The starting point, as always, is imperialism. The centralization of capital, having reached the monopoly stage, endowed capital with international mobility and gave it a new dimension which radically altered the conditions of the class struggle. In the nineteenth century capitalism had to develop almost exclusively on a national basis. The separation of the producers from their means of production—largely the outcome of a long historical development—made possible the rapid constitution of a numerous and concentrated working class. At the same time, the base for the further recruitment of proletarians from the potential reserve army of labor grew narrower, either because the countryside was already practically depopulated (England), or because in the face of the proletarian revolutionary movement the bourgeoisie made an alliance with the peasantry, thus enjoining itself from disintegrating it too rapidly (France). Conditions were thus favorable for the gradual transformation of untrammeled capitalism into a social capitalism newly conquered political rights, trade unionism, and wage improvements became widespread by the end of the century. On the one hand, these working-class conquests helped defuse the threat of revolution; on the other hand, they sharpened competition between different sectors of capital, accelerated technological progress, and extended the market.
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