The Working Classes in Revolutionary France

1848: Club Movement: The Workers Organize and Lead

  • 1830 / 1832

  • 1848

    Works Cited


    Circle Club, of the National Guard and the National Assembly

     Want to join the Club Movement?

    After all of the interesting information you have learned about the revolutionary working class, you probably want to be just like them.

    Well to be an official member, you must have an official membership card, so take one. Oh, wait, you must know about the amazingly intense club you are about to join. So read on, and then fill out your the Club card of your choice.


    Club of the French Republicans
    (cards found in Amann, 59)

    The Club Movement developed at a rapid pace after the February insurrection of the Revolution of 1848.
    On March 1, there were 5 clubs
    On March 10, 36 clubs
    On March 15, 59 clubs
    At the club movement's peak, in April, there were 203 club societies, 149 of them from the same club federation.
    Reasons for Club Movement
    During the revolution of 1848, workers needed an outlet for political discussion and organization, and the club movement provided them with that. After the Revolution of 1830, and even before, labour organization was continuially and strenuously repressed by the French Penal Code. Though work organizations did provide support, their focus was on the craft. Worker's councils lacked the economics needed to establish a large political and social movement.
    The club movement had a traditional base: "in the Paris of the 1790s, it took the sans-culottes two years to 'invent' popular societies; in 1848 'the people' needed less than two weeks to rediscover them" (Amann, 36).
    In fact one of the most important clubs in the movement, the Society of the Rights of Man, is practically an exact replica of its 1830 namesake: the leadership, organizational structure, and ideology.
    • This club wished to revive the secret societies of the 1830s


    Why The Revolutionaries Founed Clubs
    • The clubs appealled to unity and fraternity
      • Some clubs believed that "the words 'people,' 'bourgeois,' 'army,' 'workers,' must no longer be used to divide citizens into rival or hostile categories" (Amann, 53)
    • The clubs provided a civic education, and not just in the political process of the representative democracy.
    • Social reform, especially that benefiting the working man, was focus on highly in the clubs.
    • Of course, the practical politics and forthcoming political campaign was a large reason to join and start a club. For "the clubs promised personal political involvment to prospective members" (Amann, 53).
      • This was important to the working class, who had been kept out of the political process for centuries. Suffrage had just been granted to working class men, and they meant to use their votes.
    • Dissatisfaction with the Provisional Government is a another cause for club involvment. This government that had been "proclaimed by the people-in-arms," did not work as the Republic it claimed to be, and continuiosly restricted working class rights.
    Political Leadership within the Clubs
    The table illustrates the large role that the workers played in the club movement. They had the largest percentage of presidential leadership within the clubs surveyed.

    Club Presidents According to Profession


     Percentage of Presidents
     Workers  23
     Intellectuals (writers, professors)  22
     Bourgeois (managers,employers)  21
     White Collar Workers  18
     "Popular Bourgeoisie"  9

    (Table information from Amann, 41)
    Considering that society, politics, and even political parties were dominated by professionals and the elite, the club movement was a great oppurtunity for the working class. In the political realm of France, a great emphasis was placed on oratory, leagal skills, and the ability to organize beyond the local level. These skills were easily accessible to well-educated, high income professionals.
    Therefore workers, though playing a large role in their own politics since 1830, did so under the supervision and guidance of the middle or upper classes. The club movement gave the workers a chance to lead and gain the political skills necassary to participate on the same level as those above them.


    Now that you have learned about wonders of the Club Movement be sure to sign up for membership