[Dit bekende werk van de Britse historicus, socialist en vredesactivist Edward Palmer Thompson (1924-1993) vormt een belangrijke bijdrage aan de sociale geschiedenis van de arbeidersklasse zoals die in Engeland ontstond in de jaren 1780 tot 1832. Thompson maakt vergaand gebruik van alle mogelijke archieven, zijn historische weergave van allerlei personen, situaties en kwesties is daardoor bijzonder gedetailleerd. Op die manier corrigeert hij allerlei bevooroordeelde standpunten van economen die niet willen weten van de nadelen van een kapitalistische samenleving en daarom liever aan een geschiedvervalsing doen die aardig in de buurt komt van bijvoorbeeld het ontkennen van de holocaust. Ik volg de paginering van de eerste editie van het boek.]
Thompson geeft als definitie van 'klasse':
"By class I understand an historical phenomenon, unifying a number of disparate and seemingly unconnected events, both in the raw material of experience and in consciousness. I emphasize that it is an historical phenomenon. I do not see class as a 'structure', nor even as a 'category', but as something which in fact happens (and can be shown to have happened) in human relationships. (...)
And class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs."(9)
Klasse is een relatie tussen mensen die gebeurt / ontstaat / groeit / slinkt, geen ding dat zichtbaar en meetbaar is. Klassebewustzijn heeft vervolgens te maken met gedeelde tradities, waarden, en opvattingen, maar is voortdurend in ontwikkeling.
Ook Marx heeft 'klasse' nooit als een 'ding' gezien, als een aanwijsbare reëel bestaande in getallen uit te drukken groep van mensen die in een bepaalde verhouding tot de productiemiddelen stond. Dat is meer het beeld van het marxisme. Een 'ding', een aanwijsbare groep van mensen, kun je een bewustzijn en dus ook een vals bewustzijn toeschrijven, je kunt zeggen wat voor bewustzijn ze zouden 'moeten hebben'. Het is een objectivering van iets dat vooral een proces is.
Je kunt je dus afvragen hoe dat proces richting een arbeidersklasse verliep.
"In the years between 1780 and 1832 most English working people came to feel an identity of interests as between themselves, and as against their rulers and employers. This ruling class was itself much divided, and in fact only gained in cohesion over the same years because certain antagonisms were resolved (or faded into relative insignificance) in the face of an insurgent working class. Thus the working class presence was, in 1832, the most significant factor in British political life."(11-12)
Het verhaal begint met het vertellen van de wederwaardigheden van de London Corresponding Society (door de schoenmaker Thomas Hardy opgericht in 1792), de eerste politieke organisatie van arbeiders in Engeland (met enige relativering, er waren al andere clubs, maar minder opvallend), 'toegankelijk voor iedereen' (en dus niet alleen op basis van grondbezit, zoals bijvoorbeeld gold voor het Parliament en andere politieke organen). Hardy's visie was dat politiek en politieke beslissingen niet voorbehouden hoorde te zijn aan een bepaalde elite op basis van erfelijkheid of bezit en dat een hervorming van het Parlement nodig was. Vanwege zijn standpunt werd hij twee jaar later gearresteerd onder beschuldiging van hoogverraad, maar hij werd uiteindelijk op vrije voeten gesteld. Wel werden de 'Corresponding Societies' en hun bijeenkomsten verboden.
Om het belang te begrijpen van het idee 'toegankelijk voor iedereen' moet eerst de Britse historische traditie van 'Dissent' beschreven worden en de rol die de Methodisten speelden in de verandering ervan. Daarnaast moet duidelijk worden wat het idee 'geboorterecht' indertijd betekende. En ook het verschijnsel 'mob' (spontane massa's) moet bekeken worden.
De Dissent-beweging bestond uit allerlei sekten en religieuze groepen (Quakers, Baptisten, Unitaristen, Deïsten, Presbyterianen, 'Independents', Methodisten, millenniaristen) die pleitten en vochten voor meer religieuze (gewetensvrijheid) en politieke vrijheid in een maatschappij waarin je alleen mocht meedoen als je nadrukkelijk lid was van de Anglicaanse Kerk.
Hun opvattingen combineerden op een complexe manier politiek quietisme en radicalisme, en waren populair onder heel verschillende maatschappelijke groepen (Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; John Wesley, Thomas Paine). Maar de beweging ontwikkelde hoe dan ook een groter zelfbewustzijn onder de armen, maakte mensen kritischer tegenover de 'status quo', en experimenteerde ook wel met nieuwe - bijvoorbeeld communitaristische - ideeën. Conclusie:
"No easy summary can be offered as to the Dissenting tradition which was one of the elements precipitated in the English Jacobin agitation. It is its diversity which defies generalization and yet which is, in itself, its most important characteristic. In the complexity of competing sects and seceding chapels we have a forcing-bed for the variants of nineteenth-century working-class culture.(...)
Liberty of conscience was the one great value which the common people had preserved from the Commonwealth. The countryside was ruled by the gentry, the towns by corrupt corporations, the nation by the corruptest corporation of all: but the chapel, the tavern and the home were their own. In the 'unsteepled' places of worship there was room for a free intellectual life and for democratic experiments with 'members unlimited'.(...)
When we see Dissent in this way we are seeing it as an intellectual tradition: out of this tradition came many original ideas and original men. But we should not assume that the 'Old Dissenters' as a body were willing to take the popular side.
We see here, perhaps, a tension between London and the industrial centres. The Dissenters at Manchester, the members of the Old Meeting at Birmingham or the Great Meeting at Leicester, included some of the largest employers in the district. Their attachment to civil and religious liberty went hand in hand with their attachment to the dogmas of free trade. They contributed a good deal — and especially in the 1770s and 1780s — to forms of extra-parliamentary agitation and pressure-group politics which anticipate the pattern of middle-class politics of the 19th century. But their enthusiasm for civil liberty melted away with the publication of Rights of Man [Thomas Paine's beroemde boek - GdG] and in very few of them did it survive the trials and persecution of the early 1790s. In London, and in pockets in the great cities, many of the Dissenting artisans graduated in the same period from Dissent through Deism to a secular ideology.
"Secularism", Dr. Hobsbawm has written, "is the ideological thread which binds London labour history together, from the London Jacobins and Place, through the anti-religious Owenites and co-operators, the anti-religious journalists and booksellers, through the free-thinking Radicals who followed Holyoake and flocked to Bradlaugh's Hall of Science, to the Social Democratic Federation and the London Fabians with their unconcealed distaste for chapel rhetoric." [in Primitive Rebels van 1959 - GdG]
Nearly all the theorists of the working-class movement are in that London tradition — or else, like Bray the Leeds printer, they are analogues of the skilled London working men."(51-53)
Daarnaast waren er vele groepen zonder werk of bezit, zwervers, dieven, bedelaars, prostituees, en zo verder, groepen die meestal zonder meer gecriminaliseerd werden.
"The figures then are impressionistic estimates. They reveal as much about the mentality of the propertied classes (who assumed - not without reason - that any person out of steady employment and without property must maintain himself by illicit means) as they do about the actual criminal behaviour of the unpropertied."(56)
De Franse Revolutie maakte de bezittende klasse bijzonder onzeker in de jaren na 1789. Ze begon orde op zaken te stellen, maar dat wel vanuit bijzonder conservatieve waarden: respect voor de monarchie; voor het principe van erfelijke opvolging; voor de traditionele rechten van de grootgrondbezitters en van de 'Established Church'; en voor een representatief systeem gebaseerd op eigendomsrechten (en niet op mensenrechten).
"In the two decades before this there was an important access of humanitarian concern amongst the upper classes; we can see this in the work of Howard, Hanway, Clarkson, Sir Frederick Eden, and in the growing concern for civil and religious liberties among the small gentry and the Dissenting tradesmen. But "the awakening of the labouring classes, after the first shock of the French Revolution, made the upper classes tremble", Frances, Lady Shelley, noted in her Diary: "Every man felt the necessity for putting his house in order...."
To be more accurate, most men and women of property felt the necessity for putting the houses of the poor in order. The remedies proposed might differ; but the impulse behind Colquhoun, with his advocacy of more effective police, Hannah More, with her half penny tracts and Sunday Schools, the Methodists with their renewed emphasis upon order and submissiveness, Bishop Barrington's more humane Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, and William Wilberforce and Dr. John Bowdler, with their Society for the Suppression of Vice and Encouragement of Religion, was much the same. The message to be given to the labouring poor was simple, and was summarised by Burke in the famine year of 1795: "Patience, labour, sobriety, frugality and religion, should be recommended to them; all the rest is downright fraud.""(56-57)
Het was een houding tegenover de armen die nog versterkt werd doordat fabrikanten gedisciplineerde arbeiders in hun fabrieken wilden en door een intellectuele elite die niet veel op had met mensen die bij de dag leefden. De roep om disciplinering was dus sterk: de bezittende klassen maakten steeds meer wetten die hun bezit moesten beschermen terwijl de straffen bij overtreding ervan steeds drastischer werden (steeds vaker werd de doodstraf uitgesproken).
"The commercial expansion, the enclosure movement, the early years of the Industrial Revolution - all took place within the shadow of the gallows."(61)
"The greatest offense against property was to have none."(61)
Het voorkwam allemaal niet dat er steeds meer voedselopstanden uitbraken ('riots and mobs') wanneer er bijvoorbeeld te hoge prijzen voor voedsel gevraagd werden.
"The 18th and early 19th century are punctuated by riot, occasioned by bread prices, turnpikes and tolls, excise, 'rescue', strikes, new machinery, enclosures, press-gangs and a score of other grievances. Direct action on particular grievances merges on one hand into the great political risings of the 'mob' — the Wilkes agitation of the 1760s and 1770s, the Gordon Riots (1780), the mobbing of the King in the London streets (1795 and 1820), the Bristol Riots (1831) and the Birmingham Bull Ring riots (1839). On the other hand it merges with organised forms of sustained illegal action or quasi-insurrection — Luddism (1811-13), the East Anglian Riots (1816), the 'Last Labourer's Revolt' (1830), the Rebecca Riots (1839 and 1842) and the Plug Riots (1842)."(62)
"In urban and rural communities alike, a consumer-consciousness preceded other forms of political or industrial antagonism. Not wages, but the cost of bread, was the most sensitive indicator of popular discontent."(63)
"Such 'riots' were popularly regarded as acts of justice, and their leaders held as heroes. In most cases they culminated in the enforced sale of provisions at the customary or popular price, analogous to the French 'taxation populaire', the proceeds being given to the owners. Moreover, they required more preparation and organisation than is at first apparent; sometimes the 'mob' controlled the market-place for several days, waiting for prices to come down; sometimes actions were preceded by hand-written (and, in the 1790s, printed) handbills; sometimes the women controlled the market-place, while parties of men intercepted grain on the roads, at the docks, on the rivers; very often the signal for the action was given by a man or woman carrying a loaf aloft, decorated with black ribbon, and inscribed with some slogan."(65)
"Hence the final years of the 18th century saw a last desperate effort by the people to reimpose the older moral economy as against the economy of the free market. (...) But this was the last attempt to enforce the old paternalist consumer-protection. Thereafter the total breakdown of customary controls contributed much to popular bitterness against a Parliament of protectionist landlords and laissez faire commercial magnates."(67-68)
Er waren niet alleen spontane 'mobs' in het belang van de armen enz. Er waren ook bewust georganiseerde en tegen de opstandigen gerichte 'mobs' die door de rijke bovenlaag betaald werden om de status quo te verdedigen.
"From time to time, between 1815 and 1850, Radicals, Owenites, or Chartists complained of the apathy of the people. But — if we leave out of account the usual election tumults — it is generally true that reformers were shielded by the support of working-class communities. At election times in the large towns, the open vote by show of hands on the 'hustings' which preceded the poll usually went overwhelmingly for the most radical candidate. The reformers ceased to fear 'the mob', while the authorities were forced to build barracks and take precautions against the 'revolutionary crowd'. This is one of those facts of history so big that it is easily overlooked, or assumed without question; and yet it indicates a major shift in emphasis in the inarticulate, 'sub-political' attitudes of the masses.
The shift in emphasis is related to popular notions of 'independence', patriotism, and the Englishman's 'birthright'."(78)
Het geboorterecht-idee slaat op een gevoel voor vrijheid (oorspronkelijk van vreemde overheersing), staat voor een soort morele consensus over de grenzen die de overheid absoluut in acht moest nemen en over hoe de wet het individu moest beschermen (constitutionalisme).
"The stance of the common Englishman was not so much democratic, in any positive sense, as anti-absolutist. He felt himself to be an individualist, with few affirmative rights, but protected by the laws against the intrusion of arbitrary power."(80)
"This constitutionalism coloured the less articulate responses of the 'free-born Englishman'. He claimed few rights except that of being left alone."(81)
"Moreover, not only freedom from the intrusions of the State but also belief in the equality of rich and poor before the law was a source of authentic popular congratulation."(83)
Als reactie op de conservatief Burke en zijn negatieve mensbeeld schreef Thomas Paine zijn Rights of Man waarin afgerekend werd met alle hierboven genoemde conservatieve waarden zoals erfopvolging. Bovendien kwam Paine met heel praktische voorstellen (vooral in het tweede deel van 1792) om de toestand te veranderen.
