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The Origins of Rural Socialism in Europe: Economic Change and the Provençal Peasantry, 1870-1914 Author(s): Tony

Judt Source: Social History, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jan., 1976), pp. 45-65 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4284598 . Accessed: 24/10/2011 17:46
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Tony Judt

The Europe:

origins Provenal

of

rural

socialism change and
I870-1914

in

economic

the

peasantry,

Observers of the world scene in the mid-twentieth century have come to accept the existence of a relationship between the situation of the peasantry and the growth of revolutionary movements in a variety of countries at very different stages of development. In recent years a number of attempts have been made to describe the nature of this relationship. In particular, it has seemed important to establish the exact role of the peasantry as an agent of social change, and a condition of this has been an understanding of the ways in which revolutionary ideas permeate rural societies. The most successful studies of this kind have dealt with non-European societies; partly because it is clearly outside of Europe that the major social upheavals of recent years have taken place, but partly also because it is obvious that 'peasants' of some kind or another have been important in determining both the nature and the consequences of these upheavals.' In this article I want to consider the value of some of the conclusions drawn from the extra-European experience when applied to the study of social change within Europe itself. In particular, it seems useful to direct attention to something which, in the European context, has normally been seen as a primarily urban phenomenon: the growth of socialist movements at the end of the nineteenth century. In primarily agricultural societies today it has not been possible to assume some kind of normative relationship between socialism and the revolutionary class; on the contrary, it has been necessary to search for explanations of why certain peasants at certain times should have been attracted to collectivist ideas. But in Europe the 'natural' relationship between revolutionary socialism and the nascent industrial working class has readily been assumed to exist, and accounts of the development of that relationship have been descriptive rather than explanatory. But there have been areas of Europe where socialism has flourished in rural environments, and where the linear pattern of the growth of urban socialism does not apply. A notable example is France. The 'problem' may be described briefly. In I9I4, nine years after the founding of the French Socialist Party, eight out of the twelve ' See, interalia, E. J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels esp. 453-509; T. Shanin(ed.), Peasants and Peasant
(Manchester, 1959); E. R. Wolf, Peasant Warsof the Twentieth Century (1969); Barrington Moore Jnr., Societies (1971); E. L. Jonesand S. J. Woolf(eds.), Development Agrarian Change Economic and (1974).

and Social Origins Dictatorship Democracy of (1969),

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departments where socialists received the support of over 20 per cent of the electorate were predominantly rural. In 1956, of the eighteen departments where over 25 per cent of the electorate voted communist, twelve were similarly rural. If we were dealing with a transient phenomenon of the late nineteenth century, the explanation for it would still be of interest. But the rural strength of the French left has proved durable. France had her industrial cities of course, her textile towns and mining communities, and contemporaries, like later historians, saw socialism as an outgrowth of these, an ideology whose appeal was exclusively to urban workers. Yet by 19 14, less than forty years after the collapse of the old revolutionary movement in the aftermath of the Commune, French socialists were facing a novel situation; rural France was not disappearing at the rate they had anticipated, and their chief support, in elections at least, was coming from the countryside.2 Two kinds of explanation are normally offered for the enthusiasm with which some French peasants turned to the socialists between the i 88os and the First World War. The a first argues a case based on the notion of pas d'ennemi gauche.That is to say, it is suggested that there were certain parts of France which inherited a tradition of extremism; peasants in these areas were always susceptible to anti-government, revolutionary propaganda. They supported the Democrates-Socialistes in the Second Republic, the radicals in the last years of the nineteenth century, the socialists until the inter-war years, and the communists thereafter, in each case forsaking the old Left, now become respectable, for the new one. The second theory invokes the notion of a 'peasant socialism'. It suggests that rural populations were susceptible to atavistic appeals against the threat of industrial society, appeals which harked back to some imagined past community of free, equal and secure farmers, and that peasants recognized this element, these appeals, in the socialist movements of the late nineteenth century. Both these interpretations are open to question, partly because they make assumptions which condition the way the history of socialism is studied, and partly because they are inadequate as responses to some of the problems which we shall encounter in the evidence. The first case presumes that the 'left', as seen by peasants, was always the same, that it changed only in name, and that inherited traditions of political allegiancewere impervious to economic and social changes. This is not, of course, an argumentconfined exclusively to explaining the presence of socialism in the countryside; a recent study of the resentment felt among Marseillais artisans at their declining status in a period of economic growth concludes: 'It therefore stands to reason that ideologies which expressed these resentments - republicanism, democracy, socialism - gained increasing popularity.'3 This does not follow - there have been reactionary movements no less successful at
2 For electionresults,see F. Goguel, Geographie R. Pierre,Les Ongines svndicalismedusocialisme et du (Paris,195i ). The Dr6meFedera- dans le Dr6me (Paris, 1973), 124, 174. deselectionsfranfais 3 W. H. Sewell, 'Social change and the rise of of tion Socialiste Autonome 1904 hadamembership in politics in nineteenthcentury Marwhom 15 per cent were peasants. By I914 its successor working-class had membership. See seille', Past & Present, no. 65 (November 1974), 88. federation 22 per cent peasant

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exploiting similar discontent - but even if it did we should still have to explain the different appeals of the various ideologies listed. As we shall see below, their appeal was not always interchangeable. But the more serious charge against this kind of approach when applied to the countryside is that it fails to distinguish betweenpeasants, leaving them, like Marx's 'potatoes in a sack', all rolling around at the mercy of national political labels. The second interpretation has the virtue of treating peasants as a discrete category deserving of separate consideration. But it nevertheless presumes that socialism in the countryside looked very different from its urban counterpart. That is, in order to explain why peasants became socialist, it is felt necessary to presume that by socialism they understood something rather peculiarly environmentally appropriate. But the fact is that the urban socialists made no such concession to special ruralneeds in their propaganda, while the Proudhonian socialism of small producers, the kind of thing supposedly more attractive to the French peasantry, was stone dead by the I 8gos (outside of certain skilled artisanaltrades and their syndical organizations4),made no appearancein provincial politics after the eighties, and cannot be revived in order to help account for the socialist votes of the peasants. A more sophisticated tool for explaining the implantation of socialism in rural France is the notion of the 'middle peasant'. Usually a concept associated with differentiating explanations of peasant revolutions in non-industrial societies,5 it has recently been applied with some success in a study of the Rumanian peasant revolt of I907 6 It has the attraction of being concerned both to distinguish between categories of peasant, and to relate their behaviour to changes in their condition. The problem, of course, comes with the need to find what that relationship is; why, for example, should middle peasants (that is, small independent peasant proprietors) be susceptible to one kind of appeal against their situation rather than another? Structural accounts of the tension between change and tradition in rural societies do not necessarily provide an answer. Thus, Wolf lists a number of factors which handicap peasants in moving from passive resentment to active political participation: isolation, routine, the retreat to a subsistence economy, absence of a consciousness of common interests. He also lists reasons why middle peasants in particularhave been at the forefront of revolutionary support: the threat of a developing economy, the loss of old protections, ending of communal rights, etc. But these are necessarily staticaccounts; they do not bring out the dynamic of the move from economic change to political participation. Much of what Wolf has to say on the structureof peasant fears, resentments and handicaps is very relevant to the French experience; but when he ventures to provide a link, when he says that 'it is the very attempt of the middle and free peasant to remain traditional which makes him revolutionary', the proposition is less self-evidently true, in the European experience at least.' Nevertheless, the 'Wolf thesis' (it is not of course
' See J. Julliard, Fernand et Pelloutier lesorigines 1907', du tionandpeasant the rebellion: caseof Romania syndicalisme d'action directe (Paris, I974), passim. Sociological Review. to be publishedin the American 7 Wolf, op. cit., 282ff. 5 Wolf, op. cit., 282-9S. 6 See D. Chirot and C. Ragin,'The market, tradi-

