Peoples' movements and protests
The background of the labour movements is found in the artisan companionships of the European guild system, which already in the 14th century invented strikes, collective agreements and pension funds. But it was only with the large factories that emerged from the 18th century in England, the 19th century in Europe and North America, and the 20th century in the rest of the world, that labor movements gained a dominant position in the popular movement system.
The core of the labor movement is the workers’ defense against the capitalists. The main goal of the early northern labour movements was to maintain autonomy in the work towards the capitalists, while the workers were skilled craftsmen. The goal was formulated as producer and consumer cooperation. But they also saw the need for action towards those in power in general; the chartists – a very strong worker mobilization in England in the 1830s and 40s – had e.g. universal suffrage as a unifying requirement.
The breakthrough for a unifying labour movement identity in Europe was the first Workers’ International in the 1860s; its goal was to raise money for strikers and prevent strike-breaking. But the split came quickly, in the form of razor-sharp conflicts over political strategies that hardened to identities: between Social Democrats who wanted to rally everyone in unions and parties, and Anarchists who feared this would create too much functionary power and preferred to organize only the active, and later also Communists who tried to combine the methods and have different organizations for both.
At the end of the 19th century, industry became increasingly
capital-intensive and producer cooperatives seemed impossible.
Instead, the labour
movement began to hope to seize power in the state and that way
implement the good society.
The capitalists protected themselves against the power of the workers by locating industry to the Southern countries, which led to the weakening of the labour movement in the North and the strengthening of the labour movement in the South. Another way to weaken the labour movement was to tie their organizations in legislation and state responsibility and get the workers used to trusting the state for their welfare.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were strong mobilizations, e.g. in the textile industry of China and India, and in the middle of the 20th century, e.g. Argentina's slaughterhouse workers for a time push through advanced welfare legislation. But it was not until the end of the 20th century that emigration of capital gained mass proportions, to Brazil and South Africa in the 1970s, to South Korea and Taiwan in the 1980s and all of Asia in the 1990s, and consequently only then the labour movement of the South could surpass the labour movement of the North, while China is now the hothouse of labour action. This is a development that will continue.