"Since the Rights of Man is a foundation-text of the English working-class movement, we must look at its arguments and tone more closely. Paine wrote on English soil, but as an American with an international reputation who had lived for close on fifteen years in the bracing climate of experiment and constitutional iconoclasm."(90-91)
"Both the strengths and the weaknesses of this optimism were reproduced again and again in 19th-century working-class Radicalism. But Paine's writings were in no special sense aimed at the working people, as distinct from farmers, tradesmen and professional men. His was a doctrine suited to agitation among 'members unlimited'; but he did not challenge the property-rights of the rich nor the doctrines of laissez faire. (...) In terms of political democracy he wished to level all inherited distinctions and privileges; but he gave no countenance to economic levelling. In political society every man must have equal rights as a citizen: in economic society he must naturally remain employer or employed, and the State should not interfere with the capital of the one or the wages of the other."(95-96)
Desondanks is Paine met zijn geschriften een echte bevrijder: hij maakt mensen in hun denken vrij van religie, overerving, het belang van eigendomsrechten etc.
[Ik vind wat ik zo lees over Paine bijzonder interessant. Ik moet hem zelf maar eens gaan lezen.]
Het was dus niet alleen de Franse Revolutie van 1789 die leidde tot het ontstaan van allerlei groepen hervormers (ook wel aangeduid als Jacobijnen) en een kritische arbeidersklasse: Engeland had zijn eigen tradities die in die richting leidden. Paines Rights of Man, met name het tweede deel van 1792, maakte bij de bezittende klasse meer angst los dan de Franse Revolutie. Het boek was mateloos populair. Lokale bestuurders en kerkbestuurders waarschuwden om het hardst tegen Paine. Uiteindelijk liep dat uit op een contrarevolutie van regelrechte repressie (via geroganiseerde 'mobs', onderdrukking van de vrije pers, en infiltratie in de arbeidersverenigingen bijvoorbeeld) en van vervolging van mensen als Paine. De oorlog tegen Frankrijk van 1793 moest ook de sentimenten verzetten en de aandacht afleiden. Toch had al die repressie uiteindelijk niet heel veel effect, integendeel.
"1792, then, was the annus mirabilis of Tom Paine. In twelve months his name became a household word. There were few places in the British Isles where his book had not penetrated. It served as a touchstone, dividing the gentlemen reformers and patrician Whigs, from a minority of radical manufacturers and professional men who wought an alliance with the labourers and artisans, welcomed Paine's social and economic proposals, and looked in the direction of a Republic. Pitt's long- delayed decision to prosecute Paine signalled the opening of the era of repression."(111)
"If the distribution of Rights of Man was nation wide, so also was the promotion of anti-Jacobin societies. Hence in England the revolutionary impulse had scarcely begun to gather force before it was exposed to a counter-revolutionary assault backed by the resources of established authority."(113)
"The popular societies had weathered their first storm. But they emerged from it with significant changes in emphasis and tone. Paine's name dropped into the background, and his outspoken republican tone gave way to renewed emphasis upon restoring the 'purity' of the Constitution. (In June 1793, the L.C.S. went so far as to define this in terms of the 1688 settlement.) But while this modification was made necessary by the evident intention of the authorities to prosecute any rhetoric which went beyond these limits, in other respects persecution led to a radicalisation of the societies."(122)
"This was the harvest, not only of persecution, but also of rising prices and of economic hardship. There is some evidence that the agitation was penetrating the poorer parts of the East End."(131)
"These were the circumstances which preceded Pitt's [de toenmalige Prime Minister - GdG] sudden assault, in May 1794, upon the societies. The leaders of the London Constitutional Society and L.C.S. were arrested, their papers impounded, and a Committee of Secrecy appointed by Parliament to examine them. Habeas Corpus was suspended."(132)
Maar zelfs de belangrijkste personen in de hervormingsbeweging - als Thomas Hardy, Horne Tooke, en John Thelwall - moesten worden vrijgesproken. Wat ook weer niet betekent dat de beweging op dezelfde voet doorging: leiders haakten af, onder de druk van de repressie ontstonden er allerlei meningsverschillen en afscheidingen. De discussie verbreedde zich ook: het ging niet meer alleen om politieke hervormingen, maar ook steeds meer om sociale en economische (Thomas Spence).
"If the acquittals had prevented a general Terror — Hardy was informed, on good authority, that no fewer than 800 warrants against reformers had been drawn up (and 300 actually signed) which were to be served immediately upon a verdict being obtained against him — the trials nevertheless revealed the length to which the Government was prepared to go. And the acquittals drove the publicists of the Establishment to the point of incoherence."(137)
"From this time until the end of the year [1795 - GdG], the society grew apace. It broke out from its fairly restricted circle of artisans and tradesmen, and commanded increasing support among the wage-earning population. Four hundred new members were claimed in June, 700-800 in July: the seventeen divisions of March had grown to forty-one at the end of July and seventy or eighty by October. Meanwhile the two seceding societies also prospered. Auxiliary discussion groups and reading clubs sprang up. "(141)
Een grote demonstratie waarbij zelfs de Koning bedreigd werd, leidde eind 1795 opnieuw tot repressieve maatregelen door Pitt.
"A proclamation was issued against seditious assemblies, and Pitt at once introduced the Two Acts. By the first of these it became a treasonable offence to incite the people by speech or writing to hatred or contempt of King, Constitution or Government. By the second no meetings of over fifty persons could be held without notifying a magistrate, who had wide powers to stop speeches, arrest speakers, and disperse the meetings. Yet one more capital offence was added to the statute book — defiance of the magistrate's orders was punishable by death. A special clause, aimed in particular at Thelwall, enabled reformers' lecture-rooms to be closed as 'disorderly houses'."(145)
Deze keer had de repressie meer succes. Volgt in dit hoofdstuk nog een concrete beschrijving van een paar organisaties en de ervaringen daar, zoals die van Sheffield en van Londen. Conclusie:
"It is wrong to see this as the end, for it was also a beginning. In the 1790s something like an 'English Revolution' took place, of profound importance in shaping the consciousness of the post-war working class. It is true that the revolutionary impulse was strangled in its infancy; and the first consequence was that of bitterness and despair. The counter-revolutionary panic of the ruling classes expressed itself in every part of social life; in attitudes to trade unionism, to the education of the people, to their sports and manners, to their publications and societies, and their political rights. And the reflex of despair among the common people can be seen, during the war years, in the inverted chiliasm of the Southcottians and the new Methodist revival. In the decades after 1795 there was a profound alienation between classes in Britain, and working people were thrust into a state of apartheid whose effects — in the niceties of social and educational discrimination — can be felt to this day. England differed from other European nations in this, that the flood-tide of counter-revolutionary feeling and discipline coincided with the flood-tide of the Industrial Revolution; as new techniques and forms of industrial organisation advanced, so political and social rights receded. The 'natural' alliance between an impatient radically-minded industrial bourgeoisie and a formative proletariat was broken as soon as it was formed.(...) the French Revolution consolidated Old Corruption by uniting landowners and manufacturers in a common panic; and the popular societies were too weak and too inexperienced to effect either revolution or reform on their own."(177-178)
"If many among the small masters, clerks, and tradesmen felt hostility to the gentry, capitalists, and large farmers, and sympathy with the 'industrious labourer' (and this is an extremely important feature of Radical consciousness for fifty years after 1795), nevertheless they were, like the Leeds tradesmen, intimidated by 'Aristocratic influence'. Even Bewick, with his puritanical zeal, was careful during the Wars to associate only with those who might "set the example of propriety of conduct to those of a more violent turn of mind", and whose indignation with "the political enormities of the times" was kept "within bounds". Hence, the plebeian Jacobins were isolated and driven back upon themselves, and forced to discover means of independent quasi-legal or underground organisation.(...) Isolated from other classes, radical mechanics, artisans and labourers had perforce to nourish traditions and forms of organisation of their own. So that, while the years 1791-5 provided the democratic impulse, it was in the repression years that we can speak of a distinct 'working-class consciousness' maturing."(181)
"In 1812, looking round him in dismay at the power of Scottish trade unionism and of Luddism in England, Scott wrote to Southey: "The country is mined below our feet." It was Pitt who had driven the 'miners' underground. Men like our 'Village Politician' were scarcely to be found in the villages of 1789. Jacobin ideas driven into weaving villages, the shops of the Nottingham framework-knitters and the Yorkshire croppers, the Lancashire cotton-mills, were propagated in every phase of rising prices and of hardship. It was not Pitt but John Thelwall who had the last word."(185)
Met de stoommachine kwamen de fabrieken, de opeenhoping van mensen rondom die fabrieken, de uitbuiting van werkers, en de opstand tegen die uitbuiting.
"The equation between the cotton-mill and the new industrial society, and the correspondence between new forms of productive and of social relationship, was a commonplace among observers in the years between 1790 and 1850."(189)
"However different their judgements of value, conservative, radical, and socialist observers suggested the same equation: steam power and the cotton-mill = new working class. The physical instruments of production were seen as giving rise in a direct and more-or-less compulsive way to new social relationships, institutions, and cultural modes. At the same time the history of popular agitation during the period 1811- 50 appears to confirm this picture. It is as if the English nation entered a crucible in the 1790s and emerged after the Wars in a different form. Between 1811 and 1813, the Luddite crisis; in 1817 the Pentridge Rising; in 1819, Peterloo; throughout the next decade the proliferation of trade union activity, Owenite propaganda, Radical journalism, the Ten Hours Movement, the revolutionary crisis of 1831 -2; and, beyond that, the multitude of movements which made up Chartism. It is, perhaps, the scale and intensity of this multiform popular agitation which has, more than anything else, given rise (among contemporary observers and historians alike) to the sense of some catastrophic change. Almost every radical phenomenon of the 1790s can be found reproduced tenfold after 1815."(191)
"Nearly all the classic accounts by contemporaries of conditions in the Industrial Revolution are based on the cotton industry — and, in the main, on Lancashire: Owen, Gaskell, Ure, Fielden, Cooke Taylor, Engels, to mention a few. Novels such as Michael Armstrong or Mary Barton or Hard Times perpetuate the tradition. And the emphasis is markedly found in the subsequent writing of economic and social history."(192)
Maar we moeten niet vergeten dat die ontwikkeling geleidelijk aan plaatsvond en de fabrieksarbeiders in het begin maar een klein deel uitmaakten van de arbeidersgemeendschap die nog voornamelijk bestond uit handwerkers, thuiswerkers.
"Jacobinism, as we have seen, struck root most deeply among artisans. Luddism was the work of skilled men in small workshops. From 1817 onwards to Chartism, the outworkers in the north and the Midlands were as prominent in every radical agitation as the factory hands. And in many towns the actual nucleus from which the labour movement derived ideas, organisation, and leadership, was made up of such men as shoemakers, weavers, saddlers and harnessmakers, booksellers, printers, building workers, small tradesmen, and the like. "(193)
Ondanks alle interne verschillen moet desondanks geconstateerd worden dat er tussen 1790 en 1830 sprake was van het ontstaan van één arbeidersklasse met hetzelfde klassenbewustzijn en overal ongeveer dezelfde organisatie.
"To see the working class in this way is to defend a 'classical' view of the period against the prevalent mood of contemporary schools of economic history and sociology. For the territory of the Industrial Revolution, which was first staked out and surveyed by Marx, Arnold Toynbee, the Webbs and the Hammonds, now resembles an academic battlefield. At point after point, the familiar 'catastrophic' view of the period has been disputed. Where it was customary to see the period as one of economic disequilibrium, intense misery and exploitation, political repression and heroic popular agitation, attention is now directed to the rate of economic growth (and the difficulties of 'take-off' into self-sustaining technological reproduction). The enclosure movement is now noted, less for its harshness in displacing the village poor, than for its success in feeding a rapidly growing population. The hardships of the period are seen as being due to the dislocations consequent upon the Wars, faulty communications, immature banking and exchange, uncertain markets, and the trade-cycle, rather than to exploitation or cut-throat competition. Popular unrest is seen as consequent upon the unavoidable coincidence of high wheat prices and trade depressions, and explicable in terms of an elementary 'social tension' chart derived from these data. In general, it is suggested that the position of the industrial worker in 1840 was better in most ways than that of the domestic worker of 1790. The Industrial Revolution was an age, not of catastrophe or acute class-conflict and class oppression, but of improvement."(195)
"What has been lost is a sense of the whole process - the whole political and social context of the period. What arose as valuable qualifications have passed by imperceptible stages to new generalisations (which the evidence can rarely sustain) and from generalisations to a ruling attitude."(196)
"Throughout this time there are three, and not two, great influences simultaneously at work. There is the tremendous increase in population (in Great Britain, from 10,5 millions in 1801 to 18,1 millions in 1841, with the greatest rate of increase between 1811-21). There is the Industrial Revolution, in its technological aspects. And there is the political counter-revolution, from 1792-1832."(197)
"Alarmed at the French example, and in the patriotic fervour of war, the aristocracy and the manufacturers made common cause. The English ancien regime received a new lease of life, not only in national affairs, but also in the perpetuation of the antique corporations which misgoverned the swelling industrial towns. In return, the manufacturers received important concessions: and notably the abrogation or repeal of 'paternalist' legislation covering apprenticeship, wage-regulation, or conditions in industry. The aristocracy were interested in repressing the Jacobin 'conspiracies' of the people, the manufacturers were interested in defeating their 'conspiracies' to increase wages: the Combination Acts served both purposes."(197-198)
"We can now see something of the truly catastrophic nature of the Industrial Revolution; as well as some of the reasons why the English working class took form in these years. The people were subjected simultaneously to an intensification of two intolerable forms of relationship: those of economic exploitation and of political oppression."(198-199)
De situatie in 1818 is beschreven in een toespraak van een 'journeyman cotton spinner' tijdens stakingen in Manchester: zie p.199-202.