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exclusive to him) does focus attention on the need to investigate the peasants' situation, and can therefore serve as a useful starting-point for such an investigation. If we wish to understand why peasants came to socialism, we must first look at the peasantsthemselves. For this purpose, therefore, this article is concerned with the department of the Var, in Provence, where support for the socialist left was to become very marked in the years before 19 I4. The Provenqal situation is particularly interesting. The region was dominated by peasant freeholders of small property, a stratum in French society which had done rather well out of the revolutionary settlements of the 1790s,8 and also from the boom years of the mid-nineteenth century. Owning property, producing goods much in demand, notably wine,9 such men ought, on the face of it, to have been the least receptive to revolutionary ideas. Yet by 19 I 4 the socialists were sweeping the board in most of the department, and every third adult male in the region was voting for them. The rise of socialism in the Var, and some overall explanations for it, together with an account of the local economic geography, have been considered elsewhere;1O for the purposes of this study, it may be more instructive to take just three Provenqalvillages and make some comparative points. This will help illustrate the differences between peasants even within a single department, and may serve as a preliminary guide to their different political behaviour. The villages chosen are not necessarily 'typical', but each represents many similar communities in the area, and the evidence they provide is a reasonably faithful reflection of the region as a whole. The three communes are Carces, Comps and la Garde-Freinet; all are in Provence, in the Var. Carces is a village in the fertile central valley of the Var department, some thirty-five miles north-east of Toulon. In the I89os it had a population of some 2,000 people (I ,755 in i896)," and, with the exception of a handful of workers employed by a local hat manufacturer, it was exclusively agricultural, allowing for such ancillaries as blacksmith, gendarme, schoolteacher and so forth.12 Furthermore, 6o per cent of all land under cultivation in the commune was devoted to the vine (by 1926, Carces produced 55,383 hectolitres of wine per annum, an output among the largest in the area13), so that the production of wine played a predominant, perhaps an overwhelming role in the local economy and daily life. La Garde-Freinet is in the hills, a few kilometres inland from St Tropez. Nowadays a picturesque haunt of retired British professors, it was at the end of the nineteenth century
g This happens to be true of the Var, though even here much small peasant property was in existence before 1789. Elsewhere in France the small peasants were not necessarily the main beneficiaries of the revolutionary settlements, and the latter should not be taken as an explanation for everything in French society in the nineteenth century, from entrepreneurial incompetence to demographic decline. 9 In 1904 the department produced 1,645,000 du hectolitres of wine. See Archives Departementales I'ar (henceforth A. D. lar), XIV, M 29-1, for figures

in on wine production these years. 10 of See T. R. Judt, 'The development socialism of the in France: example the Var',HistoricalJournal, xviii, I (1975), 55-83. ar, see figures, .4.D. V XI, M 2, 1. Forpopulation 4, Statistiques 12 See A.D. lar, XIV, M i., Agnicoles. are devotedto the vine,calculations 13 For the area based on the sourcequotedin note 12. For output per annum,see sourcequotedin note 9.

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The VarregionIofProNinc

a commune of something over 2,000 persons, of whom more than 400 were involved in the

The of of productionand manufacture cork and cork-based products.14 remainder the workingpopulation involvedin agriculture; was here,the vine occupieda sizeable3o per
cent of all cultivable land, and was of course linked to the cork industry.'5 Comps is in the alpine foothills on the road from Toulon to Castellane, nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, overlooking the Verdon gorges, and with a population in I896 of 6I3 persons. No industry is recorded as being present in the commune, and the local economy depended exclusively on the land. Situated on a stony plateau, Comps' agriculturaloutput was confined, as in the previous century, to wheat and rye; it was too high, and too cold, for wine or olives, the staple crops of lower Provence. Comps was remote at the best of times, and despite being on the old post road, it was often cut off in the winter.'6 Of these three villages, all of them defined, for administrativepurposes, as rural (in that by the turn of the century none of them could boast a population of more than 2,000 souls), Carces was the most socialist in political inclination. As early as I898 it gave the socialist candidate over 50 per cent of the votes, and maintainedthis trend so that by I 914 socialists there were securing 8o per cent of the votes in the first round of local and nationalelections. La Garde-Freinet was less consistent; although socialists won there regularly from I898 onwards, by I 9 I 0 they could still not be certain of securing a majority of the votes cast at the first round of elections (a second round was called if no candidate won an absolute 14 For population 15 Sourcesas in notes9 and 12, p. 48. figures,see A.D. Var,XI, M 2,
16 ForComps x; foroccupations sourcequotedin note 12, p. 48. see figures,see A.D. VarXI,M 2, 1; for In earliertimesla Garde-Freinet hadleadmines agricultural also see production, as note 12, p. 48. and provided wood for the RoyalNavy.

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majority at the first ballot); but by 1914 they were finally established as the ruling political faction. In Comps, by contrast, the socialist candidate in I898 won less than 5 per cent of the votes, and by I 9 14 his successor was still in a minority at the national elections of that year.'7 The three communes were affected in very different ways by the agriculturaldepression and other changes taking place outside. The phylloxera crisis, for example, destroyed the foundations of the prosperity of Carces. In the space of a few years in the late seventies and eighties its wine-based local wealth crumbled. In the mid-eighties in particularthe commune's vineyards were among the worst hit in the whole region.'8 Between I876 and i886 the population fell from 2,607 to 2,006, as men and women emigrated to the coastal towns, to Marseille, and even further afield, in search of work.'9 A population density of 75 to the square kilometre in I876 fell to 53 in 906. Phylloxera also affected la Garde-Freinet, though less drastically; more important here was the growing volume of cork imported cheaply into France, from Spain and elsewhere. The numerous small enterprises which had flourished in the expansion years of the mid-century fell away to nothing, and the skilled artisans, unable to return to the rotting vineyards, emigrated in search of work. This process was accentuated by a disastrous strike in x881-2. The cork workers demanded an increase of 25c per thousand corks. The bosses refused, and a strike began on 9 August 188 x . By 17 August the small employers had given way and their workers returned. But the rest stayed on strike until I882. When they finally returned, defeated, in April of that year, their militancy was broken. Those who remained accepted the employers' victory; but many had left the village for good, and the end of the strike markedthe decline of the local cork industry. It is perhapssignificant that the workers'defeat coincided with an agriculturalcrisis which removed the 'fall-back' into farm work which had formerly served to strengthen their hand in such conflicts (on the general question of militancy in mixed 'transitional' economies, see below).20 Although by i 886 the population of la Garde-Freinet had fallen by only 300 from the I 876 figure of 2,650 persons, by I906 it stood at a mere 1,781. Comps, in contrast, was quite unaffected by these developments. It was not just that it had no wine to suffer from the phylloxera, and no industry to be hit by outside competition" and cheap transport; the agriculture which it could boast was mostly of the subsistence kind, with local peasants surviving on a few hectares and a couple of goats. Comps had not benefited from the good years of the mid-century, but it had, conversely, little to lose, and although its population was declining throughout most of our period, this was more from natural 'wastage' than from emigration, and between I876 and i 886 it actuallygrew a little (from8io to 942 persons).2' The different effects on these communes of the contemporary economic climate were linked to another important variable, that of the structure of land-holdings. In Carcesand
'7

For election results, see A.D. Var, II, M 3,

15-46.
18

XI, fromcensusfiguresin A.D. V'ar, M 2/i. 20 Fordetails the strike ouvriers in bouchonniers of of see Fordetailsof the effectsof phylloxera theVar, la Garde-Freinet, A.D. Var, IV, M41, Espn't in

see A.D. Var, XIV, M 29, 8-12. Publique 1877-1909. '" Detailsof population declinemay be calculated 21 Source as in note ig.

