Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography

By David Robin Watson | Go to book overview
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10

CLEMENCEAU
AS STRIKE-BREAKER

I THE DRAVEIL STRIKE

Simultaneously the government had to face another conflict with the trade union movement. This resulted from the serious incidents at Draveil on I June when two workers were killed by the police, and at Villeneuve-St Georges on 30 July when a violent demonstration ended with four killed and over fifty wounded. Draveil was a village on the banks of the Seine, close to the small town of Villeneuve-St Georges, a few miles outside Paris, where gravel pits were worked. The incidents arose from a strike of the workers in the pits which began on 3 May. 66 As usual there were violent conflicts between the strikers and blackleg workers, and in the course of one such disturbance two workers were shot dead by the police on I June. In contrast to the 1907 riots in the Midi, and the trouble during the mining strike of 1906, it appears that on this occasion the police had acted in a quite unjustified way. Their claim that they were shooting in self-defence was without foundation. Nevertheless, in the Chamber on II June, Clemenceau defended the police action, accepting their version of events, and launching into an attack on the C.G.T. Obviously he had decided on a showdown. As he had pointed out on more than one occasion, in order to keep a majority for moderate reforming legislation it was necessary for the government to demonstrate that it was able to maintain public order. This he proceeded to do, as a necessary counterpart to persuading the reluctant Senate to support the government's legislative measures. Instead of condemning the police action, or even disengaging his responsibility until the judicial investigation had established all the circumstances, Clemen

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66
For a detailed analysis of these events, see J. Julliard, Clemenceau, Briseur de Grèves (1965).

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