[Dat is een prachtige beschrijving van alle verhoudingen en alle ellende van die tijd. Te lang om te citeren, maar waard om steeds weer te lezen teneinde de herinnering levend te houden aan de uitbuiting en de manipulaties van de bezittende rijke klasse die uit egoïsme en arrogantie en hebzucht op geen enkele manier rekening wilden houden met de arbeiders.]
"We need not concern ourselves with the soundness of all his judgements. What his address does is to itemise one after another the grievances felt by working people as to changes in the character of capitalist exploitation: the rise of a master-class without traditional authority or obligations: the growing distance between master and man: the transparency of the exploitation at the source of their new wealth and power: the loss of status and above all of independence for the worker, his reduction to total dependence on the master's instruments of production: the partiality of the law: the disruption of the traditional family economy: the discipline, monotony, hours and conditions of work: loss of leisure and amenities: the reduction of the man to the status of an 'instrument'."(202-203)
"And it reminds us forcibly that some of the most bitter conflicts of these years turned on issues which are not encompassed by cost-of-living series. The issues which provoked the most intensity of feeling were very often ones in which such values as traditional customs, 'justice', 'independence', security, or family-economy were at stake, rather than straight- forward 'bread-and-butter' issues. The early years of the 1830s are aflame with agitations which turned on issues in which wages were of secondary importance; by the potters, against the Truck System; by the textile workers, for the 10-Hour Bill; by the building workers, for co-operative direct action; by all groups of workers, for the right to join trade unions. The great strike in the north-east coalfield in 1831 turned on security of employment, 'tommy shops', child labour."(203)
"To the rhetoric of the free market they opposed the language of the 'new moral order'. It is because alternative and irreconcilable views of human order — one based on mutuality, the other on competition — confronted each other between 1815 and 1850 that the historian today still feels the need to take sides."(206)
"... in half a century of the fullest development of industrialism, the standard-of-living still remained — for very large but indeterminate groups — at the point of subsistence.
This is not, however, the impression given in much contemporary writing. For, just as an earlier generation of historians who were also social reformers (Thorold Rogers, Arnold Toynbee, the Hammonds) allowed their sympathy with the poor to lead on occasions to a confusion of history with ideology, so we find that the sympathies of some economic historians today for the capitalist entrepreneur have led to a confusion of history and apologetics. The point of transition was marked by the publication, in 1954, of a symposium on Capitalism and the Historians, edited by Professor F. A . Hayek, itself the work of a group of specialists "who for some years have been meeting regularly to discuss the problems of the preservation of a free society against the totalitarian threat". Since this group of international specialists regarded 'a free society' as by definition a capitalist society, the effects of such an admixture of economic theory and special pleading were deplorable; and not least in the work of one of the contributors, Professor Ashton, whose cautious findings of 1949 are now transmuted — without further evidence— into the flat statement that "generally it is now agreed that for the majority the gain in real wages was substantial". It is at this stage that the controversy degenerated into a muddle."(209-210)
"Thus it is perfectly possible to maintain two propositions which, on a casual view, appear to be contradictory. Over the period 1790-1840 there was a slight improvement in average material standards. Over the same period there was intensified exploitation, greater insecurity, and increasing human misery. By 1840 most people were 'better off' than their forerunners had been fifty years before, but they had suffered and continued to suffer this slight improvement as a catastrophic experience. In order to explore this experience, out of which the political and cultural expression of working-class consciousness arose, we shall do these things. First, we shall examine the changing life-experience of three groups of workers: the field labourers, the urban artisans, and the hand-loom weavers. Second, we shall discuss some of the less 'ponderable'' elements in the people's standard-of-life. Third, we shall discuss the inner compulsions of the industrial way of life, and the bearing upon them of Methodism. Finally, we shall examine some of the elements in the new working-class communities."(212)
Thompson waarschuwt de hele tijd tegen de inzet van statistiek op een verkeerde manier: een gemiddelde zegt in veel gevallen niet zo veel over hoe de werkelijkheid werkelijk is, sterker nog: versluiert de werkelijkheid eerder en maskeert in veel gevallen de waardeoordelen van de onderzoeker.
Uiteraard beschrijft Thompson het een en ander over de 'enclosure movement' uit die periode.
"The arguments of the enclosure propagandists were commonly phrased in terms of higher rental values and higher yield per acre. In village after village, enclosure destroyed the scratch-as-scratch-can subsistence economy of the poor — the cow or geese, fuel from the common, gleanings, and all the rest. The cottager without legal proof of rights was rarely compensated. The cottager who was able to establish his claim was left with a parcel of land inadequate for subsistence and a disproportionate share of the very high enclosure costs. "(217)
"Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery, played according to fair rules of property and law laid down by a Parliament of property-owners and lawyers."(218)
"But greed alone cannot account for the position into which the labourer was driven in these years. How was it possible, when the wealth of the landowners and farmers was rising, for the labourer to be held at brute subsistence level? W e must look for an answer in the general counter-revolutionary tone of the whole period. (...) To the argument of greed a new argument was added for general enclosure — that of social discipline. The commons, "the poor man's heritage for ages past", on which Thomas Bewick could recall independent labourers still dwelling, who had built their cottages with their own hands, were now seen as a dangerous centre of indiscipline. Arthur Young saw them as a breeding-ground for "barbarians"", "nursing up a mischievous race of people"; of the Lincolnshire Fens, "so wild a country nurses up a race of people as wild as the fen".
Ideology was added to self-interest. It became a matter of public-spirited policy for the gentleman to remove cottagers from the commons, reduce his labourers to dependence, pare away at supplementary earnings, drive out the smallholder."(219)
Met als gevolg uiteindelijk weer opstand en repressie.
"It is an historical irony that it was not the rural labourers but the urban workers who mounted the greatest coherent national agitation for the return of the land. Some of them were sons and grandsons of labourers, their wits sharpened by the political life of the towns, freed from the shadow of the squire. Some — the supporters of the Land Plan — were weavers and artisans of rural descent ... Faced with hard times and unemployment in the brick wastes of the growing towns, the memories of lost rights rose up with a new bitterness of deprivation."(231)
Thompson komt terug op de kwestie van de statistieken en de gemiddelden.
"If, for the sake of argument, we take the hypothesis that 40% of the population (10,5 millions) was living below a given 'poverty-line' in 1790, but only 30% of the population (18.1 millions) in 1841, nevertheless the absolute number of the poor will have increased from about four millions to well over five millions. More poverty will be 'felt' and, moreover, there will in fact be more poor people.
This is not juggling with figures. It is possible that something of this sort took place. But at the same time no such assessment of averages can tell us about 'average' human relationships."(232)
"If the average is elusive in agriculture, it is no less so when we come to workers in urban industry. Still, in 1830, the characteristic industrial worker worked not in a mill or factory but (as an artisan or 'mechanic') in a small workshop or in his own home, or (as a labourer) in more-or-less casual employment in the streets, on building-sites, on the docks."(234)
Het loon werd bij de meeste van die handwerkers niet vastgesteld op puur economische gronden, maar op basis van traditie, aanzien, de trots over de kwaliteit van het geleverde werk, en dergelijke. Het tempo waarin gewerkt werd, het aantal uren dat gewerkt werd precies zo. En er was gevoel voor hiërarchie in die beroepen, de werkers hadden als het ware hun eigen aristocratie en lagere standen, afhankelijk ook van hun scholing en hun verdiensten.
"Among such artisans at the commencement of the 19th century (the Webbs suggested) "we have industrial society still divided vertically trade by trade, instead of horizontally between employers and wage-earners". Equally, it might be that a privileged section only of the workers in a particular industry succeeded in restricting entry or in elevating their conditions. (...) More commonly, the distinction was between the skilled or apprenticed man and his labourer: the blacksmith and his striker, the bricklayer and his labourer, the calico pattern-drawer and his assistants, and so on. "(240)
"We shall see how their self-esteem and their desire for independence, coloured the political radicalism of the post-war years."(241)
"Many such groups increased their real wages between 1790 and 1840. The progress was not as smooth nor as continuous as is sometimes implied. It was closely related to the success or failure of trade unionism in each industry, and unemployment or seasonal short time must be set against 'optimistic' wage- series. But if we were concerned only with skilled 'society men' in regular employment, then the controversy as to living standards would long ago have been settled on the optimistic side. But in fact the whole problem presents endless complexities."(242)
"How was it — if 1820 to 1850 showed an appreciable rise in the standard-of-living — that after thirty more years of unquestioned improvement between 1850 and 1880 — the unskilled workers of England still lived in the conditions of extreme deprivation revealed, in the 1890s, by Booth and by Rowntree ?"(243)
"Manufacturers in the first half of the 19th century pressed forward each innovation which enabled them to dispense with adult male craftsmen and to replace them with women or juvenile labour. Even where an old skill was replaced by a new process requiring equal or greater skill, we rarely find the same workers transferred from one to the other, or from domestic to factory production. Insecurity, and hostility in the face of machinery and innovation, was not the consequence of mere prejudice and (as authorities then implied) of insufficient knowledge of 'political economy'. The cropper or woolcomber knew well enough that, while the new machinery might offer skilled employment for his son, or for someone else's son, it would offer none for him. The rewards of the 'march of progress' always seemed to be gathered b y someone else."(248)
"It is surprising that the standard-of-living controversy, which has now occupied a generation of economic historians, should have thrown so little light upon the whole question of casual labour, depressed industries and unemployment. As Dr. Hobsbawm — the only recent writer to attempt an assessment of the problem — has noted, Sir John Clapham did not even discuss unemployment during the Industrial Revolution in his Economic History. It is true that 'hard' economic data are scarcely available."(248)
Een van de problemen is dat er in die tijd meestal geen sprake was van 'geregeld werk' op één vaste plek gedurende een vast aantal uren: veel handwerkers en werkers trokken rond, hadden tijdelijk werk, waren even weer zonder werk, kregen hierin steeds meer te maken met de bevolkingsgroei en een overaanbod van werkers etc. Moderne statistieken over de historische economie houden heel vaak geen rekening met dat soort realiteiten en zijn dus misleidend.
"There is some evidence to suggest that the problem was becoming worse throughout the 1820s and 1830s and into the 1840s. That is, while wages were moving slowly but favourably in relation to the cost-of-living, the proportion of workers chronically under-employed was moving unfavourably in relation to those in full work."(249)
Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) beschrijft de situatie heel wat concreter en feitelijker dan professor Thomas Ashton (1889-1968).
"Mayhew was incomparably the greatest social investigator in the mid-century. Observant, ironic, detached yet compassionate, he had an eye for all the awkward particularities which escape statistical measurement. In a fact-finding age, he looked for the facts which the enumerators forgot ... "(250)
"The wages of society men were those regulated by custom and trade union enforcement; those of the non-society men were 'determined by competition'. In London by the 1840s there was a clear demarcation between the 'honourable' and 'dishonourable' parts of the same trades; (...)
In a number of the trades which Thomas Large noted as being both organised and highly-paid in 1812 there was a serious deterioration in the status and living standards of the artisan over the next thirty years."(251)
In de praktijk probeerden de 'vakbonden' (de organisaties van ambachtelijke handwerkers en zo) zich te beschermen tegen de grote toevloed en de concurrentie van ongeschoolde werkers (strengere regels, strenger onderscheid tussen 'honourable'en niet), maar toen in 1812 allerlei vormen van wettelijke bescherming werden opgeheven was er geen houden meer aan: de prijzen daalden, de armoede nam toe, de uitbuiting nam toe.
