Marx and Engels - The unsung heroes of the democratic breakthrough

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Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens (1992) convincingly argue that the organized working class was crucial in the democratic breakthrough at the end of the 19th century. What's missing in their overly structural account is the role of agency. No two individuals contributed more to the political self-organization of Europe's workers than Marx and Engels. Hence, they made a decisive contribution to the democratic breakthrough, one that was not inadvertent but purp osive. They could play such a role because, contrary to the usual portraits of them, they were first and foremost political activists who carried on a ceaseless effort within the workers' movement to realize their political perspective. Through their activities in the International Working Men's Association and the German workers' movement they planted the seeds for independent working-class political action - the key lesson they drew from their participation in the 1848 revolutions and the mass working-class parties that followed in their wake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-231
Number of pages29
JournalScience and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999


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