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Forging Political Identity

Forging Political Identity: Silk and Metal Workers in Lyon, France 1900-1939

Keith Mann
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Forging Political Identity
    Book Description:

    Escaping the traditional focus on Paris, the author examines the divergent political identities of two occupational groups in Lyon, metal and silk workers, who, despite having lived and worked in the same city, developed different patterns of political practices and bore distinct political identities. This book also examines in detail the way that gender relations influenced industrial change, skill, and political identity. Combining empirical data collected in French archives with social science theory and methods, this study argues that political identities were shaped by the intersection of the prevailing political climate with the social relations surrounding work in specific industrial settings.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-825-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. List of Tables and Illustrations
    (pp. x-xi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: French Labor History and Political Identity
    (pp. 1-15)

    From the barricades to the ballot box, workers in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France played an active and often central role in local and national politics. Politics affected workers as much as they affected politics. Their everyday experiences were permeated with politics as they encountered the programs, ideologies, and symbols of political and union organizations at work and in their communities. Many French workers joined unions and radical political organizations and many more regularly identified publicly with political currents speaking on their behalf. Male workers voted for, and working-class men and women joined radical labor and political organizations in such large...

  7. Chapter 1 Industrial Social Relations in France’s Second Industrial Revolution
    (pp. 16-30)

    Industrial social relations differed significantly within and across industries. Chapters 4, 5, 7, and 9 provide detailed descriptions of social relations for Lyons’ silk and metal workers at various points over the first four decades of the twentieth century. The aim of this chapter is to situate industrial social relations in general within the context of France’s industrial economy. We will see how industrial change involved a general trend toward increased proletarianization of French workers, the decline of craft labor markets, and the rise of capitalist labor markets. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of how these developments stimulated...

  8. Chapter 2 The French Labor Movement and Worker Political Identity
    (pp. 31-54)

    By 1900, sharply defined working-class political currents represented by organizations that promoted their ideologies and programs through newspapers and pamphlets, electoral campaigns, and in workshops and factories had established deep roots in the French working class. The ideologies and practices of these currents constituted political identities for many French workers. This chapter describes in greater detail the two sets of working-class political identities under consideration here and the organizations that represented them nationally and locally.

    From the beginning of the Third Republic, great debates shook the labor movement. Reformists and revolutionaries; advocates of trade union federalism versus union centralization; and...

  9. Chapter 3 Political Opportunity Structure from 1875 to 1921
    (pp. 55-80)

    France’s political opportunity structure created a terrain of possible choices of collective action whose public representations were important elements of political identity. POS helped shape worker political identity by interacting with the industrial social relations analyzed in the last chapter. This chapter reviews and analyzes the main features of France’s national and local political opportunity structure from the beginning of the Third Republic up until 1921. We begin with a chronological narrative that highlights the significant features of France’s political system in this era. We conclude by analyzing and characterizing them in terms of POS theory.

    The Third Republic was...

  10. Chapter 4 Silk Workers in Lyon, 1900–1921
    (pp. 81-110)

    Like many other French workers, silk workers entered the twentieth century with a distinct political identity. Guesdist socialism and its implications for questions of class and national identity were firmly rooted among the workers of the silk trade. The aim of this chapter is to explore the ways that the industrial social relations of Lyon’s silk industry and local political opportunity structures shaped that political identity during the years 1900–1921. We will also look at flash points of social conflict like strikes and demonstrations where ISR and POS came together to reinforce silk worker political identity.

    For centuries after...

  11. Chapter 5 Metal Workers in Lyon, 1900–1921
    (pp. 111-144)

    By the opening years of the twentieth century, industries working with metals began to challenge the silk industry as the motor of Lyon’s economy, and metal workers organized in a number of trades and union structures joined silk workers as the most important components of the city’s labor movement. As a group, metal workers evinced a strong occupational identity that combined craft pride, class consciousness, hostility to parliamentary politicians and politics, and antinationalism. This was reflected in the strong support that anarchism, revolutionary syndicalism, and eventually communism found among metal workers in Lyon and in France generally.

    This chapter examines...

  12. Chapter 6 Political Opportunity Structure 1921–1935
    (pp. 145-163)

    The war and its immediate aftermath signaled a changed industrial and political scene in France. French manufacturers with aid from the state had used the wartime mobilization to accelerate Taylorist rationalization in their factories. The changed industrial social relations that those developments brought about interacted with a reconfigured political opportunity structure to shape worker political identity. This chapter outlines the ways that the organized political currents that represented established worker political identities in France fared in the political climate from 1921 to 1935. We begin, however, with a few general points on industrial change for that period.

    Massive state intervention...

  13. Chapter 7 Silk Workers in Lyon, 1921–1935
    (pp. 164-184)

    This chapter focuses on Lyon’s silk workers for the period 1921–1935. It picks up the thread examining silk weavers, dyers, and finishers that began in chapter 4 for the period 1900–1921. The chapter first reviews the technological and industrial evolution of the silk industry up to 1935, then turns to its effects on workers in terms of skill and working conditions, as well as the forms of collective action that change generated. It concludes with an analysis of the comparative success or failure of the class collaboration, nationalist, and class independence, antinationalist programs.

    In chapter 4 we saw...

  14. Chapter 8 Metal Workers in Lyon, 1921–1935
    (pp. 185-216)

    Postwar political and economic developments continued to shape the political identities of France’s metal workers. The class independence, antinationalist political identity that so many metal workers had acquired during the decades before the war had developed on the basis of a fit between the ideology and program of anarchists, revolutionary syndicalists, and some socialists; the shop floor strength of skilled workers; and the reigning political opportunity structure. This chapter focuses on the ways that industrial and political changes of the postwar years until the Popular Front worked to reinforce this identity. The harsh Taylorist campaigns of French employers coupled with...

  15. Chapter 9 The French Popular Front and Political Identity
    (pp. 217-245)

    In the mid-1930s France’s political opportunity structure radically changed. In the context of a sharply polarized national and international political environment, a broad-based coalition known as the Popular Front united previously divided working-class organizations with the Radical Party. A wave of popular support brought a resounding victory to the coalition in the May 1936 elections and Leon Blum, the SFIO party leader, became France’s first socialist prime minister. The next month the largest general strike France had ever experienced to that point forced employers to make dramatic concessions including union recognition, agreement to engage in collective bargaining, the forty-hour work...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 246-249)

    This book has sought to explain the connection between occupational groups and political identities in France. We have seen both continuity and change in the formation, reproduction, and transformation of the political identities of silk and metal workers as we followed them over the first four decades of the twentieth century. A major premise about French labor here has been that for all of its nuanced differences of ideology and practice, two broad sets of political ideology and practice concerning central issues such as the proper terrain of struggle and attitudes toward the nation were on offer for workers in...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 250-255)
  18. Index
    (pp. 256-264)