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la Garde-Freinet, less sharecroppers (metayers) tenantfarmers and represented than5 per the cent of the numberof peasants; remainder weresmallproprietors, theirown working land. But in Comps, with its unremunerative farmsand wide-openspaces, therewas a and it As moresubstantial numberof sharecroppers tenants.22 a consequence, wasnotrare in to findlocalobservers theirtenants reporting, this as in otherareas,landlords marching on A to the polls, with instructions how to vote and underthreatof eviction.23 firstclue, of in then, to the paradox a socialistvote amongstindependent property-owning peasants this regionof Franceis preciselythat independence. A variable whichis oftenheld to be linkedwithpoliticization modernizing in societiesis the level of literacy. So far as Franceis concerned,assessingthe relationship between literacyand politicizationposes special problems.Reliablestatisticsare few; the best available records,but thesereflectthe figuresarethose obtainedfromarmyconscription level of literacy of a very particularand probablyunrepresentative stratum of the population; they also, of course,concernmen alone.Althoughit is truethatin this period and politicalaffiliation expressionwere largelya masculinephenomenon,it would still be interesting to know what sort of literacy rate prevailedamong women, in this dechristianized area.Somekindof guideto thiscanbe foundin reports completed local by mayorsfor the censusesin the periodafterthe I 870s, butrecords provided localelected by officials presenta host of problems shouldonly be usedwith circumspection. and Lastly, literacy,to the officialmindin nineteenth-century France,meantabilityto readandwrite in in French; so faras we areconcerned with the levelof awareness communication and in these villages, it would be equally relevantto know how many people could and did in communicate Provenqal, example. for Bearingthe abovein mind, we can still obtainsome ideaof the levelsof literacyin our selectedvillagesin theseyears.In I 889, figuresfortotalilliteracy amongconscripts the in Var ranged from none to 14 per cent accordingto area; these figuresare of course low misleadingly - they reflectthe firstfruitsof compulsory primary education,benefits not available the oldergenerations.But even allowingfor this, they showno apparent to correlation with politicalleanings.Carces,for example,lay somewherein the middleof the literacy range- 4 -8percentof its conscripts couldneitherreadnorwrite;yet it laywell to the left of manymore'literate'communes.Comps,it is true, wasamongthe regionsof the Varwiththe highestrateof illiteracy (I4-2 percent), and, in an earlier period(i 876), the census returnsgive an adult illiteracyrate of 56 per cent for men, 62 per cent for women.24 otherregionsof the department But with high ratesof illiteracydid not share Comps'spredilection conservatism. Garde-Freinet an even highernumberof for La had adult male illiteratesin I876 (66.3 per cent). The absenceof anycorrelation betweenliteracy politicization Franceis borneout and in
' Figures thenumbers proprietaires, for of metayers
and fermters in each commune may be found in A.D. Var,Xl, M 2, 6-7, and in XIV, M i9, 8.
24 For Compsin 1876,see the figures provided for the nationalcensus in A.D. Var,Xl, M 2, 64. For of see records the literacy levelsof Frenchconscripts,

3 See policereports during October 1885elections, Archives Nationales F'14270, in A.D. Var,IV, M 41, Esprit Publique I877-1909. conscrits, 1899.

Degre d'instruction des

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in other areas. The notably high standard of education in the upper valleys of the Alps, for example, was quite unlinked with any degree of secularization or propensity to political protest. In an earlier period, Michel Vovelle has noted the inverse relationship between literacy and the presence of revolutionary clubs in the Var in the Year I.25 Clearly, peasants' propensity to revolt, or even to vote for advanced political movements, was not increased by their reported ability to read or write. If we look, however, not at the education of the peasant population, but at its location, then certain correlations do begin to emerge. In I893, over 90 per cent of the commune of Carces lived in the actual nuclear village itself; in la Garde-Freinet, 72-7 per cent of the population were in the town; but the village of Comps itself housed only 45 per cent of the population over whom it exercised jurisdiction, the rest being spread out in isolated farms and hamlets all across the plateau. Bearing thesedifferences in mind, we can more properly understand why literacy as such was not important.26 We can readily accept that socialist propaganda, in order to be effective, had to be read - most of it was in the form of election manifestoes, pamphlets, handbills, posters and newspapers (many of the Var communes were difficult of access, and speakerstended to confine their activities to the valleys and coastal plain). But it did not have to be readby everyone. More commonly, a local cafe would subscribe to a socialist journal, and would affix election posters to its walls, and the word would be spread in the evenings by way of a public reading.27What mattered, therefore, was the frequency and size of such gatherings, and this in turn was a function of the whereaboutsof the local population. Comps had a lot of illiterate citizens, to be sure. But more significantly, they lived all over the place and rarely congregated together. The correlation between the location of the population (that is, whether agglomerated or spread out) and the political colour of the commune is very marked; the inhabitants of dispersed communes were very rarely socialist. The well-documented contrast between the central valley communes of Lorgues and le Luc further demonstrates this point. Similar in many other respects, they differed markedlyin this. Le Luc had 84 per cent of its population in the town itself, whereas over 30 per cent of the population of Lorgues lived in the countryside. Their long-standing political conflict, with le Luc in the vanguard of the socialist movement, and Lorgues a bastion of reaction since the eighteenth century, may be more than accidentally related to the distribution of their respective populations.28 The Lorgues-le Luc contrast raises the question of the importance of local traditions.
23 Michel all du republicans had 'their' cafe; there was even a Vovelle notesa' paradoxale divergence des pourcentage societeset dutauxd'alphabetisation'.'neutral' cafe! See A.D. Var, IV, M40, Esprit de See his notes in AtlasHistonique Provence (Paris, Publique 1870-1873. contrasting similarly 28 As a tool for investigating i969), 63-4. importance the elsewhere, central allegiances 26 On the locationof population this area,see political in fits location evidencedrawnfromother A.D. Var, XI, M 3, 37. Paul Bois notes also that of population alia, Bois,op.cit.,Vovelle,op. as scolarisation was high in the western half of the areas well. See, inter beingdoneby M. Anafu department the Sarthe,yet thatareahasremained cit., 64, and workcurrently of in movement the Emilia.I have See P. Bois, Paysansde on the co-operative religiousand conservative. area for givenotherexamples the Provence in judt, op. l'Ouest(Paris, 1971), 65.
27

It was reported from the village of Salernes, in

cit., 7 1-2.

