Submitted by inter_kom on November 19, 2012

There are many good articles in the Libcom library about the strikes during WW2 in the USA, but there seems to be none about the rest of the countries (at least not articles solely about them, maybe some more general articles mention independent workers actions too, don't know, haven't read them all.)

At first I was curious about the UK because from somewhere I had got the impression that there was relative labour peace in the UK and thought that maybe US workers were more militant because the war was further away from them and there was no real risk of invasion so they were more willing to fight and that workers in the UK and Europe were way more patriotic because the war happened at their doorstep. Fortunately I as wrong - a quick googling and I found these 2 articles:

Until 1941 when the Soviet Union entered the war, communists in Britain, having little commitment to the war effort, refused to be bound by the national unity consensus and in particular the ban on strike action. During the first few months of the war, there were over 900 strikes, almost all of them very short but illegal nonetheless. Despite the provisions of Order 1305 there were very few prosecutions until 1941 since Bevin, anxious to avoid the labour unrest of the First World War, sought to promote conciliation rather than conflict. The number of strikes increased each year until 1944, almost half of them in support of wage demands and the remainder being defensive actions against deteriorations in workplace conditions. Coal and engineering were particularly affected. A strike in the Betteshanger colliery in Kent in 1942 prompted the first mass prosecutions under Order 1305. Three officials of the Betteshanger branch were imprisoned and over a thousand strikers were fined. Such repression and the general 'shoulders to the wheel' approach to industrial production in support of the war effort (strongly backed by the Communist Party after 1941) did not stop strikes. The fact that so many strikes took place in the mining industry was due in the main to the fact that the designation of coal mining as essential war work entailed the direction of selected conscripts to work in the mines ('Bevin boys'). This was very unpopular among regular miners.

In 1943 there were two major stoppages, one was a strike of 12,000 bus drivers and conductors and the other of dockers in Liverpool and Birkenhead. Both were a considerable embarrassment to Bevin since they involved mainly TGWU members. 1944 marked the peak of wartime strike action with over two thousand stoppages involving the loss of 3,714,000 days' production. This led to the imposition of Defence Regulation 1AA, supported by the TUC, which now made incitement to strike unlawful.

from here:

Glasgow: Rolls Royce Hillington women workers equal pay

Many thousands of women were recruited to wartime industry. In 1940, the engineering federation agreed that women would receive equal pay after 32 weeks in post. 20,000 women were employed at the Rolls Royce Hillington site in Glasgow. Rolls Royce evaded the 1940 equal pay formula and were challenged by the AEU in 1943. They settled. But 16,000 women (and some men) refused to accept the deal and walked out for over a week. They won a new agreement which specified every machine in the factory, the work done on it, and the rate for the job, regardless of who was operating the equipment.
Miners pay

In 1944 underground miners were earning £5 per day and their wage tribunal refused to raise piece rates. When the Government announced that the national average industrial manual wage had reached £6 10s, miners came out on unofficial strike in South Wales, Kent, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, and Scotland - some 220,000 in South Wales and Yorkshire alone. With the invasion of France looming, the press attacked the miners.

A South Wales miner of 30 years standing commented “... The argument that a strike would let our soldiers down was countered by men who had brothers and sons in the forces who, so they claimed, had urged them to fight and maintain their customs or privileges. They argued that they must retain something for those absent ones to come back to, while the suggestion that we should wait for further negotiations was swamped by the reply that we had already waited a long while...”

In fact the Government was compelled to intervene, restored differentials, and the miners won the highest minimum wage in Britain. Their average earnings ranked 81st in 1938, but rose to 14th after the strikes.

Kent: Betteshanger Colliery bonus payments

On 10 July 1940 the government introduced Defence Regulation 58AA allowing the Minister of Labour to ban strikes and lockouts, and force compulsory arbitration. Order 1305 then allowed the Minister to refer any dispute to existing arbitration structures or the National Arbitration Tribunal - either alternative was to be binding. But as the Chief Industrial Commissioner recognised “The Order has a substantial deterrent effect but it is an instrument which would probably be shown to be useless if any considerable body of workpeople chose to defy it.” He was right.

On 9 January 1942 miners at Betteshanger Colliery in Kent struck over the level of allowances for working difficult seams. The Ministry of Labour decided to prosecute 1,050 miners for contravening Order 1305. Three local union officials were imprisoned, the men working difficult seams were fined £3 each, and 1,000 other miners were fined £1 each. Betteshanger continued their strike and other pits came out in sympathy. On 28 January they won, and in February the Home Secretary dropped the prison sentences. By May, only 9 miners had paid their fines. Most fines were never paid.
Tyneside: closed shop

On Tyneside at the beginning of 1943 workers at the Neptune ship repair yard came out for six weeks over the refusal of five men at their firm to join the Amalgamated Engineering Union. They received massive support from workers in other firms and trades, and forced their employers to concede a ‘closed shop’ agreement, setting a national precedent.
London: aircraft engineers

Workers at the former Chrysler factory converted to make Halifax bomber tail fins were subject to Essential Works Orders banning all industrial action. In 1943 they challenged management policy of locking the gates at 8:30 for the morning by threatening to turn up en masse at 8:31. Management threatened to use the Order, but then capitulated.

The workforce went on to challenge management attempts to control union representation on the works committee, and after winning that forced an increase in the minimum wage for maintenance workers.

Many of the women workers had partners in the Forces. One commented: “If I don’t fight for conditions and wages or let them get worse, my husband will kill me when he comes home”.
Engineering Apprentices: pay

The first major wartime dispute took place in 1941. It involved engineering apprentices, first on Clydeside and then in Coventry, Lancashire and London.

An Apprentices’ Charter, developed by the Clyde strike committee in 1937, called for higher pay, district-wide age-wage minimum pay scales, a right to part-time technical education on day release, a reasonable proportion of apprentices to journeymen, and a right to union representation. An Engineers’ Charter had been put forward by the AEU in 1929 in pursuit of improved terms and conditions in the industry.

The unions had previously submitted a succession of claims to the Engineering Employers Federation without success. Now the apprentices marched from factory to factory bringing out their workmates. In Coventry they included women at the local munitions factory in the campaign. The strike wave finally destroyed the log-jam in national negotiations. In weeks, agreement was reached on higher age-wage scale rates.

As the war progressed, the number of strikes skyrocketed to reach a record 2,194 stoppages with 3,700,000 days lost in 1944. Of course not all such strikes ended in victory - but neither do all strikes in peacetime.

During the Spring of 1943, soldiers serving in the 8th Army responded to pressure to denounce strikes back home. The 8th Army News ran an article headlined “The Right to Strike is one of the Freedoms we fight for”.

from here:

So firstly I had the question, does anybody know more about independent workers action during the war years and right after the war in the UK? A more comprehensive article somewhere perhaps from a more radical perspective?

Also, I couldn't find anything on other warring countries, maybe such material exists mainly in their native languages as a quick google search in English came up with nothing.

I know there was a strike wave in Italy in '43 (?) which was after the collapse of the fascist government and I remember from some article sth about a strike after the Soviets occupied Hungary in '45 by some workers from a rather militant factory in Budapest (?) who were at the forefront of the class war in '18 and '56 as well. Other than that I have to admit I don't know much.

I would appreciate if somebody could point me to some articles about strikes etc during or right after WW2 in Europe and the rest of the world - I'm especially interested in USSR and the territories it occupied after the war, Japan and Germany.


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

As this didn't seem like the most popular thread ever I decided to do a bit of research myself and chose France to be the first country. First googled in french with the help of google translate, but then found an English article about the 1941 strikes in Nord-Pas-de-Calais by 100,000 miners in German-occupied France.

In Northern France in 1941, while under German military occupation, 100,000 miners went on strike from the 27th May to the 9th June. This strike not only cost the German war machine half a million tonnes of coal, but also had long-term consequences for the development of the Resistance in the area. Starting from a dispute with their employers over working conditions, the reality of living under Nazi occupation soon gave the struggle a political dimension, convincing the miners that their social aspirations were inextricably linked to the outcome of the war, hereby preparing the ground for what was to arguably become the most active underground resistance movement in wartime France. In the process of organising and leading the miners' struggles during this period, the local leadership of the Communist Party also realised the untenable nature of their central party line and were well placed to respond to the German invasion of Russia that was to follow a few weeks later. The strike gives valuable insights into the process whereby workers in struggle under repressive regimes move from industrial action to the armed struggle and parallels miners' actions in the Ludlow and Harlan County strikes in the USA, the Asturian Miners in 1934 and the Bolivian miners in the 1950s.


The miners of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais had gained considerable improvements in working conditions and wage rates through a series of bitter struggles in the twenties and thirties, above all during the strikes and occupations associated with the early days of the Popular Front in 1936. The employers were quick to take advantage of the German invasion and the resulting ban on strikes to reclaim most of these gains. The official trade unions were dominated by SFIO
members who were committed to collaboration and were firm supporters of the Vichy government. Realising that nothing could be obtained through these structures, the Communists started to set up unofficial clandestine bodies, Comités d'unité syndicale et d'action (CUSA). These quickly spread throughout the mining basin and became the main workers' organisations, leaving the CGT, lead by Priem and Legay, largely irrelevant.

Between August and October 1940, a series of half day strikes broke out. The German military authorities, whose sole interest at this stage was in maintaining production, frequently acted as conciliators between the miners and their employers. Their patience was soon exhausted, however, and when, on the 9th August, a strike took place in fosse 7 of the Dourges company (called le Dahomy) to defend Michel Brulé, a Communist militant who had just been dismissed by the company, the Kommandantur of Hénin-Liétard had him arrested. The strike spread to neighbouring pits and the German authorities released Brulé on the 11th. General Niehoff then issued a proclamation on the 14th October threatening to take two hostages per pit in the event of any further trouble and this dampened the situation until the New Year. After discussions with Vicyite officials and OFK 670, the Chamber of Mines ordered an increase of half an hour in the working day and linked future wages to production levels. The miners responded in one pit after another by arriving half an hour late for work and by dawdling over meal breaks. As soon as they were threatened with punishments, the scene of the action would move to another location, the turbulence only ending when lorry loads of German soldiers arrived at any pit taking action and arrested numbers of miners at random. A spontaneous strike broke out on the 11th November and 35% of miners in the coalfield walked out. Then, demonstrations against food shortages were organised throughout the Nord-Pas-de-Calais between January and May 1941 and these ended in riots in Lens and Avion where the crowd tried to lynch the mayor. Both sides now realised that conflict was inevitable and a six-man squad of Gestapo officers was set up in Lille to draw up, in concert with the employers, the Police and the Gendarmerie, a list of known Communists. For their part, the PCF leadership in the Pasde-Calais, August Lecoeur and Julien Hapiot, now reinforced by the arrival of Nestor Calonne, mayor of Montigney, newly escaped from POW camp, set about preparing for a confrontation. The clandestine press stepped up its output
and the local Communist newspaper, L'Enchaîné du Pas-de-Calais, called, on the 22nd of April 1941, for:
'A day of united action against the capitalist exploiters, collaborators and the boches'.


On the Mayday, scores of red flags and tricolours were to be found flying on electric pylons, telegraph poles, pit-head winding gear and many similarly inaccessible places.13 After the German invasion, the mining companies took their revenge for the defeats they had suffered in the pre-war struggles with their employees. Without waiting to hear the requirements of the occupation forces, they took no further notice of the Popular Front social legislation and set about restoring 'the taste for work and discipline'.14 Their attitude may be summed up by a letter from a Lille factory owner to his trade newspaper:

'I would rather see my country occupied by the Germans than my factory occupied by the workers'.15

The miners knew that, at the time of the Popular Front, many of the company engineers had caused good coal seams to be abandoned and saw how they now rediscovered them for the Germans. The occupation authorities demanded an increase in productivity of 25% over 1938 levels despite the dilapidated state of much of the equipment.16 The employers cut the piece-rate and the minimum wage while lengthening the working day by half an hour, this in
circumstances where, despite the decree of the 28th of June 1940 which froze both wages and prices, there was a very high level of inflation.17 The strike movement started soon after with spontaneous stoppages in September, October and November 1940. In January 1941, at Pit number 7 of the Escarpelle mine, all the mineworkers arrived half an hour late for work. As a result of this action, two Communists were arrested from every pit18.


