Friday, September 17, 2010
Wobbly Times number 87
Marat/Sade part one
"At that time the working classes of the towns, taking them in the bulk, were not yet readily distinguishable, as regards their interests, from the poorer sections of the middle-class. The whole question seemed only one of degree, from the well-to-do (for that time) large employer of labour like Reveillon or Santerre, a rara avis, of whom only a few specimens existed in Paris and in other large towns, through the small master working himself and employing a few journeymen to assist him, to the small independent craftsman who could not afford to employ labour, down to the journeyman labourer himself. There seemed no essential economic halting-place. At the top of the scale you had a man relatively rich, but still not rich as the noble was rich, and at the lower end of the scale you had various gradations of poverty. Outside this small industrial middle-class of the towns was to be found the man of the land, the peasant, who formed the bulk of the population of France. Here, in the peasant in his hut, as against the noble in his chateau, the lord of the countryside, was to be found the antithesis of rich and poor in its most direct and its sharpest form. Bad seasons and abject local conditions had driven numbers of the peasantry into the towns, both before and during the early years of the Revolution. These detached elements of the rural class formed a vagabond population, living from hand to mouth, and not fitting into any distinct section of society as then organised. In the France of the eighteenth century, the intellectual and bureaucratic middle-class, including the middle ranks of the clergy, attached by social and economic bonds to the smaller noblesse, and which formed the intellectual backbone of the moderate side of the Revolution, are not to be confounded, it should be observed, with the industrial middle-class. Though also men of the Third Estate, they must not be identified with the former. From them the ranks of the Constitutionalists and Girondists were mainly recruited."
E. Belfort Bax from his introduction to 'Gracchus Babeuf'