The end of serfdom dealt a heavy blow to the power of the Lords, but they still retained ownership of large tracts of land. It was from this position that the old masters began their counteroffensive against the free peasants of England.
The expansion of trade in the fourteenth century also created a growing demand for wool, of which England was the main exporter. In response, landowners began to forcibly evict their feudal tenants in order to turn entire villages into sheep breeding sites. The importance of this lucrative trade for the English nobility can be seen even today in the woolen bag on which the Lord Speaker is still sitting in the House of Lords.
The result of this outright robbery was the deprivation of property of many thousands of peasants, many of whom had no choice but to roam the earth in search of work or alms. This problem became so widespread that in 1489, Henry VII issued the first of a series of laws aimed at reducing the expulsion of peasants from rural areas.
The discovery of America and the ensuing giant rise in trade only added fuel to the fire. Throughout the Tudor period, agricultural production was shifted toward cash crops for the market, which led to the new breed of capitalist farmers hiring landless beggars as workers.
However, even this new mode of production was not enough to absorb the flood of poverty. In the end, the class of beggars "vagabonds" became so large that it forced Queen Elizabeth I to introduce a special "poor tariff" back in 1601 (at the same time, it was stipulated that "unlicensed beggars" would be executed without mercy as criminals).
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the expropriation and crowding out of the rural masses took an official form through the adoption of a number of laws in parliament. This was a disaster for the rural population: it actually brought the English peasantry to extinction by the 19th century, but it provided a huge army of poor workers for growing industry in and around the cities. It was this process of legalized theft that gave rise to the capitalist "property rights", which the modern advocates of capitalism admire so much.
Another myth that surrounds the birth of capitalism is that it was achieved thanks to the innovative economic activities of enterprising people as opposed to the dead hand of the state. This tale is regularly erased when the modern state is forced to carry out reforms under the pressure of workers, but always, whenever the opportunity arises, tries to cancel these reforms. In all respects, our future captains of industry and commerce depended on the most brutal government repression to defend their class interests.
Absolutism arose from the contradictions of a dying feudal society: the feudal monarchy rested alternately on landowners, the bourgeoisie and the peasantry. With one hand the monarchy restrained the expropriation of the peasantry, and with the other, acting usually in their own interests, in fact accelerated the development of capitalism.
Selling land expropriated from the church after the Reformation at reduced prices, for example, was a huge gift to the emerging 16th century capitalist farmers. Similarly, the establishment of colonial monopolies by all the absolutist monarchies of Western Europe provided substantial protection for the early development of the manufactory.
However, precisely because of its transitional and contradictory nature, this form of state at a certain moment comes into sharp conflict with the interests of the bourgeoisie. Once the bourgeoisie has seized economic domination, it should be able to govern in its own interests. Thus, the last vestiges of the feudal political system became only one more obstacle to the great striving for the accumulation of capital.
Beginning with the Dutch War of Independence, when the bourgeoisie embarked on the path of conquering political power, a wave of revolutions swept across Europe. In her struggle against the old order, she combined everything healthy and progressive in society under the slogan of "freedom." Sweeping away the particularism of the past, the revolutionaries cleared the way for the development of a truly national market. Instead of the arbitrary privileges of absolutism, they demanded "the rule of law", which in practice always meant the rule of the bourgeoisie.
But the great and tragic contradiction of all these movements was that, as in the English Revolution, they ultimately gave power not to the peasants and artisans, who were the backbone of the revolutionary armies, but to a new, even more powerful class of exploiters, about which our modern lovers freedoms tend to forget.
After the "burial" of absolutism, the state completely passed into the possession of the new land aristocracy, "bankocracy" and large industrialists, either in the form of a republic, or, most often, a constitutional monarchy.
Anyone who doubts the significance of this for the development of capitalism should only look at the measures taken by the English parliament after the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688: the enclosures have turned from widespread abuse into deliberate politics; The Bank of England was created along with "national debt" - a debt to none other than capitalist speculators; legislation on "maximum wages" was introduced, while workers' options for negotiating better pay and conditions were, of course, prohibited.
The concentrated power of the state was used “to accelerate, by the greenhouse method, the process of turning the feudal mode of production into a capitalist method,” wrote Marx in Capital (vol. 1), adding that “violence is the midwife of every old society, pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic force. "
It should also be noted that in this "golden age of freedom and enlightenment" not a single worker or poor peasant had either the right to vote or political representation in any form. In fact, the rising capitalist landowners and manufacturers needed state power to regulate wages in their own favor and extend the working day.
