Wednesday, September 26, 2007

International Trade Union Conference of Working Women

  • World Federation of Trade Unions


  • September 13 and 14 2007, Brussels Belgium

    Final Declaration

  • The Conference on Working Women organized by the World Federation of Trade Unions was held in Brussels from September 13th to 14th 2007 and was attended by 95 delegates from 62 countries representing 80 trade union organizations. During two days participants exchanged about the situation of working women in their respective countries and regions, recognizing that there had been "some progress" only for rich and affluent sections among them, leaving the large mass of women for whom there are still many problems remaining unresolved and that there are many obstacles and gaps in terms of gender equality. The conference recognized,
    * that the international finance capital is on offensive through its instruments to circumvent the interests of the workers-farmers and other poor and vulnerary sections of the developing economies and the interests of labour and other weaker and vulnerable sections in the developed world as well. The process of exclusion is impacting women the most.
    * That the attempts of the Multinational Corporations/ Transnations Corporations to appropriate and control the natural resources, the small businesses and enterprises, the farming lands, the knowledge base of diverse societies in various countries are aggressively being pursued and the women are bearing the main brunt of these policies.
    * That we characterize the process being imposed as Capitalist Globalisation, and it has de-humanising impact on the society.
    * That the imperialist wars have been imposed on Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon bleeding the mass of people, specially bringing untold miseries on women and children. The people in the Palestine and occupied territories in the Arab World continue to suffer violence and aggression at the hands of Israeli regime with backing from US Administration. The US administration continues to declare any country at its will 'a rogue' and decides its target for ruination.
    * That the militarization, aggression, threat of aggression are continued as matter of policy to pursue the economic exploitation and plunder of nations, regions and the people at large.
    * That the anti-labour policies at international, regional and national levels are deepening the inequalities and there has been a growing gap between rich and poor countries as well as between regions, even within countries and the women have been the most affected group.
    * Today 1.2 billion of the world's 2.9 billion workers are women (40%).
    * While women are massively moving into the labor market, more and more women are being pushed into informal/unorganized/contract/casual/daily labour in indecent work conditions with very low wages/earnings. They are integrated under the worse conditions with low payment and low working status remaining at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy and they also tend to have unsafe working conditions, something that serves as tool for the attack against labor rights.
    * Poverty is increasingly feminized. Women are 60 % of the world's working poor people.
    * More women than ever before are unemployed (81.8 million). They are mostly stuck in low productivity jobs such as agriculture, the field of services and the informal sector.
    * Women are submitted to intense discrimination and they are paid lower salaries than men even for the same job. Globally,women earn 20-30 % less than men.
    * Maternity protection for vast numbers of working women is barely guaranteed and working women who become pregnant are faced with the threat of loosing their jobs, suspended earnings and increased health risks due to inadequate working conditions.
    * Women are increasingly migrating, both legally and illegally, seeking for better employment. They represent almost 50% of all international immigrants and they are among the most vulnerable group exposed to exploitation and abuse.
    * Women are being trafficked for prostitution and leisure including young girls between the ages 7 year to 14 years. This is happening within the countries and across the borders.
    * The child labour and child abuse are on rise, contrary to the claims at various levels.
    * The state has been continuously withdrawing from providing education, health, sanitation, drinking water, rations to poor at cheap rates, housing for poor etc.
    * The reports of suicides by farmers due to deepening agrarian crises and those of unemployed has been phenomenon in various countries.
    * Women participation in trade unions organizations and collective bargaining process is still insufficient in relation to their presence in the labor market. The participants were of the views:
    * That in contrast to this situation, the socialist societies did succeed in solving the immense problems of unemployment and homelessness, the illiteracy and health, the sanitation services and safe drinking water and in meeting the minimum basic needs of food and clothings in their respective countries.
  • * That those of the societies which faced reversal from the socialist economies have once again plunged into the cycle of unemployment, homelessness, prostitution, withdrawal of child care services which are vital for working women, expensive education and health depriving specially the girls and women from these basic rights which they once enjoyed.
