Why are the bourgeois so hated

The abdication of the bourgeoisie

Page numbers refer to:   Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels - Works. (Karl) Dietz Verlag, Berlin. Volume 21, 5th edition 1975, unchanged reprint of the 1st edition 1962, Berlin / GDR. Pp. 383-387.
Correction:  1
Created:  20.03.1999

Friedrich Engels


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Of all the national bourgeoisies, it is undeniable that up to now the English one has retained most of the class - that is, political - understanding. Our German bourgeoisie is stupid and cowardly; it did not even know how to seize and hold on to the political domination that the working class had won for it in 1848; the working class in Germany must first sweep away the remnants of feudalism and patriarchal absolutism, which our bourgeoisie has long been obliged to eradicate from the world. The French bourgeoisie, the greedy for money and the most lustful of all, is blinded by its greed for money about its own interests in the future; she only sees overnight, she throws herself into the most scandalous corruption, declares an income tax for socialist high treason, cannot counter any strike other than with infantry volleys and manages that in a republic with universal suffrage the workers hardly have anything else The means of victory remains as the violent revolution. The English bourgeoisie is neither as greedy and stupid as the French, nor as cowardly and stupid as the German. During the period of their greatest triumphs it has continually made concessions to the workers; Even its most narrow-minded part, the conservative basic and financial aristocracy, did not shy away from giving the urban workers the right to vote to such an extent that it was only the fault of these workers themselves if they had not had 40-50 of theirs in parliament since 1868 . And since then the entire bourgeoisie - conservatives and liberals united - has extended the extended voting rights to the rural districts, more or less equalized the size of the constituencies, and thus made at least thirty more constituencies available to the working class |384| posed. While the German bourgeoisie never had the ability to lead and represent the nation as the ruling class, while the French proves every day - and now again in the elections - that it had this ability - and it once had it to a greater degree as any other middle class - has totally lost, the English bourgeoisie (in which the so-called aristocracy is absorbed and included) showed up to the end a certain gift of at least somewhat fulfilling its position as the leading class.

But that seems to be getting more and more different now. In London everything that has to do with the old city regiment - the constitution and administration of the actual city - is still pure Middle Ages. And that includes the Port of London, the world's first port. The owners of the loading berths (wharfingers), the Ewerf├╝hrer (lighter-men), the boatmen (watermen) form real guilds with exclusive privileges and in some cases still medieval costumes. These old-fashioned guild privileges have now been crowned with the monopoly of the dock companies in the last seventy years, and the whole great port of London has been turned over to a small number of privileged corporations for ruthless exploitation. And this whole privileged freak is perpetuated and made inviolable, so to speak, by the endless series of intricate and contradicting parliamentary acts through which it was created and raised in such a way that this legal labyrinth has become its best protective wall. But while these corporations insist on their medieval prerogatives and make London the most expensive port in the world, the members of this society have turned into pure bourgeoisie who, in addition to their customers, also exploit their workers in the most disgraceful manner and thus take advantage of the medieval-guild and modern-capitalist society at the same time.

But since this exploitation took place within the framework of modern capitalist society, it remained subject to the laws of this society despite the medieval disguise. The big ones ate up the little ones or at least chained them to their victory car. The big dock companies became masters of the shipyard owners' guilds, boatmen and boatmen, and thus of the entire port of London. They saw the prospect of limitless profit. She was blinded by the prospect. They threw millions out the window in foolish investments; and since these companies were several, they embarked on a mutual competitive war that cost millions more, new senseless ones |385| Caused buildings and brought the companies to the brink of bankruptcy until they finally came to an agreement about two years ago.

By now London trade had passed its peak. Havre, Antwerp, Hamburg, and, since the new sea canal, Amsterdam, attracted a growing proportion of the traffic that used to be centered in London. Liverpool, Hull and Glasgow also took part. The newly built docks remained empty, the dividends shrank and in some cases disappeared completely, the shares sank, the dock directors, stubborn, haughty moneyers spoiled by the good old days, had no advice. They refused to admit the real causes of the relative and absolute decline in London port traffic. And these causes, insofar as they are local in nature, are solely and exclusively her own snooty perversity and its mother, her privileged position, the medieval, long-outlived constitution of the City and the port of London, which by right belongs in the British Museum, alongside the Egyptian one Mummies and Assyrian stone monsters.

