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'Extending Democracy: Railway Workers and the Popular Front in France, 1936-38.'

Beaumont, TW (2014) 'Extending Democracy: Railway Workers and the Popular Front in France, 1936-38.'. European History Quarterly, 44 (3). pp. 458-479. ISSN 1461-7110

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French railway workers played no part in the historic Popular Front strikes and workplace occupations of May–June 1936. Yet, in November 1938, this group of workers placed themselves in the vanguard of attempts to defend the social legislation passed by the Blum government. Both events have been analysed as evidence of the reformist aims and materialist calculations of French railway workers in the interwar period. Following the failure of the 1920 general strike, railway workers are understood to have renounced political militancy, embracing a narrow corporatist vision of industrial relations. Their attempted participation in the 30 November 1938 general strike has been similarly read as a defence of material interests. In contrast to such views this article argues that railway trade unionism in the Popular Front period built upon well-developed communist policies emphasizing workplace dignity and the extension of worker power within both the railway industry and capitalism more widely. Rather than pursuing purely materialist calculations, union policy sought to defend a vision for French industrial relations predicated upon shared responsibility and partnership between management and labour in economic decision making. Such an analysis raises questions regarding the wider meaning of the Popular Front for French workers and its longer-term significance in contemporary French history.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2103 Historical Studies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DC France
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2016 13:46
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 13:32
DOI or ID number: 10.1177/0265691414532058
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/2772
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