    The participants recognized that in order to fight against women discrimination it is necessary to create just societies in which human beings may be the centerpiece of developmental policies and all progressive forces may fight for a better world. For a world without exploitation of person by person.The participants also recognized that the workplace is a strategic space in order to create proper respect for gender equality. Trade unions are worker's organizations created to protect and improve workers' social and economic situation by the way of collective bargaining and mobilizations for the benefit of both genders; trade unions can also demand government policies and legislations related to women's equality issues. The Conference examined some experiences, ideas and initiatives introduced by trade unionists in terms of promoting policies geared towards enhancing the working conditions and socioeconomic rights of working women, and as the result of this exchange they agreed:
  • * The constitution of a permanent WFTU Working Committee composed of members representing different regions, for the purpose of systematically examining all aspects related to the problems faced by working women. * To develop trade union skills and training programs on gender equality at the workplace, such as seminars on international laws for the protecting and expanding the rights of working women and how these laws can affect legal frameworks, policies, activities and campaigns at the national level. * To strengthen the capacity of class-oriented trade unions so as to include gender issues in their collective bargaining, dialogue and trade union policies as well as to examine the achieved progress.
  • * To inform working women about their legitimate rights and help them assure those rights, including legal assistance when presenting claims on violations of the working women's rights and in the supervision of ILO Conventions. * To promote the ratification and implementation of labor standards relevant to gender equality, particularly the No. 100 on equal remuneration, No.111 on non discrimination in employment and occupation, No.156 on workers with family responsibilities, No.183 on maternity protection, convention on home based workers and others conventions. * To promote the occupational, health and safety measures for the women workers. * To struggle for increase of women's participation in trade unions, and also their elections as trade union leaders.
  • * To urge the unions to have gender-equality as one of the subject in Trade Union education programme.
  • * To urge the unions to involve women trade union leaders also in negotiations at various levels.
  • * To look for innovative ways to reach and organize women workers outside the formal workplace who works in precarious conditions.
  • * To develop campaigns for equal pay, equality of gender in workplace and in society specially during May Day activities, the International Women's Day and in the framework of other important Conferences and Congress.
  • * To plan activities for observing proposed international year 2009 by UN for women and work to have active trade union roles in its observance.
  • * To make efforts in order to identify and fight against sexual harassment or violence against women and to seek legislation on the subject matter in respective countries.
  • * To create an internet network among all the participants in the Conference for the further exchange of information, experiences and initiatives.
  • * To create alliances and close relations with the WIDF and other women's organizations, the WFDY and other movements, both national and international.
  • * To organize working women's conference at regional and national levels regularly, to provide women with a space to raise their concerns and for trade unions to adopt concrete policies, actions and results on gender equality.
  • * To increase our solidarity actions in strengthening the struggles of various trade unions and groups of people for women workers' rights.
  • * To bring out an e-Bulletin for exchange of experiences, for expressing solidarity with fighting women workers, to expose the discriminations and violations of women's rights across the globe.
  • * To fight back resolutely and work for elimination of child labour practices.
  • * To fight for full employment, dignified wages and work conditions, right to education and health. We call upon to all women militants of the world to act jointly with men inside trade unions. To resist the capitalist globalisation, imperialist wars, destruction of environment. To demand trade union and democratic freedoms. We denounce the attacks of the capital, the corporates, the cartels on the rights of unions and violations of labour rights. We resolve firmly that we would increase our initiative of solidarity with fighting unions and people and strengthen our international solidarity. We address a call to strengthen the WFTU in the new course which started in its 15th Congress in Havana Cuba. We believe that the world working class needs a class oriented trade union movement, democratic, militant and modern, independent from transnationals and the capital.

