Socialism and Labor Movement Essay

Submitted By onlycc
Words: 399
Pages: 2

Germinalis part of a 20-volume series of novels depicting various aspects of life in France in the second half of the nineteenth century, intended as a kind of sequel to Honoré de Balzac's Human Comedy, which was a lengthy series of stories and novels depicting the early part of the century. Characters reoccur in various books and are related to characters in other books. Étienne Lantier, for instance, was born to alcoholic parents in L'assommoir (1877) and became a leader of the radical and disastrous uprising of the 1870-1871 Commune in La débâcle (1892) and is the brother of the protagonist of Nana (1880). The series as a whole is called after the two families whose genetic inheritance determines the fates of their members: the Rougon-Macquart.

Labor groups objected that in L'assommoir Zola had depicted the laboring classes in an entirely unflattering light, neglecting the labor movement which was in the process of transforming capitalism; so he set himself the task of researching radical and reformist labor movements for this novel. The result is the only important 19th-century piece of fiction to take seriously the ideas of the labor movement of the time. Not that he entirely endorsed them: although Zola was eventually to become a socialist, at this point he did not ally himself entirely with the workers. Although he clearly sympathizes with their sufferings, he also portrays them as irrational and destructive.

It is vital to keep some facts in mind about the labor movement in France. As in most industrialized countries, workers tended to want more than higher wages and shorter working hours. In many cases, the labor organizations were socialist,…