Academic journal article Ethnologies

Residual Radicalism: Labour Song-Poems of Industrial Decline

Academic journal article Ethnologies

Residual Radicalism: Labour Song-Poems of Industrial Decline

Article excerpt

La composition de chansons chez les travailleurs de l'acier en Amerique du Nord constitue une tradition importante, bien que peu etudiee. L'industrie de l'acier a joue un role majeur dans l'economie et le paysage de l'ile du Cap-Breton depuis le milieu du XIXe siecle. La premiere acierie a ete construite a Sydney Mines dans les annees 1870 et une usine plus grande a ete construite dans la ville naissante de Sydney, le plus grand centre urbain de Me, en 1901. Des traditions distinctes de travail et de loisirs ont commence a emerger au sein du quadrillage de rues et des habitations de la compagnie pour ses travailleurs et gestionnaires. Dans les premieres annees du XXe siecle, une conscience de la classe ouvriere avait pris racine au coeur de l'industrie de l'acier a Sydney. Leurs chansons traitaient de sujets tels que les conditions difficiles de travail dans l'acierie les lieux et ses grandes personnalites, les tragedies, les conflits de travail dans les annees 1920, et l'attitude des travailleurs envers la direction. Beaucoup de ces chansons etaient souvent teintees de satire et temoignaient d'un regard acerbe de la vie de la classe ouvriere.

Sydney, comme de nombreuses communautes nord-americaines, a profondement subi le processus de desindustrialisation de la fin du XXe siecle. Les dernieres mines de charbon du Cap-Breton ont cesse leurs activites dans les annees 1990 et l'usine Sydney Steel ferma ses portes en 2000. Cet article explore les questions suivantes: quel role a joue des chansons sur le development d'une conscience de classe au cours du developpement de l'industrie de l'acier a Sydney? Ces chansons ont-elles joue un role tout aussi important dans la derniere partie du XXe siecle lorsque la communaute a subi les processus de desindustrialisation? Quels types de chansons sur Industrie de l'acier trouve-t-on pour chacune de ces periodes dans 1 histoire de Sydney? Une analyse de certaines de ces chansons revele somme toute beaucoup sur la facon dont les etres humains reagissent aux processus d industrialisation et de desindustrialisation.

The making of songs is an important, yet under-explored tradition amongst steel workers throughout North America. Steel making has been an essential part of Cape Breton Island's economy and landscape since the mid-nineteenth century. The first steel mill was constructed in Sydney Mines in the 1870s; a larger mill was built in the newly emerging city o Sydney, the island's largest centre, by 1901. Distinctive traditions of work and leisure began to emerge amidst the grid-patterned streets and company-owned homes of workers and managers. In the early years of the twentiet century, a close-knit working-class consciousness had taken root in the steel making centre of Sydney, Cape Breton Island. Songs explore topics such as the harsh conditions of work in the steel plant, personalities and places, tragedies, the industrial conflicts of the 1920s, and the attitudes o workers toward management. Many are often tinged with satire and witty analysis of working-class life.

Sydney, as with many communities in North America, has profoundly experienced the process of deindustrialization in the latter part of the twentieth century. The last operating coal mines closed in Cape Breton the 1990s and the Sydney Steel plant shut its doors in 2000. This paper explores the questions: what role did songs about steel play in the development of class consciousness during the development of the steel industry in Sydney? Do songs play an equally significant role in the latter part of the twentieth century when the community was undergoing the process of deindustrialization? What types of songs about steel making and the stee mill are found in each of these significant periods in Sydney's history. An exploration of some of these songs reveal much about how human beings respond to the processes of industrialization and deindustrialization.

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In Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, an island on the eastern coast of Canada, heavy industry was a major employer for much of the 20th century. …

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