The employers had progressively been introducing new working practices, one pit at a time, throughout the early part of the year. These were based on new team working arrangements and payments by collective results and were bitterly resented by many who lost money thereby. Pit number 7 at Dourges, le Dahomey, was probably the most militant in the basin and the company left it until last to introduce its new working pattern. As soon as this happened, on the 26th May, Michel Brulé arranged with his comrades to organise meetings below ground and the strike stared on the morning of the 27th.19 Flying pickets went to neighbouring pits, successfully spreading the strike and a list of grievances was presented to the employer. Surprisingly, the OFK 670 was not informed of the incidents until 5pm that afternoon. Meeting that evening with Michel Brulé, Auguste Lecoeur and Julien Hapiot decided to call for a general strike in the
mining basin. The strike movement did not start well, only managing to close the mines in Dourges, Courrières, l’Escarpelle, Ostricourt, Ligny and Anzin by the 29th. This reflected the uneven spread of communist organisation, the dislocation of trade union structures and difficulties in communication caused by the occupation.

Once informed, German reaction was swift, with a number of arrests being made, although they missed all the leaders. Gerneral Niehoff, German military commander, had two posters displayed, one calling for an immediate return to work and another announcing that 11 miners and two miner's wives, all Communists, had been condemned to terms of hard-labour.20 As a result of these threats, the strike became solid throughout the region, the publicity from the occupying forces helping to overcome the communication problems referred to above. Such a response was by no means guaranteed, but the small scale actions that had occurred in the earlier part of the year had greatly increased confidence. On 2nd June, there were 100,000 miners on strike, 80% of the workforce and a solidarity strike occurred in
the Agache factory in Seclin. The lists of grievances emanating from the pits which joined the strike later show an evolution with the demand to release the imprisoned miners assuming an increasing importance.21 Strikers from one pit would picket another where they were not known to avoid the risk of denunciation by scabs or informers.22 A group of Polish Communists, led by Rudolf Larysz, organised amongst the Polish miners who represented 29% of the workforce
and who, as a result, solidly supported the movement.23 The French Police were instructed to break the picket lines, but there were not enough of them and large numbers of German soldiers and military police were drafted in to the region, in particular the 16th security regiment, and a state of siege was imposed.

Women increasingly took over picket duty and the hounding of blacklegs. On the 29th, Emilienne Mopty, a miner's wife and PCF member organised a demonstration of 2000 women outside the company offices in Billy-Montigny and, despite being attacked by German feldgendarmes, they managed to avoid any arrests by linking arms.


Fearful of a repetition, on the 16th June, OFK 670 announced an immediate supplementary distribution of food and set up the Service d'approvisionnement des Houillères to organise the distribution of increased rations of food, clothing and soap to mineworkers. On the 17th, the Vichy government decreed a general wage increase for the mines. 460,000 tonnes of coal production were lost and coal had started to run short in Paris, threatening electricity production
and causing General von Stüpnagel, military commander of the Paris region to complain bitterly to Brussels. Nevertheless, there was a price to be paid and the employers gave the police the names of those they considered to be ringleaders. As a result, 450 arrests were made, of whom 270 were deported to concentration camps in Germany and 130 never returned. Nine communists were taken as hostages and later shot.

from here:

This kind of militancy was certainly not what I expected to find, especially not under Nazi occupation. Though, of course, the importance of coal gave the miners much more leverage than other workers had. The same region, for example, had a big textile and metalworking industry, but in the former unemployment was high and in the latter workers were afraid of being sent to Germany to work, so that obviously decreased their militancy.

It was really heartening to see that workers didn't develop any kind of nationalist illusions and rejected class peace with their bosses, though there was some patriotism, it seems, which was a bit disheartening, on the other hand.

Also, as I understood, the miners took action again in '43 and '44 (in french:

"In the first months of the German occupation work stoppages and strikes developed, partial but repetitive, leading to significant reduction in production."

"Confronted with a new strike at Escarpelle in March, the Germans occupied the pit with their troops. All conditions [of the strikers] are met and the first day of May became a landmark. Inscriptions, tricolor flags and red flags appear, circulate tracts. The strike spread to Belgium, where 100,000 miners and steelmakers stopped work. The textile industry is also affected."

from here, in french again, as you probably guessed from the robust wording:


Got some information on Canada also.

August 3, 1943 200,000 Indexing

August 19, 1943 wages Windsor, Ont Co. autom. Ford

April 20, 1944 228 000 performer. Trav.unis auto (UAW)

May 11, 1944 proc.griefs Windsor, Ont Co. autom. Ford

Sept.1945 arbitr 12 915 000 (Rand) Trav.unis auto (UAW)

Windsor, Ont Co. autom. Ford 12 915 000 sept.1945 arbitr (Rand) Trav.unis auto (UAW) December 29 1945 Rand Formula

Forests and BC coast sawmills May 15, 1946 1,100,000 C.enq.fédér. Workers Inter.Wood L.cons.CB June 26, 1946


Despite the restrictions imposed by the government the right to strike in the war industries and the freezing of prices and wages during the same period, there are significant strikes during the Second World War. Strikes the most costly in lost work days during the war occur in the aircraft industry in Montreal (1943) and in the automotive industry in Ontario (1944 and 1945). In the latter case, the award of Judge Ivan C. Rand has mandatory withholding of union dues or an amount equivalent to the non-union members (not to compel all employees belong to a union). Since then, this approach has been extended to many other cases, it is designated as the RAND FORMULA . To allow war industries to adjust to the production of peace, restrictions on the right to strike are lifted as the December 1949.

from here:
I know the first part doesn't make too much sense, but that's all google translate managed.


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Hey, thanks for researching this stuff, really interesting so far! (I saw this thread title but haven't had time to read it until now)

this article has a bunch of information about class struggle generally during the war:

although doesn't have much about strikes specifically.

As you say, I think there is a real dearth of information about this in English on the web. If you wanted to pull together some of these examples you have found into an article, giving just a snapshot of workers' struggles internationally during the war that would be really useful and we would love to host it in our history section. Do you think you might be able to pull something like that together?

One bit of class struggle which is often mentioned around World War II in the UK is the wave of squatting, often by returning soldiers following the war which is credited with pushing the government into massively expanding social housing.


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

PS, just found this article after a quick Google. Not had time to read through it yet but looks interesting. Libertarian communist piece about class struggle during the war:

looks like this would be good in our history section as well…


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Thanks for those two articles, the one from the selfnegation blog was just what I was looking for - a well researched article which refuted the labour peace myth. Haven't read the other yet.

As to writing an article myself - I don't think I have the time to write a well researched article atm. I will, however, keep updating this thread with new info I find - everyone else is free to do that also - and hopefully, when I have more time, this will eventually culminate in an article.

In the meantime, I found some more information about France, this time from the aircraft industry. Namely a book called 'State Capitalism and Working-Class Radicalism in the French Aircraft Industry' which is online here:

If the organizational challenge resembled that of the first war, the political climate in France did not, and in this respect, too, the people of France were ill prepared in September 1939. In 1914, despite years of antimilitarist agitation by the socialist and syndicalist movements, it turned out to be relatively easy to establish an union sacrée that would unify the country behind the war effort, at least initially. But after nearly a decade of domestic conflict in the 1930s, after June 1936 and November 1938, after the acrimony Munich had inspired within the ranks of both the left and the right, the French people went to war more divided among themselves than they had been at any stage of the First World War. Edouard Daladier's government had done little in 1939 to heal the political rifts that had widened after Munich and the general strike.

As if all this were not enough to weaken the spirit of national unity, the last week of August 1939 brought one more blow—the Nazi-Soviet Nonagression Pact. Its announcement stunned public opinion in France, as it did everywhere, and bewildered the French Communist Party. By the end of September Communist militants found themselves having to accept an almost incomprehensible change in political line—defending the pact, condemning the Daladier regime, and calling for peace in a war they were suddenly required by the Comintern to portray as a rivalry between imperialist powers. After years of serving as the staunchest advocates of antifascism, the PCF had to become a pro-peace party. This shift created havoc in the CGT, compromised militants, and gave the Daladier government an excuse to ban the party, close down Communist newspapers, dismiss more than twenty-seven hundred Communist municipal councillors, deprive PCF senators and deputies of their seats, dissolve hundreds of Communist-led CGT locals, and arrest about thirty-four hundred militants.[2]


Manpower posed the most worrisome problem for the Air Ministry during the first months of the war. Just as in 1914, the outbreak of war disrupted production as thousands of workers, regardless of skill, reported for military duty. For months Air Ministry officials had pleaded for plans that would have averted just this confusion. When the industry most needed its experienced workers, twenty thousand of them had been called to arms and were only gradually reintegrated into the factories as affectés spéciaux, or mobilized workers still under military authority.


In response the government created compagnies de renforcement, or teams of two hundred soldiers assigned to work in plants while earning a soldier's pay. This initiative sparked a heated debate among ministries. The Labor Ministry sought to dissolve these teams but ran up against the minister of the interior, who argued that soldiers would be a source of order and discipline in the factories. The air force high command, ironically, believed the contrary—that exposure to workers and their "propaganda" would contaminate soldiers with subversive views. The Air Ministry agreed; though the compagnies de renforcement continued in other defense plants, La Chambre dissolved them in the aircraft industry, choosing instead to make do with affectés spéciaux and older workers sheltered by age from military duty.[11]


If employers had difficulty recruiting workers rapidly enough to meet production schedules, they had little trouble exerting control over the conditions of labor. Just as in the First World War, industrial mobilization gave the government enormous power to coerce workers to work long hours cheaply. When war broke out, the government suspended the compulsory arbitration system and the wage adjustment clauses written into collective contracts.[13] By November the Labor Ministry went a step further by imposing a wage freeze, which condemned defense workers to a steady decline in real wages because prices continued to rise.


Shop floor discipline toughened as well. The National Service Law of 11 July 1939 gave employers the authority to reduce the wages of workers who made trouble or slowed down production.[15] In addition, the Air Ministry assigned teams of air force personnel to keep a watch over shops.[16] Military discipline in effect was the rule since most employees in the industry were either requisitioned civilians, subject to arrest for suspicious activity, or mobilized workers, subject to transfer into the army.[17]


Even if the Nazi-Soviet Pact had not thrown the CGT into a tailspin, workers would have been in a weak position to protest these conditions. Daladier's repressive policy since the fall of 1938 had greatly undermined the capacity of the CGT to defend workers' wages, to say nothing of labor's role in decision making on the shop floor. The militarization of industrial discipline, the heavy police presence in factories, and above all the repression of Communist militants virtually destroyed any prospect for reviving the labor movement.


Of course, the Nazi-Soviet Pact greatly compounded their troubles. The full scope of the catastrophe took a while to comprehend, partly because it took several weeks for the PCF to adopt the Stalinist line of opposing the war and partly because some militants did not face up to the brutal reality of the pact until the Soviet army invaded Poland on 17 September.[20] Once the party fell into line with the Comintern, Communist militants at the plant level faced agonizing choices—to abandon the party altogether, to stick with the party but ignore as much as possible the call to oppose the war effort, or to adhere to the party strategy of opposing the "imperialist war."


