Labour Unions Early Labour Movement

Early Labour Movement

Workers first organized in Labour Unions, organizations which aimed at achieving immediate, practical improvement of the workers' situation.

Facing rejection by the employers, by state and church, the workers' movement then formulated goals which aimed at a more fundamental change of society. In England the Chartist movement (since 1838) aimed at the reform of the electoral law (enacted in 1867/1884), a demand later taken up by the labour movements in other European countries.
Ferdinand Lassalle founded the Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (General German Workers' Association) in 1863 as an organization addressing the workers of all of Germany (eight years before unification); similarily, the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany) founded by August Bebel in 1869, two years before unification, addressed all German workers, including those in the German speaking parts of Austria. The experience that the labour movement had to achieve their goals against state authorities resulted the labour movement in becoming internationalist, anti-imperialist and pacifist.

The German SPAD (later SPD) developed into a successful organization; similar parties in the Netherlands, Scandinavia regarded the SPAD as a role model to follow.

The early labour movement aimed for practical improvements in the life of the workers, such as pay raises, a limitation of working hours etc. Many workers could not read, those who could had little time for it and mostly preferred reading to entertain themselves over philosophical and political lecture. Only when state suppression again targeted the labour organizations (Germany : anti-Socialist Laws, 1879-1890), labour leaders began to read the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and parts of the movement radicalized. This, however, was to happen in the following period.

Article Ferdinand Lassalle, from Wikipedia

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 30th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

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