- The French Revolution a 1789 promised equality But while it put an end to the autocratic rule of the French king, it did not did not usher in an era of equality in economic, social and political life. The-wide gap between the aims of the French Revolution and the actual conditions in France after the revolution created serious discontent among the people.
- Babeuf Conspiracy was an attempt to overthrow the existing government in France with a view to building a society based on socialist ideas.
- Babeuf organized a secret society called the “Society of the Equals”.
- Babeuf, in a manifesto, had declared, “Nature gave everyone an equal right to the enjoyment of all goods…..In a true society, there is no room for either rich or poor”.
- The society planned an uprising but the government came to know of the plan and in May 1796, a large number of leaders including Babeuf were arrested. Babeuf was executed in 1797.
- Though Babeuf’s attempt at overthrowing the government had failed, his ideas exercised an important influence on the growth of socialist movement.
There was another group of socialists in the early history of socialism which included
1. Saint-Simon (1760-1825)
2. Charles Fourier (1772-1837)
3. Robert Owen (1771-1858)
They viewed property in relation to its usefulness to society. They recognized the evils of capitalism and proposed the establishment of a new and better system of society in its place. Saint-Simon coined the slogan, ‘from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work‘.
They visualized a society free from exploitation of any kind and one in which all would contribute their best and would share the fruits of their labour. However, the methods they advocated for the establishment of such a society were impracticable and ineffective. Hence they came to be called utopian socialists.
- prominent philosopher and revolutionary who helped in spreading ideas of socialism
- Played a leading role in every uprising in Paris from the 1830’s to 1871.
- He believed that through a revolutionary conspiracy, power could be captured to bring about socialism.
- When he died. 200,000 workers joined the funeral procession in Paris.
Communist League / League of the Just
- formed to spread socialist ideas and organize workers
- had members in many countries of Europe
- Slogan was ‘All men are brothers’
- Internationalism was one of its important features
- In 1847, name of “League of the Just” was changed to the “Communist League” and it declared as its aim, “The downfall of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the overthrow of the old society of middle class, based on class distinction, and the establishment of a new society without classes and without private property.”
- Its journal carried the slogan, “Proletarians of all lands, unite!”
- It instructed Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to draft a manifesto.
- Communist Manifesto: Prepared by Marx and Engels, Most important document in socialist movement
- Communist Manifesto stated that the aim of workers all over the world was the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism.
- It pointed out that socialism was not merely desirable, but also inevitable. Capitalism, it said, does not serve the needs of man and, like other social and economic systems in History; it would be replaced by a system, better suited to human needs.
- Marx analysed the working of capitalism in his famous work Das Kapital (Capital). According to him:
- Workers produce more ‘value’ than they get in the form of wages, the difference being appropriated by the capitalists in the form of profits.
- This constitutes the basis of conflict in capitalist society. Profits can be increased at the cost of workers’ wages and, therefore, the interests of workers and capitalists are irreconcilable.
- Economic crises were inevitable under capitalism because of the discrepancy between the purchasing power of workers and total production. These crises would be resolved only if the private ownership of the means of production is abolished and the profit motive eliminated from the system of production. With this, production would be carried on for social good rather than for profits for a few.
- The exploiting classes would disappear and a classless society would emerge in which there would be no difference between what was good for the individual and for society as a whole.
- Publication of Communist Manifesto led to breaking of revolution across Europe in 1848. These revolts aimed at the overthrow of autocratic governments, establishment of democracy and also, in countries such as Italy and Germany, at national unification. One of the major forces in these revolutions were the workers who had been inspired by ideas of socialism. The Communist League participated in these revolutions in many countries. However, all these revolutions were suppressed.
The First International, 1864
- Formation of “International Working Men’s Association” or the First International in 1864 is one of the most important event in the history of Socialist movement.
- With its formation, it has been said, “Socialism stepped on the stage of history as a world movement”
- The emancipation of the working classes, it was declared, must be won by the working classes themselves. The central aim of the International was declared to be the total ‘abolition of all class rule’. The universal character of the struggle of the working class was emphasized. The Address ended with the slogan, as in the Communist Manifesto, “Proletarians of all lands, unite!”
- It was persecuted and declared illegal in many countries.