But their influence did not disappear entirely. Militants met secretly, distributed tracts anonymously, and supported workers in efforts to protest working conditions through slowdowns and a few rare work stoppages. Many militants followed the pragmatic tactic of remaining silent on political issues while encouraging workers to defend their immediate interests. Military officials in the Paris region reported brief slowdown strikes at the Renault-Caudron plant in Issy-les-Moulineaux as well as at Bréguet in Aubervillier and SNCM in Argenteuil. Police officials believed Communist agitators lay behind a discernible decline in output at SNCASE in Villacoublay, as in several other armament factories.[22] But it is hard to say how much moral authority Communist militants really wielded during the phoney war in the company of the skilled workers who had followed their lead since 1936. The police and the military have left only a sporadic record of political activity in the factories, and their reports are undoubtedly colored by the anti-Communist hyperbole that was characteristic of these months. It is certainly safe to say that many Communist militants contributed to the atmosphere of disaffection, distrust, and resentment that the government's tough labor policies produced throughout the defense sector. As one police official reported, "Up to now [revolutionary propaganda] does not seem to reach the mass of the working population. . . . However, it finds a sympathetic hearing among factory workers, especially in aircraft construction."[23] It is not surprising to find government officials concerned with the continuing presence of the PCF in the most strategically sensitive of defense industries, the one in which the party had done so well before the general strike of 1938. Nevertheless, repression and the Nazi-Soviet Pact kept Communists in the shadows, limiting what militants could accomplish as agitators on the shop floor.

However torn many Communists may have felt between their responsibility to defend the new pro-peace position and their Popular Frontist commitments to national defense—and many of them must have felt conflicted indeed—few militants went so far as to engage in sabotage in the aircraft industry. To be sure, there were plenty of rumors about sabotage to keep the military police busy, and on rare occasions such rumors had something to them. In May 1940 six young workers at SNCAC were arrested for allegedly placing brass wires in twenty Gnôme-et-Rhône engines. In Bordeaux rolled-up copies of the left-wing newspaper Populaire bordelais were discovered hidden within a wing to disrupt flap motion. Prosecutors at Riom turned up about a half-dozen cases of this sort. One air force official reported graffiti on factories walls reminding readers "that one hour delay at work is an hour won for the victory of the proletariat."[24] Police surveillance undoubtedly had some effect. Moreover, subtle slowdowns by stealthy militants could have escaped the attention of policemen and supervisors; right-wing critics of the government asserted that they were common. But in fact PCF leaders were not inclined to promote sabotage, and on two occasions clandestine issues of L'Humanité condemned rumors of desertion and sabotage as "provocations."[25] The errors of new workers who were inexperienced, overworked, and poorly trained posed a much more serious problem than did the efforts of a few saboteurs.

If the PCF's stance toward war production turned out in practice to be ambiguous—condemning the war but repudiating sabotage—employers and government officials tried hard to isolate militants. Repression ranged from dismissal of Communist militants from the administrative councils of the national companies to mass firings and reassignments to the army.[26] In his defense at the Riom trial La Chambre went so far as to contend that Daladier's decision to dissolve the Communist Party "had its origins" in La Chambre's warnings about the strength of the PCF in the aircraft industry.[27] From September through June military police rooted out workers suspected of slowing down production. And nonCommunist personnel were by no means immune. In a major purge at SNCM, the nationalized engine-building firm, only 51 of the 102 employees fired or reassigned to the army were so treated "for Communist propaganda."[28] Socialist militants, in fact, also complained of the reprisals they endured.[29] Spanish refugees suffered especially cruel treatment since many of them had taken jobs in the aircraft plants of southwestern France and, as anarchists and Communists, were then thrown into internment camps after the outbreak of war.[30] But for the most part the Air Ministry directed its efforts against French Communists; as late as June 1940 two hundred "Communist leaders considered the most dangerous" to the industry were arrested.[31]


Repression left the CGT in the hands of the Syndicats group on the labor right and the small core of centrists around Léon Jouhaux. For aircraft workers, this shift in leadership meant the virtual collapse of the union since most aircraft locals had associated with the Communist mainstream of the FTM


Police spies there reported in early 1940 that the CGT local in aviation was in shambles: union meetings lacked quorums to conduct business, and those workers who did attend were unable to plan strategy despite the fact that rank-and-file workers in the industry had plenty of grievances.[32]

Worse still, government policy undermined what little credibility CGT moderates could claim as spokesmen for employees in the industry. In contrast to the First World War, when Albert Thomas, the Socialist armaments minister, integrated labor leaders into the boards and committees that supervised manpower policy, the Air, Labor and Armament ministries now virtually excluded the unions. There was no union sacré and little effort to bring workers and employers together into a tripartite structure of wartime management.[33] CGT moderates, then, had no basis on which to appeal to aircraft workers for their support and no leverage within the industry with which to enhance their legitimacy.

Government repression of PCF militants and the weakness of the CGT moderates left rank-and-file workers fully exposed to managerial coercion. The National Council of the CGT called for higher wages, shorter hours for women and children, and protection for mobilized and requisitioned workers against dismissals—but to little avail. There was no room for the unions in a policy of industrial mobilization that relied essentially on fear, supervision, and a sense of patriotic duty to inspire workers. Because government repression and the PCF's own repudiation of a Popular Front strategy had undermined the CGT as a force for promoting a productivist ethic in the industry, policing the work force became all the more vital as the months wore on. Supervisory reports on how troubles were handled show that employers depended mainly on threats, dismissals, and surveillance to keep people in line.[34]


La Chambre considered the idea of mounting artillery on airplanes directly at the factory site, but he decided instead to keep the procedure centralized at special military armament centers for
fear of "Communist troubles" and because it was not always clear what artillery to install on airplanes when they left the factory.[37]


When military police began investigating a wide range of allegations—a fraudulent performance test, a tolerant attitude toward Communists and slowdowns, nepotism, and the expropriation of state funds and SNCASO workers for his private shops in Bordeaux—La Chambre finally felt compelled to fire Bloch as head of SNCASO.


Apart from an effort to intensify the repression of communists even more—Reynaud feared an insurrection when the Battle of France began—Air Ministry policy remained unchanged.[43]


For all the travails the industry encountered during the phoney war, the rate of production increased more rapidly than ever before, even more swiftly than in Britain and Germany.


Participants in the industry were quick to cast blame in many directions. Right-wing critics of the government recited the litany of accusations that had become commonplace by the outbreak of the war—the excesses of Cot and the Popular Front, the forty-hour week, Communist subversion, La Chambre's failure to be even tougher than he was with the CGT and employers like Bloch.


Managerial traditionalism and state intervention shaped the contours of the fourth major problem in the industry—the failure to create a social contract with labor. Once workers destroyed the old regime of managerial autocracy in June 1936, the battle raged to define a new social order in the workplace. For a short while it appeared possible for workers and technicians to build a place for themselves in the institutional politics of the industry. During the Popular Front Communist militants managed to blend a vision of contrôle ouvrier , or trade union power in hiring, training, and shop floor supervision, with a pragmatic program of labor representation, collective bargaining, and the forty-hour week. To a degree Cot was willing to integrate labor into the politics of the industry on this basis. But after succeeding in giving the industry a more rational structure through nationalization, he encountered powerful opposition to further reform from investors, employers, and Georges Bonnet, the minister of finance. The first opportunity to construct a social contract in the industry, combining trade union participation and industrial modernization, broke on the rock of finance.

The next chance to find a social compromise—through the national contract of April 1938 and the Jacomet ruling on the workweek—collapsed as well, when Daladier chose to restore business confidence by attacking the unions and the forty-hour week. Despite the willingness of Communist militants to give ground on work hours in the interest of national defense—a willingness in fact to discipline the work force as well as press for reforms—La Chambre dismantled the national contract and nearly destroyed the union. Daladier argued at the time and in his defense at the Riom trial that it was only after the repression of December 1938 that production accelerated in the industry. No doubt sixty- and seventy-hour workweeks made a difference in output even as they exhausted the work force. But the boost in production after January 1939 had more important sources—retooling, expansion, and the reorganization of production. Moreover, Daladier's labor policy came at a price—lower morale and a climate of distrust in the workplace.

It is impossible to know precisely how poor employee morale really was during the phoney war, much less to measure its impact on production. La Chambre was moved in parliament "to pay homage . . . to the men and those admirable women who work spontaneously and with enthusiasm."[53] But many people at the time, both inside and outside the defense industries, believed morale was not what it could have been. Alexander Werth, one of the most astute foreign observers of France, said workers' attitudes toward the war "became increasingly morose and sceptical."[54] To be sure, the PCF's opposition to the war accounted for some of this alienation. So too did Daladier's anti-Communist policy, which, as Werth argued, probably did more to arouse working-class sympathy for the party than would have been the case had Communists been given greater freedom to embarrass themselves defending Stalin. At the very least Daladier's labor policy made it more difficult for workers to rally enthusiastically behind the government. The persistence of work stoppages, even in a climate where troublemakers ran risks of being assigned to military units, testified to the acrimony that prevailed in the industry. Even at SNCAC in Bourges, which had never been a particularly protest-prone factory, employees mounted a campaign against their managers in April 1940 to get a Monday holiday for Pentecost.[55] More telling still was the 17 May 1940 issue of Syndicats . As the battle raged in northeastern France, even these anti-Communist moderates of the CGT could not keep themselves from expressing their exasperation over labor repression. "Social injustice is demoralizing," ran the headline to Marcel Roy's column, in which he went on to write: "Discipline imposed under duress does not generate great production. If one really wants greater and greater production, you have to take workers' mentality into account. You must let metalworkers make use of the institution of the personnel delegates, and to do that delegates must be given guarantees that protect them from repression that is as stupid as it is, in many cases, unjustified." With Communists fearing arrest, and moderates like Roy expressing this degree of bitterness over the disappearance of meaningful labor representation in defense industries, France was a long way indeed from the union sacrée of 1914.

The survival in the British aircraft industry of a social compact between employers, workers, and the state throws the dismal condition of French labor relations into sharper relief. The British aircraft industry was obviously not without turbulence on the shop floor. As we saw in chapter 6, skilled workers in the Amalgamated Engineering Union had resisted the dilution of the work force from 1936 on, whereas French aircraft workers had largely followed the lead of the CGT in accommodating the reorganization of production. But in late August 1939, just when the Nazi-Soviet Pact threw the CGT into upheaval, the climate for labor cooperation improved on the other side of the English Channel.[56] The AEU and the major employers organization in metalworking, the Engineering Employers' Federation, finally reached an agreement on dilution, a settlement that enabled employers to take on semiskilled labor peacefully by giving the AEU some say over how it was done. The agreement was something of a setback for the AEU, but as war appeared imminent, AEU leaders felt increasing pressure from both the British government and the leadership of the Trades Union Congress to make concessions in behalf of rearmament. As a result of this compromise, employers and the unions went into the phoney war with open lines of communication and with the basic institutions of collective bargaining and labor representation intact. And since the Communist movement was much weaker in Britain, the Nazi-Soviet Pact did much less to undermine the unions from within or inspire a wave of antiunion repression. Though labor relations were far from harmonious in Britain during the war years, it was nonetheless possible for trade union leaders, employers, and government officials to maintain a framework for ongoing negotiation and to appeal in behalf of their constituencies to a common sense of national peril. These assets—a capacity to carry on industrial relations and a sense of national cohesion—were precisely what the French squandered through domestic conflict before and during the phoney war.


And when Daladier and Reynaud restored business confidence, they did so by attacking the CGT. Then during the phoney war, PCF support for the Nazi-Soviet Pact and Daladier's repression of the party made it virtually impossible to create something other than an autocratic mode of labor management. Although the French aircraft industry did indeed produce airplanes at a respectable pace in 1939 and 1940, an atmosphere of distrust, fear, and suspicion poisoned the workplace. If this story in aviation, and similar stories in other industries, did not lead directly to the collapse of the army in May 1940, it did inspire people (Marc Bloch and many others) to think that something profoundly wrong had happened to the body politic, that France's own war with itself had caused the defeat.