and the Var,in 1873,thatbonapartists, conservatives,

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The problemof assessingthe importanceof a local politicalinheritance,often of the vaguestkind, remainsa difficultone. Althoughstudentsof social changeare nowadays moreinclindedto allowfor the importance 'habit','myth'or whatever a variable, of as the difficulty quantifying effectsoften leadsthem to pay obeisanceto it in passing,and of its then move on with relief to more tangible matters.29 One recent study inverts this to approach the pointwhereit becomesimpossible accountforanychanges attitude to in at are all! The authoris then necessarily obligedto arguethatsuchchangesin attitude really the old, traditional responsesto new stimuli (whichin theirturn are only reallythe old problemsin new guise).30 in tradition seemsnotto So faras the Varis concerned, this periodat least,localpolitical in the have been very important determining stancetakenin responseto new problems. There wasnothingin the historyof Carcesor Compsto accountfor theirwidelydiffering both hadat somestagebeendominated different sides in the Wars politicalbehaviour; by of Religion,the Fronde,the Revolutionand even the Second Republic.Indeed,whatis perhapsstartling about Carces, for example, is preciselythe absence before I88o of anythingto suggest that it would become sympatheticto socialism. In I848 it voted for overwhelmingly LouisNapoleon(givinghim8 *2 percentof the votes);in I 849 it gave the left candidate,LedruRollin,a mere23 percent of the votes,andin I870 it supported of the Emperor,in the referendum that year, by an overwhelming 935 per cent.31 By contrast,la Garde-Freinet famous.In the SecondRepublicit hadalready was given Louis Napoleona paltry 2 percentof its votesin I 848; in I85 I the communeroseagainst 4 the Louis Napoleon'scoupd'etat,producing highestnumberof resistorsper headof the in wereconsidered population all of France.I 14 of thosecaptured sufficiently dangerous to merit severe punishment,from a communenumberinga total populationof 2,433 of and inhabitants, the villagewrotefor itselfa placein history,underthe pseudonym La Even in I870 the communevoted 'no' in the des Palud,in Zola'sLa Fortune Rougon.32 in by weremerelyaverage terms referendum 56*4percent.3' Yet by the I 8908 the Gardois of the supporttheygavethe socialists elections,andwereif anything at under-represented werenot amongactualsocialistpartymembers.In isolation,then, stronglocaltraditions sufficientto producelastingpoliticalcharacteristics. A final point on which our Provensalvillages may furnishsome useful indications a concerns suggestion,referred earlier partof thepasd'ennemigauche the to as explanation of for peasantsocialism,that socialismin this andotherregionswasthe natural inheritor the mantleof radicalism. Lookingata political mapof the Varasa whole,the pictureis one of a department which, mostly radicalin the eighties, was largelysocialisttwo decades later. It is easy to see how historianshave come to see such maps,3 in this and other a regions,as indicating smoothlineartransition fromradicalism socialism.A recently to
' As an example,see L. Loubire, Radicalism Var,II, M x, 2-4. in 32 See the Garnier-Flammarionedition (1969) with Mediterranean France, 1848-1914 (New York, 1974), 231. introduction R. Ricatte,11-29. For detailsof the by 30 See Y-M. Berce, Croquants Nu-Pieds; les Icondamnes' 1851,see A.D. Var,IV, M 24, 2/3. of et soulvements paysansen Francedu i6' au 19' siecles 33 See A.D. Var, II, M 1, 2-4. 34 Inspiredby the publications Goguel, notably ff. of (Paris, 1974), especially M88
31

For theseandensuingelectionresults,see A.D.

Electorale... (Paris, 1951). Geographie

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published study of radicalism in mediterranean France presents perhaps the best-argued support for this case; it is proposed that radicalism, as an ideology of protest, suited the transitional generation in this region. It allied defence of property rights with the demand for reforms, and was only pushed aside in the price collapse of the first years of this century, when peasants turned to a more extreme form of political protest - socialism.35 It would be helpful to adopt this view, since we would thereby be freed, in the European context at least, of the need to find out what it was about socialism in particularwhich appealed to certain peasants at this time. But the evidence will not support the thesis, in Provence at least. In a general way it is contradicted by the behaviour of the whole of the of arrondissement Brignoles, covering the western Var, which voted consistently conservative until the nineties, with the radicals unable to establish any foothold, and which then turned, in a few years, into a socialist redoubt. More particularly,our own villages suggest that things were more complex. In Carces, for example, the radicals never achieved 50 per cent of the vote at any time, despite the later growth of the Socialist Party there. As late as 1889, the radicalsobtained only 24 -9 per cent of the votes (and this was in a turnout of over 81 per cent); by 1902, Vigne, the socialist candidate in Carces, was obtaining 6 I 4 per cent of the votes cast. In la Garde-Freinet the radicals did succeed in maintaining some 50 per cent of the vote until their slow, steady decline in the first decade of this century. But there appearsto be no kind of relationship between the rate of radicaldecline and the speed of socialist growth in the commune. It may, though, be worth noting that la Garde-Freinet had a higher rate of electoral abstention (with turnouts of 65 .I per cent in I 893, 65 *7per cent in I 898, 7 I 2 per cent in 1902) than Carces. Conversely, in Comps, the radicals preserved a solid block of supporters which remained consistently greater than that of the socialists, until finally transforming itself, in the 1920S, into support for the moderate centre.m Patterns such as these were repeated all across the Var, and taken in conjunction with the growing number of votes cast in communes voting socialist, even where the population was in decline, they suggest some tentative reflections. The radicalswere notlosing out to the socialists, any more than the latter were inheriting the mantle of Clemenceau.37It seems more likely that radicals and socialists in fact had differentclienteles. Socialist votes came from those who had seemingly failed to vote in earlier elections (the suggestion that socialist voters were younger men formerly ineligible to vote may be valid; but in areas of declining adult population it does not in itself account for the growing absolute number of votes being cast for the newly available socialist candidates). It may also be that the radicals had received support from just those sections of the village populations who were emigrating in large numbers - e.g. artisans, skilled workers, etc. But whatever the explanation, it does suggest that the popular idea of a 'red' Var, with each new far-left group picking up the image and votes of its predecessor, is in need of revision. If this were
Draguignan arrondissementwere sufficiently antagonisticto Clemenceau,as early as I893, to M 3, 15-46. in Jourdan, order candidate, supporttheconservative 3 On the contrary some socialistvoters in the leader. to defeatthe radical
35 Loubbre, op. cit., io6 ff. 3 Foralltheseelectionstatistics, A.D. Var,II, see

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not the case, how should we explain the consistent failure of the most extreme group of all, the anarchists, to gain any sympathy or support outside of its stronghold in Toulon? It was certainly not for lack of trying.38Socialism in particular, ratherthan some indigenous 'leftist' tradition in general, seems to have been sufficiently identifiable to receive specific support, and from certain regions more than others. We are thus brought back to our point of departure: which peasants were susceptible to socialist influence, and why was it socialism to which they turned? With the help of some of the evidence drawn from the local examples quoted, a first set of hypotheses may be suggested. The peasants most inclined to vote socialist were indeed those whom Wolf has dubbed 'middle peasants' - small property-owning farmers. These were men who, in the 185Os, had given up their traditional mixed production of goods for sale and for domestic consumption, tempted into the monoculture of wine or olives for an expanding and attractive market. As a consequence they had no fall-back when hit by depression and the wine blight, while at the same time they were increasingly subject to competition from elsewhere in France and abroad, as the finishing touches were put to the internal railway network in the French countryside. More aware of the outside world through their dealings with it,39they were also more receptive to ideas coming from outside. Moreover, such ideas could spread far more effectively in places where the population was clustered around a central point. Thus the town-dwelling peasants of the Var, like those of the Languedoc and the Rh6ne valley, were far better placed to become aware of new political ideas. As an example of this, it is significant that the wine-growers were to prove the most consistently and solidly socialist from the nineties onwards. They combined all the characteristics we have been considering: monocultural in output (and thus with a purchasing pattern and requirements similar to those of the urban workerexcept in respect of their own product), they were conscious of a markedfall in their standard of living since the days of the Second Empire. They had been exposed to new ideas in their encounters at the markets and fairs of local cities, and they were victims of an immediate and severe crisis. Furthermore, they lived in tight little villages on the Provensal hillsides, not wasting any valuable arable land through building homes outside the confines of the administrative centre itself (a consideration foreign to the wheat and dairy farmers higher up). And what was true for the vigneronsof Carces in all these respects was applicable to hundreds of similar communities. Moreover, Comps offers us the mirrorimage of these classic ' middle peasants'. Here the isolation, the lack of change and of contact with the outside, in which respect Comps typified many such communes in the Alps and also in the west of France, conspired to develop a pronounced conservatism. The inhabitants of Comps were marginal peasants, with little political or financial independence and few expectations. Their politicization
3 On the anarchists,see A.D. Var, IV, M41, ' market' in social relations which differentiates Rapports l'Esprit sur Publique. Also JeanMasse,'Les betweenpeasants questioned is here,fortheVar;here of activity anarchistes Varois 1879-1920', in Le Mouvement it is preciselythe importance commercial whichmakes peasant urbanin his life-style the so and, Social,no. 69. 3 Wolf's theory that it is the importance the ultimately,his politics. of

