Consequences of the Industrial Revolution through “Silesian Weavers”

“A curse on this lying father-nation/ Where thrive only shame and degradation”

With a great deal of good always comes a fair amount of bad. So when the Industrial Revolution took off, along with the economy and development of machinery, the poor treatment of workers came to light. This neglect for the welfare of laborers is brought to attention by Heinrich Heine, author of “Silesian Weavers”. In this poem, Heine uses strong negative diction to impassion his audience, in turn sparking the development of a constitution for Prussia. Particularly striking word choices include the repetition of the word “curse”, “gloom-enveloped eyes”, “funeral shroud”, “dank rot”, and “cheerless”, among others. Heine uses these negative words to illustrate the mistreatment of laborers during the time. He points a finger at the government, in particular the king himself (“A curse on the king…/Who was not moved even by our grief”), in order to draw attention to the main cause of this degradation of workers. The quote at the very beginning of this post highlights the sentiments of Heine and his supporters during this time of ill-treatment. This particular line suggests that the nation has been reduced to a country that can only host shame and degradation, and no longer has a place for honor and respect in its labor system.

This situation was not exclusive to Silesia, but was prevalent throughout Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The poor treatment of workers ignited a revolution within the Industrial Revolution, a revolution of workers seeking respect. It inspired workers to pursue better treatment, working conditions, and rights.

Although in America and many parts of Europe, people work in the presence of humane conditions, American and European corporations run countless enormous factories in third-world, developing countries in which the workers are exploited, similar to what occurred during the Industrial Revolution. In these establishments, workers are paid close to nothing for hours of grueling, tedious labor. We do this because it ensures greater profit for our corporations. Obviously it is unjust, but why do countries repeat mistakes that have been made in the past? Is it because we have the power to domineer over less fortunate nations? Do these workers have the capability to ignite a movement against exploiting corporations, such as what occurred in Prussia? Why aren’t we taking more action against this exploitation of foreigners working for our companies? Is it because we feel removed, distant, and unconnected to these people because they are working thousands of miles away? We certainly have the resources and power to end this exploitation, but no great measures are being taken to end it.

3 thoughts on “Consequences of the Industrial Revolution through “Silesian Weavers”

  1. Our distance from the factory workers in third world nations is certainly part of why we allow it to happen. This phenomenon also ties back to Adam Smith’s economic philosophies. The third world countries have the lowest opportunity cost (the loss of potential gain from the next best alternative). By lowering opportunity cost the profits are higher and the economy grows. Maybe this speaks to human nature: we do not care about harm we do not see, even though we know it exists.

  2. “The proletarian movement is the conscious movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority.” (134)

    This ideology has been the reasoning behind nearly all of Russia’s industrial and social strategies throughout the twentieth century. The interest in universal social rights in regards to constructs such as universal health care are aspects which, although rushed, the USSR and Russia chased to achieve. The issues that arose when pursuing these goals remained insurmountable by the crash projects past regime leaders, notably Stalin and Khrushchev, implemented in order to modernize the nation. Achieving pure, universal communism proved too enormous a task, as authoritative figures cut corners to reach them. Communism is a multi-step process in which, ironically, capitalism is the penultimate stage of. Due to Russia’s geographic magnitude and population, the industrialization process required to evenly distribute passable living conditions to all stretches the countries resources tremendously, which unfortunately led it to redundantly snap back. Several five year plans were implemented during Russia’s period of industrialization. These collectivization strategies gave people no incentive to work because the products of their labor were repossessed by the government with the only reward being a pat on the back (or worse, a complete collection of Stalin’s historical works) for the individuals contribution to the movement. Marx and Engel’s economic philosophies motivated Russia’s industrial and social policies for roughly a century.

  3. I agree that our distance from these third – world countries is certainly a factor in the continuation of worker oppression. This lessens the physical blow of a revolt but a revolution of the workers in the form of strikes could hurt the United States immensely economically. The production of most goods domestically is much more expensive then foreign production and is one of the main reasons for the continuation of over seas manufacturing. Usually these countries do not have a minimum wage as high as in the states or simply they do not have one at all and so companies can get away with paying their workers menial amounts of money that they could not sustain themselves on let alone their families. I agree the lower the opportunity cost the higher the profit and as long as these large companies are making larges profits they are whiling to overlook the oppression and ill treatment of their workers.

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