In this respect social conflict during the phoney war had its greatest impact not so much on rates of production as on states of mind, especially after June 1940. Ironically, just when the industry had demonstrated it could respond to the challenge of mass production, albeit tardily, the people who made it happen—workers, engineers, employers, politicians, and soldiers—faced the painful challenge of acknowledging defeat. Everyone looked for ways to explain the nation's failure and the industry's as well. It was thus with feelings of collective failure, bitterness, betrayal, and disbelief that many of these same people who had built the warplanes of the armée de l'air faced the task of making planes for the Luftwaffe.


Since the defeat aircraft factories throughout the country had been at a standstill, forcing employers to lay off workers by the thousands and swelling the ranks of the unemployed, who some officials feared might foment an upheaval reminiscent of the German revolution in 1919. "We have a duty," Henry de l'Escaille told his colleagues at the Union Syndicale des Industries Aéronautiques, "to resume the activity of our factories since it is important above all to spare manpower from unemployment."[5] To save jobs, preserve order, and protect the industry from the twin dangers of technical decline and German pilferage, most employers and state officials welcomed plans to build German planes on a regular basis.[6]


Hemmen insisted that all factories, not just those in the occupied zone, produce planes for the Luftwaffe. Fearing slowdowns, sabotage, and a reluctance to meet deadlines, he called for the nationalized firms to surrender company stock to German firms until orders were filled.[8] To secure compliance, he also demanded the right for German officials to supervise technical preparations, production methods, and pricing practices within plants while leaving day-to-day management to French employers.[9]


But in practice production fell short of these goals. From 1940 to early 1943 the industry furnished Germany and France only 53 percent and 59 percent of the respective quotas for each country. The engine sector provided Germany only 47 percent of its quota.[13] Start-up problems, design adjustments, shortages of machinery and electric power, and deliberate delays on the shop floor all hurt the program. So too did German efforts to transfer French workers to German plants—not a big hindrance to French production before 1943 but a problem nonetheless for an expanding industry with a labor shortage.[14]


Desperate for both French-built planes and conscript laborers, Hitler's government tried to extract each at the expense of the other. Albert Speer, the German armaments minister, turned to France as a source of finished goods but lost ground to Fritz Sauckel, Hitler's plenipotentiary for labor, who from October 1942 to March 1943 conscripted more than four hundred thousand workers for German plants.[17] The Vichy government managed to collaborate in both strategies. Jean Bichelonne, Pétain's minister of industrial production, cooperated enthusiastically with Speer and tried on several occasions to protect the resources of the aircraft industry. Meanwhile, in February 1943, Pierre Laval's government established the Compulsory Labor Service, the hated Service du Travail Obligatoire, or STO, which conscripted workers for German plants. The STO, in conjunction with the "combing committees" German officials used to spot skilled workers for critical industries, made labor shortages more acute in the very plants the Germans relied on to build planes for the Luftwaffe.[18] Similarly, after November 1942 German officials seized a greal deal of machinery, especially in plants in the south, despite its importance to French production. Sabotage, slowdowns, and labor shortages made the temptations of plundering plants, rather than using them, all the greater.[19]


Göring announced in May 1943 that fifteen hundred research personnel—engineers, draftsmen, and technicians—should be transferred to Germany from their design labs in France.


Collaboration also kept most of the industry intact despite allied bombardment, sabotage, and efforts by a retreating German army to damage factories.


They kept things going, adjusted as best they could to their new clients, and wrestled when they had to with ways of taking advantage of collaboration without losing property and personnel to the Germans or giving the Resistance cause to sabotage the permanent installations of the firm. At the SNCASO plant in Bordeaux, for example, the factory director made an arrangement to "go slow" with production and inform the maquis about convoys of finished parts so the latter could intercept them. In return the Resistance refrained from damaging plant machinery.[40] In Cannes the design staff at SNCASE avoided contracts with the Germans, continued their own clandestine projects, and managed to fly one new prototype to the Free French in North Africa.[41] In a few plants workers and managers conspired to produce parts, repair aircraft, or work on new prototypes at a remarkably sluggish pace. On the whole most employers walked a fine line between collaboration and subtle obstruction, operating their plants at between 50 percent and 100 percent of capacity and protecting their most valued employees from deportation.[42] Traumatized by defeat, uncertain about the future, embittered by the conflicts of the late 1930s, most employers improvised in an ethos of self-preservation.


Survival and Resistance on the Factory Floor

The Occupation subjected employees to burdens that made even the worst moments of 1939–40 appear benign by comparison. To be sure, in terms of anti-Communist repression there was a good deal of continuity before and after June 1940 since Daladier spared no effort in attacking the PCF after September 1939. But daily life under the Nazi boot and the Vichy regime exposed the ordinary employee to much greater fear, intimidation, and material deprivation than before.

The most immediate problem was holding on to a job. Right after the armistice aircraft companies laid off people by the droves. Within a matter of a few weeks SNCASO, for example, shrank its work force at Châteauroux from 2,286 employees to a mere 512, at Bordeaux from 6,079 to 1,500, and at Rochefort from 1,200 to 40.[46] Whereas employers tried to keep their most highly trained engineers, draftsmen, and skilled workers, they dropped thousands of recent recruits, especially the semiskilled. Gradually work opportunities returned for some of these people, as contracts with German companies and the Franco-German Accord of July 1941 brought new business to the builders. In 1941 the work force stood at about forty thousand, quite a decline from the quarter million of May 1940; but by 1942 it had climbed to eighty thousand, and it reached one hundred thousand by the Liberation.[47]


At first, work in aviation still seemed to offer the advantages that had lured workers into the industry before the war—good wages relative to other branches, prestige, and fairly safe working conditions. Despite the continuing efforts of leaders in other metalworking sectors to bring aircraft wages in line with those of the rest of the industry, most airplane manufacturers continued to pay at least some of their people better than in branches like automaking.


Still, the overall wage picture looked better in aviation throughout the Occupation period, mainly because most employers wanted to preserve the advantage premium rates gave them over other employers in the labor market, and German companies were paying the bill. A survey in September 1943 showed the average hourly wage for skilled work in aircraft to be sixteen francs, compared with 14.20 in automobiles, 11.43 in shipbuilding, and 10.65 in agricultural machinery.[49]


But as the Occupation wore on, the aircraft industry became a dangerous place to work. Airplane factories became targets for British and American bombers; allied bombardment eventually destroyed about 70 percent of the industry's factory space.[50] Sabotage, though less frequent and less deadly, also gave employees reason to fear for their safety—as did, of course, the Occupation authorities themselves, especially after 1942, when Göring pushed to transfer machinery and personnel to Germany. Aircraft workers also became vulnerable to the STO. The Gestapo could burst into a plant at any moment in 1943 and 1944 to comb for STO recruits or suspected resisters.[51]

Even relatively good wages for longtime employees in aviation did not insulate people from the hunger, cold, and sense of insecurity that plagued working-class France during the Occupation. Food was rationed, and official prices for basic food items in 1943 were double what they had been in 1938. Black-market prices soared. Meanwhile wages in aviation scarcely rose. With Hitler draining money, coal, minerals, food stuffs, and industrial products out of the country, France became a world of scarcity, especially for urban workers. Malnutrition became commonplace. Overwork sapped people's strength, as workweeks of fifty hours and more became common by 1943. A study of SNCASO workers in the Paris region revealed in June 1942 that the average worker had lost at least thirty-three pounds, and some twice that. Tuberculosis threatened to become rampant.[52] Aircraft employees, in short, were not immune to the ill effects of long hours, stagnant wages, chilly factories, and poor nutrition. Moments of fear and despondency probably took their toll as well.

Employers knew perfectly well that economic and physical hardship, to say nothing of Vichy's policy of suppressing the labor movement, created a potentially dangerous situation in their factories. Not surprisingly, then, most employers renewed their efforts to use old-fashioned company paternalism to bolster their authority and boost morale. In a sense the Occupation and the right-wing revival the Vichy regime represented gave employers a chance to steal back some of the ground the CGT had won after 1936 in the area of social services and recreational activities. Some employers became more involved than before in providing medical service, company housing, and vacation camps for their employees. They also stepped up their efforts to instill a sense of identification with the industry, or what de l'Escaille called a "team spirit" akin to what "had penetrated the religious orders of the past."[53] Employers directed these efforts especially at white-collar employees and young workers. The former were urged to attend a lecture series in Paris on new methods in management, and the latter were to be indoctrinated into the company work culture through apprentice training, which included summer camps to reinforce a sense of attachment to the company. As André Granet, the general secretary of the Union Syndicale, put it, a revival of apprentice training was essential "to secure for our establishments a work force that is young, ardent, proud of its craft and the quality of its work, and that thinks aviation."[54] At the same time, interest in industrial psychology spread as employers began to use psychological tests to select and place their personnel. Thus, the Occupation offered employers a mixture of burdens and opportunities—new responsibilities for the welfare of their workers and a chance to restore forms of social dependence that the CGT had opposed before the war. Employers understood the stakes involved; in late 1943, after describing the destruction Allied bombing had recently caused, Granet expressed his hope "that these years of tribulation, which we have endured with such solidarity, can only influence favorably the relations between employers and personnel."[55]

A revival of company paternalism went hand in hand with Vichy's labor policy, which was built around the Labor Charter, the codification of a series of sweeping reforms designed to "abrogate the class struggle in France."[56] In October 1941 Labor Minister René Belin, the erstwhile leader of the Syndicats group on the right wing of the CGT, promulgated the charter; business and anti-Communist labor leaders spent the rest of the Vichy period struggling to implement it. The charter abolished the right to strike, effectively destroying collective bargaining, and at least in principle replaced union-management antagonisms with new, obligatory, government-sponsored unions, or syndicats uniques , and a pyramid of "social committees" to facilitate labor-management cooperation at the factory, regional, and national levels.

In practice the Labor Charter served more to sanction a return to paternalistic and authoritarian methods than to create a new corporatist mode of labor relations. In aviation, as in most other industries, little came of the effort to establish syndicats uniques; it was virtually impossible to find shop floor representatives who could command the confidence of rank-and-file employees, employers, Vichy administrators, and the Occupation authorities at the same time.[57] Social committees, by contrast, took some kind of shape in most factories. But they remained poorly financed and weakly supported by the rank and file.[58] It was obvious that the social committee did little to empower blue-collar workers. Its membership included the factory director and representatives of every level in the company hierarchy—managers, engineers, office employees, and workers—an arrangement that scarcely gave workers much of a voice. What is more, these committees only had the right to handle social welfare activities. They had to stay clear of those critical matters that remained under the exclusive jurisdiction of company executives and government bureaucrats, namely wages, hours, and working conditions. The social committee at Farman in Paris was typical of the genre in sponsoring sports teams, a vacation camp, physical education for youngsters, aid for prisoners of war, relief packages for workers sent to Germany, and emergency funds for bomb victims—the kinds of services that paternalistic employers had provided in the interwar period and that the CGT had started to co-opt after 1936.[59] In this respect there was something fundamentally ambiguous about the social committee: though it bore the stigma of Vichy's policy of undermining an autonomous workers' movement, it also implicitly legitimized employee involvement in some company decisions. For this reason it was not surprising that the board of directors of SNCASO became particularly concerned, in early 1943, when managers informed them that the social committee in one of their factories was trying to get involved in wage issues.[60] In the end, however, social committees remained narrowly confined.

Ironically, the Labor Charter in some ways worked against the very efforts employers were making to instill a sense of pride and identification with aviation. A key assumption in Vichy corporatist ideology was that the committees that brought together employers and employees would reflect "natural" groupings or branches in the economy, or what the charter designated as industrial "families."


