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In The Condition of the Working Class in England, who does Engels accuse of committing "social murder?"

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Engels says that "society" has committed "social murder" by depriving working-class people, or "proletarians," of the things they need to live a good life. Society has put proletarians into horrible living conditions, and it has placed them "under conditions in which they can neither retain health nor live long." Engels...

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makes it clear in a footnote that by "society," he means "the ruling power of society, the class which at present holds social and political control." By this, he means the bourgeoisie, the class that controls the means of production. This class of business owners and financiers aims to squeeze as much wealth as possible from working-class people, and in so doing it has allowed, or deliberately implemented, the conditions that Engels describes in great detail throughoutThe Conditions of the Working Class in England. He details the foul and polluted atmosphere in London, the crowded and filthy living arrangements endured by thousands of working-class people in Manchester, and the dangers of fire, crime, and disease that these people endured in every urban area where manufacturing had taken hold.

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Engels was accusing the capitalist or bourgeois class of committing social murder. It's important to be clear that when he says bourgeois, he is not talking about middle-class people. He means the people who are not aristocrats, but who are at the very top of industry: what we might call the one percent or one-tenth of the one percent.

His point in this book is to expose the hidden lives of the working class. He notes that much poverty and misery is hidden behind house fronts that don't look so bad. First, the rich in England in that time lived in beautiful homes on grand promenades. Then the poorer homes were hidden away behind them, and one needed, further, to step inside to get the full impact of the squalor.

Engels blames the horrible conditions of the working poor on the owners of industry exploiting the workers and not paying them a living wage—but, more deeply, he blames these conditions on the capitalist system itself. This was in the early stages of industrialization, and it is true that before the law caught up with circumstances, many poor people had trouble earning enough not to be hungry. Later, minimum wage laws and other legislation would put an earning floor under workers.

Engels calls this underpaying of workers "social murder." One of Engels's points is that the owners may not even know the kind of conditions the working class lives in. He argues that it is the social structure—the way society is (or was) organized to exploit the poor—that leads to this situation.

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In The Condition of the Working Class in England, Friedrich Engels accuses society of committing social murder. In a footnote, Engels defines society as the ruling class or bourgeoisie who "hold social and political control" in England.

For Engels, the bourgeoisie regularly commits social murder and, by this, he means that they place members of the working class in such a precarious and explored position that they die as a result of starvation and deprivation. Engels clarifies this in the chapter entitled "Results:"

"Society in England daily and hourly commits what the working-men's organs, with perfect correctness, characterise as social murder, that it has placed the workers under conditions in which they can neither retain health nor live long; that it undermines the vital force of these workers gradually, little by little, and so hurries them to the grave before their time."

In fact, while resident in England, Engels learned of the deaths of "twenty or thirty" working-class people who perished as a result of starvation and in the "most revolting circumstances." But no person was ever brought to account (and faced trial) because it is the nature of society (in which the bourgeoisie have all the power and advantages) which is to blame. 

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