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From Trade Unionism to Syndicalisme Révolutionnaire to Syndicalism: The British Origins of French Syndicalism

Bantman, C (2010) From Trade Unionism to Syndicalisme Révolutionnaire to Syndicalism: The British Origins of French Syndicalism In: New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism. The Individual, the National and the Transnational. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 126-140. ISBN 1-4438-2393-7

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Abstract

The French and British trade union organisations of the 1880-1914 period are usually presented as antagonistic, British trade unionism being financially powerful and predominantly conservative, connected in turn with the Liberal Party and the Labour Party set up in 1893, while French unions were numerically weak, fiercely independent from political power, and preached revolutionary methods. This opposition is epitomised by the contrast between the powerful and conservative Trade Union Congress and, on the other hand, the CGT, the French trade union confederation set up in 1895, with its adamant rejection of political alliances formalised by the iconic 1906 Charte d’Amiens. These oppositions are often taken to reflect profound differences in the political orientations of skilled workers (with the contrast between France’s radical artisans and Britain’s labour aristocracy), and in the maturity of industrial development (between France’s decentralised and workshop-based production system and Britain’s more advanced industrialisation). In spite of these partly debatable alleged ideological and socioeconomic differences, the years between 1880 and 1914 saw an intense exchange of ideas and tactics between France and Britain, as trade union organisation and ideology underwent rapid changes on both sides of the Channel. The British organisations evolved from the reformist and elitist culture of the mid-Victorian social consensus into larger, more democratic and combative “new unions”.1 In France, the trade union movement remained very weak during the 1880s, until the development of the CGT and its formal rejection from parliamentary politics at the turn of the century, triumphant at first, then increasingly problematic.2 In both countries, these years witnessed a succession of periods of strength and decline, in ideological and numerical terms. For these two rapidly-changing movements, developments occurring across the Channel provided both an example and a counter-example through which they could define and reinvent themselves. This chapter maps out these ideological transfers within the revolutionary branch of the international labour movement, insisting on the personal networks underpinning these exchanges and on the processes of reinterpretation and adaptation such cross-influences required. It focuses on the “ideological” level, rather than the grassroots and organisational levels3: it is a study in transnational exchanges of ideas and debates, which leaves aside the question of the actual impact of these ideas on their intended audiences, the workers.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of English and Languages > Languages and Translation
Authors :
AuthorsEmailORCID
Bantman, CUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date : 1 October 2010
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Additional Information : This is an electronic version of a book chapter published as Bantman C (2010). From Trade Unionism to Syndicalisme Révolutionnaire to Syndicalism: The British Origins of French Syndicalism. In New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism. The Individual, the National and the Transnational. Editors: Berry D, Bantman C. 126-140. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne 01 Oct 2010. Available at: http://www.c-s-p.org/flyers/New-Perspectives-on-Anarchism--Labour-and-Syndicalism--The-Individual--the-National-and-the-Transnat1-4438-2393-7.htm
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 04 Nov 2013 14:24
Last Modified : 09 Jun 2014 13:50
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/534408

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