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Constantignoble posted in What are tHE rHizzonE reading? (18531 posts)

Constantignoble posted:

(incidentally, i could swear i recall Cope or someone detailing somewhere that an opportunistic worker/landlord alliance was what led to some of the legislative acts that helped first give rise to the labor aristocracy in 19C england, but i need to figure out where)

It's been like two years but I just happened across it; it's from a section of the long intro Cope & Lauesen wrote to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly and the Working Class Movement.

From Dangerous Class to National Citizenship

In the second half of the 19th century, the conditions of the European proletariat slowly began to change. For the first time in the history of capitalism, the capitalists had to pay wages above the mere subsistence level. This first tiny improvement was not primarily a result of the fight of the proletariat itself. The labor movement was politically weaker than before and Chartism had been impaired by cleavage and corruption. Rather, these first improvements in wages and working conditions for the British proletariat were due to contradictions between rival factions of the ruling class.

As noted, Britain had a virtual monopoly of industrial goods at the beginning of the 19th century, resulting in extra profits. However, these profits did not only go to the industrial capitalists, and during the first part of the century it definitely did not result in higher real wages for the working class either. Paradoxically, a large portion of the extra profits from the industrial monopoly was passed on to the landowning class, its historically strong position in Parliament having allowed it to introduce an embargo on the import of corn and other agricultural products into Britain from 1804. The landowners could thereby maintain a high level of prices for their products ensuring that capitalists had to pay their workers comparatively high nominal wages just to enable them to live above the breadline.

By this artificially high price of corn the landowners could apportion to themselves a considerable part of the extra profits earned by Britain’s industrial monopoly. Therefore, in the 1840s the industrial capitalists struggled to have the Corn Laws repealed. Allied with the working class they succeeded in 1846. The reopening of the importation of corn from Prussia and later from the United States caused a fall in the prices of bread and other food.

Following the fall in corn prices, the industrial capitalists tried to decrease wages, but the working class was able to limit this decrease and thus obtain an improvement. This victory was added to shortly after the abrogation of the Corn Laws, by the introduction of a ten-hour working day, a goal for which the workers had been fighting for thirty years. Here organized labor was unexpectedly supported by the landowners in Parliament, who thirsted for revenge on the industrial capitalists.

The extra profits of the British industrial monopoly and the internal fight between landowners and industrial capitalists meant that the wages of the British working class were increased above the subsistence level at which they had been so far kept. Between 1850 and 1872, imports of wheat more than doubled and imports of meat increased eightfold. Slowly the bourgeoisie changed its political strategy from repression of the “dangerous classes” to a gradual inclusion of the working class as national citizens. In the 1860s and 1870s both Napoleon III of France and the Conservative government in England allowed the working class to organize. Socialist parties were formed in all Western European countries while the trade union movement grew in strength. The right to vote was extended to include men from the working class, wage levels rose, and the first social and health insurance systems were introduced.

Parallel to this development was a de-radicalization of the Western European working class. It had left the 1848 revolutions and the Paris barricades behind in favor of parliamentarism and negotiation with employers. Class struggle became a controlled process within the parameters set by the system. Working-class political parties and trade unions successfully fought for higher wages and better working conditions, for unemployment and health insurance, pensions, and so forth. The result was a compromise between capital and the working class which dampened the future form class struggle would take.

This historic compromise had a dark side. The developing welfare services of the state, and the widening and deepening of the franchise, united the former “dangerous classes” behind the nation-state in imperialist wars. So that the citizens in the center of the Empire could enjoy a growing welfare, ideologies of “national interest” and racism arose to justify policies which, by contrast, meant death and misery for the people in the colonies. It is this that Australian academic M.G.E. Kelly calls “biopolitical imperialism.”

“Imperialism, therefore, is primarily thanatopolitical, a politics of death, contrasting with the biopolitics of the population found within the metropole. There is, I will contend, a direct relation between the two things, in which death is figuratively exported and life imported back, in a systematic degradation of the possibilities for biopolitics in the periphery, arising out of the operation of biopolitics in the center. …

“I will argue that biopolitics constitutes a missing link in explaining how imperialism involves ordinary people of the First World. For one thing, biopolitics provides a mechanism by which the profits of imperialism may be spread to a whole population. By uniting us in a single population, moreover, biopolitics generates solidarity between ordinary people and elites.” (Kelly 2015, pp. 18–19)

Mike Davis (2000, p. 59) illustrates this reality through case studies of India, China, and Brazil that show how imperialism in the form of direct governmental intervention or “neutral” economic processes destroys the health and welfare of these countries’ populations:

“Between 1875–1900—a period that included the worst famines in Indian history—annual grain exports increased from 3 to 10 million tons, equivalent to the annual nutrition of 25m people. Indeed, by the turn of the century, India was supplying nearly a fifth of Britain’s wheat consumption at the cost of its own food security.”

In addition India also had to pay a part of the British Empire’s military effort in cash and lives:

“Already saddled with a huge public debt that included reimbursing the stockholders of the East India Company and paying the costs of the 1857 revolt, India also had to finance British military supremacy in Asia. In addition to incessant proxy warfare with Russia on the Afghan frontier, the subcontinent’s masses also subsidized such far-flung adventures of the Indian Army as the occupation of Egypt, the invasion of Ethiopia, and the conquest of the Sudan. As a result, military expenditures never comprised less than 25 percent (34 percent including police) of India’s annual budget” (ibid, pp. 60–1).

As an example of the restructuring of the local economy to suit imperial needs regardless of the consequences for the population in the colonies, Davis (ibid, p. 66) notes: “During the famine of 1899–1900, when 143,000 Beraris died directly from starvation, the province exported not only thousands of bales of cotton but an incredible 747,000 bushels of grain.”

edit: oh yeah, i had posted the entire intro like five years ago. aging sucks.

gay_swimmer posted in Get off the off-site: Let's play "Real Life" (9925 posts)
A couple weeks ago I was at a wedding and started talking to someone about Red Guards Austin for some reason and one of my friends came over and yelled at me for talking about them on what was supposed to be a joyous occasion
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