In fact, only when their own tyranny in the workplace was ensured, the capitalist class began to tolerate any political freedoms on the part of the workers, and even then they had to be limited so as not to violate their sacred right to private property, that is, the fruits of centuries theft.
The birth of the working class
The development of society is ultimately determined by the development of the productive forces of mankind. But technology itself is unable to change society - it is itself socially determined. The ancient Greeks discovered steam energy long before bourgeois Europe. The German inventor Anton Müller back in 1529 created a loom capable of weaving several pieces of fabric at the same time. The result was not the industrial revolution, but, on the contrary, the killing of inventors by local city councils.
In England, the agrarian and political revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries laid the foundation for the industrial revolution. Without the creation of an “excess" population of proletarians, the growth of agricultural productivity and the gigantic benefits bestowed on the capitalists by the conquest of political power, such a huge social transformation would be unthinkable.
The newly created proletariat was quickly set in motion, usually under the yoke of brutal repression, but there remained one more obstacle to unlimited freedom of capitalist exploitation-guilds. Having established strict rules and restrictions in industry, the guild system, which itself was a product of the struggle of the early bourgeoisie, became a suffocating obstacle to the free development of the capitalist mode of production. In fact, the first wool production recorded in the 16th century was closed by local guilds precisely because it threatened their monopoly.
The first cotton mill was actually created outside of any major city, in Roiton, Lancashire, in order to avoid the resistance of what remained of the guilds in 1764. This quickly established a model of what would become a factory system.
Restrictions on wages that existed for centuries were finally lifted in 1813. They were now, according to Marx, an “absurd anomaly”, since the capitalists were free to dictate to their workers the wages and working conditions, as they pleased. The development of capitalist production (with the help of a state chained in chain mail) finally led to the creation of a "working class which, by its upbringing, tradition and habit, looks at the requirements of this mode of production as self-evident natural laws."
As this new, more “civilized” form of exploitation took hold of more and more areas of production, the British ruling class suddenly discovered that the slaves working on its colonial plantations were also human. But when in 1833 it finally abolished slavery in its colonies, the British government paid £ 20 million in compensation not to slaves, but to 3000 families who owned slaves for their loss of "property." This figure in today's terms is about 16,5 billion pounds: a huge gift to slave owners, which they quickly used in English factories, Irish farms and Indian plantations.
Slavery was not abolished because it was immoral; it was canceled because it was unprofitable. It would be foolish to persist in such an expensive and unproductive venture when a discerning investor can squeeze unprecedented profits from the blood of the “free-born slaves” of Britain and its colonies.
But the creation of the working class gave the capitalists a double gift. He not only created their profit from the excess labor of workers, but also created the means by which these profits could be realized - the first in stories really a massive consumer market.
The average peasant never bought a lot of food or clothing, because he himself ground the grain and wove his own clothes. The peasantry’s deprivation meant that it not only depended on the capitalists in terms of labor and wages, but also had to spend this wage on basic necessities, such as food and clothing, from none other than the same capitalists (considered in nationwide).
Later, in the 19th century, the British state used tariffs to destroy the Indian home spinning industry and flood the market with fabric often spun from Indian cotton. Thus, the role of India as a colony has shifted from being solely a source of production (which it remained) to being also a huge prisoner market. Thus, the Indian masses, like their British counterparts, paid twice for their exploitation by the British capitalists.
This played an important role both in the rise of British capitalism and in the struggle for Indian independence. In 1921, the Indian National Congress adopted a flag containing an image of a spinning wheel to symbolize domestic industry, destroyed by British competition. This spinning wheel is still preserved (partially) in the Indian flag today, although it has been changed into the Buddhist chakra wheel.
The importance of mass consumption for capitalism can be seen today on an even grander scale. The consequence of this in our culture is uncontrolled consumption and debts that put pressure on us as individuals. We must not only work, but also buy. In this sense, supply determines demand to the same extent that demand determines supply.
Now there is capital, fully formed and “bleeding from every pore” (as Marx put it). Since then, the freedom of capital continues to be reflected and the source in the lack of freedom of people. But he also laid the foundation for a new and more serious struggle.
The bourgeoisie is a class born of the struggle between feudal lords and serfs. In the end, she managed to seize power, transform the state for her own purposes and use it to destroy the old order. So the working class was created by the endless desire of capitalism to exploit human labor. Like the medieval serfs, modern workers give most of their lives to the parasitic class of owners. But, having taken into the hands of society as a whole, the enormous productive forces created by their own labor, the working people of the whole world can forever end class oppression and open a new era of genuine freedom for all of humanity.