“The distinctive feature of the present strikes is this, that they began in the lower ranks of unskilled labor (not factory labor) actually trained by the direct influence of emigration, according to various strata of artizans, till they reached at last the factory people of the great industrial centers of Great Britain; while at all former periods strikes originated regularly from the heads of the factory-workers, mechanics, spinners, &c., spreading thence to the lower classes of this great industrial hive, and reaching only in the last instance, to the artizans. This phenomenon is to be ascribed solely to emigration.
There exists a class of philanthropists, and even of socialists, who consider strikes as very mischievous to the interests of the “workingman himself,” and whose great aim consists in finding out a method of securing permanent average wages. Besides, the fact of the industrial cyclus, with its various phases, putting every such average wages out of the question. I am, on the very contrary, convinced that the alternative rise and fall of wages, and the continual conflicts between masters and men resulting therefrom, are, in the present organization of industry, the indispensable means of holding up the spirit of the laboring classes, of combining them into one great association against the encroachments of the ruling class, and of preventing them from becoming apathetic, thoughtless, more or less well-fed instruments of production. In a state of society founded upon the antagonism of classes, if we want to prevent Slavery in fact as well as in name, we must accept war. In order to rightly appreciate the value of strikes and combinations, we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by the apparent insignificance of their economical results, but hold, above all things, in view their moral and political consequences. Without the great alternative phases of dullness, prosperity, over-excitement, crisis and distress, which modern industry traverses in periodically recurring cycles, with the up and down of wages resulting from them, as with the constant warfare between masters and men closely corresponding with those variations in wages and profits, the working-classes of Great Britain, and of all Europe, would be a heart-broken, a weak-minded, a worn-out, unresisting mass, whose self-emancipation would prove as impossible as that of the slaves of Ancient Greece and Rome. We must not forget that strikes and combinations among the serfs were the hot-beds of the mediaeval communes, and that those communes have been in their turn, the source of life of the now ruling bourgeoisie.” – Karl Marx, Chartism