The Working Classes in Revolutionary France

1830: Workers as Activists in Politics



Works Cited

Importance of Revolution of 1830 for Workers
In the eyes of the upperclass, the working class was dependent on them for political leadership. However their action in the Revolution of 1830 displayed that they had well formulated political ideas of their own.
In the revolution of 1830, the workers fought for their own liberty: the freedom to work in the trade in which they were trained, and for better working and living conditions.
The Revolution of 1830 was very important for the working class revolutionaries
  • It allowed the workers to find their voice in society and politics.
  • It acted as an important catalyst for the development of workers' demands and organizations
  • After the revolution the workers became a permanent and increasingly organized force in Paris


Political Ideologies of the Workers in 1830

The workers ideologies actually paralled those of their sans-culottes fathers in 1789:

  • They hated priests, nobles, and the royalists
  • They loved the nation, the army, and the legend of napolean :
  • In fact many fighting in 1830 were veterans from the Napolean wars

The workers struck out at the Bourbons, the nobles, the priests, just as their precursors had, but the workers in 1830 had another grievance:
  • the forces of the industrialization that threatened to deprive them of their dignity and status.
Political Action After The Revolution
The revolution gave the working class confidence to ask for what they believed they had won at the barricades. Most demands concerned working conditions, which effected the lower classes most:
  • Wanted government to protect their jobs and their standard of living
    • Set fixed wages and hours, Shorter workday - 10 hr. day
    • Wanted the government to enforce contracts between employer and employee
  • Demanded a cure of all economic ills, which meant higher pay
  • Insisted that the state create more jobs and employers keep their workshops open
  • Wanted the end to indirect taxes, especially those on wine
  • Lower maximum price on bread
  • The workers disliked foreign workers, and not just from other countries, but also from other provinces and counties, and wanted them removed from their provinces.

Upper class Reaction to Workers' Political Action

The middle class was shocked that the working class would make demands on the political leaders and expect change. The conflicting goals of the artisan workers and the new "bourgeois monarchy" resulted in confusion, because neither group understood or cared where the other was coming from. In reality, the working class crowd was uninvolved in the quarrel between the government and its elite antagonists:

"thousands of Paris workingmen during the depression years of the late 1820s and early 1830s had specific grievances - lack of work, low wages, the high price of bread - that had nothing to do with the dispute . . . between the monarchy and the counter-elite" (Pinkney ).

    The upper classes failed to realize that the working class had an agenda all of their own, and underestimated the power that the lower class had politically. For the working class, their work was their priority. They fought for their own liberty: the freedom to work at your trained specialty. They fought for the dignity of their class and their men.

    The revolution of 1830, as seen in Les Miserables, was the starting point for the workers involvement in politics, for it allowed the workers to unify and demand their rights, and by doing so, showed the upper classes that the working class too had a voice in French society.