    Brussels, 14th September 2007

    40, Zan Moreas street, Athens 11745 GREECE
    Tel. +302109214417, +302109236700, Fax +30210 9214517 E-mails:,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Feminisation of Poverty

WFTU conference

The feminisation of poverty

by New Worker correspondent

LOW PAY, discrimination, long hours, domestic responsibilities, harassment, violence and lack of opportunities are the major problems facing working women all around the globe. Ninety-five women delegates from trade unions and progressive political parties in 62 countries reported a very similar picture of the situation in their own countries to a two-day conference in Brussels last week organised by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).
It’s an old, old story but the common themes in the contributions stood out; most countries have equal opportunities legislation and protection for women from violence – but these laws are rarely implemented.
The spread of liberal economic policies, described as global imperialism by WFTU, is having a devastating effect on working class standards of living, wages and working conditions around the globe and women workers are feeling the brunt of this.
These same economic policies have increased the commodification of women, leading to an alarming increase in the trafficking of women and enforced prostitution.
Women living in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe who once enjoyed high standards of equality and protection now face some of the worst conditions.
But women living in China, Vietnam, Cuba and Venezuela are enjoying rising standards, though delegates from these countries explained there are still improvements to be made. Maria Fabregas from the Cuba Construction Trade Union reported that the situation for women in Cuba is improving; barriers to equality have come down and government funds have been earmarked to improve the situation for women further.
Wang Xuemei from the All China Federation of Trade Unions, which has 170 million members, of whom 61 million (36.4 per cent) are women, reported that China’s legal system protects women’s employment rights. The shift from rural to urban work in China has led to a greater diversification of women’s employment. But in some sectors the trade union membership of women is low and women who are not in trade unions are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.
Amarjeet Kaur from the All India TUC reported very serious problems that are exacerbated by imperialist globalisation, leaving many woman working in slave conditions. She spoke of remnants of feudalism, though there are emerging traces of socialism in a few areas.
She said: “The shenanigans of the neo-liberal economic globalisation, mass privatisation and deregulation have bulldozed the domestic markets, destroying the employment potential of the industries.
“Unemployment, under-employment, casualisation of jobs, sale of state-owned enterprises, mergers and acquisitions of industrial enterprises, exploitation of cheap labour, shifting of jobs in the ‘race to the bottom’, denial of hard-won legislative entitlements including social security, heath care benefits and so on are the worst onslaughts against the workers.
“While the phenomenon of globalisation is pernicious to the whole of humanity, the capitalist system with its inherent characteristic of creating subjugation and slavery is intrinsically anti-women, resulting in the ‘feminisation of poverty’.”
Amarjeet Kaur went on to speak of a rising rate of farmer suicide in India – and among women farmers. But no statistics are kept on women – so they do not get any benefits or relief.
Many are forced into prostitution from as young as 14 and become commodities of men.
She also spoke of deteriorating working conditions in call centres where many Indian women are employed by foreign banks – now making big job cuts in the current global banking crisis.
One delegate from West Bengal spoke of fighting in the streets happening as the conference was taking place, centred on a trade dispute by women in the textile industry. Men trade unionists had come out in force in solidarity with the women in struggle and this was leading to the fighting as police tried to break up marches and support rallies.
Nemat Hassan from the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions told the conference that Arab working women still have very few constitutional rights; their role is considered to be housewives and they lack civil and personal rights. She said that Arab societies are generally dominated by men and that many women lack political awareness. Those fighting for women’s rights find themselves in conflict with religious ideas.
Anastancia Ndhlovua from the World Federation of Democratic Youth spoke of the diverse backgrounds and problems of delegates – but with common themes.
She also spoke on the effects of imperialist globalisation – of unemployment, the casualisation of work and young girls forced into prostitution. “Prostitution isn’t a job,” she said, “it’s slavery”.
Noluthando Sibiya of the South African Confederation of Trade Unions told the conference that in South Africa a woman’s average life expectancy has dropped from 57 years to 47, largely because of the HIV-Aids pandemic.
She said that the overthrow of apartheid had been a great step forward but now the overthrow of capitalism was needed. Neo-liberal economic policies have increased all kinds of social ills.
She also said that in the trade union movement in South Africa there were many women at rank and file level but too few at leadership level.
Natalia Lisitsyna from Russia Zaschita Truda spoke of the shocking collapse of conditions for working women in Russia now. She said that mass poverty has become a stable phenomenon that has altered the mentality of people.
