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THE MEANING OF CLASS STRUGGLE: MARX AND THE 1848 JUNE DAYS

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Karl Marx characterized the 1848 June Days uprising as a class struggle between proletarians and the bourgeoisie. But modern investigations have shown that the insurgents actually consisted primarily of artisans and not proletarians. They have also undermined Marx's claim that one of the primary forces used to defeat the insurgency, the Mobile Guard, was recruited from the lumpenproletariat, when in fact they shared the same social background as the insurgents. As a result of these findings, critics have questioned the adequacy of Marx's class analysis and concluded that he was wrong to describe the June Days as a class struggle. I argue that the empirical findings represent serious shortcomings in Marx's account and need to be properly incorporated into our understanding of the uprising. However, I challenge the characterisation of Marx's class analysis and show that though the June Days were not the class struggle that Marx presented, they were still a class struggle in his understanding of what class struggle means.
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Keywords: 1848 French Revolution; Journées de Juin; June Days; Karl Marx; Mobile Guard; artisans; class; class struggle; lumpenproletariat; petty bourgeoisie; proleterians

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2021

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