- Impact/Contribution of First International:
- The International exercised a tremendous influence on workers’ movements in Europe and North America.
- Created bonds of international solidarity by arranging aid from workers of many countries in support of the workers’ struggle in any particular country. For example, when in 1867, 5000 bronze workers in Paris who had formed a union were threatened with dismissal, the International collected money for them; from workers in other countries and forced the ‘factory owners to withdraw their threats.
- Despite low membership it created sense of Worker Solidarity and was feared by Rulers e.g. workers’ solidarity was evidenced at the time of the war between Prussia and France in 1870. Both German & French workers condemned
The Paris Commune, 1871
- France-Prussia war à France defeated à new government dominated by the propertied class came and declared France a republic. It also agreed to Bismarck’s terms for truce including:
- Surrender of Paris
- Cession of Alsace-Lorraine and
- Payment of a huge war indemnity.
- Workers regarded this as treacherous and refused to surrender
- The workers of Paris elected a council which on 28 March 1871 assumed the title of the Paris Commune. It was elected by universal adult franchise and represented the workers and the lower middle classes of Paris.
- The Paris Commune was the result of an upsurge in which the workers had played the dominant role, the result of the first workers’ revolution in history.
- French Government which had established its headquarters in Versailles attacked Paris along with German help and exterminated the Commune.
The demise of 1st international
- The extermination of the Commune was followed by systematic attempts to destroy the International in almost every country of Europe.
- It collapsed as a result of internal differences. The International was not a homogeneous organisation. It represented many different trends in. the workers’ movement. Due to differences on aims and methods, it was split in 1872 and was formally dissolved in 1876.
The Second International
- By 1880’s in almost every country socialist parties were formed; they participated in national elections and in some countries they had fairly large representation. E.g. German Socialist party
- Strength and membership of the trade unions also increased e.g. Social Democratic federation with million members in Britain
- Growth of socialism happened in almost all countries including France, America, Japan etc.
- To unite the socialist parties in various countries into an international organization, a Congress was held in Paris on 14 July 1889, the centenary of the French Revolution of 1789. The result of this was what has come to be known as the Second International.
- Congress decided to observe First May as a day of Working Class Solidarity.
- Period after the formation the Second International saw a steady increase in the strength of the socialist parties and of trade unions. Membership of Socialist parties and trade union increased.
- Socialist and workers’ movement had become a major force in almost every country of Europe.
Achievements of 2ndInternational
- Campaign against militarism and war and in asserting the principle of the basic equality of all peoples and their right to freedom and national independence.
- International also decided that the socialists should utilize the “economic and political crisis created by the war, to rouse the masses and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist rule”.
- The socialist movement had made the international solidarity of workers as a fundamental principle. When Russia and Japan were warring on each other, the leader of the Japanese socialist group and the leader of the Russian socialists were made the joint presidents of the Second International at its Congress in 1904.
- Socialist tried to prevent their countries from participating in wars.
- Second International also condemned colonialism and committed the socialist parties to oppose the robbery and subjugation of colonial peoples
Limitations of 2ndInternational
- Unlike the First International, it was a loose federation of socialist parties of many countries.
- Various differences among different section
- Some believed revolution necessary to overthrew capitalism others advocated achieving socialism through gradual reforms
- Some sections were willing to support national government in certain situations
- Some favoured colonialism too.
- Although they were against war, some did not wanted to organize thinking they would be crushed. They were also not willing to utilize war to promote revolution.
- It was on the question of the war that the Second International suffered a fatal blow. When the First World War broke out, most of the socialist parties extended their support to their respective governments. This had serious consequences for the socialist movement. The Second International ceased to function and the socialist movement in every country was split.
Evaluation of 2ndInternational
- Although it didn’t bring any social revolution but brought awareness about problems created by capitalism & the inadequacies of Democracy
- Emerged as powerful political movement in many countries
- After Russian revolution, the Communist International (also known as the Third International or Comintern) was formed for promoting revolutions on an international scale.
- The leftwing sections in many socialist parties now formed themselves into communist parties and they affiliated themselves to the Comintern.
- Thus the international communist movement arose under one organization which decided on policies to be followed by all communist parties
- With the formation of the Comintern, the socialist movement was divided into two sections — socialist and communist. Differing in methods and idea of socialism itself.