Elements of Socialism: A Text-Book

By John Spargo; George Louis Arner | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXI
THE RISE AND GROWTH OF MODERN SOCIALISM

The background: The period from 1830 to 1848 witnessed the beginnings of the political activity of the proletariat. Capitalism was now fully established. The accession of the "citizen king" in 1830 marked the final triumph of the bourgeoisie in France, and the Reform Bill of 1832 destroyed the power of the land-owning aristocracy in England. As the old class struggle ended the newer struggle between the capitalist class and the proletariat assumed first importance.

In England this new struggle at first took the form of an agitation for political democracy. The Working Men's Association was formed to carry on the agitation for the extension of the franchise to the working class. In 1838 this association, aided by some radical members of the House of Commons, drew up a bill, the so-called "People's Charter," from which the movement derived the name Chartism. Great mass meetings were held in all parts of Great Britain, newspapers were established, the country was flooded with pamphlets and broadsides, and hundreds of thousands of names were signed to parliamentary petitions. In a very few years the Charter had undoubtedly won the moral support of a majority of the British people, but the follies of the leaders of the movement and their petty quarrels and jealousies caused many of its adherents to forsake it. Finally, the movement became merged into the general movement of Liberalism.

In France the class conscious portion of the proletariat supported Louis Blanc in his agitation for the establishment of "social workshops," to be established by the State and operated and managed by the workers themselves under the general supervision of the State. Unlike many other Utopians, Blanc placed no reliance upon private capital. He regarded democracy as the first essential of social regenera

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