What is the labor movement?

We explain what the labor movement is, what is its origin and characteristics. In addition, its consequences, achievements and ideologies.

  1. What is the labor movement?

The labor movement is a social and political phenomenon that has its origins in England in the eighteenth century . This phenomenon had as main objective to improve the well-being of workers and arose from the Industrial Revolution and the changes that it brought.

The first stage of industrialization was characterized by full freedom by employers (sector called ” bourgeoisie “) on the working conditions of their workers (sector called “proletariat”). In a context in which there was no labor legislation , it was the employers who decided on wages or the extension of the working hours of workers.

  1. Origin of the labor movement

Labor movement
Working hours were excessive and no children or women were excluded.

The origin of the social movement responds to a series of conditions that led workers to take “class consciousness” and group together to demand a series of improvements. Some of the reasons that led to the formation of the labor movement have to do with:

  • Concentration. The proletarian class concentrated on the industrial centers, which allowed them to maintain contacts with each other.
  • Bad working conditions. Working hours were excessive and no children or women were excluded.
  • Low salaries. In addition to extreme hours, workers had salaries that did not even allow them to cover their basic needs.
  • Overcrowding The workers lived in suburbs in conditions of overcrowding and lack of hygiene , where they were infected with epidemics and diseases of all kinds.

To this malaise that the workers were going through was added the impact that the French Revolution had , in which values ​​such as democracy , politics and solidarity fostered the struggle for Human Rights .

In this context, workers from various fields (such as old craftsmen or English weavers) organized themselves in brotherhoods, taking medieval guilds as models . So it was that the workers began to help each other and demand labor improvements and, over time, began to question industrialization.

The first to repudiate economic conditions were the Luddists , a trade union movement that emerged in nineteenth-century Britain and strongly opposed the incorporation of machinery into textile production processes.

Their rejection led them to burn machinery and this attitude began to be imitated by rural workers. This process was the beginning of the different movements that began to be organized no longer against the machinery but of the employers, due to the labor conditions imposed on the workers.

  1. Characteristics of the labor movement

Some of the characteristics that identify the labor movement are the following:

  • Two fights The labor movement struggled primarily to achieve two issues:
    • Better working conditions Among the improvements are, for example, better wages, limited working hours and security .
    • Political rights. As freedom of expression , vote and association.
  • Constant dialogue. The labor movement was characterized by the large number of debates and dialogues that promoted indoors.
  • Negotiation. The negotiation was the mechanism they used to achieve their objectives.
  • Unions . Workers were grouped into unions, for example, by branch or by company . Those who make up these groups, even today, are known as trade unionists.
  • Demonstrations and strikes. At the time of claiming, rebellion, strikes, demonstrations and other public events were common currency within the labor movement.
  • Teamwork . One of the qualities that most characterized the social movement was the idea that, to achieve something, one worked in a team. When making a claim or improvement, it was always done collectively, not individually.
  1. Consequences of the labor movement

Labor movement
Some demands on the part of the unions were exaggerated for their employers.

Beyond the achievements of the struggle of the labor movement on a daily basis, the struggle and rebellion of the workers brought some problems and confrontations with certain social sectors .

The workers were victims of oppression by their employers , not only for their actions but also for their ideologies. They also received the rejection of a good part of society , for appealing to non-peaceful mechanisms when fighting for their claims, in addition to the repression by the State security forces .

Some demands on the part of the unions were exaggerated for their employers, which also caused massive layoffs.

  1. Achievements of the labor movement

Some of the achievements of the workers’ struggle were reflected in labor improvements, such as the following:

  • Workday limitation.
  • Prohibition of child labor.
  • The approval of laws that guarantee factory safety.
  • The prohibition of women and adolescents working in mines.
  • The emergence of social security systems.
  1. Ideologies of the labor movement

Labor movement - Karl Marx
Scientific socialism takes the ideas and theories of Karl Marx.

Following the Industrial Revolution and the formation of the labor movement, some ideologies emerged that addressed the inequalities and injustices of capitalist society, such as the following:

  • Utopian Socialism The thinkers who identified with it proposed an economic system that did not favor the same levels of injustice and inequality that characterized capitalism . They called it “utopian” because they belied the existence of such a system. Some of the referents of this ideological current are Henry de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen.
  • Babuvism This ideological current arose in France and was made up of references that supported “the Republic of equals.” His name is due to the last name of its founder, Gracchus Babeuf. In addition to their struggle for a Republic of equals, they took measures to improve the situation of the poorest social sectors.
  • Anarchism . Like socialism , this ideological current raises that capitalism must be eradicated. The difference with socialism lies in the ways of achieving that elimination: anarchists reject any kind of authority.
  • Marxism or scientific socialism. Those who take the ideas and theories of Karl Marx integrate this current.

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