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was to come later, when they would finally leave the areato become day-labourersin some other part of the country, or else would go directly into an industrial city in search of unskilled work. There, whether as an urban or rural proletariat, they were to turn to syndicatesfor their protection; when they did eventually mobilize politically, it was after the First World War, and it was to the communists that they turned. As to why it should have been socialism which benefited from the problems of the middle peasant, it is important to be clear that it was not because the socialists made any special efforts to obtain a rural clientele. On the contrary, the French socialists, like the Italians, had no policies or programmes specifically directed towards the problems of the countryside (the 'rural policy' documents adopted in the nineties were simply adaptations of urban reforms and demands). It was a matter of ideological conviction amongst the supporters of Jules Guesde, for example, that the small peasantwas doomed to disappear. If the pre-war socialists had anything to offer the French peasant in his distress, it was the promise that with a socialist revolution would come the collectivization of the land, an ending to mortgages, unfair competition and the like. If we are to explain the appeal of socialism to the petitproprietaire these years, it must in in spite of offering a collectivist solution to his ills, but not be said that it attracted him perhaps precisely because it was such a solution that it did offer. Socialist pamphlets, posters, speakers all through this period continued to pursue the same line in the countryside as they did in the town. Thus Allard, the socialist deputy for the rural Draguignan constituency, in I909: 'Tous les gouvernements sont forcement en lutte contre la classe ouvriere qui veut s'emanciper.'40Not perhaps a violently revolutionary sentiment in itself, but hardly one which the radicals could have countenanced, and addressed to a peasant audience without any suggestion that they should regard the statement as other than concerning them. Similarly, a decade earlier, in 1898, we find Ferrero, the deputy for the Toulon (rural) region, speaking publicly of collectivism and the doctrines of Marx; he was followed to the platform by the same Allard who praised Ferrero'scollectivism as the necessary transitionalstage towards a communist society free of laws and government.41 It may be argued that such sweeping doctrinal utterances showed little awareness of the need to adjust propaganda to the requirements of a conservative peasantry. But to judge from the election results at least, the French socialists had their finger fairly well on the pulse of peasant emotions. In this context it is therefore significant to note that it was in regions which produced goods for market that socialists were best received. Growers of fruit, flowers, dairy farmers, wine-growers - all these were voluntarilyorganizing into collective co-operatives for production and distribution of their produce after i88o, as the only means to survive. For them, the collectivist terminology of the socialists held no fears; on the contrary, it
taxesin of 4? Quotedin A.D. Var,IV, M 52, Manifestationsop. cit.,quotesthe peasants Sostasrefusing that 1848on thegrounds 'il n'ya plusde chefs,toutle Syndicales 187i-1914. 1898.SeeA.D. Var, mondeest libre'. There was a generalfeelingon the The datewas26 September subject that 'En Republique,on ne doit plus rien ideasof 1848. Berce, payer'. See 172-4. lastingechoesof the millenarian
41

IV, M 4' Esprit Publique i877-1909. Note here the

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mayeven haveheldout hope.Andhere,perhaps, a clueto the causeof peasant lies support for not just of the left - the radicalsfor example- but specifically the socialists. The old Provenqal enteredthe capitalist in the yearsof era economyhadonly properly the SecondEmpire.Beforethen it hadbeenvaried,andto somedegreewealthy,but had of possessed all the characteristics a closed, pre-industrial society. Protest, when it occurred,was collective,localized,violent, and againstchange.The twenty-year period which then intervenedhad brokendown the old organization security(notablyin and respectof communal as rightswhich, in Provence elsewhere,virtually at disappeared this time, thoughnot frompopularmemory).But no soonerhadit replaced old economy the with somethingdifferent,the free marketeconomy,than that replacement in turn was downunderthe strainof the crisesof the lastthirdof the century.42 complex breaking Too and diverse to remain backwards,the old Provenqalpeasant economy was also too fragmented small to survivecompetitionand prolongedcrisis. Expectations the and for future had been arousedin the middleof the century,but had then been dramatically unfulfilled.Lookingagainfor a meansof voicingtheirdiscontent,the peasants the Var of attachedthemselvesto a new form of collectiveprotest, an ideologyof protestwhose origins may have been urban (and which in consequencelookedforwardratherthan but backward),43 whichwasemerging a timewhenthe needforit wasfelt mostacutelyin at parts of rural France. The strong traditionsof communalloyalty and commonaction transferred frompre-industrial themselves to protest post-industrial politics."In effect,it was as if these peasantsneverpassedthrougha stageof affiliation the ideasof laissezto in faire.Their veryvulnerability the faceof the pitfallsof a modern market economymade them sympatheticto those who rejectedit in the nameof the future. The foregoing makessomesenseof the data,butstillleavescertainpointsunsettled.In the case of France,the first of these concernsthe actualsourcesthemselves.Reference has already been madeto the unreliability certainkindsof evidenceconcerning of literacy (see aboveand note 24, p. 5I). In general,the sourcematerial grass-roots for socialhistoryin France has to be handled with care. For example, the I872 Enquete les Classes sur Ouvrieres, extremelyuseful in that it investigatedthe situationin the countryside and small towns at the beginning of the period of rural crisis, was based largely on questionnaires completed localmayors otherofficials. in the Var,atleast,many by and But such menwerealsosmallentrepreneurs somekind, andtheiranswer a questionsuch of to
which fetched 35.50 francs in 1875, had fallen to 13.50 francs 1895. A kiloof oliveoil fellfromI.S francs by in

To give but one example.A quintalof wheat, thanthrough clinging to existing on ones,it seemstrue in this instance. " On the whole background 'meridional of sociai871 to o.54francsin 1898.In areas wherethesewere bility', Provenqal local organizations communal and stapleproducts,the consequences may be imagined. traditions,see MauriceAgulhon, La Republique au For food prices, see France, Annuaire Statistique,for Village (Paris,1970);the sameauthor's VieSociale. La these years. en Provence intenieure lendemai.; la Revolution au de u It shouldnot be takenas axiomatically that (Paris, 1970) and Michel Vovelle, Piete Baroque true et urbansocialismwas 'forwardlooking'; but in the dechn'stianisationProvence XVIIIf siecle(Paris, en au sense that it offered peasants a solution to their 1973)problems through change newsocialforms,rather into
42

