By Carl Strikwerda
The 1st booklet to discover the historic improvement of Belgian politics, this groundbreaking examine of the contention among Catholicism, Socialism and nationalism is key analyzing for a person drawn to Europe prior to global warfare I.
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Catholic and Socialist working-class movements in Belgium were made up of labor unions, political clubs, consumer cooperatives, and mutual insurance societies. Labor unions were the most difficult to create and aroused the most opposition and controversy. These working-class movements will be studied from both the point of view of labor history, that is, how they organized strikes and created union organizations, as well as from the perspective of political history, that is, how they were related to political parties and national and local governments.
But the language of protest explicitly turned the "working class" into a symbol of the injustices of modern society. From this perspective, it was the common exploitation and humiliation that workers felt that knit them together as a class and mobilized them for protest. Just as important, working-class leaders at times defined the real working class as those who responded to their message. Any workers, including the most proletarian, who defied these leaders were, by definition, not authentically part of the working class.
The objective criteria defining these workers was necessarily broad because there was only a loose correlation between proletarian status and membership in working-class movements. Some clearly proletarian workers in textile mills, factories, and coal mines never responded to appeals to join class-based organizations, while very skilled artisans and self-employed craftsmen sometimes identified with these organizations enthusiastically. This broad definition is strengthened when one looks more closely at the multiple meanings that both leaders and workers had in mind when they talked about the "working class" (arbeidersklasse/classe ouvrière) in nineteenth-century Belgium.