Women now face a choice – to be employed or to give birth, they can no longer be expected to be able to do both. Working women now have no rest days and no breaks at all during their shifts for meals or to use the toilet. They are expected to spend full eight-hour shifts standing at their lathes. Natalia also told the conference that the population of Russia has decreased by around 30 million since the early 1990s.
Nanuli Kvavadze painted a similar picture of life now in Georgia. She said the privatisation process had been a shock therapy with the International Monetary Fund destroying all economic sectors.
“Society is being destroyed; the education system is so expensive now; it is so different from the Soviet system.”
Daphne Liddle, from the Central Committee of the New Communist Party of Britain, spoke on the devastating effects of high levels of personal debt on long hours, health and child neglect and how such debt undermines trade unions.
Other common factors from the delegates were high levels of political awareness and a deep understanding of the class struggle. All were well aware that the disadvantages of working women arise from a class-divided society and not from any inherent quality of either men or women.
And the evidence showed that where men and women trade unionists stood firmly together in solidarity, conditions improved for both. There was not a trace of bourgeois feminism.
Ncumisa Kondlo from the South African Communist Party called for a different kind of debate in future conferences. She said it was not enough to define the problems of women in struggle everywhere – the problems are the same. What we need is to exchange experiences in combating these problems so that delegates can go away from the conference with constructive strategies and tactics to implement in their own conditions.
Ncumisa is an SACP Member of Parliament in South Africa. She told the New Worker she had first become politicised as a teenager by the Soweto school strike against apartheid in the 1970s.
The conference also included delegates from Afghanistan, Basque, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Galicia, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Germany, Iran, Ireland , Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal Serbia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, Venezuela and Vietnam.
There were apologies and messages of good will from many other organisations. WFTU paid all accommodation costs but the price of air fares was prohibitive to many struggling organisations.
The general secretary of WFTU, George Mavrikos, left political campaigning in the Greek general election for a few hours to come and address the conference. He told of the recent revival of WFTU following its 15th congress.
In May 2006 WFTU organised a trade union conference on the “Social phenomenon of economic migration in the 21st century” also held in Brussels and involving dozens of trade union organisations and academics from around the world.
It also organised a European trade union conference of “The truth about Darfur” with representatives from 24 European countries.
There was a solidarity conference with the people of Lebanon held in September 2006 in Athens, which condemned the imperialist policy of Israel and the United States.
In the International Labour Organisation WFTU mounted a defence of Cuba and Venezuela against slanderous attacks. And WFTU took part – along with the AFCTU, OATUU and ICATU – in organising the International Trade Union Forum of Beijing.
WFTU also participates in the United Nations in New York, in Unesco in Paris and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN in Rome.
George Mavrikos told the conference last week: “For us in the WFTU, in the class oriented trade union movement, the role of the working woman is crucial. The role of working women in the production process, in the trade unions, in the political struggle can provide additional strength to the popular struggles now and in the future.
“The class oriented trade union movement has always had a firm position and fought for equal rights for working women, for equality at work and in every aspect of life.
“It struggles to stop the enslavement and trading of women, for the right of women to vote, for their right to participate in unions, in political parties, in government and state positions, for the participation of women in social and cultural activities.
“Many of these rights were realised in socialist countries, where the working woman achieved the status she was entitled to.
“Unfortunately, following the counter-revolutionary developments in the period 1990-91, the international correlation of forces changed to the detriment of the progressive forces. The US and its allies enforced a new imperialist world order and in this way many of the rights and gains of women were taken away.”
He told the conference that the conclusions of the conference will be discussed in all trade unions that are members of WFTU and secretariats for working women will be formed in all trade unions to plan and coordinate struggles.
The conclusions will be sent to international organisations and governments and conferences of working women will be held in every continent next year. The proceedings of the conference will be produced in book form and Comrade Mavrikos called on every trade union to see that it is translated into the language of its country.
The conference produced a final statement that was subject to amendment (mainly additions) during the debate, that described the position of working women and listed essential measures to improve things.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Engels on the English Revolution