Along with paternalism and the Labor Charter there was another arrow in the quiver of managerial control—repression. Vichy police, of course, stood at the ready if employers encountered trouble on the factory floor. More important, however, was the threat of turning troublemakers over to German authorities and hence the prospects of prison, deportation, the concentration camp, or, if one was lucky, just the STO. This was hardly an empty threat. In Bordeaux alone more than a thousand skilled aircraft workers were sent to Germany in 1942 and 1943.[62] Although the dangers were initially greatest in the occupied zone, by 1943 full-scale occupation, Allied bombing, and Sauckel's conscription of labor made aircraft workers throughout the country vulnerable to arrest, transfer, or deportation.[63] In some plants managers tried to shelter workers from the STO by hiring more people than they really needed. When a worker feared deportation was imminent at SNCAC in Bourges, it was common to ask the company for whatever pay and medical benefits one was due and then disappear southward or into the countryside.[64] Despite this kind of support from some administrators, however, the constant threats of reprisal, tight surveillance, the proximity of Vichy police and the Gestapo, and the weighty consequences of being fired made it costly for workers to challenge managerial authority.

Remarkably, workers did. Although strikes were rare during the Occupation, short symbolic work stoppages became frequent, especially as time went on. According to one militant, there were eighty-four brief stoppages at the SIPA plant outside Paris between October 1942 and July 1944.[65] Paternalism, the Labor Charter, and the Gestapo could not destroy the willingness of workers to push for wage hikes, shorter hours, proper heating, or adequate food in the company cafeteria. Collective action could be as modest as an incident at a Caudron factory in Saint-Maur in 1942, when a personnel delegation went to the factory director to ask for a pay increase while their colleagues in the shops dropped their tools for five minutes.[66] Or protests could become more vigorous, and dangerous, as did the work stoppage at the SNCAN plant in Sartrouville, northwest of Paris. There workers in almost all the shops went on strike at 3 P.M. on 21 May 1943 to eliminate the punitive pay deductions that managers had imposed to curb an epidemic of tardiness and absenteeism in the plant. When workers refused to resume work for the rest of the afternoon, factory officials called local German authorities, who then arrested suspected ringleaders in their homes.[67] A one-day strike of sixty-four hundred workers and technicians at Gnôme-et-Rhône produced a similar result: management invited German officials to make arrests.[68] Despite these reprisals, brief stoppages increasingly became a way to register one's patriotism as the Occupation wore on, and Resistance leaders encouraged such actions as the one that occurred at SNCASO in Châtillon on 11 November 1943. Workers there stopped work for an hour and put up tricolor flags, and women employees donned tricolor cockades to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the armistice of 1918.[69] By 1944 distinctions had blurred between work stoppages for wage hikes and symbolic protests of the Occupation.

These incidents and others like them attest to the survival of a culture of labor militancy. Two features of working-class life in the industry made this survival possible—continuity of a work force schooled in the discipline of job actions, and the persistence of an underground network of trade union militants committed to organizing protests despite the enormous risks involved. Although we lack records of labor turnover, reports that many workers still earned their prewar wages leave little doubt that many people employed in the late 1930s stayed in the industry during the Occupation. In them the lessons of solidarity endured. No less important, CGT militants, both newcomers and veterans, found ways to keep a kernel of their organization alive in the hostile climate of 1940–42 and nurture it back to strength by the time of the Liberation. Since collaboration and the Labor Charter discredited Marcel Roy and other members of the anti-Communist Syndicats faction of the FTM, and since Pétain's antilabor policy made it difficult for non-Communist militants to become effective spokesmen for workers through legal means, Communist militants in the CGT were gradually able through illegal actions to stage a comeback from the embarrassment of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

Still, the road back to prominence in the shop floor culture of the industry was far from easy for Communist militants. Arrest with leaflets in hand could lead a militant to prison camp, or worse. Early in the Occupation a few arrests could stymie the party for months. In Toulouse, for example, Communists made some progress in the second half of 1940 building cells in local aircraft plants, only to be scouted out by the police and sent to prison. Comrades had to start all over again the following spring.[70] The prospects were no better in the Paris region, where Henri Jourdain, assigned by the party to organize secret "groups of three" militants in several large Parisian metalworking plants, including Gnôme-et-Rhône, recalled later how difficult it was in early 1941 to inspire people with "a belief in possible victory." "How many times one heard, 'I have the jitters. Don't count on me.'"[71]

Once Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941, organizing became easier. Suddenly the PCF could shed the stigma of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and reclaim the ideological position it had had during the Popular Front, the Jacobin blend of patriotism, antifascism, and working-class advocacy that proved so popular in the mid-1930s. In fact, the Communist editors of the underground tract Le Métallo consciously invoked memories of the Popular Front to reassert their continuity with the past: "We invite the métallos to organize a Popular Grievance Committee in each factory to use every means of pressure (delegations, work stoppages, lowering output and the quality of work, etc.). . . . Forward, Parisian Métallos! Remember June 1936!"[72] After June 1941 Jourdain found it easier to build his clandestine groups of three, even though the risks of arrest, torture, and deportation were just as great as before. Morale in this growing underground network of militant activists became tied to the shifting fate of the Red Army—exaltation initially, despair by September 1941, growing confidence after 1942.[73]

Three kinds of activity enabled Communist militants to reinsert themselves quietly into the day-to-day life of an aircraft plant. First, militants helped orchestrate work stoppages, slowdowns, and subtle, systematic methods to restrict production. The PCF viewed even the most ordinary efforts to fight for wage hikes as crucial to the larger political struggle. As party leaders declared in L'Humanité in 1941, "when French workers strike for better wages, better food provisions, or other such demands, they serve the cause of the independence of France."[74] For militants, work stoppages also served as a way to build solidarity, test workers' morale for future actions, and recruit newcomers into the underground network of the party.

Second, some militants managed to lead a double life, working as underground Resistance organizers while serving in official posts on social committees or in the syndicats uniques . Enough militants played this dangerous game in Paris metalworking to prompt at least one employer to complain to the Paris prefect that official Vichy labor committees were being peopled with "the same CGT leaders of 1936 . . . with the same mentality."[75] Posing as cooperative participants in Vichy's labor apparatus could be embarrassing, as Jean Breteau, a leading aircraft Communist, discovered when "directives from the clandestine organization forced me to become secretary of the social committee and assume responsibility for the legalized trade union, [which] was not always funny on account of workers' hostility to this organization."[76] But these legal posts gave some militants a useful cover as they went about their third and most important activity—participation in the Resistance.

Aircraft factories offered the Resistance a potent mixture of risk and opportunity. Heavy surveillance on company property, close supervision on the shop floor, and exhaustive inspections of an employee's work made it difficult to carry out sabotage in an airplane factory. Plant machinery and airplanes in the making nonetheless made irresistible targets, as tracts like Le Métallo kept reminding militants: "At the moment when the valiant Red Army is decimating the Hitlerian hordes, every métallo must in the service of the independence of his country place his intelligence, knowledge, and initiative into sabotaging Hitler's matériel. No truck, gun, shell, tank, airplane, or spare part should lack the mark of our willingness to sabotage in order to conquer the enemy."[77] Aircraft militants developed elaborate schemes for damaging equipment and impeding production. Some workers also used spare moments between tasks to make pieces for underground mimeograph machines, grenades, and revolvers.[78] Mealtime in the company cafeteria gave many militants a chance to speak briefly with comrades, urge rank-and-file colleagues to fight for grievances, and sometimes even make orations for the patriotic cause.[79] A good deal of Resistance work, of course, also went on outside the factory gates, where militants distributed tracts, forged ration cards, or shepherded young workers out of the grasp of the STO and into the hands of the maquis.

It is impossible to say how many workers, technicians, engineers, or even employers took part in sabotage or in schemes to slow down production. Memoirs and anecdotal evidence give the general impression that participation in these acts of resistance was roughly the same in aviation as in most other industries. Official surveys estimate that "patriotic sabotage" destroyed more than 193 million francs worth of matériel and equipment in the industry, or almost five times what the Germans destroyed in their retreat—though a tiny amount in comparison to damage from Allied bombing.[80] Reminiscences by militants abound with examples of how workers did such things as clog engine parts or create radiator leaks under the nose of their supervisors.[81] What mattered most, however, was not the extent of the damage but the aura of political valor and patriotism that Resistance activity gave militants. By 1944 CGT militants who were either members of, or sympathetic to, the Communist Party had won back much of the stature they had enjoyed in airplane factories during the Popular Front. They also had restored that essential asset for asserting leadership in the work force—organization. The CGT began to recongeal as a unified trade union confederation in which PCF-oriented militants, especially in metalworking and other blue-collar industries, emerged as even more powerful than had been the case in 1938. Communist militants became the chief links between workers and a complex network of Resistance organizations, including the FTP (Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, the guerrilla wing of the Communist resistance) and, by 1943, the patriotic militia (milices patriotiques ), paramilitary organizations designed by the PCF to enable civilians to harass the enemy without going off to the maquis. At SNCASO in Châtillon, a plant with about eight hundred workers and three hundred technicians and engineers, the patriotic militia attracted about 160 members in 1944.[82] As the prospects for liberation increased, Communist militants were much more prepared than they had been in 1936 to absorb people looking for ways to take part in the new insurgency.

When the long-awaited Allied invasion of France came in June 1944, management's authority began to erode quickly to the point of collapse. As a former employee at SNCAC in Bourges remembers it, the landing at Normandy "provoked an explosion of joy. . . . This was the period of the last-minute resisters, sometimes highly placed in the hierarchy of SNCAC, who wanted to redeem themselves for their previously questionable attitudes."[83] Closer to the battle zones of Normandy, the Paris region, and Provence, factory directors watched events overtake them as it became harder to carry on daily functions. At SNCAN administrators in Paris lost all connection, even by telephone, to their Le Havre and Caudebec plants in the path of the invasion. Power outages, disruption of transport, and soaring rates of absenteeism (often disguised by falsified sickness reports), sapped factories that as late as May had been working remarkably well despite bombing and sabotage. German officials, facing up to the realities of a retreat, scrambled to shift production to factories further east. Messerschmitt even tried to get SNCAN to transfer engineers to Switzerland.[84] Meanwhile Communist militants made their move, organizing work stoppages that in a number of major plants around Paris, including Gnôme-et-Rhône, Renault, SNCAC, and SNCASO, virtually shut down production by the end of July. Bombardment and invasion inspired similar work stoppages in aircraft factories around Marseille. On the eve of the Liberation practically everyone in the work force, blue-collar and white-collar, joined the ground swell of popular enthusiasm for purging the outright collaborators and reinvigorating the nation with new leaders and new reforms.[85]

By the time of the Liberation the relationship between employers, government officials, and workers had changed dramatically from what it had been right after the defeat. Labor militants and their (mostly Communist) political allies at the national level returned to prominence after having been crushed by repression. Rejuvenated by the Resistance, Communist militants resurrected not only the rhetorical symbol of 1936—"Workers, remember June '36"—but the political objectives as well: nationalization, mass recruitment into the CGT, collective bargaining, and a genuine voice for the labor movement in industrial management. The revival of the left, particularly the PCF, renewed the hope of resuming the revolution in industrial relations that had begun during the Popular Front.



Events during the Liberation itself set the stage for the reforms that followed. During the final days of the Occupation an insurrectionary climate filled the air as workers went on strike, took over factories, or found their workplaces paralyzed by electrical blackouts, sabotage, or bombardment. It became extremely difficult for factory directors to maintain effective control over their personnel, especially in cases where management had collaborated assiduously with the Germans. Liberation committees surfaced everywhere, usually with Communist leadership, and were eager to settle accounts. When Allied troops or the FFI (the internal Resistance now unified into Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur) secured control of Le Havre, Sartrouville, Toulouse, and the other main centers of the industry, Liberation committees frequently purged management and put new men in charge. Reprisals came swiftly. At SNCASE in Marignane the personnel director and his deputy were both assassinated, and in Toulouse a purge committee sacked fifteen department heads and one hundred other employees. At Sartrouville a Resistance group took over the plant and had the production director arrested. The FFI named a new factory director at SNCAN in Méaulte, as did the purge committee at Caudron in Paris and at SNCAC in Bourges.[2] For a brief period managerial hierarchies dissolved.

