Liberalism and Social Reform: Industrial Growth and Progressiste Politics in France, 1880-1914

By David M. Gordon | Go to book overview

Introduction

French industry entered a period of crisis in the 1980s. As in much of the industrialized world, companies were faced with increased international competition and were obliged to either adapt to new market conditions or perish. In 1984, the need to adjust became particularly acute in the steel industry. Workers had been gratified by the Socialist victory in 1981, having hoped that government subsidies would preserve their ailing companies and their own high wages. Three years later they were disappointed. The Socialist government, which was fearful of increasing the inefficiency that was the result of excessive government assistance, decided to yield to free market forces and allow competition to determine the survival of firms. Worker response was swift and furious. Lorraine, which had previously been France's chief steel-manufacturing center, was the scene of many demonstrations. Workers at Joeuf, one of the centers of the old Wendel industrial empire, chose a curious means of protest. As though to exorcise the spirit of François de Wendel, Lorraine's last great maître de forges, who had dominated the town for thirty years prior to World War II, they first destroyed a small stela dedicated to his memory. Then, in a wonderfully theatrical gesture, the Wendel mansion was symbolically stormed and gutted, with burning tires placed in front of the windows for a properly dramatic effect. 1 These acts, which were reminiscent in their imagery of the Great Fear during the French Revolution, were not entirely inappropriate considering workers' anxieties. However, Wendel had been dead since 1948, and his so-called chateau had not been lived in since before World War I. Thirty-five years after his death this former deputy, who had been president of the Comité des forges and director of the Banque de France, remained a potent political symbol.

The protesters were not entirely naive. Although their anger was directed primarily against the Socialist government which, they believed, had betrayed

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Liberalism and Social Reform: Industrial Growth and Progressiste Politics in France, 1880-1914
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 27
  • 1 - Industrial Growth and Socialist Success at Roubaix 31
  • Notes 50
  • 2 - Eugène Motte and the Bourgeois Political Resurgence 55
  • Notes 78
  • 3 - Georges Claudinon and the Industrial Revival at Le Chambon-Feugerolles 83
  • Notes 109
  • 4 - Industrial Crisis and Progressiste Success at Rive-De-Gier 115
  • Notes 135
  • 5 - François De Wendel and Progressiste Politics in Industrial Lorraine 141
  • Notes 164
  • Conclusion 171
  • Notes 191
  • Appendix 195
  • Bibliography 209
  • Index 217
  • About the Author 227
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