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Nineteenth Century Revolutions and the French Working Classes

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Q] What was the impact of the revolutions and political uprisings of 1830, 1848 and 1870 on the French working classes?          The French Revolution was a critical event in global history. The effects of this revolution continued to reverberate across French society well into the nineteenth century and three subsequent revolutions occurred. The subjects of this essay are these three revolutions in 1830, 1848 and 1870 and the specific effects on the working classes shall be analysed. In 1789 the sans-culottes played an important role although afterwards conservative consolidation meant that the revolution ultimately favoured the bourgeoisie. Similarly, in the nineteenth century revolts, the power of working classes was often used to fuel the revolutions themselves. Thereafter conservatism dominated politics, resulting in benefits to the bourgeoisie and aristocracy, with the demands of the working classes often overlooked. In focussing on each nineteenth century revolution it shall be necessary to identify the causes of unrest and the results of the uprisings in terms of politics. The very fact that there was a repetitive cycle of revolution indicates that there were underlying political instabilities dominating France. After Napoleon, France reverted to a Bourbon monarchy. However, revolutionary gains were not entirely reversed and the King was bound by certain restrictions, unlike his ancestors. 1789 can be regarded as a ‘Bourgeois Revolution and ‘the nobles were, along with the clergy, the clear losers from the revolution’ (Magraw, 1988:25). The Restoration aristocracy clawed back much of their political power under the Bourbons and their power climaxed preceding the 1830 July Days. Charles X had supported policies for properties lost during the Revolution to be returned to their owners, a political bone of contention. In the immediate years preceding 1830 a classic economic crisis had emerged, inducing food shortages and forcing up grain prices. This deeply unsettled peasants and the urban masses. Charles X introduced restrictive censorship measures that had an immediate effect on one group of workers: the printers. The disenchanted bourgeoisie succeeded in rallying emotions among artisans and it was this element of the working classes that did the backbone of the fighting during the ‘Trois Glorieuses’. This artisan class were the first to identify as a proletariat and demonstrate the birth of the working class in France. They agreed with progressive republican ideas thrust upon them by the bourgeoisie. Artisans were comprised of the old craft workers and the industrial revolution was increasingly…

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Review: Revolutionary Syndicalism and French Labor: A Cause Without Rebels – by Peter N. Stearns

This short book, written in 1971, is a study of syndicalism and its effects on the French Labour movement in the twenty years preceding World War 1. French workers had learned the effectiveness of striking to improve their wages and conditions and there was an increase in strike activity which was mainly co-ordinated by syndicalist labour leaders who drew on the ideas of theorists such as Proudhon. Syndicalist Unions organised their members and there was a shift in awareness among the working classes of how to unite and fight a class struggle. Syndicalism mainly avoided politics and focussed on the economic path to fighting for workers’ rights. Ultimately the non-syndicalist unions came to the fore to champion the workers and as wages increased and conditions improved as a result of strike activity, the thoughts and ideas of the syndicalists lost favour and faded away. The book analyses why the conditions were ripe for syndicalism. The artisanship of the workers, the lack of industrialism, and the regionalism of employers and lack of large companies, all meant that France, during this period was ripe for the syndicalist ideas to flourish.

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Review: Revolutionary Syndicalism and French Labor: A Cause Without Rebels – by Peter N. Stearns

revolutionary syndicalism

This short book, written in 1971, is a study of syndicalism and its effects on the French Labour movement in the twenty years preceding World War 1. French workers had learned the effectiveness of striking to improve their wages and conditions and there was an increase in strike activity which was mainly co-ordinated by syndicalist labour leaders who drew on the ideas of theorists such as Proudhon. Syndicalist Unions organised their members and there was a shift in awareness among the working classes of how to unite and fight a class struggle. Syndicalism mainly avoided politics and focussed on the economic path to fighting for workers’ rights. Ultimately the non-syndicalist unions came to the fore to champion the workers and as wages increased and conditions improved as a result of strike activity, the thoughts and ideas of the syndicalists lost favour and faded away. The book analyses why the conditions were ripe for syndicalism. The artisanship of the workers, the lack of industrialism, and the regionalism of employers and lack of large companies, all meant that France, during this period was ripe for the syndicalist ideas to flourish.

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