Much the same thing, of course, occurred in many other industries. What made the Liberation distinctive in aviation was the extent to which this initial burst of left-wing assertiveness translated into a movement to create "production committees" throughout the industry—factory councils designed to promote the speedy rejuvenation of production. In Toulouse, where the FFI was particularly strong and aviation was a major industry, production committees quickly gained the national limelight. There, in late August and early September, workers at SNCASE, Bréguet, Latécoère, and Air France proclaimed their right to have a say in managing their plants, even going so far at SNCASE as to demand the right to "oversee the progress of production."[3] Within a week production committees had sprouted in other industries throughout the region—so much so, in fact, that Pierre Bertaux, de Gaulle's commissaire régional de la République (a kind of superprefect), stepped in to contain the movement by bringing employers and labor militants to the bargaining table. On 12 September both sides agreed to the Accord de Toulouse, which legitimized the committees, defined their powers, and provided a framework for their further proliferation. It gave them "a right to oversight which allows for effective control over all technical, administrative, commercial, and financial activities of their respective workplaces, in order that the latter can be put to the total service . . . of the Nation."[4] In the name of patriotism the accord gave workers a voice in their factories, paving the way for later national legislation establishing plant committees (comités d'entreprise ) and mixed production committees (comités mixtes à la production ) in other industries throughout France.

Aircraft employees stepped to the forefront of the movement to establish production committees for a number of reasons. First of all, employees in aviation had a history of assuming some responsibility for the organization of work. Aircraft construction still called for highly skilled metalworkers and an unusually large proportion of technicians, draftsmen, and engineers. Communication up and down this skilled occupational hierarchy remained commonplace in prototype shops. Even mass production in 1939–40 did not eliminate these long-standing features in the social organization of aircraft work. It therefore made sense in aviation to argue that a production committee could improve the quality and pace of production, and the idea appealed to employees with a collective self-image as a skilled elite.

It also appealed to people's patriotism, which was particularly ripe for the tapping during the Liberation. As a point of national pride, employees wanted to supply French-built airplanes to a French air force that was otherwise depending mainly on American and British equipment. Communist militants were particularly eager to replenish the air force for the continuing war against Germany, and the production committee offered them a device for enhancing that effort and absorbing employees' enthusiasm for the Liberation into a structure militants could control. Militants, moreover, were well positioned to promote these committees, in part because the CGT had largely succeeded in organizing workers and technicians between 1936 and 1938, in part because many of these same men, like the technician Lucien Llabre in Toulouse, came to the forefront again in August 1944.[5] The skilled nature of aircraft construction, its importance to the renewed war effort, and a continuity of leadership and organization in the CGT made the industry fertile ground for production committees.

In addition, there were precedents. Pierre Cot, Blum's air minister in 1936, had required nationalized companies to establish advisory committees in their factories. Likewise Fernand Grenier, a Communist and de Gaulle's air minister in the provisional government in Algiers, established production committees in 1944 in all Algerian airplane repair shops, an experiment modeled on the joint production committees that Grenier had seen in wartime Britain. The committee movement therefore drew on sources both "below," in the shop floor experience of airplane construction, and "above," in wartime plans of the CGT, the Communist Party, and the new Air Ministry.

Just how radical a challenge the production committee posed to traditional managerial authority was at first unclear. One observer hailed the Accord de Toulouse as a "night of 4 August 1789," a stunning abdication of employer privilege.[6] In the heady days of the Liberation the sudden emergence of Liberation committees and purge committees and the resurgence of the CGT gave the movement for production committees an aura of what would now be labeled "autogestion," or employee self-management. Some workers and local militants may have had hopes that factory committees would somehow replace the boss. And in fact in some plants the Liberation committees seemed to have much more authority than company management.[7] Certainly some employers feared the worst; the director of Latécoère in Toulouse wrote at the time, "This committee is changing little by little into a soviet!"[8]

But what mattered most was how Communist militants viewed these committees, for in August 1944 they were in a strong position to dictate to workers and managers alike how radical an instument these committees would be. The PCF, in fact, had no intention of jeopardizing national unity and the party's newfound prestige by promoting radical notions of worker-run enterprise. Committees were to counsel, but not replace, factory management. Having mobilized the committee movement, Communist militants worked at the same time to keep it within bounds, to make the committees serve the practical aims of strengthening the CGT, stimulating production, and rejuvenating French firms for the stiff international competition they would face after the war. The oath committee members took on assuming their duties made these purposes clear:

We swear on our honor to cooperate faithfully with one another in order to ensure the maximum production while safeguarding the interests of workers and the national collectivity. . . .

[We swear] never to allow our committees to be used as stepping stones for personal gain beyond trade union and patriotic control, or for ambitions to acquire managerial posts in the airplane companies.

[We swear] to put all our technical and professional knowledge to the exclusive service of production and the management of the enterprise placed under our safety in order that French aircraft production will regain the rank it should never have lost.[9]

Patriotism, productivism, and loyalty to the union: these were the values that Communist leaders in Toulouse wanted committee members to promote in their factories. To be sure, workers and militants expected the committees to have real power. Militants at SNCASE, for example, were determined to go beyond the experience of the Popular Front when factory advisory committees played what they felt had been a superficial role in their plant.[10] But strictly speaking, the Accord de Toulouse did nothing to usurp the formal right of management to direct the firm.

If the committee movement posed only a mild threat to management, it posed no threat at all to the state. On the contrary, the Accord de Toulouse demonstrated that rank-and-file aircraft workers, as well as the CGT and PCF militants among them, were willing to cooperate with the embryonic regime taking shape around de Gaulle. At no point in the chaotic days of the Liberation did aircraft workers question the legitimacy of the new government. Nor did anyone challenge Pierre Bertaux's authority to oversee the talks that produced the Accord de Toulouse. In fact, the authority of the production committees ultimately depended on support from the state. As the accord stated, "The refusal by the director to apply measures recommended [by the committee] must be for specific reasons and can be the occasion for the committee to turn to a qualified representative of the Government." During the Popular Front aircraft workers had relied heavily on prefects, labor inspectors, and ministerial officials for support in strikes, grievance hearings, arbitration, and collective bargaining. From 1936 until Munich Communist militants learned to work through, rather than against, the state. When the PCF and the CGT returned to a Popular Front strategy in 1944, and when a new government of the Liberation seemed to hold such promise for the left, aircraft workers showed a willingness once again to view government officials as potential allies for labor reform. In 1944, as in 1936, contrôle ouvrière seemed to go hand in hand with expanding the supervisory authority of the state.

Within a month of the Liberation the world of French aircraft manufacturing had become thoroughly absorbed into a new era of national mobilization. Purge committees had gone a long way to clean house, not always justly, in factories, offices, and laboratories. Newly promoted managers scrambled with the help of their employers to get production going again, not always successfully on account of bomb damage, blackouts, shortages, and bottlenecks in supplies. But a kind of left-wing patriotic revivalism did a lot to compensate psychologically for the economic chaos that still paralyzed much of the industry.

Events in Toulouse on 20 September convey something of the afterglow of Liberation that continued into the fall of 1944. That day aircraft workers in Toulouse left their shops early to take part in festivities the Departmental Committee of the Liberation had planned to commemorate "the first victory of the popular army: Valmy, 20 September 1792." As the committee had arranged, employees all over town stopped work at five o'clock to lend their numbers to the crowd and "give the festival its full luster." Local troops from the FFI marched to the Place du Capitole in the center of town, where orators "exalted the victories of the Republic." Later, celebrants gathered at the Gaumont Theater for a concert by Musique de l'Air and a showing of Jean Renoir's film La Marseillaise . The following day Le Patriote du Sud-Ouest, a major Resistance paper for the region, featured its daily historical calendar, identifying what had transpired that day during pivotal years in the French past—1792, 1914, 1918, and so on.[11] The lesson was clear: the Liberation and the continuing Allied drive were part of a long-standing Jacobin struggle—against Prussians on the eastern frontier and antirepublicans down the street. Alongside the calendar the paper ran a prominent story on the furious pace of work in the aircraft plants, where in the wake of the Liberation workers were working twelve-hour days; as one young worker at SNCASE told the reporter, "Now we can come here; it's not for the Fritz."[12] In such an atmosphere of enthusiasm for the Liberation aircraft production slowly began to revive, and with it the contest for control in the industry.


Ministerial support also helped CGT militants use production and plant committees to expand the influence of the trade union in workers' lives. As early as October 1944 Tillon called for establishing production committees throughout the industry, patterned after the committees in Toulouse, to give workers a voice in improving production.[31] Tillon's new directors in the nationalized sector welcomed the production committee as well as the plant committee.[32] The latter gave personnel representatives (and in reality the CGT) control over social services in the factory. Plant committee services were financed by sizable company contributions, which in the nationalized companies were equivalent to 5 percent of the payroll, substantially more than the 1 or 2 percent that metal-working companies usually provided.[33] As a result, by 1947 these committees had come to sponsor an impressive range of activities. They organized mutual aid, retirement plans, worker gardens, and emergency support for families in need. They administered medical services within factories and converted rural estates into sanatoriums, rest retreats, and vacation colonies. They supervised consumer cooperatives, day nurseries, lending libraries, study circles, occupational and apprenticeship training, and a wide array of recreational programs—choral societies, art clubs, sports teams, and flying clubs. The Christmas trees and children's parties that had previously given employers a chance to appear benevolent in the autocratic factory now became part of the institutional life of the CGT. So too did factory cafeterias, a complex undertaking that demonstrated, as SNECMA militants were quick to point out, "that workers can run their social services themselves."[34] Militants viewed the plant committee as a way to destroy the tradition of employer paternalism that prevailed before 1936 and was revived through the social committees of the Vichy era.[35] The PCF and the CGT hoped to institutionalize a counterpaternalism that strengthened employees' loyalty to the union.


The effort to give workers a voice in their factories through plant and production committees had limitations as well. In aviation, as in other industries, the CGT and the PCF had little intention of using these committees to create a genuine regime of democratic decision making on the shop floor. On the contrary, Communist militants took care to keep the functions of the committees narrowly circumscribed so that the crucial issues of wages, hours, and working conditions would remain the primary concern of the trade union itself.[39] The production committee served not as a foothold for workers' control but as a weapon in the "battle for production." The productivism of the CGT during the Popular Front appeared mild in comparison to the enthusiasm with which these committees embraced the virtues of industrial discipline—hard work, efficiency, technical ingenuity, and an identification with the industry and its products. Production committees offered prizes to workers with the best suggestions for cutting production time, lowering costs, or improving quality. At SNECMA the committee routinely endorsed piecework incentive schemes, time-study methods, streamlined assembly, "psychotechnique" (the use of industrial psychology in personnel management), and even output bonuses for waitresses in the factory cafeteria—methods that at least some Communist militants in the 1920s would have condemned as "capitalist rationalization."[40] Although production committees gave personnel representatives a voice in their factories, the PCF and the CGT never promoted them as rivals to company managers. As Tillon's chief of staff, René Jugeau, explained it, committees were to supplement, not supplant, supervisory control, especially because workers were not in a position "to see all the contingencies of production."[41] The production committees may have resonated with the esprit de l'aéronautique of skilled workers, but their limited authority and their productivism also reinforced the managerial hierarchy.

