France’s class wars, by Serge Halimi & Pierre Rimbert (Le Monde diplomatique - English edition, February 2019)
In times when social groups crystallise and there is undisguised class struggle, everyone has to choose sides. The centre ground disappears. And even the most liberal, educated and distinguished people drop any pretence of peaceful coexistence. Fear robs them of their composure.
During the Paris Commune in 1871, there was a similar transformation of thought among intellectuals and artists, some of whom had been fair-weather progressives. The poet Leconte de Lisle was infuriated by ‘this league of all the underclass, all the useless people, all the envious, the murderers, the thieves.’ Gustave #Flaubert thought that ‘the first remedy should be to end universal suffrage, the disgrace of the human mind.’ Émile #Zola, reassured by the punishment that had resulted in 20,000 deaths and almost 40,000 arrests, thought it offered a moral for the working class: ‘The bloodbath they have just experienced was perhaps a horrible necessity to calm some of their fevers’