“We are therefore entitled to put the question in its broader aspect: what had been achieved by the trade unions, even indirectly, for the unorganised section of the working class, for the mass of the workers as a whole? The answer to this question was given as far back as 1897 by none other than Mr. Sidney Webb, the panegyrist of trade unionism, whom no one will suspect of undue hostility to the bourgeoisie. In his well known pamphlet written on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, ‘Labour in the Longest Reign’, he wrote: “Under every heading it may be shown that, while the position of a large section of the wage-earners has greatly advanced since 1837, the other sections have obtained little, if any, share in the general growth in wealth and civilisation. If we took each department of life in turn, and fixed a datum line below which we considered that the workman could not decently live, we should find, alike in wages, hours of work, dwelling and general civilisation, that the percentage of those who fell below the line is less now than it was in 1837. But we should discover also that the lowest level reached was quite as low as at that time, and that the total number falling below our assumed datum line is, in actual magnitude, probably greater than in 1837. The dept of poverty is as great as it can ever have been; its actual breadth even is as great or greater”. As to that “great advance” in the conditions of the fortunate aristocracy of labour, of which Mr. Webb speaks, we shall say a word or two later; in the meantime, suffice it to note that even according to the testimony of such a mild critic of bourgeois society as Sidney Webb, poverty at the end of the 90’s was even wider and deeper, i.e., embraced larger sections of the working class and was more intense than at the end of the 30’s. Since them, in spite of further accumulation of wealth by the capitalist class ad in spite of incessant emigration and the continual development of social legislation, the condition of the working class has not improved (1). Whole sections of the working class continue to live and to work in conditions which have scarcely changed since the days when Marx  pilloried them in his ‘Capital’ or even still earlier, when Engels described the condition of the working class in England in 1877. Both Marx and Engels wrote of the sweating system, of the “white slaves of England” left untouched by the progress of “civilisation”. The sweating system continued to exist, serving as the object of keen debates and even of investigations by Royal Commissions in the 80’s and 90’s, down to the very eve of the World War, when at last, after 75 years of talking, the Government was forced to pass specific legislation regulating wages and working conditions in the sweated industries” [Theodore Rothstein, ‘From Chartism to Labourism. Historical Sketches of the English Working Class Movement’, London, 1983] [(1) Here again we may quote the evidence of Mr Sidney Webb. In his ‘Constitution for a Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain’, while declaring that the aim of Socialism is to secure the individual ownership of “private property” (!), which at present constitutes the right of a handful of people, he draws the following picture of the present condition of the working class: “At the present in Great Britain, as well as in other countries of advanced industrialism, more than two-thirds of all the citizens find themselves in fact excluded all their lives long from anything that can reasonably be called private property – from anything beyond their current wages, their exiguous hoards against a rainy day, and as much old furniture as would go in a cart. (…)”]