Labour movements success

Towards the late 19th century, the growth of industry in Germany was relatively accelerated, with numbers of Germans employed in industry rising from 6,396,000 in 1882 to 11,256,000 in 1907. This meant that the influx of workers from the countryside to urban areas was disproportionate to the state's ability to provide amenities for them. The appalling housing conditions therefore meant that the main social focus took place outside the home, often in pubs, and cafes, which also happened to serve as the focal point of socio-democratic activities.

Low wages and appalling factory conditions served to fuel the unrest that could be aired in such public meeting places, but this was hardly exclusive to Germany, as a factor of industrialisation throughout Europe. Ultimately, Germany had a combination of factors that meant it was ideally suited to socialism, explaining its success when compared to countries such as France and Italy. The SPD especially achieved unprecedented support in Germany, achieving leadership in the Reichstag on the eve of WW1.

Nowhere else in Europe, until the Bolshevik revolt of 1917 in Russia, had a socialist party managed to achieve such political dominance, showing the strength of the movement in Germany. France, on the other hand, was fairly unique in not only its industrial development, but the corresponding growth of socialism in line with an expanding working class. Here, there was a symbiosis between industrial and agricultural labour, industrial industries often employing rural workers for only part of the year, such as the coal-mines which employed 'peasant miners' who disappeared at harvest time.

This meant industry remained rooted in the countryside until the very end of the century, preventing a migration of workforce, and therefore the proximity experienced by urban populations. By 1914, 60% of the population was still largely rural, and the proletariat that had developed was part of a migrant community, made up of women and immigrants – not the most politically active sections of society. Thus, the French economy progressed non-uniformly, marked by regional disparity, especially between the expanding north and east, and a de-industrialising south and west, but there was some industrial development.

In all, France, industrially at least, was still a fairly industrialised country when compared with others in Europe. Politically, however, there was a lack of development, partly due to the pattern of industrialisation (which often encouraged mobilisation), and the regional segregation, France failed to cultivate the mentality and growing awareness of other Labour movements. Trade Unions remained illegal until 1884, giving them a revolutionary syndicalist ideology, and preventing them from being the mainstay of a mass political movement, as they had become in Germany.

This was partly because there was no unilateral progression towards industrial concentration or proletarianisation, maintaining the dominance of the artisan in industry, as well as the importance of cottage industry. Despite this, there was still resentment of the growing dominance Merchant classes due to the growth in colonial trade, leading to uprisings against them, such as in Lyons, after the shift to lower paid rural weavers in the silk trade.

This shows that whilst there was an atmosphere of repression in France, political awareness was not a completely foreign entity. Evidence of this comes through the choice of militant workers and peasantry to vote for a Social Democratic Party, championing cheap credit and orders for producer co-operatives. However, the repression that followed this in the Bonapartist revolution in 1851, left open working class politics outlawed, and a defection to an anti-political movement by the artisan community.

The Paris Commune of 1871 simply confirmed this, making it clear that the Republicans did not share the worker's ethic and aspirations for a 'social republic', and if anything, French politics moved more to the right than to the left in following years There were several differences between France and Germany that meant a different political atmosphere evolved. The political segregation meant that no popular labour movement evolved; the labour force remained rural until well into the mid 19th century.

This meant that a proletariat not only developed much later, but was composed of non-political members, and when there was a political congregation, the frequent, and often violent revolutions meant that there was an atmosphere of repression that suppressed any working class political movements. Later on, the emergence of a united labour movement was hindered by the role of the Republic in politics, and its appeal to workers, which essentially displaced any potential scope for a socialist movement.

La belle epoque, and traditions of paternalism, and deference, as well as the spirit of the Republic as part of the 1789 revolution was all-pervasive in French ideology and politics. This had practical political applications in the way that it raised living standards (moderate, but detectable after the 1870's), and sectionalism within the working class, further removing the potential source of grievances that lead to a compounding of socialist principles in Germany.

The composition of the working class was also different, with the role of the artisanate declining in weight and unable to control and organise the movement to the extent that it had in Germany. Therefore, generally, there was both a lack of direction and a lack of facilitation to that socialist movement in France, that meant while there was, at times, a demand for socialist principles, but no way in which it could become a mass political movement.

It is clear, that whilst socialism was often seen as the 'Red Threat' from the late 19th century until well into the 20th, there was no uniformity to the movement within Europe. In Germany, the advent of WW1, whilst initially bolstering the SPD's hold on the Reichstag, put an end to the political development of the state due to the imposition of the Weimar Republic in the inter – war years. In France, however, there was no real force to the movement due not only to viable and popular alternatives, but a predisposition unfacilitating of a political movement based around the working classes.

Therefore, the only real place in which socialism formed a dominant and lasting political movement was in Russia, and the perceived threat, was often, disproportionate to the actual one. In any situation, however, it was the working classes who were the driving force, and the focus of the movement, making any differences within this particular section of society crucial to the Labour movements success and dominance in a wider political sphere.