The history of class struggle from 1789-1917: An interview with Jacques Pauwels

May 10, 2022

Editor’s note: The latest installment in our Liberation School interview series provides a general overview of class struggle from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Russian Revolution. PSL member Gabriel Rockhill and historian Jacques Pauwels discuss the class dynamics of the French Revolution, the shifting allegiances of the rising bourgeoisie and the aristocracy through the course of the long 19th century, the watershed moment of the Paris Commune in 1871 (when the bourgeoisie allied with the aristocracy to crush the workers), the rising tide of working-class revolutionary politics in the early 20th century, how the capitalist class sought to stave off revolution through World War I, and why this tactic ultimately backfired and gave birth to the first successful socialist revolution in 1917. The interview was conducted in mid-February over video. It is the first installment in a two-part series. The second part begins with the Russian Revolution and then charts out the development of fascism, leading to WWII and the eventual defeat of the Nazis by the Red Army.

Jacques Pauwels is an independent scholar and popular educator whose work focuses on the international history of class struggle. He has taught cadre classes for the Pôle de renaissance communiste en France (PRCF), a revolutionary socialist party in France, and has given courses on European history at the University of Toronto, York University, and the University of Waterloo. His books include The Great Class War: 1914-1918, The Myth of the Good War, Big Business and Hitler, and Myths of Modern History: From the French Revolution to the 20th Century World Wars and the Cold War.