Oliver Cromwell
1599 - 1658

Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Cromwell, the MP for Huntingdon, was the leading Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War which began in 1642 and ended in 1649 with the trial and execution of Charles Stuart and the abolition of the monarchy. The Republic of England, or Commonwealth as it was styled in English, was proclaimed soon after. In 1653 Oliver became head of state, the Lord Protector.
The republic he led included England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as colonies in New England and the Caribbean. Cromwell died in 1658 and his son, Richard, succeeded him. Richard was neither a politician nor a general. The new Protector was unable to reconcile the republican generals with the demands of the rich merchants and landowners that wanted to curb the influence of the New Model Army. Richard resigned in 1659. The government collapsed and the monarchy was restored in 1660.
Frederick Engels looked at the English revolution in this article published in Vorwärts! [Forward!], a radical paper based in Paris associated with Karl Marx, in 1844.

The century of revolution has to all appearances passed England by, causing little change. While on the Continent an entire old world was shattered, while a twenty-five-year war cleared the air, in England everything remained calm, neither state nor church were in any way threatened. And yet since the middle of the last century England has experienced a greater upheaval than any other country — an upheaval which is all the more momentous the more quietly it is brought about, and it will therefore in all probability attain its goal more readily in practice than the political revolution in France or the philosophical revolution in Germany. The revolution in England is a social one and therefore more comprehensive and far-reaching than any other. There are no fields — however remote — of human knowledge and no conditions of life which have not contributed to it and which in turn have not been affected by it. The only true revolution is a social revolution, to which political and philosophical revolution must lead; and this social revolution has already been in progress in England for seventy or eighty years and is rapidly approaching its crisis at this very time.
The eighteenth century was the assembling, the gathering of mankind from the fragmentation and isolation into which it had been driven by Christianity; it was the penultimate step towards the self-understanding and self-liberation of mankind, but just because it was the penultimate step it was still partial and remained within the contradictions. The eighteenth century collated the results of the past, which had previously been scattered and appeared to be fortuitous, and laid bare their necessity and inner connection. The jumble of countless scientific discoveries was put in order, classified and the causal connections shown; knowledge became science, and the sciences approached their perfection, that is to say, they took philosophy on the one hand and practice on the other as their point of departure.
Before the eighteenth century science did not exist; the study of nature assumed its scientific form only in the eighteenth century or, in some fields, a few years earlier. Newton created scientific astronomy with the law of gravitation, scientific optics with the decomposition of light, scientific mathematics with the binomial theorem and the theory of infinity, and scientific mechanics with the analysis of the nature of forces. Physics likewise acquired its scientific character in the eighteenth century; chemistry was only brought into being by Black, Lavoisier and Priestley; geography became a science with the establishment of the form of the earth and the many voyages which only now were of benefit to science; with Buffon and Linné natural history too became a science; even geology gradually began to struggle free from the whirl of fantastic hypotheses which threatened to engulf it.
The concept of the Encyclopaedia was typical of the eighteenth century; it was based on the awareness that all these sciences were interconnected but it was not yet able to show these connections, so that only a simple juxtaposition could be achieved. History was in a similar position; now for the first time we find voluminous compilations of world history, as yet without any critical comment, and entirely without a philosophical approach, but nevertheless universal history instead of the previous historical fragments limited both in time and place. Politics was given a human foundation, and political economy was reformed by Adam Smith. The culmination of science in the eighteenth century was materialism, the first system of natural philosophy and the consequence of this development of the natural sciences. The struggle against the abstract subjectivity of Christianity forced the philosophy of the eighteenth century to the other extreme; it opposed subjectivity with objectivity, the mind with nature, spiritualism with materialism, the abstract individual with the abstract universal or substance. The eighteenth century represents the revival of the spirit of antiquity as against that of Christianity. Materialism and the republic; the philosophy and politics of the ancient world, arose anew, and the French, the exponents of the ethos of antiquity within Christianity, assumed the historical initiative for a time.
