Saturday, June 6, 2020

Labor Movements

Interesting word Bourgeoisie. It's a French word that has its equivalence in the English word Burgess, meaning a freeman of the borough. A borough was and still is a town. In the middle ages boroughs were granted a royal charter and the people who lived in boroughs were generally freer and more troublesome than those who lived in the countryside. The French had their bourgeoisie and as towns developed they had the Fair Bourgeoisie who were townspeople who live just outside the town,  in the country, and the Fair Bourgeoisie became what English speakers call the suburbs. The  Bourgeoisie, had to hustle to earn their crust and as they did so they accumulated wealth. They were more interested in the political processes, paid their dues and had a sort of satisfaction that claimed all was well with their part of the world, so why mess with it. Revolutionaries have always distrusted the Bourgeoisie, too fat and well fed to man barricades and stuff. But the fact is that the elites piss off the Bourgeoisie at their peril. The English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, was an insurrection of the Bourgeoisie, they wanted their fair share of the wealth and they wanted to be better represented in the Parliament. The English Civil War of the 1640's fundamentally changed the way British Society was run. The Peasants Revolt of the 1380's followed a demographic change caused by the Black Death, it spawned wage laborers.

As cities grew they accumulated larger and larger numbers of people who were essentially wage laborers. They rented they didn't own, and if their employer didn't need them they went hungry. Wage laborers didn't get much help from the Bourgeoisie, so wage laborers in order to improve their lot organized. The very first of these organizations, to the applause of the Bourgeoisie, were ruthlessly crushed. History is ripe with the stories of men and women wanting to be heard, improve their lot. Spartacus was one. The Tolpuddle Martyrs. The Chartists. The Peterloo Massacre, none of the charging dragoons with their sabers drawn were hurt, 18 people were killed and 700 injured. Then in around 1910 when the British Empire was at its zenith, the wage laborers got the sense of their own power when they chose to use it correctly, they found their leaders from amongst their own ranks and they were stubborn, they were persistent and the Bourgeoisie were greatly inconvenienced by things like General Strikes and not being able to get good help, coal shortages, no mail from the postman twice a day. Then in 1914 the great majority of wage laborers went willingly to the First World War. They didn't want revolution, it was their country, their home, they wanted their dignity, they wanted a fair share of the wealth and security their labor had produced. In The election that followed the Second World War, British people didn't reelect Churchill the war leader and aristocrat, they elected a Labour Government which had been born in the British Labour Movement. Labour won the 1945 election 393 to 197, it was a landslide as they say. Mind you in the 1951 Labour lost the general election and Churchill squeaked back in as Prime Minister. The current movement in the USA has been at it for 400 years.

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