Over the course of the 19th century, the number of European industrial workers increased dramatically due to the economic changes that were occurring. The move to industrialization transformed the living and working conditions of workers and their families. The rush to the city for jobs caused over population and poor sanitary conditions to occur for these workers. Many citizens and intellectuals argued over different solutions to these problems that the European worker was facing at the time. The solutions included government intervention, the passing of reforms and revolutions.
Many theorists and even political leaders argued that it is the government’s responsibility to aid the workers by improving the living and working conditions that these workers were to be put in. Saint-Amand Bazard, a French social theorist stated that although a laissez-faire policy seems to always work out in the end, the starving population of low income workers cannot wait the few years to eat and require action at that moment. Louis Blanc, a French political leader said that it is essential for the government to be strong in a time of despair because “there are weak persons who need a social force to protect them”. Similar to what Blanc stated, Ferdinand Lessalie claims that it is the state that holds a country together by unifying individuals into a moral whole.” According to the ideas and thoughts of these theorists, the government’s actions are what are needed to strengthen the state and improve the lives of the working class.
Some politicians and activists stated that the government’s actions needed to include reforms and civil rights. Many activists at this time believed suffrage was the answer to improving the lives of the working class. Because the working class did not have the right to vote in 1838 the London workingmen’s association stated “the laboring classes may be silently plundered or suddenly suspended from employment” due to the fact that they did not vote for their representation. By 1896, the working class had received suffrage and Alexander Millerand believed that with this advancement, no revolutions would be necessary to accomplish their goals. Although women did not have the right to vote, they still fought for civil rights and liberties equal to those of men in hopes of producing better lives for themselves. With the many reforms that people demanded, came the demand for unions in the workplace in order to fight for equality and justice. Many people in the time of industrialization believed that reforms and civil rights were the solution to the terrible working and living conditions of European workers.
While some people believed in reforms and government actions, others believed in a more radical approach to creating a change in the direction they wanted. During the Paris Commune, some thought that “the whole system of work” should be reorganized and until that moment arises, class revolutions were likely to happen. Marx and Engels believed that revoultions were the only way to overthrow the ruling class and achieve the goals of the workers. Although the approach of a revolution seemed radical, some people in this period of time believed that it was the only way to improve the lives of the workers.
During the 19th century, there were many different arguments as to how to improve the living and working conditions for European workers. The London Workingmens Association believed that suffrage was a peaceful resolution to the predicament. While there were men including, Marx and Engels that held a very radical approach to the problem with the only possible solution being revolution.