The eighteenth century thus did not resolve the great antithesis which has been the concern of history from the beginning and whose development constitutes history, the antithesis of substance and subject, nature and mind, necessity and freedom; but it set the two sides against each other, fully developed and in all their sharpness, and thereby made it necessary to overcome the antithesis. The consequence “Of this clear final evolution of the antithesis” was general revolution which spread over various nations and whose imminent completion will at the same time resolve the antithesis of history up to the present. The Germans, the nation of Christian spiritualism, experienced a philosophical revolution; the French, the nation of classical materialism and hence of politics, had to go through a political revolution; the English, a nation that is a mixture of German and French elements, who therefore embody both sides of the antithesis and are for that reason more universal than either of the two factors taken separately, were for that reason drawn into a more universal, a social revolution.
This will need to be elaborated in greater detail, for the position of nations, at least with regard to recent times, has in our philosophy of history so far been dealt with very inadequately, or rather not at all.
That Germany, France and England are the three foremost countries at the present moment in history, I can doubtless take for granted; that the Germans represent the Christian spiritual principle, the French that of classical materialism, in other words, that the former represent religion and the church and the latter politics and the state, is equally obvious or will be made so in due course; the significance of the English in recent history is less conspicuous and yet for our present purpose it is the most important.
The English nation was formed from Germanic and Romance people at a time when the two nations had only just separated from one another and their development towards the two sides of the antithesis had scarcely begun. The Germanic and Romance elements developed alongside one another and eventually formed one nation which contains the two unmediated sides. Germanic idealism retained abundant scope so that it was even able to turn into its opposite, abstract externalism; the fact that women and children may still be legally sold, and indeed the whole mercantile spirit of the English, must definitely be attributed to the Germanic element. In a similar fashion, Romance materialism turned into abstract idealism, inwardness and piety; hence the phenomenon of Romance Catholicism persisting within Germanic Protestantism, the Established Church, the papacy of the sovereign and the thoroughly Catholic manner of disposing of religion with mere formalities.
The English nation is characterised by this unresolved contradiction and the mingling of the sharpest contrasts. The English are the most religious nation on earth and at the same time the most irreligious; they worry more about the next world than any other nation, and at the same time they live as though this world were all that mattered to them; their expectation of heaven does not hinder them in the slightest from believing equally firmly in the “hell of making no money” and in the everlasting inner restlessness of the English, which is caught up in the sense of being unable to resolve the contradiction and which drives them out of themselves and into activity. The sense of contradiction is the source of energy, but merely external energy, and this sense of contradiction was the source of colonisation, seafaring, industry and the immense practical activity of the English in general. The inability to resolve the contradiction runs like a thread through the whole of English philosophy and forces it into empiricism and scepticism.
Because Bacon could not resolve the contradiction between idealism and realism with his intellect, the intellect as such had to be incapable of solving it, idealism was simply discarded and empiricism regarded as the only remedy. From the same source derives the critical analysis of cognition and the whole psychological tendency within whose bounds English philosophy has moved from the outset, and in the end, after many unsuccessful attempts at resolving the contradiction, philosophy declares it to be insoluble and the intellect to be inadequate, and seeks a way out either in religious faith or in empiricism.
Human scepticism is still the form all irreligious philosophising takes in England today. We cannot know, this viewpoint argues, whether a God exists; if one exists, he is incapable of any communication with us, and we have therefore so to arrange our practical affairs as if he did not exist. We cannot know whether the mind is distinct from the body and immortal; we therefore live as if this life were the only one we have and do not bother about things that go beyond our understanding. In short, this scepticism is in practice exactly the same as French materialism, but in metaphysical theory it never advances beyond the inability of arriving at any definitive conclusion.
