Type: History
Pages: 9 | Words: 2464
Reading Time: 11 Minutes

Nearly 125 years ago the British press was shocked by a series of bloody killings of prostitutes. Brutal crimes took place in the Whitechapel, East London. Identity of the killer still remains undetermined. Maniac was nicknamed Jack the Ripper. Name originates from a signature to the letter sent to the Central News Agency, the author of which has claimed to be responsible for the killings. Many experts consider a letter as a forgery created by journalists for keeping public interest on the boil. Nicknames “Leather Apron†and “The Whitechapel Murderer†were also used for this criminal.

Brief Description of the Jack the Ripper Case

Significant migration processes marked middle of the 19th century in history of England. Thousands of Irishmen came to major cities of England. London, especially The East End, was not an exemption. Another big group of migrants, originating from Eastern Europe and the Russian Empire, was Jewish one. Overcrowding of cities caused worsening of housing conditions and increased unemployment. Poor economic situation influenced on development of underclass. Demonstrations of underclass became habitude for police between 1886 and 1889 who needed to react sharply on public disobedience (Begg 2003; Evans & Rumbelow 2006). Social insecurity negatively influenced on crime situation in general. Alcoholism, poverty, appallingly increasing quantity of the crimes against property became common in East London, in the Whitechapel in particular. According to London’s Metropolitan Police Service just within the aforementioned district there were 1200 prostitutes “employed†at about 62 brothels.

Such serial crimes took place also earlier. Development of the media made for popularity of the image of Jack the Ripper. Social and political tensions between liberals and reformers, as well the Irish Home rule movement, tried to use these murders for their own aims. Taking into consideration that place of the crimes was Victorian London – capital of the biggest empire, opportunity to follow all the events through media hold the attention of million people all over the world.

The main victims of the Ripper were prostitutes from the slums. He cut their throats and ruptured abdominal cavity. Removal of internal organs of at least three of the victims proved the assumption that the killer had some anatomical knowledge or even had some professional surgery experience. During September-October 1888, Scotland Yard and various media received many letters supposedly written by the murderer. This fact strengthened rumors that all the killings were links of one chain. Recipient of the famous message “From Hell†George Lusk, the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received a human kidney with a letter. Brutal character of felonies and intensified stir of media caused a presumption that one person called Jack the Ripper committed all the crimes.

Despite ascribing big amount of murders to Jack the Ripper just five canonical are connected by the same hand of criminal: Mary Ann Nichols (murdered August 31, 1888), Annie Chapman (murdered September 8, 1888), Elizabeth Stride (murdered September 30, 1888), Catherine Eddowes (the same date as a previous victim) and Mary Jane Kelly (murdered November 9, 1888). All of them were prostitutes. Thomas Bond, police surgeon, analyzing his examination of bodies, stated that he had no doubt about the common perpetrator of crime for all these murders. According to expert, Jack the Ripper cut their throats at first and just after this, they had fallen down.

Psychologists made a significant statement for the analysis of fundamental motives of crimes: armed attack without sexual abuse, but leaving the victim in sexually degrading position with repulsive wounds testifies against version that Jack the Ripper was sick with sexual mania.

Notwithstanding efforts, the police could not prove the guilt of any of the suspects. Image of the real murderer accumulated mythological facts and even now, Jack the Ripper excites millions all over the world. 

Marx theories on economical and social development of the humanity

German thinker, philosopher and economist Karl Marx analyzed economical and political interconnections of the human history. His works “The Communist Manifesto†and “Capital†until now are very important for understanding of the main processes that changed history and the Jack the Ripper Case in particular. 

According to Marx ideology, there is a complex of ideas reflecting the class interests at a particular historical epoch. Contemporaries apprehend these ideas as eternal and universal. Developing this statement, Marx pointed out that control of one class over the means of production include the ideas of a subordinate class. In such way economist proved that, a subordinate class could hold ideas, which contradict their natural interests. 

