Socialism as a movement rose to prominence at this time in a much more developed way than Owens could have possibly proposed as the general conditions were not as severe when he wrote his tract prior to mass social unrest. Urban centers such as Paris became centers of extreme conflict as the middle and upper classes attempted to regain control and revert back to traditional hierarchal political structures while workers demanded more jobs and more of a share in industrial success. Tensions came to a head when, amidst great food and employment shortages, the French government attempted to institute old ways and to quell workers, called out their National Guard to fend off protesting, angry laborers. These violent clashes were known as the “June Days” in which tens of thousands workers were injured or killed with similar struggles breaking out across Europe.

In response to what he witnessed during the June Days in Paris, the nobleman and writer Alexis de Tocqueville recalled the events he witnessed in a memoir. He is an interesting figure to consider in the context of what he wrote because he was part of the National Assembly who instituted policies that were part of the cause of the violent outbursts and a member of the political elite who was among those most misaligned with the desires of the workers. He calls the rebellion a “Servile War” of the classes and states that the insurrection was the result of “greedy desires and false theories” as he supposed the workers were misled under the assumption they were being stolen from in the current system. As Tocqueville states, “They [the workers] had been assured that inequalities of fortune were as much opposed to morality and the interests of society, as to nature. This obscure and mistaken conception of right, combined with brute force, imparted to it [the rebellion] an energy, tenacity and strength it would never have had on its own” (de Tocqueville 137). This passage offers great insight to the thinking process of the gentry in France as these struggles, which Tocqueville notes are markedly class-related. Instead of recognizing the legitimacy of the complaints of the downtrodden workers who are desperately seeking an end to the food and work shortages and a better system that respects their rights of citizens, this nobleman suggests they have mistaken understandings. He claims not to understand the “mistaken conception” of rights they are basing their complaints upon and does not appear to understand what right they should have, as workers, to the benefits of industrialization. Through this passage it is quite easy to see how frustratingly blind one side is to the other; the workers, who are mired in the effects of labor-related inequality and are suffering are unable to conceive the benefits of returning to the old class order while the ruling class cannot part with its old structure of class hierarchy. This is a revealing passage because it shows the depth of ideological entrenchment on both sides and offers greater insight to the ruling class’ struggle, instead of the workers, who suffer a plight which is much simpler to understand.

In response to the June Days and associated Revolutions of 1848, Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels note that class struggles are one of the foundational tensions throughout history, suggesting that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (219). By making this statement, they are eluding to the scale of the class struggle currently at hand and proposing that this is nothing new, that power and control of the means of production has always has a locus in the hands of few. What this statement does it demonstrates the long-ranging nature of the class system and in doing so, this actually points even more to a need for radical change—the kind of radical change they are suggesting. In addition to pointing out the multifaceted nature of the class system and the centralization of power of the elite, The Communist Manifesto offers a solution. By eradicating capitalism, the current class system will crumble and a more community-based means of shared benefits and means of production can emerge. This radical call to change, to shift the means of production to the workers themselves and eradicate the current class divides proved to be a powerful call to arms and resulted, in part, in the revolutions and minor disputes that occurred.
There is a great deal of shifting emphasis on some of the particulars between what was first expressed by Robert Owen when he first recognized and discussed the class and related social problems with growing industrialization and capitalism and the later incarnation of these ideas as witnessed in Marx. While socialism and communism are related in the end, they sprung from the same general desire to attain class and worker equity. Both saw extreme problems with the localization of power within the context of production being in the hands of a few, or just one particular class, and this recognition bled out into the general population. While there are a number of issues that contribute to rise of class constraint-related issues during the time of industrialization that have not been discussed here for the sake of brevity and focus, socialist and communist ideas seem to be the only natural reaction to the direct sense of inequality in terms of class. Through the astonished views of de Tocqueville, one sees the level of disillusionment the ruling classes in terms of their idea of the class struggle. It was difficult for them to clearly see the level of inequity present as they were far removed from the poverty, hunger, disease, overcrowding, and lack of work that resulted from problems with industrialization. To conclude, through writing that both question the side of the workers and that directly seek to offer solutions, it is clear that there were intense struggles due to a new paradigm in terms of society at large—across all aspects the social spectrum. Industrialization simply introduced so many elements to society that it seems it would have been impossible for societies to internalize without some kind of struggle and the class struggle that emerged from this appears to be an inevitable result.


De Tocqueville, Alexis. Recollections. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.

Owen, Robert. The Book of the New Moral World: Containing the Rational System of Society, Founded on Demonstrable Facts, Developing the Constitution and Laws of Human Nature and of Society. Cambridge, MA: Heywood Publishing, 1840.