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

By David M. Gordon | Go to book overview

2
Eugène Motte and the Bourgeois Political Resurgence

When Eugène Motte entered political life, he was already the most successful manufacturer in Roubaix. At the turn of the century, his industrial empire included a wool-combing mill employing 1,800 people, a wool- and two cotton- spinning mills, a knitting mill, two weaving factories, and two large dyeing plants. He employed almost 5,000 workers in Roubaix alone, an additional 2,000 elsewhere in France, and hundreds more in the Russian empire. At a time when only ten Roubaix textile firms employed more than 500 people, the Motte empire was an economic colossus. 1 Combined with his presidency of the Crédit du Nord, membership on the boards of the Chemin de fer du Nord and several other large companies, and responsibility for his eleven children, Eugène Motte would have appeared to have no time for any additional commitments. Nonetheless he entered politics with both energy and purpose, soon revealing a rare degree of political skill. In 1893 he had begun organizing a heterodox coalition of industrial and middle-class groups in what for him was a crusade for capitalism and the bourgeois Republic against its Socialist enemies. The urgency he brought to his campaigns, combined with his ability to win the support of moderate voters, overwhelmed the complacent Parti ouvrier français. In four years, between 1898 and 1902, Motte drove its leaders from local and national political office.

Motte was uniquely qualified to lead Roubaix's bourgeois parties for political as well as economic reasons. First, he was devoted to the liberal Republic. Confidence in the ability of capitalist industry to improve the general standard of living made him a supporter of universal manhood suffrage. A belief in the ability of French entrepreneurs to compete against foreign rivals, as well as his own strong position in the market, made him a free trader as well. 2 However, where his father, who had run on an Opportunist ticket at the end of the 1870s for both the Conseil général and the municipal council, believed that the greatest

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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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