working class". The newspaper then goes on to promote the need for change for the working class. (CIT) "to publish a special journal focussed on their needs and interests… where they can expose their grievances and their complaints". With the spread of this type of political print, it can account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe.

The workforce themselves and the unfair conditions which they worked in can also account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe. And the main example of this is women and children workers. The illustration (CIT) Figure 19.6 clearly shows the divide between the middle class 'man in charge' of the factory workforce and the women and children doing the work. It is a true depiction of how factories ran. We know this as we can compare it to (CIT) Figure 19.7 a drawing of power loom weaving which shows a similar scene to the first illustration. It would be obvious to those factory workers that there was a difference in the workers and the foreman. Therefore, it could account for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe. If this is not enough to spark the emergence of class consciousness, then the unfair working conditions might. Anthology Document 5.20, A Letter by Richard Oastler to the Leeds Mercury, 1839 explains this in more detail (CIT) "Thousands of little children…are daily compelled to labour from six o'clock in the morning to seven in the evening with only-Britons, blush while you read it! - with only thirty minutes allowed for eating and recreation" in this letter Oastler is trying to highlight the working conditions and it is not clear if he is intentionally encouraging a class consciousness but this could be the outcome of his letter to 'the Leeds mercury'. This also links back to the earlier point of the use of print accounting for the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe. Print. Especially in the newspaper was very influential to those few workers who could read. Reading that every worker is going through the same thing would spur on revolutions and lead to the emergence of class consciousness amongst workers in nineteenth century Europe.


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