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The bourgeois and the worker. 1848.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz
Publication date: February 2010
From one revolution to another: 1830 and 1848
If it has multiple causes and knows various actors, the revolution of July 1830 is also a popular and workers' movement. Indeed, during the Trois Glorieuses (July 27, 28 and 29, 1830), it was the insurrection of the Parisian people, made up of craftsmen, shopkeepers, seasonal workers, the excluded and the unemployed, which precipitated the end of the reign of Charles X and the Restoration. Once again, workers and proletarians play a decisive role in the success of the movement, which leads to the establishment of the IIe Republic. The print was made the day after this revolution, in a period of hesitation and political contradictions, of ambiguities and bitterness for the workers: victorious, they fear seeing their demands once again forgotten by the ruling class. . Hence a strong sense of the need to be vigilant and demanding.
Worker and bourgeois: the union of contrasts?
The bourgeois and the worker, 1848 is a print by Jean-Pierre Moynet, genre and architectural painter, designer and illustrator. It was probably produced shortly after the revolution of 1848. This type of image was widely distributed at the time, especially among workers, many of whom read little or nothing. It represents a "dialogue" between a worker and a bourgeois. The scene takes place in what appears to be a quarry, surrounded by blocks of stone. Standing in the center of the composition, a worker in working clothes, otherwise typical of “forty-eight” fashion with his scarf tied around his neck, momentarily put down his pickaxe. Arms folded, firmly planted on his legs, the robust, bearded man looks assertive and determined. He seems to be waiting for a response from the bourgeois to whom he addresses the words inscribed in the caption: “Let's see Bourgeois… You have confiscated two revolutions for your own benefit only. - We start the job again in 1848 so that everyone wins YOU and US ... You call that being demanding, frankly, IT'S JUST. Sitting on a block of stone, the elegant bourgeois leans with both hands on his cane, his own "tool" which wears a tie instead of a scarf, shoes and not clogs. In the background, a worker turns his back to the stage, bent over his work, his sleeves rolled up, attesting both to the multitude of workers and to his capacity for physical labor as well as for political discussion.
Workers' consciousness and determination
Intended for a wide audience, the print conveys a general political and historical message in a simple, clear and direct manner. Both the worker and the bourgeois (also referred to as "bourgeois" without further particularization) are types here. Likewise, the site does not have any importance in itself (hence the barely sketched background). By his words, the worker shows a class consciousness structured by the opposition between "US" and "YOU". It also presents the working-class, popular version of recent history: during the “two revolutions” of 1789 and 1830, the people would have carried out the “work”, that is to say the insurrection, but only the bourgeoisie. would have benefited from it, betraying the political and social aspirations of the workers. If this analysis can be qualified, it was in any case developed in the 1830s and 1840s by the most radical republican circles, and disseminated among the workers.
Moynet’s print urges the workers to remain vigilant, to keep the pressure on the bourgeoisie and the rulers to obtain their just due. The worker's attitude attests to this mistrust: more politicized, less docile and less naive, he interrupted his work to "discuss" firmly with the bourgeoisie. The image even expresses a veiled tension: the build of the worker, his calm demeanor, his deference without servility, the pickaxe (opposed to the cane), suggest a capacity for insurrection which would not fail to mobilize in the event of new injustice. The arms, the pickaxe and the stones can either be used to build the new French society, or be transformed into weapons and barricades. However, the “YOU” and the “US” can still be united by an “AND”: it is possible that “everyone wins”. Such an affirmation of the necessity and the possibility of collaboration between these two classes is typical of the "illusions" of 1848. The sequence of events also saw workers fail to defend their rights, especially during the June days which follow the closure of national workshops. "Class war" according to Tocqueville, these days mark the brutal end of this dream of sharing and understanding.
- Second Republic
- Revolution of 1830
- Revolution of 1848
- working class
Jean-Claude CARON, France from 1815 to 1848, Paris, Armand Colin, coll. “Cursus”, 1996. Gérard NOIRIEL, The Workers in French Society (XIXth-XXth century), Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points", 1986.Philippe VIGIER, La Seconde République, Paris, P.U.F., coll. "What do I know? », 1996.
To cite this article
Alexandre SUMPF, "Worker and bourgeois"