The keynote of Marx theories was an accumulation of capital, which can shape social system (Clark 1998). Social changes may come only in the case of conflict of contradictory interests. Economic forces “lead†such conflicts. These theses became fundamental for the “conflict theory†(Turner 2005). Dehumanization of work, which was creative, productive and free, done by capitalism is an intentional process. Forces of the economy are invincible). 

Marx considered that social capacity is gained since entering relations concerning means of productions. Under this term, he meant natural resources, land, technology, etc. The role of means of production is directly related to the form of the society organization.

In his works, Marx had two attitudes to capitalism. “Revolutionizing, industrializing and universalizing qualities of development, growth and progressivity†are the positive aspects of capitalism. By these characteristics, he meant necessary for growth of the proletariat processes as industrialization, urbanization and technological progress, which are to increase productivity, rationality, growth and the scientific revolution.

The growth of the working class, getting and development of class-consciousness by the proletariat comes feasible due to urbanization. The proletariat becomes powerful when they feel they can change social organization (Calhoun 2002). Idealistic vision of the future by Marx foresees control over the means of production by the proletariat. Such changes will destruct previous unfair system with inequality, exploiting bourgeoisie. The term “dictatorship of proletariat†describes transitional period of the history between capitalism and socialism or communism. Countries with democratic traditions will go through it easier, while centralized states will fight with the revolutionary mechanism, which is going to divest the state of authority. New social relations will not require state as a regulator of these relations.

Negative appraisal of capitalism relate to exploitation, cyclical depressions with mass unemployment as a result, alienation etc.  Notwithstanding all these features, Marx recognized outstanding service of capitalists for the destruction of feudalism (Calhoun 2002).

Analyzing successful industries Marx brought in the term “surplus value†– the difference between input unit costs and output unit costs. In most cases, this difference was positive for the capitalists – they invested less. According to Marx, surplus labor is the difference between potentially produced by workers goods and costs to support them.

Marx opinion on the social contradictions during feudalism and capitalism is represented in The Communist Manifesto: “We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions, under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organization of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces. They became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder. Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class. A similar movement is going on before our own eyes … The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered. So, as soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring order into the whole society of bourgeois, and endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them (Engels & Marx n.d.).â€

Industrialization and Proletariat

The Industrial Revolution, which started in 1750s in the United Kingdom and lasted until 1850s, essentially changed agriculture, industry, technology and science. On its turn, it caused radical changes in economic, social and cultural life of people. The Industrial Revolution started the process of transition from feudalism to capitalism. According to Marx, feudalism is characterized by the domination of the aristocracy – the ruling class, over the peasants. Marx considered that feudalism created a class society based on the exploitation. Peasants, mostly under serfdom were farming arable lands, owned by ruling class – aristocrats. Marx used primarily economic characteristics to define this social mode.

Urbanization is inseparable to industrialization phenomenon. Job creation made immigration to the cities attractive. Mass inrush of workers into large towns caused the aforementioned surplus labor. Possibility to hire another worker caused low wages of the workers. Leaving families by workers in order to move to cities also showed displays of exploitation.

Henry Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins published in 1950s series of essays on the issues of living standards of workers. According to them, majority of the population of the cities were suffering because of severe restrictions (Woodward 1981). Malnutrition and hunger became common phenomena in the routine live of thousands people looking for a better lives in cities.

Social and economical diversification caused by the industrialization forms classical for Marx conflict situation: proletariat against bourgeoisie – capitalist class owning the means of production. The essence of conflict is economical: workers demand higher wages and owners resist this. The most important proof of existence of class struggle is, for example, strike. Notwithstanding positive characteristics of capitalism, it is based on exploitation of the proletariat. The main problem is that workers cannot hire owned by the bourgeoisie means of production. The bourgeoisie hire the proletariat who is earning for their living. The commodities produced by the proletariat are not their ownership – the principle of free creative work is broken. Capitalists own the proletariat products.