"What we can say with confidence is that the artisan felt that his status and standard-of-living were under threat or were deteriorating between 1815 and 1840. Technical innovation and the superabundance of cheap labour weakened his position. He had no political rights and the power of the State was used, if only fitfully, to destroy his trade unions. As Mayhew clearly showed, not only did under-pay (in the dishonourable trades) make for overwork; it also made for less work all round. It was this experience which underlay the political radicalisation of the artisans and, more drastically, of the outworkers. Ideal and real grievances combined to shape their anger — lost prestige, direct economic degradation, loss of pride as craftsmanship was debased, lost aspirations to rise to being masters (as men in Hardy's and Place's generation could still do)."(261-262)
"If the agricultural labourers pined far land, the artisans aspired to an 'independence'. This aspiration colours much of the history of early working-class Radicalism."(262)
"We may be fairly confident that the standard-of-living of paupers declined. The thirty years leading up to the new Poor Law of 1834 saw continuous attempts to hold down the poor-rates, to chip away at outdoor relief, or to pioneer the new-type work- house."(266)
"The Act of 1834, and its subsequent administration by men like Chadwick and Kay , was perhaps the most sustained attempt to impose an ideological dogma, in defiance of the evidence of human need, in English history. No discussion of the standard-of-living after 1834 can make sense which does not examine the consequences, as troubled Boards of Guardians tried to apply Chadwick's insane Instructional Circulars as to the abolition or savage restriction of out-relief in depressed industrial centres; and which does not follow the missionary zeal of the Assistant Commissioners as they sought to bring the doctrinaire light of Malthusian-Benthamism into the empirical north. The doctrine of discipline and restraint was, from the start, more important than that of material 'less eligibility'; the most inventive State would have been hard put to it to create institutions which simulated conditions worse than those of garret-masters, Dorset labourers, framework-knitters and nailers. The impractical policy of systematic starvation was displaced by the policy of psychological deterrence: "labour, discipline and restraint". "Our intention," said one Assistant Commissioner, "is to make the workhouses as like prisons as possible"; and another, "our object . . . is to establish therein a discipline so severe and repulsive as to make them a terror to the poor and prevent them from entering". Dr. Kay recorded with satisfaction his successes in Norfolk; the reduction in diet proved less effective than "minute and regular observance of routine", religious exercises, silence during meals, "prompt obedience", total separation of the sexes, separation of families (even where of the same sex), labour and total confinement."(267)
De wevers hadden herinneringen van beter tijden: zelfstandig thuiswerk, een eigen huis, een eigen groententuin, vrije tijd - ook al valt er wel wat af te dingen op dat fraaie beeld. De gegevens zijn weer moeilijk te interpreteren.
"The existence of supplementary earnings from small farming or merely slips of garden, spinning, harvest work, etc., is attested from most parts of the country. There is architectural evidence to this day testifying to the solidity of many late 18th-century weaving hamlets in the Pennines. The commonest error today is not that of Gaskell and of Engels [die misschien een iets te mooi beeld schetsten - GdG] but that of the optimist who muddles over the difficult and painful nature of the change in status from artisan to depressed outworker in some such comforting phrases as these:
"The view that the period before the Industrial Revolution was a sort of golden age is a myth. Many of the evils of the early factory age were no worse than those of an earlier period. Domestic spinners and weavers in the eighteenth century had been 'exploited' by the clothiers as ruthlessly as the factory operatives were 'exploited' by the manufacturers in the 1840s."[Henderson, Chaloner]"(270)
"Among the weavers of the north memories of lost status were grounded in authentic experiences and lingered longest. In the West Country by the end of the 18th century the weavers were already outworkers, employed by the great gentlemen clothier who "buys the wool, pays for the spinning, weaving, Milling, Dying, Shearing, Dressing, etc.", and who might employ as many as 1,000 workers in these processes."(271)
"Wage cutting had long been sanctioned not only by the employer's greed but by the widely-diffused theory that poverty was an essential goad to industry. (...)
... the theory is found, almost universally, among employers, as well as among many magistrates and clergy, in the cotton districts as well. The prosperity of the weavers aroused feelings of active alarm in the minds of some masters and magistrates."(277)
"The practices of some employers were unscrupulous to a degree, both in the exaction of fines for faulty work and in giving false weight in yarn. Yet at the same time as wages were screwed lower and lower, the number of weavers continued to increase over the first three decades of the 19th century; for weaving, next to general labouring, was the grand resource of the northern unemployed. Fustian weaving was heavy, monotonous, but easily learned. Agricultural workers, demobilised soldiers, Irish immigrants — all continued to swell the labour force.
The first severe general reductions took place at the turn of the century: there was an improvement in the last year or two of the Wars, followed by further reductions after 1815 and an uninterrupted decline thereafter.The weavers' first demand, from 1790 onwards, was for a legal minimum wage — a demand supported by some employers, as a means of enforcing fair conditions of competition upon their less scrupulous rivals. The rejection of this demand by the House of Commons in May 1808, was followed by a strike, when 10,000 to 15,000 weavers demonstrated on successive days in St. George's Fields, Manchester. The demonstration was dispersed by the magistrates with bloodshed, and the full vindictiveness of the authorities was revealed by the State prosecution and imprisonment of a prominent manufacturer, Colonel Joseph Hanson of the Volunteers, who had supported the minimum wage bill, for the crime of riding among the weavers and uttering 'malicious and inflammatory words' ... "(278)
"With no hope of legal protection the weavers turned more directly towards the channels of political Radicalism. But for some years after 1800 an alliance between Methodism and 'Church and King' rowdyism kept most of the weavers as political 'loyalists'. (...) It was after the Wars that the real Radical tide set in; and in 1818 a second critical confrontation between the weavers and their employers took place. It was the year of the great Manchester cotton-spinners strike, and of the first impressive attempt at general unionism (the 'Philanthropic Hercules'). Once again the weavers struck, collecting the shuttles arid locking them in chapels or workshops, not only in Manchester but throughout the weaving towns — Bolton, Bury, Burnley. The strike ended in short-lived concessions on the masters' side, and in the prosecution and imprisonment of several of the weavers' leaders. It was the last effective general strike movement of the Lancashire weavers"(279)
"It is an over-simplification to ascribe the cause of the debasement of the weavers' conditions to the power-loom. "(279)
"The degradation of the weavers is very similar to that of the workers in the dishonourable artisan trades. Each time their wages were beaten down, their position became more defenceless. The weaver had now to work longer into the night to earn less; in working longer he increased another's chances of unemployment."(280)
"The conditions of most weavers, from the 1820s (and earlier in cotton) to the 1840s and beyond, are commonly referred to as 'indescribable' or as 'well known'. They deserve, however, to be described and to be better known."(286)
"The breakdown of custom and of trade unionism was directly influenced by State intervention. This was 'inevitable' only if we assume the governing ideology and the counter-revolutionary tone of these years. The weavers and their supporters opposed to this ideology a contrary analysis and contrary policies, which turned on the demand for a regulated minimum wage, enforced by trade boards of manufacturers and weavers. They offered a direct negative to the homilies of 'supply-and- demand'. When asked whether wages ought not to be left to find their own 'level', a Manchester silk-weaver replied that there was no similarity between "what is called capital and labour":"(297)
"Historians who assume that wage-regulation was 'impossible' have not bothered to present a case which can be answered."(299)
"The response of the weavers to machinery was, as these resolutions indicate, more discriminating than is often supposed. Direct destruction of power-looms rarely took place except when their introduction coincided with extreme distress and unemployment (West Houghton, 1812: Bradford, 1826). From the late 1820s, the weavers brought forward three consistent proposals."(302)
"It is the enduring myth of freedom in an obsolete ideology that for the Legislature to do nothing, and to allow 'natural' economic forces to inflict harm on a part of the community, constitutes a complete defence. The power-loom provided both the State and the employers with a cast iron alibi. But we might equally well see the story of the weavers as the expression of the highly abnormal situation which existed during the Industrial Revolution. In the weavers' history we have a paradigm case of the operation of a repressive and exploitive system upon a section of workers without trade union defences. Government not only intervened actively against their political organisations and trade unions; it also inflicted upon the weavers the negative dogma of the freedom of capital as intransigently as it was to do upon the victims of the Irish famine."(311-312)
Als het over de levenstandaard van mensen gaat is het volgens Thompson geen goed idee om naar gemiddelde inkomens van 'gemiddelde' werkers te kijken. Beter is het om te kijken naar de rol van voedsel, kleding, huisvesting, en in het verlengde daarvan naar gezondheids- en sterftecijfers, ook al blijft ook dat complex door gebrek aan gegevens.
"Throughout the Industrial Revolution the price of bread (and of oatmeal) was the first index of living standards, in the estimation of the people. When the Corn Laws were passed in 1815, the Houses of Parliament had to be defended from the populace by troops. 'NO CORN LAWS' was prominent among the banners at Peterloo, and remained so (especially in Lancashire) until the anti-Corn Law agitation of the 1840s."(315)
"In fifty years of the Industrial Revolution the working-class share of the national product had almost certainly fallen relative to the share of the property-owning and professional classes. The 'average' working man remained very close to subsistence level at a time when he was surrounded by the evidence of the increase of national wealth, much of it transparently the product of his own labour, and passing, by equally transparent means, into the hands of his employers. In psychological terms, this felt very much like a decline in standards. "(318)
"This deterioration of the urban environment strikes us today, as it struck many contemporaries, as one of the most disastrous of the consequences of the Industrial Revolution, whether viewed in aesthetic terms, in terms of community amenities, or in terms of sanitation and density of population. "(319)
De leefomstandigheden werden vooral verbeterd voor de bezittende klasse (voorbeeld: Londen).
"It was in the textile districts, and in the towns most exposed to Irish immigrations — Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Preston, Bolton, Bradford — that the most atrocious evidence of deterioration — dense overcrowding, cellar-dwellings, unspeakable filth — is to be found. Finally, it is suggested, with tedious repetition, that the slums, the stinking rivers, the spoliation of nature, and the architectural horrors may all be forgiven because all happened so fast, so haphazardly, under intense population pressure, without premeditation and without prior experience. "It was ignorance rather than avarice that was often the cause of misery."
As a matter of fact, it was demonstrably both; and it is by no means evident that the one is a more amiable characteristic than the other. The argument is valid only up to a point — to the point in most great towns, in the 1830s or 1840s, when doctors and sanitary reformers, Benthamites and Chartists, fought repeated battles for improvement against the inertia of property-owners and the demagoguey of 'cheap government' rate-payers. By this time the working people were virtually segregated in their stinking enclaves, and the middle-classes demonstrated their real opinions of the industrial towns by getting as far out of them as equestrian transport made convenient."(321)
"Certainly, the unprecedented rate of population growth, and of concentration in industrial areas, would have created major problems in any known society, and most of all in a society whose rationale was to be found in profit-seeking and hostility to planning. We should see these as the problems of industrialism, aggravated by the predatory drives of laissez faire capitalism. But, however the problems are defined, the definitions are no more than different ways of describing, or interpreting, the same events. And no survey of the industrial heartlands, between 1800 and 1840, can overlook the evidence of visual devastation and deprivation of amenities."(322)
"But it is time that an end was put to the tendency of 'optimistic' historians to dismiss as 'biased' the evidence of doctors favourable to the demands of reformers, while accepting as 'objective' and authoritative the evidence of medical witnesses called in to support the employers' case."(325)
"If we accept that the national death-rate — and more particularly infant mortality rate — showed a slight decline over the first four decades of the 19th century, we must still ask of the statistics exactly the same questions as we have asked of wages and articles of consumption. There is no reason to suppose that dying children or disease were distributed more equitably than clothes or meat. In fact, we know that they were not. The moneyed man might — as Oastler noted — rarely wear two coats at once, but his family had tenfold the chances of diagnosis, medicine, nursing, diet, space, quiet. "(330)
"We have touched already on child labour: but it deserves further examination. In one sense it is curious that the question can be admitted as controversial: there was a drastic increase in the intensity of exploitation of child labour between 1780 and 1840, and every historian acquainted with the sources knows that this is so. This was true in the mines, both in inefficient small-scale pits where the roadways were sometimes so narrow that children could most easily pass through them; and in several larger coalfields, where — as the coal face drew further away from the shaft — children were in demand as 'hurryers' and to operate the ventilation ports. In the mills, the child and juvenile labour force grew yearly; and in several of the outworker or 'dishonourable' trades the hours of labour became longer and the work more intense. What, then, is left in dispute?