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as 'Quel est l'influence du travail industriel sur l'etatsanitaire?' could hardly be expected to be free of bias!45 That kind of difficulty can at least be controlled and allowed for. More complex is the changing administrative terminology. An agriculteuror an exploitantis fairly certainly someone who depends for his livelihood on the land; but his status as owner or tenant is not made clear. Even when he is explicitly said to be a petit proprietaire, he may well be unable to make a living from his own land alone, and will often rent land from someone else to work part-time. In this case he also appears as a tenant-farmeror even a sharecropper.To complicate matters still further, we also find that nineteenth-century France still had a large number of 'peasant/workers' whose status and occupation varied with the seasons. As well as varying from place to place, terminology also varied over time. In the 1840s a proprietaire,in Provence, was usually a youngish man, economically secure, with at least one domestic servant, and often with an income from rent. By I9I I the same term had come to denote a much older man, often retired, with no servants, no fixed income, and was with only a residual legal relationship to the land. The mid-centuryproprietaire thus at the same time more of a 'bourgeois' (in style and standard of life) and more genuinely a peasant (in his occupation). This change confuses the records, but it does illuminate an important shift in the 'tone' of village life by the end of the century. We shall returnto this point.4 The problem surrounding the precise meaning of key terms in these years is not merely an academic one of the interpretation of sources. The nature of political behaviour is closely linked with it. We can perhaps agree that a certain kind of generalizationregarding Provensal political behaviour is insufficient: thus in a recently published textbook it is seen as purely 'un gout quotidien pour la politique et les pratiques liees a une socialisation ancienne '.4 It is possible, and necessary, to be more precise than this. But when we look for explanations of the rise of socialism, we should first inquire what the word was understood to signify. The romantic associations of the word socialismwere perhaps not yet dead in southern France, those un-articulatednotions of a 'fair society ' which might as easily be Gambetta's Republic (suitably improved) or millenarian rural communism. Many French politicians of the left in these years, for example, were inclined to use social and socialiste interchangeably. At first this was a simple confusion of the two inheritances from x848; later it was perhaps a more calculated attempt to blur the distinctions between radical and socialist candidates at elections, usually in those areas where a socialist was better placed. It is clear that such blurring was more commonly the
45 on sidelight the unreliability In more than one case the answercomesback, Nice, I969). Anamusing votingslips.In a plus utileque nuisible'!Perhaps morethanusually of sourcesmaybe foundin abandoned the in elections LeThoronet, left reflect- the 1848 presidential superstructure neatexampleof the ideological LedruRollinreceivedtwo votescast Nationales wing candidate interest!See Archives ing infrastructural for'Le Duc de Rollin';in Mons,fourvoteswerecast C3021, Enquite sur les Classes Ouvrieres 1872-1875. " On the terminology of the 1840s,see Maurice for Louise Napoleon! See A.D. l ar, II, M 1, 2-4, Agulhon, 'Le Fin des petites villes dans le Var Elections. (Paris, Radicale? mediter- " M. Reberioux,La Republique de au interieur XIXesiecle',in Villes l'Europe de (Actesdu Colloque I975), 62. occidentale raneen de l'Europe et

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fromthe I 890s weremoreinclinedto stressthe mostsocialists,certainly workof radicals; them things which distinguished fromthe radicals.But the fact remainsthat the political vocabularyof the late nineteenthcentury still bore traces of pre-187oalliances,and Sociale!'as a prefaceto theirrather radicals could continueto shout 'Vive la Republique anodyneproposalsfor politicalreform. The 'retardation' politicalvocabulary not of coursea uniquelyFrenchphenomin is enon. Societies in change are often apt to identifychangingissues in terms which are of and understood, whichwill serveto identifyconflicting groups.Whatis perhaps special fromthe conflicts of interestin Franceis not so muchthe longsurvivalof termsborrowed the 1790S, but the fact that many such terms, and even older ones, reminiscentof of classesas the seventeenth-century conflicts,remained commoncurrency the protesting as well. Urbanworkers theseyearscontinuedto referto themselves theirnewspapers in in while their employers were vilifiedas ventripoteurs, affames,ventescreux,meurt-de-faim, was currentin the strikesand political repusand the like.48If such verbalcamouflage battlesof theseyearsin placeslike Lille or St Etienne,we shouldexpectno less a time-lag in the relationship between new conflictsin the villagesand a suitablevocabulary for expressingthem. Notwithstandingthis, there is little doubt that the socialists themselves had an increasinglyprecise notion of what it was they stood for, in contrastto the general 'republicantradition'. The Guesdists (and it was the supportersof Guesde's 'Parti OuvrierFransais',the most marxistof the competing socialistfactionsbefore1905, who were successfulin securingsupportin the villagesof the Var) went to some lengthsto reject the 'republicantradition', with its talk of 'le peuple', 'la Republiqueune et indivisible', etc. For them, the 'peuple' were divided into competingand conflicting classes, and the Republique,even under the Radicals,was necessarilydivided. The peasantswho turned to the socialistsmay at first have been confusedby the apparent of familiarity language amongthe republican socialistleft. Butit wasa verbaltime-lag and which was eventuallybroughtinto line with politicalreality. 'Les Mots ne sont pas les Choses' (MichellePerrot).If it is important be awareof a to 'verbal fallacy', it is rathermore difficultto avoid the ecologicalvariant.The classic studies49 Frenchhistoryhavetoo oftenignoredgeographical localeconomic of and factors when explainingpoliticalchangeandcontinuity,andit is all to the goodthatrecentwork hasaimedat redressing balance.'M if it is unsatisfactory talkof leftisttraditions, the But to ' or a ' partide mouvement whenaccounting the growthof socialismin certainregions, for it is not much betterto blame it all on a crop (e.g. wine) or a propertystructure(e.g. small-holding independent peasants).Lookingat some Provensalvillages,we haveseen
' On this and much else see M. Perrot, Les Ouvrners Greve(2 vols, Paris, 1974), 241 ff. en 4' Notably the various works of Goguel and Duverger,but see alsoT. Zeldin,France i848-1945, vol. 1 (1974), where the immense eruditionand varietycamouflage same basic weakness to be the madegood in volumetwo?
50 e.g. C. Tilly and E. Shorter,Strikes France in 183o-1968 (Cambridge, 1974), who note on page 238

that it is not the job, but the local or communal traditions which producea predilection strike;the to job determines formof the action- an important the distinction.

