Famous quotes explained: « It is with the poor that the rich make war. », Organization of Labour, Louis Blanc, 1839.
Louis Blanc was a socialist thinker and intellectual of the 19th century. He advocated for the rights of workers and was one of the leaders of the Second Republic, participating in the provisional government formed in late February 1848. Forced into exile during the Second Empire, he returned to politics after 1870 and served as a deputy for Paris (known as the Seine at the time) from 1871 to 1882. He sat with the far-left in the National Assembly.
His essay Organization of Labor (1839) is his most well-known work. In it, he outlined the organization of a new economic and social power reformed by the state as the initiator of credit, allowing for the creation of workers’ associations and social workshops. These workshops briefly came into existence in 1848 under the name «ateliers nationaux, » (National worshops) which were government-funded production units aimed at reducing unemployment, particularly in Paris.
The quote taken from his 1839 work reflects Louis Blanc’s ideology, as well as a concrete reality: It is with the poor that the rich make war.
Indeed, apart from officers in the military, rank-and-file soldiers come from working-class backgrounds. They provide the bulk of the troops and are on the frontlines during war, but they do not decide to initiate it or plan military operations. Simple pawns in a game they do not control, the poor bear the consequences of the powerful’s interests.
This quote was even truer during times when conscription, mandatory enlistment, was done through a lottery system, with exemptions that only the wealthy could afford.
In general, wars are not always waged to protect interests that concern the entire population or are vital for a people’s existence and survival. However, the poor, whether on the frontlines as soldiers or on the home front suffering from shortages and the economic and social consequences of war, suffer the most from conflicts. They lack the means of the powerful to cushion the impact or quickly migrate to comfortable conditions. They cannot escape the hell of war.
It is with the poor that the rich make war
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