But 'optimists' have, since the time of the Hammonds, surrounded the question with so many qualifications that one might almost suspect a conspiracy to explain child labour away. There was 'nothing new' about it; conditions were as bad in the 'old' industries as in the new: much of the evidence is partisan and exaggerated: things were already improving before the outcry of the 1830s was made: the operatives themselves were the worst offenders in the treatment of children: the outcry came from 'interested' parties — landowners hostile to the manufacturers, or adult trade unionists wanting limitation of hours far themselves — or from middle-class intellectuals who knew nothing about it: or (paradoxically) the whole question reveals, not the hardship and insensitivity, but the growing humanity of the employing classes. Few questions have been so lost to history by a liberal admixture of special pleading and ideology."(332)
" The crime of the factory system was to inherit the worst features of the domestic system in a context which had none of the domestic compensations: "it systematized child labour, pauper and free, and exploited it with persistent brutality . . ." In the home, the child's conditions will have varied according to the temper of parents or of master; and to some degree his work will have been scaled according to his ability. In the mill, the machinery dictated environment, discipline, speed and regularity of work and working hours, for the delicate and the strong alike."(335)
"We do not have to rehearse the long and miserable chronicle of the child in the mill, from the early pauper apprentice mills to the factory agitation of the 1830s and 1840s. But, since comforting notions are now abroad as to the 'exaggerated' stories of contemporaries and of historians, we should discuss some of the qualifications. Most of them are to be found in a provocative, almost light-hearted, article published by Pro- fessor Hutt in 1926 [The Factory System of the Early Nineteenth Century - GdG]. A spoonful of lemon-juice is sometimes good for the system, but we cannot live on lemon-juice for ever.
This slight, scarcely documented, and often directly misleading article, has appeared in footnotes until this day, and has been republished in Capitalism and the Historians. Nearly every point which it makes was anticipated and met in the arguments of the 10 Hour advocates; and notably in John Fielden's restrained and well-documented The Curse of the Factory System. (1836), whose republication would be a more useful service to scholarship."(335-336)
"If Tawney was right, and the treatment of childhood and of poverty are the two 'touchstones' which reveal "the true character of a social philosophy" [Religion and the Rise of Capitalism - GdG] then it is the liberal and Nonconformist tradition which suffers most severely, in 1830, from this test. It is true that there is a humble twilight world, half-sceptic, half-dissenting, from which much that is best in early Victorian intellectual and spiritual life was to come. But it is equally true that the years between 1790 and 1830 see an appalling declension in the social conscience of Dissent. And above all, there are the proverbial Nonconformist mill-owners, with their Methodist overlookers, and their invidious reputation as week-day child-drivers, working their mills till five minutes before midnight on the Saturday and enforcing the attendance of their children at Sunday school on the Sabbath."(345-346)
"We shall return to the Methodists, and see why it was their peculiar mission to act as the apologists of child labour. [zie het volgende hoofdstuk - GdG]"(348)
"More recently, one writer has surveyed the issue with that air of boredom appropriate to the capacious conscience of the Nuclear Age. The modern reader, he says, "well disciplined by familiarity with concentration camps" is left "comparatively unmoved" by the spectacle of child labour. We may be allowed to reaffirm a more traditional view: that the exploitation of little children, on this scale and with this intensity, was one of the most shameful events in our history."(349)
"Puritanism — Dissent — Nonconformity: the decline collapses into a surrender."(350)
Met andere woorden: religieuze groeperingen en instellingen gaven zich kritiekloos over aan de status quo, het 'establishment', de overheid. Ze predikten naar hun arme gelovigen alleen nog maar gehoorzaamheid en onderworpenheid en waarschuwden tegen kritische bijeenkomsten en verzet. Kinderen hoefden alleen maar de bijbel te leren lezen en niet te leren schrijven, vrouwen werden overal buiten gehouden, iedereen moest hard werken, en zo verder.
"In Bunting and his fellows we seem to touch upon a deformity of the sensibility complementary to the deformities of the factory children whose labour they condoned. In all the copious correspondence of his early ministries in the industrial heartlands (Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Halifax and Leeds, 1805-14), among endless petty Connexional disputes, moralistic humbug, and prurient enquiries into the private conduct of young women, neither he nor his colleagues appear to have suffered a single qualm as to the consequences of industrialism. But the younger leaders of Methodism were not only guilty of complicity in the fact of child labour by default. They weakened the poor from within, by adding to them the active ingredient of submission; and they fostered within the Methodist Church those elements most suited to make up the psychic component of the workdiscipline of which the manufacturers stood most in need."(354-355)
"Weber and Tawney have so thoroughly anatomised the interpenetration of the capitalist mode of production and the Puritan ethic that it would seem that there can be little to add."(355)
Wat Weber en Tawney niet duidelijk maakten is hoe het kon dat een groot deel van de arbeidersbevolking de Methodistische kerken bleven opzoeken, terwijl ze door die kerken zo gedisciplineerd werden.
"How then should such a religion appeal to the forming proletariat in a period of exceptional hardship, whose multitudes did not dispose them to any sense of group calling, whose experiences at work and in their communities favoured collectivist rather than individualist values, and whose frugality, discipline or acquisitive virtues brought profit to their masters rather than success to themselves?"(356)
"The labourer must be turned 'into his own slave driver'. The arguments fit the England of the Industrial Revolution like a glove. Throughout the 18th century there is a neverending chorus of complaint from all the Churches and most employers as to the idleness, profligacy, improvidence and thriftlessness of labour.(...)
The commonplace doctrine of employers in the 18th century was the simple one that only the lowest possible wages could enforce the poor to work: as Arthur Young declared, in 1771, "every one but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious". Methodism in no way challenged this doctrine; indeed, it reinforced it with the conventional teaching of the blessedness of poverty. What it did was to provide an inner compulsion as well. "(357)
"Whether his workers were employed in a factory or in their own homes, the master-manufacturer of the Industrial Revolution was obsessed with these problems of discipline. The outworkers required (from the employers' point of view) education in 'methodical' habits, punctilious attention to instructions, fulfilment of contracts to time, and in the sinfulness of embezzling materials."(359)
"It is in Dr. Andrew Ure's Philosophy of Manufactures (1835) — a book which, with its Satanic advocacy, much influenced Engels and Marx — that we find a complete anticipation of the 'economist' case for the function of religion as a work-discipline."(359)
"We can now see the extraordinary correspondence between the virtues which Methodism inculcated in the working class and the desiderata of middle-class Utilitarianism. Dr. Ure indicates the point of junction, in his advice to the mill-owner "to organize his moral machinery on equally sound principles with his mechanical". From this aspect, Methodism was the desolate inner landscape of Utilitarianism in an era of transition to the work-discipline of industrial capitalism. "(365)
"It is difficult to conceive of a more essential disorganisation of human life, a pollution of the sources of spontaneity bound to reflect itself in every aspect of personality. Since joy was associated with sin and guilt, and pain (Christ's wounds) with goodness and love, so every impulse became twisted into the reverse, and it became natural to suppose that man or child only found grace in God's eyes when performing painful, laborious or self-denying tasks. To labour and to sorrow was to find pleasure, and masochism was 'Love'. It is inconceivable that men could actually live like this; but many Methodists did their best."(372)
"So much of the history of Methodism has, in recent years, been written by apologists or by fair-minded secularists trying to make allowances for a movement which they cannot understand, that one notes with a sense of shock Lecky's judgement at the end of the 19th century:
"A more appalling system of religious terrorism, one more fitted to unhinge a tottering intellect and to darken and embitter a sensitive nature, has seldom existed.""(374)
Indoctrinatie - via de kerkdiensten en Zondagscholen - was dus een van de redenen waarom arbeiders de Methodistische principes van onderdrukking wilden accepteren. Een tweede reden is gelegen in het gemeenschapsgevoel van de Methodisten. Een derde reden is het gevolg van de voortdurende contrarevolutionaire tendenzen van die tijd.
" In the counter-revolutionary years this [de beperkte educatie die er was GdG] was poisoned by the dominant attitude of the Evangelicals, that the function of education began and ended with the 'moral rescue' of the children of the poor."(377)
"In practice, this dogma was in varying degrees softened, humanised, or modified by the needs, values, and patterns of social relationship of the community within which it was placed."(379)
" In analysing the ideology of Methodism, we have presented an intellectualised picture. In the fluency of social life , plain common sense, compassion , the obstinate vitality of older community traditions, all mingle to soften its forbidding outlines."(380)
"The pressures towards discipline and order extended from the factory, on one hand, the Sunday school, on the other, into every aspect of life: leisure, personal relationships, speech, manners. Alongside the disciplinary agencies of the mills, churches, schools, and magistrates and military , quasi-official agencies were set up for the enforcement of orderly moral conduct. It was Pitt's moral lieutenant, Wilberforce, who combined the ethos of Methodism with the unction of the Establishment, and who was most active between 1790 and 1810 in this cause.(...)
his conviction as to the intimate correlation between moral levity and political sedition among the lower classes is characteristic of his class. Prosecutions for drunken and lewd behaviour increased. (...) The amusements of the poor were preached and legislated against until even the most innocuous were regarded in a lurid light. The Society for the Suppression of Vice extended its sphere ofinterference to "two-penny hops, gingerbread fairs, and obscene pictures". Nude sea bathers were persecuted ..."(401-402)
"But if the disciplinarians lost a few legislative skirmishes, they won the battle of the Industrial Revolution; and in the process the 'Irish' temperament often attributed to the 18th-century English poor in town and countryside was translated into the methodical way of life of industrial capitalism. In the countryside this can be seen most clearly in the triumph of the money-economy over the casual, 'uneconomic' rhythms of peasant semi-subsistence. In the industrial areas it can be seen in the extension of the discipline of the factory bell or clock from working to leisure hours, from the working-day to the Sabbath, and in the assault upon 'Cobbler’s Monday' and traditional holidays and fairs."(403)
De waarschuwingen tegen alle mogelijke 'zonden' werden begeleid met pleidooien voor hard werken, het lezen van de bijbel en het zingen van hymnen.
"To many men in the post-war generation, such as Lovett, it seemed that it was the Methodists who were uncouth and backward. And this reminds us of the extreme difficulty in generalising as to the moral tone and manners of working-class communities during the Industrial Revolution. It is clear that between 1780 and 1830 important changes took place. The 'average' English working man became more disciplined, more subject to the productive tempo of 'the clock', more reserved and methodical, less violent and less spontaneous. Traditional sports were displaced by more sedentary hobbies ..."(409-410)
"Indeed, between old superstition and new bigotry, it is proper to be cautious when meeting the claims of the Evangelicals to have been an agency of intellectual enlightenment. We have already noted the tendency of the Methodists to harden into a sect, to keep their members apart from the contagion of the unconverted, and to regard themselves as being in a state of civil war with the ale-house and the denizens of Satan’s strongholds."(412)
"The discussion [over het 'morele gedrag' van de arbeidrsklasse - GdG] is unrewarding, not because of the paucity of evidence as to family life and sexual behaviour, but because the evidence tells us so little about essential relations between parents and children, or between men and women. The Churches undoubtedly won converts from among those who had witnessed the suffering brought upon children by drunken or feckless parents. But there is no evidence that a repressive sexual code and patriarchal family relations brought enhancement of either happiness or of love. Even animalism might be preferable to cold and guilty sexuality; while, as sexual conduct in the early 19th century became more inhibited and secretive, so also, in the great towns, prostitution grew. Nor can we assume any direct correlation between church membership, or even the forms of marriage, and family loyalties. Mayhew was to discover that groups like the costermongers, among whom paganism and concubinage were customary, showed as much mutual loyalty as professing Christians."(413)
W@at gepreekt werd werd lang niet altijd nagevolgd. Een voorbeeld van de tegenstrijdigheden die het historisch bronnenmateriaal laat zien betreft bijvoorbeeld de emancipatie van vrouwen:
"On the one hand, the claim that the Industrial Revolution raised the status of women would seem to have little meaning when set beside the record of excessive hours of labour, cramped housing, excessive child-bearing and terrifying rates of child mortality. On the other hand, the abundant opportunities for female employment in the textile districts gave to women the status of independent wage-earners. The spinster or the widow was freed from dependence upon relatives or upon parish relief. Even the unmarried mother might be able, through the laxness of 'moral discipline' in many mills, to achieve an independence unknown before."(414)
"But there is a paradox of feeling even in this advance. The Radicalism of northern working women was compounded of nostalgia for lost status and the assertion of new-found rights. According to conventions which were deeply felt, the woman’s status turned upon her success as a housewife in the family economy, in domestic management and forethought, baking and brewing, cleanliness and child-care. The new independence, in the mill or full-time at the loom, which made new claims possible, was felt simultaneously as a loss in status and in personal independence. Women became more dependent upon the employer or labour market, and they looked back to a 'golden' past in which home earnings from spinning, poultry, and the like, could be gained around their own door. In good times the domestic economy, like the peasant economy, supported a way of life centred upon the home, in which inner whims and compulsions were more obvious than external discipline. Each stage in industrial differentiation and specialisation struck also at the family economy, disturbing customary relations between man and wife, parents and children, and differentiating more sharply between 'work' and 'life'. It was to be a full hundred years before this differentiation was to bring returns, in the form of labour-saving devices, back into the working woman’s home. Meanwhile, the family was roughly torn apart each morning by the factory bell, and the mother who was also a wage-earner often felt herself to have the worst of both the domestic and the industrial wor;ds"(416)
Ook al was er sprake van heel verschillende gemeenschappen die naast elkaar bestonden, toch was er sprake van bepaalde invloeden die convergerden richting meer discipline en een groei in het zelfbewustzijn van de arbeidersklasse. Der discipline kwam namelijk niet alleen van de religieuze instellingen maar ook avn de organisaties van de arbeiders zelf (verzekeringskassen, vakbond-achtige activiteiten vroegen ook om regels en die regels om discipline).