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that these may be necessary conditions for certain kinds of development, but they are far from sufficient.51 Thus Loubere's recent study of the Midi52 is very good on the importance of the commercial and social environment of the winegrowers in explaining their propensity to turn to the left. But he has little to offer on why they should have turned to a particular ideology, and nothing to suggest as to why that affiliation, established in particular circumstances, should then have become a lasting situation. After all, if purely economic circumstances determined a particulardevelopment, then changes in those circumstances in this century ought to have produced changing political allegiances. But they have not done so; the Var, like the rest of MediterraneanFrance, had remainedfaithful to socialism long after the conflicts and pressures of the eighties and nineties had been forgotten. What is more, geographical circumstances which served to facilitate the penetration of new ideas of one kind might as readily serve in other times, and under other pressures, to encourage the introduction of other kinds of ideas as well.53 Loubere talks of the hill-dwellers of the Languedoc as more receptive to republican ideas than were the inhabitants of the coastal regions on the grounds that, unlike the vine, fishing is not a progressive' factor.54But in other coastal regions of France the ease of communication around the coasts, and the development of subtropical cash crops, have served precisely to facilitate the introduction of new allegiances. The 'occupational fallacy', as it were, is bound to ignore less tangible or quantifiable considerations: the proximity of towns, the ease of circulation of socialist speakers (and their individual qualities), the presence or absence of non-agricultural employment in a rural setting, and so forth. Clearly, the winegrowers form a very special category, and it is right that their predilection for the political left should be noted and analysed. But they are, in a sense, the 'quartier ouvrier des campagnes',55 and have often been a class apart from, and antagonistic to, other peasants, and unless we are going to reduce socialism in the countryside to a function of the presence of the grape, we need other kinds of explanation as well to help account for it. One such explanation might be found in the notion of a 'catalyst', in particular the presence of non-peasant groups in rural society who act as a filter for new ideas. Sewell even uses this notion in his study of Marseille, where he suggests that the declining artisan community was 'radicalized' by ideas which 'trickled down' from a politically conscious bourgeoisie.' The advantage of such a view in the study of socialism among peasants is that it provides a link between peasant discontent and the new form of its political
" Thus it would be ridiculous posit that small to proprietors alwaysperform revolutionary will the role of the middlepeasant;wherehas socialismbeen in Devon these past centuries?For the detailsof small peasantlandholdings Devon, see W. G. Hoskins, in Provincial England(i965),35 ff. 52 Loubere,op. cit., passim. 5 An exampleof this two-wayfunctionof valleys, etc., as 'zones de penetration in the eighteenth ' studyof dechristiancan century be foundin Vovelle's ization (Vovelle,Piete Baroque...),and in the same de 'Essai de Cartographie la dechristianisaauthor's du in Fran$aise', Annales Midi, tion sousla Revolution
xxvi (x964), 529-42. S4 Loubere, op. cit., 22. 5 Bois, op. cit., 316. -s6 Sewell, op. ci't.. 104-5.

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I976

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expression a formwhose appeal to the peasantry otherwisedifficult to accountfor. is In the Var, however,the evidencewill not conformto this pattern.The old Provenqal villages, with peasants, artisans, retired urban rentiers, all living in an integrated community, produced a sociability and a political awarenesswhich was obviously in important explaining peculiarly the stanceof the regionin the conflicts revolutionary of the mid-nineteenth But century.57 by the lastdecadesof the centurythe non-agricultural groups were precisely the ones who were leaving and not being replaced. Small entrepreneurs (suchas the corkmanufacturers la Garde-Freinet region)werebeing of and overwhelmedby competitionfrom the outside; artisanseither found that a declining population a timeof agricultural in pricefallcouldnotsupportthem,orelsewereattracted by rising wages in the cities." The wages of the shoemakersin Bargemon, for example- oncea thrivingcommunity skilledartisans of with270peopleemployedin shoe manufacture i 884 out of a totalpopulation I ,65 I - remained in of staticat 3 francsperday from x883to 19I2. The shoe workers no leverage forcingtheseup; eventually had for they simply packedand departed."' It is not simplythat as a class the ruralartisanwas on the decline;this was a universal phenomenon.What is importantis that this decline coincided with the implantation of socialism in the villages.Whereasin the 18708 it had been artisan workshops and (shoemakers corkmakers were prominenthere) or the occasional wanderingItalian tinkerswho wereprimarily responsible the spreadof pamphlets, for emblemsandgeneral seditious literature,' the socialistsof the next generationdid not benefitfrom these services. If there is any simple correlation this regionbetweenthe presenceof rural in artisansand the growthof socialism,it is ironicallyan invertedone. There is, furthermore,an intermediate stage in the transitionfrom ruralto urban society,wherepeasants employedin industrial are occupations havenot severedtheir but rurallinks. In the Allier, in centralFrance,for example,research suggestedthatthe has earlysuccessesof socialism camenot in the big miningcentresaroundMontlucon,but in the ruralmining villagesaroundCommentry.61 Here the formerlyconservative villages shifted directlyto a socialistallegiance,by-passing radicals the altogether.But although this absenceof a radicallink in the politicalchainleadingto socialismis reflectedin the experience, causesmusthavebeendifferent. intermediate the An community of Provenqal part-miners, part-farmers could not easilyhavedevelopedin the Var,whereapartfroma few open-castmineralmines and the occasional temporary roador railwayconstruction works,industryproperwas absent.In the Allier,whereindustrywaspresentin force,the
industrial militancy of the miners combined with the peasants' capacity for survival at a
5 In 1830, 50 per cent of the Frenchlabourforce workedin manufacture services,but 8o per cent or lived in ruralcommunes. 5 Wagesin Toulon were alwaysat leastone-third higherthanthosepaidforcomparable workin therest of the department.See A.D. Var, XVI, M 15, i,
Salaires 1847-1925.

9 See A.D. Var, XIV, M 19, 4, Statittique

Agricole. 0 On the generalsubject of the 'colportage'of political literature,see A.D. Var, VII, U 29, 3, Justice. 61 See S. Derruau-Boniol, 'Le Socialisme dans l'Allier, 1848-X914', in Cahiersd'Histoire,no. 2 (1957), ep. 147.

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subsistence level. At times of strikes or lock-outs the men simply returned to the family small-holding. As a result the socialists put down roots far earlier in such areasthan in the exclusively industrial cities. In these, the miners had already severed their links with the land (in and around Commentry they regularly took time out in summer to take in the harvest), and were far more at the mercy of the mine owners. The city dwellers certainly showed a greater propensity to develop defensive syndical organizations, but this in a sense confirms the point (and also suggests the need to see the growth of socialism and syndicalism as quite distinct affairs).62 The decline of the non-agricultural class in the Var after the eighties is confirmed by occupational breakdowns of successful local election candidates. In the opposed communities of Lorgues and le Luc (see above) the number of men in agricultural occupations on the local councils rose throughout this period. In Lorgues it increasedfrom under 40 per cent to over 52 per cent between I892 and I908; in le Luc it had reached 66 per cent of council members by I908. It may be of interest that Lorgues, the traditionally conservative community, retained a class of 'bourgeois' villagers among its local elite rather longer than did socialist le Luc.63 Among left-wing villages in the Var, only Carnoules (a railway depot) and Bargemon (with its still-substantial community of ' cordonniers') had an over-representationof artisansand bourgeois, and even then only by virtue of their dominating local occupations. In this region at least, then, it is not necessary to invoke the catalystic role of the local artisan or bourgeois in order to account for the introduction of socialism. But it might be mistaken to conclude that the relationship was inverted and causal. More likely, the same changes which were reducing the social variety of these villages were also helping to create a climate propitious to revolutionary ideas. The environment into which socialism penetrated so successfully in the last years of the nineteenth century was thus truly a peasant one. And it is this which makesthe example of the Var of interest in a wider context as well. Had it been uniquely a local phenomenon, a passing phase in which the peculiarities of Provensal geography, economy and life-style conspired to produce a sympathetic response to a new political force, it might have had little to say to other areas at other times. But if it was a world increasingly dominated by poor peasants, it, and the explanations for its behaviour, may bear comparison with other regions. It shared with the rest of France, for example, the overall patternof nineteenth-century rural history. That is to say that the middle years of the century saw French ruralsociety at
62 A nicely encapsulated exampleof the 'peasantworker' situation can be found in the strike in Lepuix-Gy (Belfort region) in 9goo. The textile workers there struck over a wage claim and an unpopularforeman.The bosses threatened sack to workerswho did not return;the strikersretiredto workin the fields. Aftera time the bossesrecanted, the sacked unpopular raised foreman, wages,andwork began immediately.The strengthof such peasant-

workersis illustratedin detail in D. Vasseur,Les de du dans ouvnrer ia region BelfortDebuts mouvement
Montebeliard,1870-I914 (Paris, 1967). Details of the

textilestrikecan be foundon pages 145 ff. 3 As late as 1904 we find doctors, tailors,
negociants,masons and ex-civil servants on the local

eleccouncilof Lorgues.For dataon the municipal see tionsandcouncilmembership, A.D. Var,II, M 7,
21.

