Social Aspects of Industry: A Survey of Labor Problems and Causes of Industrial Unrest

By S. Howard Patterson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE DEVELOPMENT OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IN ENGLAND AND THE UNITED STATES

THE LEGAL STATUS OF LABOR ORGANIZATIONS

1. Class struggle. -- Class struggle, as well as group warfare, is older than recorded history. In ancient Greece the conflict among the men of the hills, the men of the plains, and the men of the sea was largely economic. The slave insurrections and class struggles which shook the later Roman Republic were economic, as well as social and political. During the Peasants' Revolt of the medieval period the ideal of social and economic equality found expression in the old song

When Adam delved and Eve span, Who then indeed was gentleman?

The exploitation of the laboring classes has existed throughout the ages, but it has assumed many different forms. Karl Marx, the German socialist, attempted to sum up the evolution of the workers into the three following stages: (1) slavery, (2) serfdom, and (3) wage slavery. Under slavery there was no problem of wages because the person of the slave, as well as his services, was the property of his master. Serfdom represented a slight improvement over slavery, for the serf was regarded as attached to the soil and could not be sold off the estate of his master.

Slavery is older than civilization. The cultured classes of Greece and Rome lived in leisure because of the enslavement of the masses. During the Middle Ages the vast slave system of the Roman Empire gradually gave way to the serfdom of the medieval period. But the amelioration of the workers was slight, for the laboring masses continued to be exploited by the ruthless military classes.

The beginning of the modern era saw the development of commerce and the coming in of capitalism. As currency came into common usage the medieval payments in labor and produce gave way to money rents and money wages. The rise of capitalism saw the decline of serfdom and the break-up of the manorial system. Serfs gradually became free peasants and artisans, although the transition was not completed in western Europe until the period of the French Revolution, and even later in Russia.

The Industrial Revolution, involving the use of power machinery and the factory system, marked the advent of a recent phase of capitalism

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