Plant committees likewise fell short of being a revolutionary innovation. By 1946 the CGT sought to draw clearer distinctions between the production committee and the plant committee by restricting the latter to matters of social welfare, largely to the exclusion of economic matters and work organization. In fact, many CGT militants were ambivalent about the plant committee, fearing that employers or non-Communist militants would exploit the institution for their own purposes. Some militants saw a disquieting resemblance between the postwar plant committees and the social committees that the Vichy government had promoted to co-opt workers into social-welfare activites at the factory level.[42] Other militants, such as Henri Jourdain, who was responsible in 1945 for coordinating CGT activities in aviation, viewed plant committees more positively. "With plant committees," Jourdain said, "worker democracy can develop." At the CGT Congress of 1946 he told those militants who dismissed the plant committee as a trap for class collaboration, "If you were to say this to Peugeot workers at Sochaux or to workers at Gnômeet-Rhône, remembering that their plant committees now run social services with a budget of thirty to forty million francs a year, they would certainly not follow you."[43] But if the plant and production committees were clearly "double-edged swords," as Jourdain put it, that could both empower and co-opt workers, there was no denying that by 1946 these institutions no longer embodied the open-ended and quasi-revolutionary spirit of 1944. Although aircraft militants went further toward making something of these committees than did militants in most other industries, their efforts did little to alter the structure of authority in the enterprise.[44]


Given the threat of layoffs in aviation and the postponement of collective bargaining that workers everywhere had to tolerate in the first years after the war, it was difficult for them to fight for wage hikes. Frustration of course took its toll. One Air Ministry official wrote in 1947, "The personnel is becoming skeptical; specialists and engineers of all classes are leaving the companies; the apprenticeship training programs are no longer finding the necessary recruits."[50] Tensions also damaged the CGT: militants found themselves caught between the support of the PCF for wage constraints and the impatience of the rank and file with the policy. At Colombes layoffs and changes in the piece rate system created so much animosity that Tillon himself had to scurry out to the plant and negotiate with workers. In Toulouse tensions took the form of friction between aircraft militants at SNCASE, struggling to hold on to an increasingly demoralized constituency, and other metalworking militants in the union local who adhered more faithfully to the guidance of the FTM. By early 1947 the same frustrations over wage policy that were undermining the CGT in many industries were troubling aircraft locals as well.[51]

What must have made job insecurity and wage constraint seem particularly unjust was that workers in aviation had by and large worked hard to revive the industry. Airframe production climbed steadily in 1945 from 80 tons in January to 210 tons the following October.[52] The SNCAN established an impressive record of steady deliveries, producing more than nine hundred aircraft by the spring of 1947.[53] The secret to this success was overtime. Tillon prevailed on workers to work well beyond forty hours a week, and for the most part workers complied. One company director reported that "the company personnel are currently making a magnificent effort to increase production; at certain posts the workweek has even reached sixty hours."[54] At the SNCASO plant in Courbevoie, which according to one CFTC journalist was characterized by "a spirit of camaraderie and enthusiasm for work," workers put off their August vacations in 1945 to complete a long-awaited breakthrough for the company—its first order of a new airplane, the SO 30 R.[55] Of course, labor productivity varied from shop to shop and from month to month. In some factories productivity lagged for lack of supplies, machinery, electricity, or proper organization. Overstaffing, overclassifying employees, and absenteeism were problems as well.[56] Moreover, it is hard to say what workers really thought of the "battle for production." The productivist campaign of the PCF put CGT militants in the awkward position of enforcing work discipline, which according to one militant's later account triggered controversy in the party cells around SNECMA.[57] Tillon clearly understood the danger. He went out of his way to say that in promoting production he had no plans to impose the hated Rowan wage incentive scheme or "other time-saving systems."[58] Still, there is little evidence that many workers rebelled openly against PCF productivism, nor is there any sign that the left-wing socialists and revolutionary syndicalists who mocked it as "an attempt to transplant Stakhanovism into France" won much of a following. In SNCASE and SNCASO alone the CGT's call for suggestions about production generated more than 250 responses by mid-1947. At SNCASE managers calculated that committee suggestions reduced production time by nearly eighteen thousand hours. As two former workers at an aircraft factory in Châtillon recalled, "Ah yes! The eagerness for working! The guys were quite swollen with pride" (M. Badie); "Everyone believed in it [work] in those days. There was a different ambiance than now. We really believed in it" (M.Dugon).[59] Despite the frustration over wages, it is safe to assume that most workers viewed Tillon's efforts to spur production and minimize layoffs as in their interest. The aircraft industry, which depended heavily on skilled workers who identified with their work and feared layoffs, did not have the same degree of resistance to work discipline as semiskilled workers mounted in the automobile industry in 1946 and 1947.[60] Nor were workers in aviation subjected to as much rationalization of the labor process.


Between 1947 and 1950 aircraft workers fought in vain against government efforts to cut the work force and reassert managerial authority. Once the tripartite governing coalition of Communists, Socialists, and Christian Democrats fell apart in May 1947, Communist militants were thrown on the defensive to protect what they had achieved after the Liberation from politicians, employers, and trade union rivals determined to break the near monopoly power of the Communist-dominated CGT on the shop floor. Similar battles took place elsewhere in French industry, especially in the nationalized sectors of coal, gas, and electricity, where new ministers sought to reverse policies of their Communist predecessors. The political stakes were particularly high in the aircraft and coal industries, where the CGT and the PCF had gone far to establish control over boards and management appointments; both sectors, moreover, had strategic importance—aircraft for the military, coal for the economy as a whole. In coal the conflict between the CGT and the government culminated in a bitter, violent coal strike in November 1948 in which three strikers were killed and hundreds of strikers and soldiers were wounded. In aviation industrial warfare took the form of many local strikes, demonstrations, and lockouts spread out over three years between 1947 and 1950. In both industries the outcome was the same: a government composed of Socialist, Christian Democrat, and Radical ministers triumphed over a largely Communist-led work force increasingly isolated by the politics of the cold war. As a result, officials in the Air, Finance and Labor ministries proved able to establish a more conservative managerial regime in aviation by purging Communists from important posts, reducing the significance of factory committees, reviving private firms, and establishing a modus vivendi between employers and the state that stabilized the industry on the twin pillars of employer authority and government supervision.
The government's victory, however, did not purge the work force of the Communist Party. To a remarkable degree the CGT survived defeat to remain a major force in the politics of the industry for a long time to come. In the late 1940s, much as in the period of rearmament from 1936 to 1939, state intervention in the industry and Communist militancy became mutually reinforcing because CGT militants became adept as advocates in state-managed sectors of the economy. A close look at the battles over cutbacks between 1947 and 1950 helps explain the apparent paradox in which government intervention served both to weaken the CGT in the nation as a whole and to reinforce it in relationship to rival trade union confederations.

As I was copying and pasting it here while I was reading it it got a bit lengthy. :p

This should've given a rather thorough overview of the conditions and life of the aviation industry workers and their struggles, plus the general political situation.

The last bit was quite depressing imo with the "productivism" and "industry pride" and shit, especially it's popularity among workers.


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

This is a very worthwhile line of research. The only article we've on our website got that springs to mind is this one on the '43 strikes in Italy:
The Gauche Communste de France also mentions somewhere about hunger riots etc in Germany: the allies were particularly worried about proletarian uprisings there at the end of the war. This was certainly an element in the terror bombing aimed at industrial centres: not just depleting the war industries, but terrorising and demoralising the working population. The obvious example is Germany. Despite all this there was some unrest, but records are scarce.


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by


9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

There was of course the general strikes in Denmark during their occupation.

In March 1943 the Germans allowed a general election to be held that i was unaware of until i looked up wiki.

The voter turnout was 89.5%, the highest in any Danish parliamentary election, and 94% cast their ballots for one of the democratic parties behind the cooperation policy while 2.2% voted for the anti-cooperation Dansk Samling.[38] 2.1% voted for the Nazi party, almost corresponding to the 1.8% the party had received in the 1939 elections.


9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by

I was occupied with other stuff for a while, so sorry for neglecting this thread for so long. And thanks to wojtek, Alf and ajjohnstone for those links, I haven't read them all yet but they seem really interesting.

I came across a mention of strikes in Greece during WW2 the other day while I was browsing the internet, so I chose Greece as the next country for being researched.:

Urban protest

One of the most important forms of resistance were the mass protest movements. The first such event occurred during the national anniversary of 25 March 1942, when students attempted to lay a wreath at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. This resulted in clashes with mounted Carabinieri, and marked the awakening of the spirit of Resistance amongst the wider urban population. Soon after, from 12–14 April, the "TTT" (Telecommunications & Postal) workers began a strike in Athens, which spread throughout the country. Initially, the strikers' demands were financial, but it quickly assumed a political aspect, as the strike was encouraged by EAM's labour union organization, EEAM. Finally, the strike ended on April 21, with the full capitulation of the collaborationist government to the strikers' demands, including the immediate release of arrested strike leaders.[10]

In early 1943, rumours spread of a planned mobilization of the labour force by the occupation authorities, with the intent of sending them to work in Germany. The first reactions began amongst students on 7 February, but soon grew in scope and volume. Throughout February, successive strikes and demonstrations paralyzed Athens, culminating in a massive rally on the 24th. The tense climate was amply displayed at the funeral of Greece's national poet, Kostis Palamas, on 28 February, which turned into an anti-Axis demonstration.[11]

From Greek Resistance wiki, source is this book: Mark Mazower (2001). Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44. United States: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-08923-3.

More about the strikes:

On February 27, 1943 the poet Kostis Palamas dies in Athens. Palamas is one of the most beloved of the modern Greek poets who with his poems and other literary work had created the standard for modern Greek language. His historical epics of the liberation had made him a national hero and he had written the Olympic Hymn for the 1896 Olympics. His funeral sparks a torrent of nationalism that is in complete defiance of the Nazi occupiers. After a speech by the poet Angelos Sikelianos calling for a national awakening, the crowd begins singing the national anthem, shouting Zeto i Ellas, zeto i eleftheria (long live Greece; long live freedom), ignoring the German soldiers. It marks the beginning of a period of demonstrations and strikes against the authorities. On June 25th a massive demonstration is held in Athens after the Germans had executed 100 Greeks for the sabotage of a train taking prisoners to a concentration camp in Larissa. The Greek people have come to the realization that the Nazis and their collaborator regime are destined to fall and are ready to play their part in speeding up the process.

From Greek wiki about the resistance, googletranslated:

On 24 and 25 March 1942 in Athens declared the first strike in occupied Europe. On April 16 declared another strike ended on April 21 with meeting the demands of the strikers. On 24 February and 5 March 1943 declared major strike while the IPU organized massive demonstrations in Athens in order to abort the impending mobilization Greek workers to be sent to Germany. The strike led to cancellation of plans for mobilization. [53] [54] In the meantime, on February 27, 1943, died the poet Kostis Palamas. His funeral turned into a spontaneous popular protest of the people of Athens against the invaders. [55] Large rallies were held in Thessaloniki and other cities in Northern Greece on July 10, 1943 against the alleged expansion of the Bulgarian occupation zone. For the same reason there was a big strike in Athens on July 22, 1943. The massive demonstration was violently treated by the occupying forces, killing a total of thirty protesters. [56]


On October 18 he moved to the capital, the Papandreou government, which later transformed into the unity government. Soon occurred governmental crisis was a product of the refusal of the side of the IPU for full disarmament of ELAS. On 2 December the government withdrew six of the seven ministers who came from the ranks of EAM and resigned on December 4 and the seventh. This followed the bloody suppression of EAM rally which was held Sunday, Dec. 3. Attack government forces and accepted the strike organized by the IPU on Monday, December 4 and was equally bloody. These events were the beginning of the armed conflict in Athens between the ELAS forces and government forces assisted by English troops. The conflict became known as Dekemvriana, ended on January 5, with the withdrawal of the forces of ELAS from Athens. Follow armistice signed on 11 January and the signing of the Varkizas on February 12, 1945. Intermediate Papandreou's government had resigned and was replaced by Plastiras government. [69] [70]

From a source in the Greek wiki (, googletranslated:

1941: On July 16, founded the Labour National Liberation Front (ELAM), which was the forerunner of EAM (National Liberation Front). Involving the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) with I. Kalomiris the Unitarian GSEE (EGSSE) with Mr Lazaridis and Independent Syndicates with D. Stratis. Immediate objectives of the Labour EAM was the organization of everyday struggle of the working class in every workplace (and by district for the unemployed), to the survival of the people, concerning the distribution soup kitchens, food supply, increase wages , overcoming the political mobilization, breaking the unions terrorism and punish collaborators of the occupying forces.