"... anyone familiar with procedure and etiquette in some trade unions and working-men’s clubs today will recognise the origin of still-extant practices in several of the rules. Taken together, they indicate an attainment of self- discipline and a diffusion of experience of a truly impressive order."(420)
[Solidariteit vraagt discipline, zogezegd.]
"In the very secretiveness of the friendly society, and in its opaqueness under upper-class scrutiny, we have authentic evidence of the growth of independent working-class culture and institutions. This was the sub-culture out of which the less stable trade unions grew, and in which trade union officers were trained. Union rules, in many cases, were more elaborate versions of the same code of conduct as the sick club."(421)
"... by the early years of the 19th century it is possible to say that collectivist values are dominant in many industrial communities; there is a delinite moral code, with sanctions against the blackleg, the 'tools' of the employer or the unneighbourly, and with an intolerance towards the eccentric or individualist. Collectivist values are consciously held and are propagated in political theory, trade union ceremonial, moral rhetoric. It is, indeed, this collective self-consciousness, with its corresponding theory, institutions, discipline, and community values which distinguishes the 19th-century working class from the 18th-century mob."(424)
"This growth in self-respect and political consciousness was one real gain of the Industrial Revolution. It dispelled some forms of superstition and of deference, and made certain kinds of oppression no longer tolerable. We can find abundant testimony as to the steady growth of the ethos of mutuality in the strength and ceremonial pride of the unions and trades clubs which emerged from quasi-legality when the Combination Acts were repealed."(424-425)
"Thus we cannot accept the thesis that sobriety was the consequence only, or even mainly, of the Evangelical propaganda. And we may see this, also, if we turn the coin over and look at the reverse. By 1830 not only the Established Church but also the Methodist revival was meeting sharp opposition in most working-class centres from free-thinkers, Owenites, and non-denominational Christians. In London, Birmingham, south-east Lancashire, Newcastle, Leeds and other, cities the Deist adherents of Carlile or Owen had an enormous following. The Methodists had consolidated their position, but they tended increasingly to represent tradesmen and privileged groups of workers, and to be morally isolated from working-class community life."(427)
"One ingredient in the new working-class community has necessarily evaded this analysis: the Irish immigration. In 1841 it was estimated that over 400,000 inhabitants of Great Britain had been born in Ireland; many more tens of thousands were born in Britain of Irish parentage. The great majority of these were Catholics, and among the poorest-paid labourers; most of them lived in London and in the industrial towns. In Liverpool and in Manchester anything between one-fifth and one-third of the working population was Irish."(429)
"We may dispute Engels’ language of 'nature' and 'race' [waar hij het over de Ieren heeft - GdG]. But we need only replace these terms to find that his judgement is valid. It was an advantage to the employers, at a time when precision engineering co-existed with tunnelling by means of shovel and pick, to be able to call upon both types of labour. But the price which had to' be paid was the confluence of sophisticated political Radicalism with a more primitive and excitable revolutionism."(443)
"If we can now see more clearly many of the elements which made up the working-class communities of the early 19th century, a definitive answer to the 'standard-of-living' controversy must still evade us. For beneath the word 'standard' we must always find judgements of value as well as questions of fact. Values, we hope to have shown, are not 'imponderables' which the historian may safely dismiss with the reflection that, since they are not amenable to measurement, anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s. They are, on the contrary, those questions of human satisfaction, and of the direction of social change, which the historian ought to ponder if history is to claim a position among the significant humanities.
The historian, or the historical sociologist, must in fact be concerned with judgements of value in two forms. In the first instance, he is concerned with the values actually held by those who lived through the Industrial Revolution. The old and newer modes of production each supported distinct kinds of community with characteristic ways of life. Alternative conventions and notions of human satisfaction were in conflict with each other, and there is no shortage of evidence if we wish to study the ensuing tensions.
In the second instance, he is concerned with making some judgement of value upon the whole process entailed in the Industrial Revolution, of which we ourselves are an end-product. It is our own involvement which makes judgement difficult. And yet we are helped towards a certain detachment, both by the 'romantic' critique of industrialism which stems from one part of the experience, and by the record of tenacious resistance by which hand-loom weaver, artisan or village craftsman confronted this experience and held fast to an alternative culture. As we see them change, so we see how we became what we are. We understand more clearly what was lost, what was driven 'underground', what is still unresolved.
Any evaluation of the quality of life must entail an assessment of the total life-experience, the manifold satisfactions or deprivations, cultural as well as material, of the people concerned. From such a standpoint, the older 'cataclysmic' view of the Industrial Revolution must still be accepted."(444)
"The process of industrialisation is necessarily painful. It must involve the erosion of traditional patterns of life. But it was carried through with exceptional violence in Britain. It was unrelieved by any sense of national participation in communal effort, such as is found in countries undergoing a national revolution. Its ideology was that of the masters alone."(445)
"Popular radicalism was not extinguished when the corresponding societies were broken up, Habeas Corpus suspended, and all ']acobin' manifestations outlawed. It simply lost coherence. For years it was made inarticulate by censorship and intimidation. It lost its press, it lost its organised expression, it lost its own sense of direction. But it is there, as a palpable presence, throughout the Wars. It is scarcely possible to give a coherent historical account of an incoherent presence, but some attempt must be made."(451)
Uiteraard ontstond er een ondergrondse beweging tegen alle onderdrukking in, al liet deze zich door de acties van Napoleon niets meer gelegen liggen aan de Franse Revolutie. Maar ook in het Huis van Afgevaardigden was niet iedereen het eens met de repressie van Pitt (in eerste instantie ondesteund door rechtse journalisten als Cobbett) en met het opheffen van politieke vrijheden en sociale rechten (bijvoorbeeld Fox, Grey, Whitbread, Bennett, Romilly). Na de eerste overwinningen op de despoot Napoleon kwam er steeds meer kritiek op het despotisme in eigen huis (zelfs Cobbett maakte rond 1804 een ommezwaai met zijn Political Register). Westminster bleef een aantal radicalen huisvesten.
"Thereafter Westminster (except for a curious episode in 1819) was never lost to Radicalism. The only popular. constituency in London, in which the Houses of Parliament were situated, had been captured by men whom almost the entire press designated as ']acobins'."(464)
"We must now attempt some survey of the position of English Radicalism in 1807. In the first place, the term 'radicalism' suggests both a breadth and an imprecision in the movement. The Jacobins of the 1790s were clearly identified by their allegiance to the Rights of Man and to certain forms of open organisation. 'Radicalism' came to include very diverse tendencies as the 19th century advanced. In 1807 it suggests as much about the courage and tone of the movement as it does about any doctrine. It indicated intransigent opposition to the Government; contempt for the weakness of the Whigs; opposition to restrictions upon political liberties; open exposure of corruption and the 'Pitt system' and general support for parliamentary reform. There was little agreement on social and economic questions, and while the most consistent radicalism was that of the London populace, it was broad enough to take in at times the unrest of manufacturers or small gentry."(466)
De radicale beweging bleef weliswaar defensief en intern verdeeld, was niet echt in de aanval in die jaren. Maar er was sprake van een voortdurende 'boosheid' en er werd nog steeds gedroomd van hervorming.
"If we are to understand the anger of Cobbett, we need only think of the things which made him angry: the fat contracts, the squalid scandals of the Royal Dukes, the soaring rents and taxes, and the impoverishment of the rural labourers, the Ministerial subsidies to the press, the destrucion of popular amusements by the informers of the Vice Society. Disaffection swelled for a hundred reasons. Hostility to the press-gang, the grievances of disabled soldiers, the grievances of artisans elbowed out by the mushrooming war-contracting firms, and, after Trafalgar, the growing undertow of opposition to a seemingly endless and purposeless war."(470)
Thompson waagt zich vervolgens aan een analyse van het ondergrondse verzet uit die periode: haar organisatie, haar geheime bijeenkomsten, haar geheime pers. Voor zover er informatie over is natuurlijk. Er zijn duidelijker en onduidelijker fasen in. De eerst is die met Despard rond 1802-1803 en eindigt daar met zijn terechtstelling. De volgende fase begint ron 1811.
"It was not until 1811 that the underground revealed itself again, and then it was in the form of violent industrial conflict - the Luddite movement. The Luddite attacks were confined to particular industrial objectives: the destruction of power-looms (Lancashire), shearing-frames (Yorkshire), and resistance to the break-down of custom in the Midlands framework-knitting industry. To explain their actions, need we look any further than into the immediate economic and industrial grievances?"(484)
Thompson vind van wel, maar het is moeilijk om de bronnen te interpreteren omdat ze vol zitten met disinformatie, leugens, etc., deels door misleiding door de overheid, maar deels ook omdat de werkers en radicalen er alles aan deden om de overheid en haar spionnen niet of verkeerd te informeren.
"In this sense, it was the policies of Pitt, in repressing the corresponding societies, which set in motion the logic which led to both Oliver the Spy and the Pentridge Rising of 1817. These years reveal such a foul pattern of faked evidence, intimidation and double agents, that it is possible to regret that the logic did not work itself out to its proper conclusion. If the Cato Street conspirators had achieved their object in the assassination of the Cabinet, the Cabinet would have been slain by conspirators whom their own repressive policies had engendered, and their own spies had armed. Thus, evidence presented by the authorities as to a conspiratorial underground between 1798 and 1820 is dubious and sometimes worthless."(485)
"Indeed, a convincing history of English Jacobinism and popular Radicalism could be written solely in terms of the impact of espionage upon the movement."(493)
"For this reason the secret political tradition appears either as a series of catastrophes (Despard, Pentridge, Cato Street), or else as a trickle of propaganda so secretive and small-scale, and so hemmed in by suspicion, that it scarcely had any effect, except in those places where it effected a junction with the secret industrial tradition. Such a junction took place in the Luddite movement, and in Nottingham and Yorkshire the Luddites resisted permeation by spies with extraordinary success. Here the authorities were faced with a working-class culture so opaque that (unless a Luddite prisoner broke down under questioning and in fear of the scaffold) it resisted all penetration. When two experienced London police magistrates were sent down to Nottingham, they reported to the Home Oflice: "almost every creature of the lower order both in town & country are on their side".
And here we may make several obvious points, as to the study of Luddism in particular. If there had been an underground in these years, by its very nature it would not have left written evidence. It would have had no periodicals, no Minute Books, and, since the authorities watched the post, very little correspondence. One might, perhaps, have expected some members to have left personal reminiscences; and yet, to this day, no authenticated first-hand accounts by Luddites have come to light. But many active Luddites, while literate, were not readers and writers. Moreover, we have to look ahead from 1813. Luddism ended on the scaffold; and at any time in the next forty years to have proclaimed oneself as having been a Luddite instigator might have brought unwelcome attention from the authorities, perhaps even recriminations in the community where the relatives of those who had been executed still lived. Those Luddites who had left their past behind them had no more wish than a man with a criminal record to be reminded of their youth."(494-495)
"It is, indeed, not until the 1860s and 1870s that the stories of survivors begin to break the surface of print; and a man who was twenty-one in 1811 would have been eighty in 1870. There were several such survivors in the West Riding, and their stories were gathered by local historians with sympathy and (so far as one may judge) some accuracy. Because these works are the last form of a secret verbal tradition, they must be taken as serious sources."(496)
Voorbeelden van publicaties: D. F. E. Sykes / G. Walker Ben o' Bill's, The Luddite (1870) en Frank Peel The Rising of the Luddites (1880).
"And here we must pass from criticism of the sources to constructive speculation. From Despard to Thistlewood and beyond there is a tract of secret history, buried like the Great Plain of Gwaelod beneath the sea. We must reconstruct what we can."(497)
Die 'geheime geschiedenis' wordt begonnen met Thomas Spence en zijn volgers die zich richten op het verspreiden van onrust en verzet en een heel losse organisatie hadden.
"This was not the method of the 'Black Lamp' and of Luddism. But it provides a clue, in the very policy of diffusion. For the illegal tradition, from 1800 to 1820, never had a centre. There was no Baboeuvian Conspiracy of Equals, no Buonarrotti who sent emissaries up and down the land; and if we search for one, we make the same mistake as the authorities."(498)
Gezien de strenge tegen elke vakbeweging of arbeidersorganisatie gerichte Combination Acts die het House of Parliament uitbracht was dat noodzakelijk en geheimhouding speelde dan ook een grote rol in de activiteiten van de vroege arbeidersbeweging.
