Page:Karl Marx the man and his message.pdf/11

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The last quarter of the Eighteenth, and the first half of the Nineteenth Century were stirring times. Revolution, grim and bloody, stalked abroad all over Europe. Feudalism was in its death-throes. The Middle, or Capitalist, class was fighting for power, and to their side, naturally, the working class rallied. In the closing years of the 18th Century came the French Revolution, over the "atrocities" of which so many crocodile tears have been shed by smug callous hypocrites, and when it was over one fair land had set its face sunward. But it was a Middle-class triumph; the victory of the working class in France is now fairly on its way, but has not yet been won. Everywhere on the Continent the revolutionary movement had a political objective. Commercialism and Feudalism were at grips for the control of the State.

Here, at home, the Middle class also had its political movement, but, owing to the more developed state of the capitalist system, there was also, and concurrently, a very definite movement of the working class. The workmen realised that they were being ground to dust by the unregulated operation of a competitive system over which they had no control, and so Trade Unionism had, early in the 19th Century, already taken a firm hold. There were Luddite riots and outrages in Yorkshire, bread riots in Scotland, and similar outbreaks elsewhere.


The Socialism of these days—and it surprises one to note how much there was of it—was mainly of the dreamy Utopian order. Men had certain "natural rights" which were only possible under a system wherein all would be free and equal. Owenism in this country was sanity itself compared with some of the theories which found ready acceptance abroad. It is easy to smile at these theories nowadays, but they were the imaginings of high-minded men imbued with love for, and faith in, humanity. Marx, it is said, came first into close touch with Socialism through association with the disciples of Saint Simon. The movement in those days was known as Communism, the term Socialism not having been evolved.

Thus we get to the year 1848, when the modern Socialist movement was born into the world during a veritable maelstrom of civil war, with its accompaniment of barricades, bloodshed, and wild revenge.


A revolutionary outbreak occurred in Paris, in December, 1847, which was continued through January, and crowned with final success in February. Louis Philippe fled to London {arriving by the way almost about the same time as Marx was