However because the English embodied within them both the elements which were responsible for historical progress on the Continent, they were therefore able, even without having much contact with the Continent, to keep abreast of development there and at times even to be ahead of it. The English revolution of the seventeenth century provides the exact model for the French one of 1789. In the “Long Parliament” the three stages which in France took the form of Constituent and Legislative Assembly and National Convention, are easy to distinguish; the transition from constitutional monarchy to democracy, military despotism, restoration and juste-milieu [middle way] revolution [The French revolution of July 1830] is sharply delineated in the English revolution. Cromwell is Robespierre and Napoleon rolled into one; the Presbyterians, Independents and Levellers correspond to the Gironde, the Montagnards and the Hébertists and Babeuvists; in both cases the political outcome is rather pitiable, and the whole parallel, which could be elaborated in much greater detail incidentally also proves that a religious and an irreligious revolution, as long as they remain political, will in the final analysis amount to the same thing. Admittedly, this lead the English had over the Continent was only temporary and was gradually evened out again; the English revolution ended in juste-milieu and the creation of two national parties, whilst the French one is not yet complete and cannot be so until it achieves the result which the German philosophical and the English social revolutions have to achieve as well.
The English national character is thus substantially different both from the German and from the French character; the despair of overcoming the contradiction and the consequent total surrender to empiricism are its peculiar characteristics. The pure Germanic element converted its abstract inwardness into abstract outwardness, but this outwardness never lost the mark of its origin and always remained subordinate to inwardness and spiritualism. The French too are to be found on the side of materialism and empiricism; but because this empiricism is the primary national tendency and not a secondary consequence of a national consciousness divided within itself, it asserts itself nationally, generally and finds expression in political activity. The Germans asserted the absolute justification of spiritualism and hence sought to set forth the universal interests of mankind in religious and later in philosophic terms. The French opposed this spiritualism with materialism as something absolutely justified and consequently considered that the state was the eternal manifestation of these interests.
The English however have no universal interests, they cannot mention them without touching that sore spot, the contradiction, they despair of them and have only individual interests. This absolute subjectivity, the fragmentation of the universal into the many individual parts, is admittedly of Germanic origin, but, as we have said, it is cut off from its roots and therefore only takes effect empirically, which is precisely what distinguishes English social empiricism from French political empiricism. France’s actions were always national, conscious of their entireness and universality from the start; England’s actions were the work of independent coexisting individuals — the movement of disconnected atoms — who rarely acted together as one whole, and even then only from individual motives, and whose lack of unity is at this very time exposed to the light of day in the universal misery and complete fragmentation of society.
In other words, only England has a social history. Only in England have individuals as such, without consciously standing for universal principles, furthered national development and brought it near to its conclusion. Only here have the masses acted as masses, for the sake of their interests as individuals; only here have principles been turned into interests before they were able to influence history. The French and the Germans are gradually attaining a social history too, but they have not got one yet. On the Continent too there have been poverty, misery and social oppression, this however has had no effect on national development; but the misery and poverty of the working class in present-day England has national and even world-historical importance. On the Continent the social aspect is still completely hidden by the political aspect and has not yet become detached from it, whilst in England the social aspect has gradually prevailed over the political one and has made it subservient. The whole of English politics is fundamentally social in nature, and social questions are expressed in a political way only because England has not yet advanced beyond the state, and because politics is a necessary expedient there.
As long as church and state are the only forms in which the universal characteristics of human nature are realised, there can be no question of social history. Antiquity and the Middle Ages were also therefore without social development; only the Reformation, the first, as yet biased and blundering attempt at a reaction against the Middle Ages, brought about a major social change, the transformation of serfs into “free” workers. But even this change remained without much enduring effect on the Continent, indeed it really took root there only after the revolution of the eighteenth century; whereas in England the category of serfs was transformed during the Reformation into villeins, bordars and cottars and thus into a class of workers enjoying personal freedom and as early as the eighteenth century the consequences of this revolution became evident there. Why this happened only in England is explained above.