Early Worker’s Movements

The industrial revolution created a chain events that led to Capitalism and then Socialism. Machines were started around the 16th century and means of production could now expand. Trade too was flourishing and there was a race for colonies. The Capitalist class was created who invested in building factories and controlled trade.

The workers were mostly peasants who had lost their jobs and wanted to earn a living. Then started the circle of exploitation where the employers dictated terms and employees were exploited. Poor living conditions, no job security, poor sanitation, long work hours and no rights were the reasons there was unrest.

Workers formed trade unions for collective bargaining and getting more rights. The radical leaders forced government to pass laws to regulate industry. The workers however wanted a social revolution as they believed that the entire system of capitalism created a class distinction. All these soon culminated in creating a new social order that would compete with Capitalism called Socialism

Birth of Socialism

The French revolution was started to remove the mighty privileged clas and end exploitation of the lower classes. It did manage to remove the monarchy but its ideals of equality weren’t achieved. The revolution however contributed most in giving an impetus to the worker class to think of a social order where there would be no private property and all would be equal.

Early thinkers in this field believed in Socialism too. “From each according to his capacity, for each according to his work”, this slogan was popularized. But the methods for creating such a society were ineffective.

It was only the international society called “Communist League” that called for Proletarians of all lands, Unite! which had a vision for such a society where no bourgeois or class distinctions existed. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were asked to draft a manifesto.

Scientific Socialism

The study of Marx and Engels on creation of a socialist society was called scientific socialism. The communist manifesto came out and its ideas on workers revolution reached everywhere. Marxism believed that capitalism would never be the solution to the societies problem. The Capitalists would create a class distinction and the society would be divided into haves and haves not. This was put in his work Das Capital.

Communist manifesto came out during the 1848 revolutions and workers led the revolts for creating a new social order. But the support of other groups was not achieved by them and so the movements failed.

Even after 1848 revolutions the socialist movements were not completely wiped out. The one aspect of socialist groups was their international outlook.

First International – 1864

The socialism entered world stage after creation of the First International. The organization had the motto same as the communist manifesto “Proletarians of the World, Unite!”. The organization created a solidarity amongst workers of the world. It was not only against depotism in its own countries but against it n all countries.

Whenever wars were fought by its members for imperialism the workers of both fronts protested against them. During the Prussia French conflict when France was defeated and Alsace Lorraine was annexed by Prussia. The mine worker’s of Germany protested against this move by Prussian dynasty.

Governments and capitalists saw this as a menace and arrested or sought to exterminate the influence of First international from their respective countries.

Paris Commune, 1871

The Prussian French war was also known for leading to another event in history that influenced Socialism. This was the Paris Commune of 1871.

The Prussian forces had defeated the army of king Napoleon III and captured him. The French kingdom was ruined and in its place a republican government was formed. This government had the propertied class. The Prussians asked for a huge war indemnity, Surrender of Paris, Alsace Lorraine and Saar coal mines to Germany. The republican government of France accepted these conditions.

However the proletariat class of Pars called this a treachery by the bourgeois of Paris and refused to accept the secession of Paris. They formed a government in Paris known as Paris commune. The lower classes had representation her and all public offices were elected by universal franchise. People also had a right to recall representatives.

The French government and army attacked the Commune along with the German army. The commune members were brutally slaughtered and the commune ended. This butchery enraged the international class of workers who expressed solidarity with the deceased workers of the Commune.

The end of the Commune also gave a death blow to First International. The members of the international were accused of abetting the transfer of refugees of Paris. The governments of European countries also suppressed these movements. But another reason was internal differences. The organization wasn’t homogeneous and represented many thoughts.

However Socialism was on the rise and socialist parties were formed in many states that came together to form the Second International.

Second International and Later Events

The fall of the First International did not end socialism but led to the rise of socialism as a mas movement everywhere. The trade unions witnessed heavy numbers and also socialist ideology based political parties emerged. The Governments too were forced to implement reforms by these parties.

The main contribution was to protest against militarism and colonialism. The International believed that Militarism and War were the effects of Capitalism and every proletariat should fight them.

On 1st May the International Labor Day celebrated today was due to work of Second International. During this day massive protest against capitalism and demonstrations were organized around the world.

The Second International however had some limitations. It was a loose federation of parties and had different ideologies. Some members wanted social revolution to overthrow capitalism, some favored socialism by gradual reforms and so cooperated with their governments. Some members favored colonialism too.

The First World War was a major failure of the International. It couldn’t effectively protest against the war and supported their respective governments. It also failed in making a successful people’s revolution.

However the World War showed the failure of capitalism to everyone and in the post war period Socialism emerged as a strong bloc.