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its peak:population higherthan it had ever been, old customswereactuallyreturnwas ing in force (fetes, fairs, celebrationof local saints, village markets,all becamemore prominentin theseboomyears),peasantconfidence the futurewasat its peak.In 1848 in peasantsactuallydemanded,in a numberof regions,the returnof old communalrights which had been progressively abandoned over the previoushalf-century.64 These halcyonyearswerethen followedby two decadesof economicexpansion,with the agricultural boom, the growthof the railways the increased and purchasing powerof the towns. Whenthe slumpcamein the seventies,manyof the market-oriented regionsof Frenchagriculture musthaveexperienced crisessimilarto thoseof Carces.In someareas it might thus be reasonable treatsupportfor socialismas a responseto the increasing to proletarianization the small peasant.In the Languedocregion,for example,the small of unableto serviceexistingdebts with agricultural proprietors, pricesat rockbottom,sold off theirlandandwentto workasdaylabourers thegiantvineyards in whichgrewup in the aftermath the recovery of fromphylloxera. Elsewhere, processmayhavebeenslower. this Butthis wouldonly haveservedto accentuate senseof inexorable the decline,andperhaps thereforethe inclination look to the socialistsfor some way out - a way out whichthe to radicalswere demonstrably unableto offer. The ways in which changingcircumstances affectedthe peasantry southernFrance of mayindicatesometentativesuggestions a widercanvas.The first,perhaps,is the need on when approaching social historyof micro-regions Europeto view the material the in in classifications other than those providedby the historicalconfigurations the nation of state. Much of what can be said about the historyof Provencerelatesto the socialand economic environmentof the whole mediterranean region. Small, tightly grouped villages,dependentupon primarily cash cropsand with longstanding traditions social of interaction, nota feature northern westernFrance,anymorethantheycanreadily are of or be foundin otherpartsof northern Europe.But in Spainandin the Emiliaregionof Italy, for example, the Provenqal experiencefinds analogies. It may be arguedthat in the countries southernEuropeit is anarchism, of rather thansocialism,whichhasappealed to ruraldiscontentwith any success. But on closerinspection mightfindthatthe kindof we distinction drawnherebetweenthe villagetypesof CarcesandCompsarealsoto be found in partsof central(not southern)Italyandsomepartsof Spain,andthatwherethe Carces patternobtains, it is not self-evidently case that anarchism been the dominating the has ideology. Equally, northernEurope, particularly the zone stretchingfrom the Paris basin in throughto northernGermany,has identifiedsocialismfar morestronglywith the urban experience. This may reflect the greater ease of movement from rural to urban employment,so that ratherthan unite in defenceof their situation,or in protestat its decline,peasants havesimplyleft the village(usuallyin anycasefarlessgrouped,andthus
4 This development marked the south. By lag during which the peasantrycame to see the was in springi 848, thingswereimproving economically; the possibility fighting theirlong-felt of for demands.See social crisis was thus not a direct reflection of the M. Agulhon,in C-E. Labrousse(ed.) .4spects la de economiccircumstances, represented but that time- cnse et de la depression1846-1851 (Paris, 1956), 336.

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less socially homogenous, than the communes of southern Europe) and moved to the city, to there experience politicization in the form of working-class action.""It is also probable that socialists in the industrial regions were less concerned to cultivate a rural clientele, given the availability of a more easily assimilated and mobilized urban one. This need not, however, mean that we have to posit two varieties of socialism: a 'forward looking' one in the cities and a 'backward' variant in the countryside, the latter more of a protest against modernization than a coherent expression of a revolutionary ideology.66 All forms of socialism in a period of social change and disorientation are in some sense a protest against modernization. Wolf sees peasant socialism as a protest This may against the state, which it rejects. Peasants, he argues, are natural anarchists.67 where the oppressive role of the state is clearly in evidence - such a be so in countries country would be France in earlier years (the seventeenth century, for example). But nineteenth-century socialism was not frondeur; it accepted the state. What peasants in Provence or the Emilia, for example, found attractive in socialism was precisely the importance it attached to the need for greater state intervention to protect the weakening social fabric of the countryside, if necessary by means of a fundamental restructuring of the whole of society. More than any other available ideology, socialism in this period proposed greater collective action at local and national level. In this its contrast with radicalismis complete. It is possible that socialism was in truth seen through the prism of the 'good king' myth, in that it implied the benevolent role of the state in disciplining and controlling harsh and unjust employers or landlords. But it is more likely that this residual atavistic attraction was soon replaced by very much more worldly considerations of the attractions of producer co-operatives and the ending of unrestricted market competition. Socialism appealed because it was, after all, collectivist and revolutionary, not because it represented the mourned ancien regimepaternalismin a new guise. Had it been the latter, it would have had more success in regions such as western France, or Piedmont, where paternalistic social and economic relations still flourished. The best case for attempting an account of the Europeanexperience of socialism in the countryside is to be found by looking at the contemporary situation. For a variety of reasons, not all of them by any means over-determined, the Marxist left flourishes most strongly, in non-communist Europe, in the two countries where its rural support has traditionally been strongest, France and Italy. Even now, the French and Italian socialist and communist movements depend for their electoral strength to a very markeddegree on the small peasant. If we try to account for this support in sociological terms - that is, by looking at what might induce a contemporaryProvensal peasant to vote socialist - we shall be baffled. The explanation is clearly dependent upon a historical dimension.
I, It may be that this earlypoliticalexperience in the city for first generationworkerswas largelya onlybecoming discipline, to response factory negative ideologicallyconscious later on. That is another matter. ' I therefore disagree with the late George Lichtheimwhen he says that socialismin the countrysideis 'populist', if by this he meansthat it was speciallyadaptedto a disappearing, pre-industrial at in class.It was notso adapted, France least,andit is this precisely whichmakesits successso interesting.
67

Wolf, op. cit., 295.

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1976

Rural socialism in Europe

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The point of taking the Var at the end of the nineteenth century is to try and locate that point in time when the left leanings which have now become tradition were first created out of a particular set of circumstances. On a political plane this has a certain self-evident importance; part of the explanation of the integration of the left in western Europe with its subsequent (consequent?) failure to engineer decisive revolutionary change may lie in its symbiotic relationship to classes which now have a vested interest in preventing such change. But even if the rural strength of the modern French left had not acquired such political importance, we should still be concerned to try and understand why French peasants welcomed socialism. The relation between a political ideology and the social class whose real interests it purports to identify and support is too readily supposed to be normative, as we suggested at the outset. Given that European socialism made few concessions to so-called 'peasant interests', and that peasants voted for it none the less, this relationship is called into question. Similarly, the link between economic change and political change must not be taken as simply linear, or even parallel. Our evidence does not suggest that such a link is absent, more likely that there is a decalage, a time lapse, both at the level of political expression and in the sense that a period of time may elapse between an economic crisis and the doctrinal form which protest against it ultimately adopts. Considerations such as these, when found in the recent history of Europe, might encourage students of extra-European societies, for whom much of the above is common ground, to turn their attention to developments closer to home. We need more investigation of developments on the continent of Europe which have too readily been assumed to be susceptible of simple classification and explanation. Such investigation could not fail to be of interest, and might well contribute to a better understanding of how some otherwise perplexing features of modern Europe were formed.