Workers' movement in Britain

A series on the history of the workers' movement in Britain

History of the workers’ movement in Britain, Part 3: Trade unions and the growth of reformism

Between 1850 and 1880 British workers fought for, and won, real gains from the capitalist system: rises in real earnings, improvements in working conditions, reductions in the working day, and electoral and trade union rights. But these gains were won at a price; whereas in the previous period reforms had been wrested from the bourgeoisie only on the threat of violent insurrection, now these improvements were won largely through peaceful struggles led by the trade unions and political alliances with parliamentary factions of the bourgeoisie, which encouraged illusions in the eternal correctness of such methods and the absence of a need for a revolutionary struggle in Britain...

History of the workers' movement in Britain, Part 2: Chartism and the 1842 general strike

The period between the Great French Revolution of 1789 and the 1848 revolutions in continental Europe saw great advances in the struggle of the proletariat in Britain to organise itself as a class conscious of its own historic goals and interests. The high point of this struggle was Chartism, later described by Lenin as “the first broad, truly mass, and politically organised proletarian revolutionary movement” (‘The Third International and its place in history’).

History of the workers' movement in Britain, Part 1: The struggle of the working class to organise itself

In this issue we begin a new occasional series, contributed by a close sympathiser, which looks at the struggle of the working class in Britain to organise itself in the era when capitalism was still a progressive, expanding system. It will examine the pioneering efforts of the proletariat to struggle on an economic and political terrain against inhuman capital and a ruthless bourgeoisie. We hope in this way to demonstrate the immense capacity of the working class to become aware of itself as a class with its own interests, and to create organisations which express its growing confidence and the need for solidarity.
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