Managers and Workers
The story of the slow emergence of an organized labor force after the Paris Commune has often been narrated. Too seldom, however, has it been related to the simultaneous development of public welfare. Just as in Germany, where proscription of socialism throughout the 1880s was accompanied by legislative measures to ameliorate the lot of workers, a combination of repression and reform was also manifest in France.
In a number of identifiable ways, of course, the context of French labor was markedly different from the German situation. France's republican form of government left a wider berth for the eventual integration of a socialist movement into the ruling consensus. A greater latitude for labor was likewise afforded by the ethos of liberalism in France, which contrasted with the ubiquity of an imperial state in Germany. The mandatory character of Germany's social insurance programs created a circumstance there unknown in France, where voluntarism remained the rule. The German system rested on a far broader base of heavy industry, whereas the French work force was less numerous, less concentrated, and generally less susceptible to politicization.
Yet many issues in the two nations were similar. On a political level there was the always-problematic question of reconciliation between radical elements and a regime that had deliberately persecuted them. The status of trade unions and the nature of socialist political representation therefore had to be elaborately negotiated in both countries. Of obvious mutual concern, too, were labor's demands to augment wages and reduce working hours, inescapably implying