Such unfair situation, social backwardness and property differentiation urged on women to the prostitution. Industrialization is followed by creation of the factories, which mostly need men as workers. Social insecurity decreases the amount of new families. Despite this, moral standards cannot resist economical demands.

Jack the Ripper case excited interest of substantial educated proportion of pollution and became the issue to be manipulated by politicians. Most of the readers did not think that such killings of the submerged tenth are not just the deeds of maniac but have deep social underlying reason.

Notwithstanding this opinion, George Bernard Shaw reacted on the killings in a proper way as the Social Democrat: “Whilst we conventional Social Democrats were wasting our time on education, agitation, and organization, some independent genius has taken the matter in hand, and by simply murdering and disembowelling four women, converted the proprietary press to an inept sort of communism (Shaw n.d.).â€

He stresses upon the submarginal economic situation in the United Kingdom. The same letter to the newspaper “The Star†states: “The proper way to recover the rents of London for the people of London is not by charity, which is one of the worst curses of poverty, but by the municipal rate collector, who will, no doubt, make it sufficiently clear to the monopolists of ground value that he is not merely taking round the hat, and that the State is ready to enforce his demand, if need be. The money, thus, obtained must be used by the municipality as the capital of productive industries for the better employment of the poor. I submit that this is at least a less disgusting and immoral method of relieving the East-end than the gust of bazaars and blood money, which has suggested itself from the West-end point of view.â€

Capitalist relations, dominating in the British society of the end of the 19th century, produced contributory conditions for the estimating women as labor force as well as killing of prostitutes. Jack the Ripper case was unique just because of given publicity by the media. Murders of the prostitutes in East London, as well as in other districts, cities, towns and so on, in the majority cases were not probably investigated. Negative opinions about the unprivileged, scorn to the prostitutes were created by the society, where a human being is estimated as labor force.

Not creating conditions for job offers for women, lack of living standards, caused by the capitalist relations were the main reasons for the murders of women. The role of Jack the Ripper is just an instrument of the crime.


The history of the proletariat shows as typical situation, which was in Victorian London in 1888. Disable to accept all the people arriving to London confronts with difficulties concerning unemployment and increasing crime rate. Housing conditions are on a low level: absence of new buildings force people to huddle together a few families in one shared room. Industrialization did not improve medicine and hygiene standards. Surplus labor phenomenon unfavorably influence on the proletariat situation.

Living conditions of the industrial proletariat in the XIX century became the subject of the social observers and writers. Friedrich Engels, Henry Mayhew as well as Charles Dickens and Mary Gaskell paid their attention to the terrific social issues of the working class.

It is not common to consider the Jack the Ripper case through the mediation of the Marxism theories. Taking to attention conditions of the dwellers of Whitechappel, it looks naturally such a big amount of unemployed. Involvement of the women into the prostitution indicates capitalist social relations. In such relations these women offers not their labor, but labor force. They are surplus labor.

Big amount of disadvantaged families of migrants shows the reality of establishing urban proletariat as a class. People from countryside diligently move to the town and city areas, but these areas are not prepared to meet them and ensure with the normal living conditions.

Beyond doubt, Jack the Ripper is a cruel maniac. Despite this, it is possible to present him as the sick product of transition society. Prostitute from slums forms the image of the fallen woman, which is sick. Killing her Jack the Ripper tries to improve the society by turning their attention on the proletariat conditions issues.

For sure, it is just a version, which does not even try to justify killings of anybody. Nevertheless, these murders are not just acts of a sick person. They are signals to the society, which by its inhumanity pushed out such person on the bottom. The most powerful argument for such thesis is unhealthy interest of the public to the events concerning killings.

Inhumanity of the society is a product of unfair differentiation of labor commodities and disrespect to the human honor and dignity. Thus in order to prevent such cases, which until now are possible in countries with unstable economic situation, big rate of unemployment and so on, it is necessary to cure society at first, and the murderer afterwards.

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