"Wherever we find outwork, factory, or large workshop industry, the repression of trade unionism was very much more severe. The larger the industrial unit or the greater the specialisation of skills involved, the sharper were the animosities between capital and labour, and the greater the likelihood of a common understanding among the employers. We find some of the sharpest conflicts involving men with special skills who attempted to attain to, or to hold, a privileged position-cotton-spinners, calico-printers, pattern-makers, mill-wrights, shipwrights, croppers, woolcombers, some grades of building worker. We find others involving large number of outworkers - notably weavers and framework-knitters -attempting to resist wage-cutting and the deterioration of status. But even here the Combination Acts were not always brought into use."(506)
"These qualifications are important; but they should not lead us to conclusions as to any temperate disposition on the part of authority towards trade unionism.(...) The effectiveness of the legislation is not to be judged by the number of prosecutions but by its general deterrent influence."(507)
"Secrecy must be seen as more than a matter of oaths and ceremonies; it involved, during the years of war and its aftermath, a whole code of conduct, almost a mode of consciousness."(514)
Uiteindelijk werden de Combination Acts in 1825 weer ingetrokken.
"This is to anticipate our narrative. For the most cogent arguments for repeal of the Combination Acts were, first, their continuing ineffectiveness in preventing 'the growth of trade unionism; and, second, the prevalence of violent trade union action, which had been dramatised by Luddism. We have attempted to draw closer to the Luddite movement from three directions: the shadowy tradition of some political 'underground': the opacity of the historical sources: and the vigorous traditions of illicit trade unionism. We must now analyse more closely the industrial context within which Luddism took place.
This analysis already exists, but it may be corrected and supplemented by evidence which has more recently come to light. Luddism proper, in the years 1811-17, was confined to three areas and occupations: the West Riding (and the croppers), south Lancashire (and the cotton weavers), and the framework-knitting district centred on Nottingham and taking in parts of Leicestershire and Derbyshire.
Of these three groups, the croppers or shearmen were skilled and privileged workers, among the aristocracy of the woollen workers; while the weavers and framework-knitters were outworkers, with long artisan traditions, undergoing a deterioration in status. The croppers come closest to the Luddites of popular imagination. They were in direct conflict with machinery which both they and their employers knew perfectly well would displace them."(521-522)
"However obsolete the statute of Edward VI prohibiting gig-mills may have been, it is important that the croppers were aware of it and held that protection against displacement by machinery was not only their 'right' but also their constitutional right. They also knew of the clause in the Elizabethan Statute of Artificers enforcing a seven years’ apprenticeship, and of a Statute of Philip and Mary limiting the number of looms which might be employed by one master. Not only did they know of these laws: they attempted to put them in force. In 1802 they canvassed public opinion in the West Riding, and won great sympathy in their contest with Gott. Their opposition to new machinery does not appear to have been unthinking or absolute; proposals were in the air for the gradual introduction of the machinery, with alternative employment found for displaced men, or for a tax of 6d. per yard upon cloth dressed by machinery, to be used as a fund for the unemployed seeking work. The croppers seem to have cherished some hope of a general negotiation within the trade, and were chiefly indignant at the attitude of a few masters, motivated by 'Revenge and Avarice', and who sought to press home their advantage in the "consciousness of .. the facility with which the law favours the conviction of illegal combinations".
It is here that the flagrant class oppression of the Combination Acts bore down upon them at every point. At a time when the common law of conspiracy or 5 Elizabeth c.4 was being employed to defeat trade union action, every attempt to enforce statute law favourable to the workers’ interests ended in failure or financial loss. The west of England woollen workers raised subscriptions to empower attorneys to commence actions against gig-mills and against unapprenticed men, but none were successful. The masters, however, were disturbed enough to petition for the repeal of all protective legislation covering the woollen industry. "(526-527)
"By 1806, indeed, the case of the croppers had almost melted into the general grievances and demands of the working community."(527)
De sentimenten en vooroordelen van laissez-faire-voorstanders en anti-Jacobijnen onder de werkgevers en parlementariërs was zo groot dat een parlementaire commissie de arbeiders totaal criminaliseerde en elk verzoek of voorstel afwees. Totale repressie was het gevolg, zodat de arbeidersorganisatie ondergronds moest gaan.
"Finally, in 1809 all the protective legislation in the woollen industry - covering apprenticeship, the gig-mill, and the number of looms - was repealed. The road was now open for the factory, the gig-mill, the shearing-frame, the employment of unskilled and juvenile labour. The road to any constitutional redress was finally blocked. If there had been a 'constitutional' and a 'Luddite' faction within the croppers’ ranks, the latter now carried the day."(529)
De arbeiders zagen de kwaliteit van de producten afnemen door de inzet van machines en ongeschoolde arbeiders, hun beroep werd voor hun gevoel omlaag gehaald, bovendien werden ze massaal werkloos door de inzet van al die goedkope arbeidskrachten of verdienden stukken minder.
"Just as in the case of the croppers, the framework-knitters felt that every statute which might have afforded them protection was abrogated or ignored, while every attempt to enforce their 'rights' by trade union action was illegal."(532)
"The major phase of Nottinghamshire Luddism was between March 1811 and February 1812; and within that period there were two peaks, March and April, and November to January, when frame-breaking spread to Leicestershire and Derbyshire."(535)
In 1812 werd door het Parlement een wet aangenomen die het breken van 'frames' tot een vergrijp maakte waarop de doodstraf stond. Verzet daartegen bleek zoals steeds nutteloos en ging weer ondergronds.
"Luddism must be seen as arising at the crisis-point in the abrogation of paternalist legislation, and in the imposition of the political economy of laissez faire upon, and against the will and conscience of, the working people. It is the last chapter of a story. which begins in the 14th and 15th centuries, and whose greater part has been told in Tawney’s Religion and the Rise qf Capitalism. True enough, much of this paternalist legislation had been in origin not only restrictive, but, for the working man, punitive. Nevertheless, there was within it the shadowy image of a benevolent corporate state, in which there were legislative as well as moral sanctions against the unscrupulous manufacturer or the unjust employer, and in which the journeymen were a recognised 'estate', however low, in the realm. The J.P. at least in theory could be turned to in the last extremity for arbitration or protection, and even if practice taught working men to expect a dusty answer, it was still by this theory that the magistrate was judged. The function of industry was to provide a livelihood for those employed in it; and practices or inventions evidently destructive of the good of 'the Trade' were reprehensible. The journeyman took pride in his craft, not merely because it increased his value in the labour market, but because he was a craftsman."(543-544)
"In the first place, then, we must see Luddism in this context. The journeymen and artisans felt themselves to be robbed of constitutional rights, and this was a deeply-felt conviction. Ned Ludd was the 'Redresser' or 'Grand Executioner', defending ("by unanimous vote of the Trade") rights too deeply established "by Custom and Law" for them to be set aside by a few masters or even by Parliament ..."(547)
"But, in the second place, we should not over-state the isolation into which the stockingers for croppers had been forced. Throughout the Luddite 'outrages', the machine-breakers had the backing of public opinion in the Midlands and the West Riding. The large employers, and the factory system generally, stirred up profound hostility among thousands of small masters."(547)
"It is easy to forget how evil a reputation the new cotton-mills had acquired. They were centres of exploitation, monstrous prisons in which children were confined, centres of immorality and of industrial conflict; above all, they reduced the industrious artisan to 'a dependant State'. A way of life was at stake for the community, and, hence, we must see the croppers’ opposition to particular machines as being very much more than a particular group of skilled workers defending their own livelihood. These machines symbolised the encroachment of the factory system. So strongly were the moral presuppositions of some clothiers engaged, that we know of cases where they deliberately suppressed labour-saving inventions, while Richard Oastler’s father, in 1800, sold up a prospering business rather than employ machinery which he regarded as "a means of oppression on the part of the rich and of corresponding degradation and misery to the poor"”. It was this feeling, among clothiers, master cloth-dressers, artisans and labourers of all descriptions, and even some professional men, which gave a sanction to the Luddites and afforded them protection."(548-549)
"And, in this Iight, the conventional picture of the Luddism of these years as a blind opposition to machinery as such becomes less and less tenable. What was at issue was the 'freedom' of the capitalist to destroy the customs of the trade, whether by new machinery, by the factory-system, or by unrestricted competition, beating-down wages, undercutting his rivals, and undermining standards of craftsmanship. We are so accustomed to the notion that it was both inevitable and 'progressive' that trade should have been freed in the early 19th century from 'restrictive practices', that it requires an effort of imagination to understand that the 'free' factory-owner or large hosier or cotton-manufacturer, who built his fortune by these means, was regarded not only with jealousy but as a man engaging in immoral and illegal practices. The tradition of the just price and the fair wage lived longer among 'the lower orders' than is sometimes supposed. They saw laissez faire, not as freedom, but as 'foul Imposition'. They could see no 'natural law' by which one man, or a few men, could engage in practices which brought manifest injury to their fellows."(549)
"From this aspect, then, Luddism can be seen as a violent eruption of feeling against unrestrained industrial capitalism, harking back to an obsolescent paternalist code, and sanctioned by traditions of the working community. But at this point the term 'reactionary' comes too easily to some lips. For despite all the homilies addressed to the Luddites (then and subsequently) as to the beneficial consequences of new machinery or of 'free' enterprise, - arguments which, in any case, the Luddites were intelligent enough to weigh in their minds for themselves - the machine-breakers, and not the tract-writers, made the most realistic assessment of the short-term effects. The croppers provide the clearest example of a skill that was simply extinguished ..."(550)
"Even if we make allowances for the cheapening of the product, it is impossible to designate as 'progressive', in any meaningful sense, processes which brought about the degradation, for twenty or thirty years ahead, of the workers employed in the industry. And, viewed from this aspect, we may see Luddism as a moment of transitional conflict. On the one hand, it looked backward to old customs and paternalist legislation which could never be revived; on the other hand, it tried to revive ancient rights in order to establish new precedents. At different times their demands included a legal minimum wage; the control of the 'sweating' of women or juveniles; arbitration; the engagement by the masters to find work for skilled men made redundant by machinery; the prohibition of shoddy work; the right to open trade union combination. All these demands looked forwards, as much as backwards; and they contained within them a shadowy image, not so much of a paternalist, but of a democratic community, in which industrial growth should be regulated according to ethical priorities and the pursuit of profit be subordinated to human needs.
Thus we must see the years 1811-13 as a watershed, whose streams run in one direction back to Tudor times, in another forward to the factory legislation of the next hundred years. The Luddites were some of the last Guildsmen, and at the same time some of the first to launch the agitations which lead on to the 10 Hour Movement. In both directions lay an alternative political economy and morality to that of laissez faire. During the critical decades of the Industrial Revolution, working people suffered total exposure to one of the most humanly degrading dogmas in history - that of irresponsible and unlicensed competition - and generations of outworkers died under this exposure. It was Marx who saw, in the passage of the 10 Hour Bill (1847), evidence that for "the first time .. in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class". The men who attacked Cartwright’s mill at Rawfolds were announcing this alternative political economy, albeit in a confused midnight encounter."(551-552)
Volgt een meer concrete uitwerking van het Luddisme in de verschillende regio's.
"No doubt some of the local leaders of Luddism were among those who were brought to the scaffold; certainly, both evidence and folk-tradition show that George Mellor and Jem Towle were Luddite 'captains'. But to this day Luddism refuses to give up all its secrets. Who were the 'real' instigators? Were there any, or was the movement sparked off spontaneously in one district after another by example? What kind of committees existed in the different districts? Was there any regular communication between them? How far were secret oaths actually administered? What ulterior political or revolutionary aims were held among the Luddites?
To all these questions, only the most tentative answer can be given. It should be said, however, that the answers which are generally accepted are not consonant with some of the evidence."(575)
"The fact is, there are no sources of evidence as to Luddism’s organisation which are not in some degree 'tainted'. As the Hammonds and Darvall point out, we know only of delegates or of oaths from rumour; or from the stories of 'spies'; or from the magistracy and military; or from confessions of men condemned to death or in fear of condemnation, and anxious to save their lives. The same is true of Luddism’s ulterior aims. But what other kind of evidence could there be? Every prisoner automatically becomes subject to duress, every informer at once becomes a 'spy'."(577)
"No account of Luddism is satisfactory which is confined to a limited industrial interpretation, or which dismisses its insurrectionary undertones with talk of a few 'hotheads' Even in Nottingham, where Luddism showed greatest discipline in pursuing industrial objectives, the connection between frame-breaking and political sedition was assumed on every side, since not only the framework-knitters but the 'lower orders' generally shared complicity with the Luddites in their contest with hosiers, military, and magistrates."(587)
"And this bias [in het historisch onderzoek naar het ontstaan van de arbeidersbeweging - GdG] was supplemented, from another direction, by the more conservative bias of the orthodox academic tradition. Hence 'history' has dealt fairly with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and fulsomely with Francis Place; but the hundreds of men and women executed or transported for oath-taking, ]acobin conspiracy, Luddism, the Pentridge and Grange Moor risings, food and enclosure and turnpike riots, the Ely riots and the Labourers’ Revolt of 1830, and a score of minor affrays, have been forgotten by all but a few specialists, or, if they are remembered, they are thought to be simpletons or men tainted with criminal folly."(592)
"The wars ended amidst riots. They had lasted, with one interval, for twenty-three years. During the passing of the Corn Laws (1815) the Houses of Parliament were defended with troops from menacing crowds. Thousands of disbanded soldiers and sailors returned to find unemployment in their villages. The next four years are the heroic age of popular Radicalism.
