Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Labour legislation

Socialism: Part V,Ch.34 in paragraph V.34.10
Marx and Engels, the fathers of German Socialism, well understood how fundamentally important to the spread of destructionist ideas was the fight for labour legislation. The "Inaugural Address of the International Association of Workers" says that the English ten-hour day was "not only a great practical success; it was the victory of a principle. For the first time the political economy of the bourgeoisie was openly vanquished by the political economy of the working class."*10 Over twenty years before, Engels had made an even more candid admission of the destructionist nature of the Ten Hour Day Bill. He could not help admitting that the counter-arguments of the entrepreneurs were half true. The Bill would, he thought, depress wages and make English industry unable to compete. But this did not alarm him. "Naturally," he added, "were the Ten Hour Day Bill a final measure, England would be ruined, but because it necessarily involves the passing of subsequent measures, which must lead England into a path quite different from that she has travelled up till now, it will mean progress. If English industry were to succumb to foreign competition the revolution would be unavoidable. In a later essay he said of the Ten Hour Day Bill: "It is no longer an isolated attempt to lame industrial development. It is one link in a long chain of measures which will transform the whole present form of society and gradually destroy the former class conflicts. It is not a reactionary but a revolutionary measure.