Une réflexion sur la classe ouvrière en France, n’hésitez pas à donner votre avis.
The question of the working class in France since the end of monarchy- Part 1
Nowadays, the French left wing has left the traditional fight for the working class, to the protection of the minorities. It is partially due to their decreasing numbers in the French population and to the liberalization of our society.
In 1791, the liberals shut down corporations in France. This means for laborers that they have no more social protection and are obliged to work for companies. It is the beginning of a realization among workers of their condition as a mass.
Throughout the nineteenth century, no social protection system existed and the working class was the lowest preoccupation of the temporary governments that governed France.
For example, the Second Republic heartlessly massacred strikers during the June 1848 events, leading towards a great distrust between Republicans and the working class. That will later explain the traditional preference of the working class for political extremes, equally from the left and right.
For example, when Napoléon III became emperor, he was popular in the minds of the poor for being the one who chased the Republicans and sent them to exile.
Another opposition between the Republicans and the working class was ideology. Republicans had the idea of the universal right to vote, an individual having the power of one vote. Without doubt, it clearly contradicts the Marxist view of masses. Moreover, Republicans saw worker strikes as a threat to France, explaining the general tendency to send the army to break them and the fright Republicans had of masses.
To emphasize the difference, the first leader to ever give rights to the working class was Napoleon III, with the influence the left-wing writer Louis Blanc had over him.
But it is in 1871, when the Third Republic comes in place, that the workers of Paris start to rebel in what we call the “Commune de Paris” against center-left Republicans in a very important socialist movement. They temporarily abolished personal property and individual power, it obviously infuriated the Republicans, but with a notable anecdote.
At the very beginning of the rebellion, Georges Clemenceau, mayor of the XVIII arrondissement, decided to stay within the city walls. Adolphe Thiers and Jules Ferry desperately needed a reason to invade Paris. So they sent a suicide commando troop to steal the cannons of Paris as they knew Parisians would kill them. It was as planned, a failure, as the troop was captured by militia. When Clemenceau was informed, he rushed to meet the crowd in possession of the prisoners. But it was too late as the soldiers were being ripped apart by bloodthirsty Parisians. As they were nearing Clemenceau to murder him too, he shouted “You bastards! You will now have to die as you have fallen into their trap!”. Bewildered, the crowd was paralyzed and let Clemenceau escape.
It came to an end in a bloodbath where 20 000-30 000 people died. The rest of the prisoners were sent to Guyana, also known as hell on earth in the time.
In 1880, the Conservative Republic mostly helped peasants, as they made up nearly 75% of the population. A protectionist policy was made for food importations, leading to a subsequent rise in bread price. This meant starvation for the working class.
When the populist, monarchist and anti-republican general Georges Boulanger became famous, an important part of the working class followed him, Paul Déroulède contributed in forming an anti-semitic militia, the Ligue des patriotes.
So the integration of the working class to the republic seemed impossible, until the left-wing republican intellectuals Jean Jaurès, Alexandre Millerand and Jules Guesde took the head of the socialist movement.