Nowhere else in the world would such madness be tolerated. In Liverpool, where similar conditions were developing, they were crushed in the bud and the whole port constitution was modernized. But trade in London suffers from it, growls, and - lets it go. The bourgeoisie, whose masses have to pay the cost of these absurdities, bow to monopoly - reluctantly, but they bow. She no longer has the energy to shake off the alp, which over time threatens to crush the living conditions of all of London.

Then the dock workers' strike breaks out. It is not the bourgeoisie plundered by the dock companies that rebels; it is the workers exploited by them, the poorest of the poor, the lowest stratum of the proletarians of the Ostend, who throw gauntlets at the dock magnates. And then at last the bourgeoisie realizes that they too have an enemy in the dock magnates, that the striking workers have taken up the struggle not only in their own interests, but indirectly also in the interests of the bourgeois class. That is the secret of the public's sympathy with the strike and the previously unheard of generous monetary contributions from bourgeois circles. But it stayed that way. The workers went into the fire to the applause and clapping of their hands from the bourgeoisie: the workers fought the battle and not only proved that the proud dock magnates were defeatable, but also stirred up public opinion through their struggle and victory in such a way, |386| that the dock monopoly and the feudal harbor constitution can no longer be maintained and will soon find their way into the British Museum.

The bourgeoisie should have done this piece of work long ago. She couldn't or didn't want to. Now the workers have picked it up and now it's getting done. In other words, here the bourgeoisie has abdicated from its own role in favor of the workers.

Now another picture. From the medieval London harbor we go to the modern cotton mills of Lancashire. Here we are at the moment in the period when the cotton harvest of 1888 is exhausted and that of 1889 has not yet reached the market, that is to say in the period when speculation in raw materials has the best prospects. A rich Dutch named Steenstrand has formed a "ring" with other cronies to buy up all available cotton and to drive up prices accordingly. The cotton spinners can only counter this by restricting consumption, i.e. shutting down their factories several days a week or completely until new cotton is in sight. They have been trying that for six weeks. But it does not want to work as it has never wanted to work on previous occasions. Because many of the nuts are so indebted that partial or total standstill brings them to the brink of doom. And others even want the majority to stand still and thus drive up yarn prices; but they themselves want to continue working and benefit from these higher yarn prices. For well over ten years it has been shown that there is only one means of enforcing a general standstill of all cotton factories - regardless of the end purpose. Namely, by setting a wage reduction, say of 5 percent, in action. Then there is a strike or even a factory closure by the manufacturers themselves, and then, in the fight against the workers, there is unconditional agreement among the manufacturers, and even those shut down their machines who do not know whether they will ever be able to work again. to set it in motion.

As things stand, a wage cut is not advisable today. But how without them enforce the general closure of the factories, without which the weirdos would be at the mercy of the speculators for about six weeks? A step that is unique in the history of modern industry.

The factory owners, through their central committee, turn "officially" to the central committee of the workers' associations with the request that the organized workers would like to stubbornly in the common interest |387| Manufacturers to a standstill to force by organizing strikes. The gentlemen manufacturers, admitting their own incapacity to act as one, beg the workers' unions, which were previously so hated, to be willing to use compulsion against them, the manufacturers, so that they, the manufacturers, can finally be brought there by the bitter need to act uniformly as a class in the interests of its own class. Forced by the workers, because they can't do it themselves!

The workers agreed. And the mere threat of the workers was enough. In 24 hours the "ring" of the cotton speculators was broken. That shows what the manufacturers can do and what the workers can do.

Here, then, in the most modern of all modern large industries, the bourgeoisie is just as incapable of pursuing its own class interests as it was in medieval London. And even more. It openly admits it, and by addressing the organized workers with the request to force an essential class interest of the manufacturers against the manufacturers themselves, it not only abdicates itself, but recognizes in the organized working class that it is called to rule and that qualified successor. It proclaims itself that, even if each individual manufacturer can still run his own factory, only the organized workers are still able to take control of the entire cotton industry into their own hands. And that means in German that the factory owners have no other profession than that of becoming the paid managing directors in the service of the organized workers.

F. Engels