This Radicalism was not (as in the 1790s) a minority propaganda, identified with a few organisations and writers. After 1815 the claims of Rights of Man had little novelty; they were now assumed. The greatest part of Radical rhetoric and journalism was concerned with the piecemeal exposure of the abuses of the 'borough-mongering' or 'fund-holding' system -taxes, fiscal abuses, corruption, sinecures, clerical pluralism; and these abuses, which were seen as stemming from a venal, self-interested clique of landowners, courtiers, and placemen, pointed towards their own remedy - a sweeping parliamentary reform. This was the groundswell of Radical propaganda, whose most insistent journalistic voice was that of William Cobbett and whose most compelling voice on the hustings was that of Henry Hunt."(603)
Het verzet liep weer uiteen van streven naar andere wetten (constitutionalists) tot het streven naar een totale revolutie. Er was dus nogal wat onderlinge verdeeldheid en discussie over politieke en sociaal-economische standpunten, die nog versterkt werd door spionnen en provocateurs van de overheid. Wat volgt is een lang verhaal met allerlei concrete voorbeelden hiervan en van de repressie die het radicalisme tegenkwam.
"But the greatest cause of Radical disagreement was sheer vanity. And vanity was so common a disorder among the Radical leaders that it appears less as a cause of disagreement than as a symptom of the general lack of coherent organisation. Nearly all the reform leaders were quick to impugn the motives of their fellows at the first sign of disagreement. "(626)
"We cannot understand the extraordinary untidiness of post-war Radicalism unless these problems of personality and leadership are borne in mind. It was the heroic age of popular Radicalism, but, on the national scene, its leaders rarely looked heroic and sometimes looked ridiculous. From 1815 until the Chartist years, the movement always appeared most vigorous, consistent, and healthy at the base, and especially in such provincial centres as Barnsley and Halifax, Loughborough and Rochdale. Its true heroes were the local booksellers and newsvendors, trade union organisers, secretaries and local speakers for the Hampden Clubs and Political Unions - men who did not expect to become honoured life-pensioners of the movement as a reward for imprisonment, and who, in many cases, were too obscure to do more than leave a few records of their activity in the local press or the Home Office papers. These men provided the platform without which their disputatious, protestant leaders would have been impotent; and they often watched the quarrels among the leadership with dismay.
The confusion of the events of the winter and spring, 1816-17, illustrates these problems of a growing national movement which had failed to find a national centre."(631)
"All these factors, both of personality and of ideology, help us to understand why - scarcely a week after the Hampden Club Convention in London at the end of january 1817 - the Radical movement fragmented in confusion. The Convention, in any case, had taken no serious organisational decisions."(638)
"1819 was a rehearsal for 1832. In both years a revolution was possible (and in the second year it was very close) because the Government was isolated and there were sharp differences within the ruling class. And in 1819 the reformers appeared more powerful than they had ever been before, because they came forward in the role of consitutionalists. They laid claim to rights, some of which it was difficult to deny at law, which had never been intended for extension to the 'lower orders'. But if these rights were gained, it meant, sooner or later, the end of the old régime: as scores of magistrates wrote in to the Home Office, in very similar terms, if meetings or unions or seditious pamphlets were allowed, at what point would this stop? For no one supposed that the structure of power rested upon Pitt's barracks alone. The integument of power, in the countryside or in the corporate town, was composed of deference and fear. If riots or strikes were, from time to time, inevitable, there must still be enough of these two requisites for insubordination to be cowed as soon as an example was made of the ring-leaders.
In 1817 this world was passing. By 1819, in whole regions of England, it had passed. The defences of deference had been weakened by Dissent and (despite itself) by Methodism. They had been challenged by Luddism and Hampden Clubs."(671-672)
"The rights to which reformers laid claim in 1819 were those of political organisation, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of public meeting; beyond these three, there was the right to vote. We may take these in order."(672)
"When contrasted with the Radical years which preceded and the Chartist years which succeeded it, the decade of the 1820s seems strangely quiet - a mildly prosperous plateau of social peace."(711)
"These quiet years were the years of Richard Carlile’s contest for the liberty of the press; of growing trade union strength and the repeal of the Combination Acts; of the growth of free thought, co-operative experiment, and Owenite theory. They are years in which individuals and groups sought to render into theory the twin experiences which we have described - the experience of the Industrial Revolution, and the experience of popular Radicalism insurgent and in defeat. And at the end of the decade, when there came the climactic contest between Old Corruption and Reform, it is possible to speak in a new way of the working people’s consciousness of their interests and of their predicament as a class."(711)
De geletterdheid en het scholingsniveau stegen tegen de verdrukking en onderdrukking in; sprekers, voorlezers, toneelspelers en comedianten, voorgelezen boeken en tijdschriften hielpen de ongeletterden aan begrip voor de maatschappelijke situatie; ook de drukpers ontwikkelde zich tegen alle repressieve wetgeving in, zowel die van de middenklasse als die van de arbeidersklasse; er ontstond een breed politiek bewustzijn als nooit tevoren.
"From 1830 onwards a more clearly-delined class consciousness, in the customary Marxist sense, was maturing, in which working people were aware of continuing both old and new battles on their own."(712)
"The artisan culture was, above all, that of the self-taught. "During this twelve-month," Watson recalled of his imprisonment, "I read with deep interest and much profit Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Hume’s History of England, and . . . Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History." The artisans, who formed the nuclei of Carlile’s supporting 'Zetetic Societies' (as well as of the later Rotunda) were profoundly suspicious of an established culture which had excluded them from power and knowledge and which had answered their protests with homilies and tracts. The works of the Enlightenment came to them with the force of revelation."(727)
"Two consequences of the contest may be particularly noticed. The first (and most obvious) is that the working-class ideology which matured in the Thirties (and which has endured, through various translations, ever since) put an exceptionally high value upon the rights of the press, of speech, of meeting and of personal liberty. The tradition of the 'free-born Englishman' is of course far older. But the notion to be found in some late 'Marxist' interpretations, by which these claims appear as a heritage of 'bourgeois individualism' will scarcely do. In the contest between 1792 and 1836 the artisans and workers made this tradition peculiarly their own, adding to the claim for free speech and thought their own claim for the untrammelled propagation, in the cheapest possible form, of the products of this thought."(732)
"But if this was, in part, the rationalist illusion, we must remember the second - and more immediate - consequence: between 1816 and 1836 this 'multiplication' seemed to work. For the Radical and unstamped journalists were seizing the multiplying-machine on behalf of the working class; and in every part of the country the experiences of the previous quarter-century had prepared men’s minds for what they now could read. The importance of the propaganda can be seen in the steady extension of Radical organisation from the great towns and manufacturing areas into the small boroughs and market towns."(733)
Meer over de rol van Cobbett en zijn tijdschriften.
"It is not difficult to show that Cobbett had some very stupid and contradictory ideas, and sometimes bludgeoned his readers with specious arguments. But such demonstrations are beside the point unless the profound, the truly profound, democratic influence of Cobbett’s attitude to his audience is understood. Paine anticipates the tone; but Cobbett, for thirty years, talked to his audience like this, until men were talking and arguing like Cobbett all over the land. He assumed, as a matter scarcely in need of demonstration, that every citizen whatsoever had the power of reason, and that it was by argument addressed to the common understanding that matters should be settled."(749)
"Yet we must not forget the inconsistencies, the bullying, the anti-intellectualism, the professions of loyalty to Throne and Church, the theoretical opportunism, the turns and twists of Cobbett’s ephemeral political writing. These weaknesses were more than evident to the more articulate Radicals. Already in 1817 he was under sharp fire from other periodicals. By 1820 many Radical artisans had ceased to take Cobbett seriously as a thinker, although they had not ceased to enjoy his gargantuan polemics. They continued to read him, but they began to read some other journal as well. Among these lesser journals, between 1817 and 1832, there was much original and demanding thought, which was to give shape to the political consciousness of the class after 1832. We may select from this four tendencies: the Paine-Carlile tradition: the working-class Utilitarians and the Gorgon; the trade unionists around the Trades Newspaper of John Gast: and the variety of tendencies associated with Owenism."(762)
"Nevertheless, when all these criticisms have been made - and they are many, and they go far to explain the stridency of the militant rationalist tradition in the 19th century - when all this has been said, it was Carlile who set up the market. Nor is this a figure of speech. His publications were one market - it was he who published Paine, Volney, Palmer, Holbach and many others. But he also set up the market for spoken debate. In 1830 he founded the Rotunda in which the formative debates of the London working-class movement took place. Its proceedings were published regularly in his Prompter. The journal might have been better entitled the Promoter, for this is what, in effect, Carlile had become. He was the Showman of Free Thought, and no one had more right to the situation. He cast around for star performers who would draw in the crowds."(767)
Volgt een - zeeer kritische - bespreking van Robert Owen en het 'Owenite Socialism'.
"The story of Robert Owen of New Lanark is well known, even legendary. The model paternalist mill-owner and self-made man who canvassed the royalty, courtiers and governments of Europe with his philanthropic proposals; the growing exasperation of Owen’s tone as he met with polite applause and practical discouragement; his propaganda to all classes and his proclamation of the Millennium; the growing interest in his ideas and promises among some working people; the rise and fall of the early experimental communities, notably Orbiston; Owen’s departure to America for more experiments in community-building (1824-29); the growing support for Owenism during his absence, the enriching of his theory by Thompson, Gray and others, and the adoption of a form of Owenism by some of the trade unionists; the initiative of Dr. King at Brighton with his Co-operator (1828-30) and the widely scattered experiments in co-operative trading; the initiative of some London artisans, among whom Lovett was prominent, in promoting national propaganda in co-operative principles (the British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge), in 1829-30; the swelling tide after Owen’s return, when he found himself almost despite himself at the head of a movement which led on to the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union."(780)
"One feels that, in the 1830s, many English people felt that the structure of industrial capitalism had been only partly built, and the roof not yet set upon the structure. Owenism was only one of the gigantic, but ephemeral, impulses which caught the enthusiasm of the masses, presenting the vision of a quite different structure which might be built in a matter of years or months if only people were united and determined enough."(803)
"And this is where we may gather all the lines of Owenism together: the artisans, with their dreams of short-circuiting the market-economy: the skilled workers, with their thrust towards general unionism: the philanthropic gentry, with their desire for a rational, planned society: the poor, with their dream of land or of Zion: the weavers, with their hopes of self-employment: and all of these, with their image of an equitable brotherly community, in which mutual aid would replace aggression and competition."(803)
"... working people were approaching maturity, becoming conscious of' their own interests and aspirations as a class. There was nothing irrational or messianic in their offering a critique of capitalism as a system, or in projecting 'utopian' ideas of an alternative and more rational system. It was not Owen who was 'mad', but, from the standpoint of the toilers, a social system in which steam and new machinery evidently displaced and degraded labourers, and in which the markets could be 'glutted' while the unshod weaver sat in his loom and the shoemaker sat in his workshop with no coat to his back."(804)
"So far from being backward-looking in its outlook, Owenism was the first of the great social doctrines to grip the imagination of the masses in this period, which commenced with an acceptance of the enlarged productive powers of steam and the mill. What was at issue was not the machine so much as the profit-motive; not the size of the industrial enterprise but the control of the social capital behind it. The building craftsmen and small masters, who resented control and the lion’s share of the profits passing to master-builders or contractors, did not suppose that the solution lay in a multitude of petty entrepreneurs. Rather, they wished the co-operation of skills involved in building to be reflected in co-operative social control. It is ironic that a movement which is sometimes supposed to have drawn much of' its strength from the 'petit-bourgeois' should have made more earnest attempts to pioneer new forms of community life than any in our history."(804)
"What was irrational in Owenism (or 'utopian' in its common pejorative meaning) was the impatience of the propaganda, the faith in the multiplication of reason by lectures and tracts, the inadequate attention to the means. Above all, there was Owen’s fatal evasion of the realities of political power, and his attempt to by-pass the question of property-rights. Co-operative Socialism was simply to displace capitalism, painlessly and without any encounter, by example, by education, and by growing up within it from its own villages, workshops, and stores. Co-operation has no "levelling tendency", the Economist was anxious to reassure its readers. Its purpose was to "elevate all"; its wealth would not be taken from existing possessors but would be "newly-produced wealth" "We do no come here as levellers," declared a Warrington clergyman: "We do not come here to deprive any human being of any of his or her property." In 1834, at the furthest point in the Owenite movement, a 'Charter of the Rights of Humanity' declared: "The present property of all individuals, acquired and possessed by the usages and practices of old society, to be held sacred until .. it can no longer be of any use or exchangeable value .." This was the vitiating weakness of Owenism. Even the little group'of Spencean Philanthropists, at the end of the Wars, could see that Socialism entailed the expropriation of the great landowners."(805)