1942: the first strike breaks out in occupied Europe. March 24-25 declaring all-workers panypalliliki[general?] strike in Athens. On April 16 the strike generalized to all public services in Athens and Piraeus on April 17, with a call of illegal Panypallilikis Central Committee, gets nationwide - All Workers character. The strike ended on April 21, in partial satisfaction of the demands of the strikers.

1943: Following mass protests on 24 February and 5 March begins strike lasting 27 days, in order to frustrate the ordinance on political mobilization of the Greeks, which wanted to impose occupation forces, in order to send laborers to Germany. It was the only case of successful mobilization across occupied Europe.

1946: On March 1, in Athens, becoming the 8th Congress of the All Workers GSEE. Conference-station, unitary and democratic. There the ballot Antifascist Coalition of Labor (Labor), which brings together factions friendly to the Left, winning 80-85% of the seats. Elected secretary Mitsos Papariga.

On 27 June 1946 the Council of State (CoE), then state intervention, annulled the 8th Congress and imposed on management GSEE conservative Fotis Makris and his party. Beginning a period of undemocratic manipulation, police interventions, control of official unionism by ergatopaterismo. Certificates social conscience, persecution, exile and imprisonment of trade unionists, restriction of civil liberties, terrorism and employer removal from power of GSEE of Labor Unions and Federations affected by the Left. Fotis Makris will remain in command of the GSEE for decades, except for the period 1964-66.

1947: Founding of ADEDY.

1949: In January, created the Free Movement Unionism (TBR). Secretary Dimitris Stratis. Aiming at unity of the trade union movement, no other attempts establishing GSEE, even though she was under the control of the state and employers.

On April 6 ADEDY announces strike, which lasts 13 days. During the strike the workers employed in TTT ("Triatatikoi" - post office, telegraph, telephones) while being arrested and tried members of the General Council and the Executive Committee of ADEDY.

From another source in the Greek wiki (, googletranslated:

Alongside the military action of the rebels in the countryside , but before that, in Athens and other cities, organized strikes and other dynamic mass events, which, thanks to mass, enthusiasm and determination of the world participated inflict serious harm on the occupying power. The spontaneous student demonstrations and strikes with economic demands evolved into a huge protest movement that continually escalated, joining the partisan voices, workers, civil servants, businessmen, students, and pressing the occupation authorities, foreign and local. Legendary was the strike on the 5th March 1943, when demonstration the reaction of the Greek people against the Greeks enlisting workers for the Reich, which actually managed to stay and shortly before the funeral of the poet Kostis Palamas became the occasion for a demonstration pallaiki against the German occupation, which rocked Athens.

From another source in the Greek wiki (, googletranslated:

In early July 1943, the Germans decided to replace with Bulgarian fascist troops, their own occupation troops and the rest of Macedonia.

Once the decision was made known of Hitler, stood strong wave of indignation throughout the country. On July 8, the Central Committee of EAM called on the people to "alarm for the salvation of the people of Macedonia and Thrace from the clutches of the bloodthirsty invaders ...". Judgment similar content released and CC of ELAS.

The beginning of the protests took place in Macedonia in Thessaloniki on 10 July. With the guidance of EAM, joint rallies with the participation of thousands of patriots in the cities of Kilkis, Edessa, Veria, Giannitsa, Kozani, Volos, Karditsa, etc.

The climax of the event was the battle that gave the people of Athens on 22 July 1943.

On the morning of July 22 in Athens had stopped all traffic. The workers had descended on strike. Public offices and shops were closed and streets deserted patrols circulated Greek troops and police. At key points in the capital, the Germans and Italians had set up machine guns. The foreign invaders and their lackeys have taken all measures to prevent the events of the people.

But at 10 in the morning the streets were beginning to come alive. The Athenians arrived in predefined areas of concentrations. The Squares Exarchia and Psyrri in Kolonaki, Monastiraki, the Lavrio Square, Omonia and other landmarks of the capital flooded by thousands of patriots. Unfolded with Greek flags and placards, the masses of people moved towards the center, while thousands lined the streets notices: "No extension", "Outside the Bulgarian fascists from Greek Macedonia - Thrace", "Down with the traitors." The slogans were echoed in all the streets of the capital.

The German tanks attempted without success to break the columns of demonstrators. Followed hard collisions. In clashes killed 30 protesters, including Panagiota Stathopoulou Koula Lili, Mr. Dukakis, textiles Olga Bakola the student Antoniadis, M. Kalozymis, Thomas Hadjithomas, Th Teriakis, B. and Stefaniotou Handicapping the Greek-Italian war Papastafrakis Anthony. 200 protesters injured and arrested 500. Many of them were sentenced to heavy penalties.

From yet another source in the Greek wiki (, googletranslated:

On Sunday, December 3 [1944] the EAM organized in Syntagma Square rally against government measures, which the government had banned. The protesters, many thousands, were the fire police. Outcome: over 20 dead and 140 wounded. The next day, Monday, December 4, the EAM declared a general strike and organized a protest rally for new burial of victims of the former. And this rally is also very long, the attack government forces resulting in dead and wounded people.

I cba'd to analyse all the sources so I copy-pasted pretty much all (relevant) information I could find about the strikes here atm, so they overlap a bit.

But tbh I'm more interested in cases where workers striked against "their" governments, because a factor in strikes in a lot of the occupied territories was nationalism or at least patriotism. But one of the reasons I started this thread was to find cases of workers willing to fight for their class interests even in "their" countries during wartime ignoring the bourgeoisie's nationalist/patriotic propaganda.


9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by

This post will still be about the Greek strikes during WW2, but it will be from this book on libcom - Revolutionary defeatists in Greece in World War II - Aghis Stinas - and thus from a more political and personal viewpoint (from a Greek internationalist communist) so I wanted to post it separately.

Only selected chapters of the book are translated into English and on libcom and while I haven't read even all of those chapters as I just came across the book, it seems very interesting, especially to those who have the "revolutionary deafeatist" position on WW2 - and all other wars - so I really recommend it. It seems to give a rather good overview of class struggle in Greece starting from the end of WW1 to the end of WW2.

This seems to sum up Stinas' politics well:

Perhaps the most inspiring part of Stinas’ story is that describing the activities of himself and some of his comrades during the Second World war, after they had escaped from prison and managed to organise themselves as a group in Athens. Operating under the most horrendous conditions – murderous repression from the fascists and the Stalinists simultaneously, and generalised famine – they nevertheless managed to carry on a significant activity, not merely of propaganda (leaflet distribution, graffiti, speeches from rooftops…) but also of more direct participation in the class struggle. During a wave of strikes, demonstrations and other unrest in 1943:

“We actively participated in the pillage of the warehouses. Some comrades forced open one on Mavromikhalis Street, full of pastries of the highest quality. People formed a queue and the pastries were distributed in an orderly fashion, without those who distributed them keeping anything for themselves. We broke open another one, in Vathis, full of bars of soap, which were then distributed in order, to each person in turn.”

The position of Stinas’ group on the war was very clear. They were in total opposition to any participation in the war on any side, and particularly denounced the Stalinist/nationalist Greek partisan movement. They were against nationalism of any kind. They were for the struggle for working class needs against the war effort. They were for fraternisation with the “occupation” troops. Stinas particularly denounces the partisans’ policy of carrying out killings of individual German or Italian soldiers, something which inevitably led to vicious “reprisals” in which whole villages were destroyed. Stinas regarded the partisans as partly responsible for these actions of the “occupiers”.

The activity of the group is all the more inspiring when you consider just how isolated revolutionary forces were on a world scale at this time. In the words of Stinas at the end of the book:

“Apart from the Bordigists and some anarchist groups and isolated individuals, we don’t know of other revolutionary defeatists in the Second World War.”
Nor do we…


The translated texts are:
Preface by Michel Pablo. An introduction from the famous Trotskyist leader who knew Stinas well in Greece in the days before Stinas discovered he wasn’t really a Trotskyist. It’s interesting because it honestly describes the difference between Stinas’ communist position and that of Trotskyism:

“The ideological evolution of A. Stinas, clearly set out in his Memoirs, explains why during the war he adopted a downright hostile attitude to the formidable popular movement of the Resistance, in reality led by the Communist Party, considering it to be a reactionary nationalist movement in the service of imperialism. His uncompromising condemnation of Leon Trotsky’s line concerning the ‘defence of the USSR’ and the line that the Fourth International adopted during the war, is also a consequence of that position.”

But now to the parts of the book that are more relevant to this thread:

Two days later, with a typewriter and a duplicator which we had managed to get hold of, Tamtakos and I worked all night on printing the first publication of the group, in a hovel in Aigaleo. This was without exaggeration the first clear and limpid voice of socialist revolution in the nightmarish conditions of the second imperialist war, perhaps not only in Greece but in the whole world.

Our voice found an echo. Rapidly, old militants and young workers and students gathered under our flag. Those who were dispersed in the provinces descended on Athens, beginning with Tsoukas.

Our activity became bigger every day. Tracts, flyers circulated by the thousand. Slogans covered the walls. The cries of the khonia1 resounded in the night. People heard, saw and read other slogans than those that they had come to expect from the Stalinists and other nationalist organi-sations. In place of the slogans of nationalist hatred were those immortal slogans of fraternisation between peoples, of the transformation of the fratricidal war between peoples into a war of peoples against their exploiters. The workers read the wall slogans and the tracts with an undeniable sympathy: “It is capitalism in its entirety which is responsible for the carnage, devastation and chaos, and not just one of the two sides!”; “Fraternisation of peoples and soldiers against the executioners who are killing the peoples!”; “Fraternisation of Greek workers and Italian and German soldiers in the common struggle for socialism!” ; “National unity is nothing but the submission of the workers to their exploiters!”; “Only the overthrow of capitalism will save world peace!”; “Long live the world socialist revolution!”...


The intellectual, moral and psychological situation of the popular masses was at the time very different from what we had known under the Metaxas dictatorship and in spring 1942, in the transfer section of Piraeus.

Under the dictatorship, from one end of the country to the other, up until the Italian invasion, the masses had fallen into passivity and indifference. Fear ruled the land. Fear had literally paralysed those who, linked in one way or another to the movement in the past, hadn’t been put under surveillance or arrested by the Security Police, as it paralysed the dilosias*.

* Literally, “the declarers” – those political prisoners who had signed a document renouncing communism in return for their freedom during the Metaxas dictatorship (1936-41) – Translators Note


During the winter of 1941-1942 Athens and Piraeus were only populated by human wrecks, in the moral as well as physical sense. Human skeletons who begged, who cried and who died.
We knew the situation in those two towns. Those images were engraved in our brains. When, in the transfer section of Halkis, we discussed probable occasions when we could escape, some people, quite a few, said: “To go where? To do what? Beg? But who from?” Some of those comrades didn’t escape because of this, when they could have done so. They stayed, to quickly find themselves in Larissa and Haïdari. And from there to Kournovo and to the firing squads of Kaisariani.

But what we, the escapees, found in Athens was very different from what we thought we’d find there. The economic situation had improved slightly. Nobody was dying of hunger anymore. The International Red Cross had organised soup kitchens for everyone. Each person, without exception or distinction, had a plate of beans or gruel every day at noon. The bakeries gave out a few grams of bread every day with a ration card. On Athens’ streets, in Monastiraki and elsewhere, you could find raisins, tinned food and other foodstuffs on stalls in the open air. The smokers could supply themselves with the tobacco of their choice, loose or in cigarettes, in open air “shops”. Some restaurants and tavernas were open and you could find something there. The black market also provided some not bad delicacies for those who could pay in gold pounds.
Prices rose day by day. The Bank issued currency daily, and almost every day it added more zeroes to the notes. A one drachma note became a ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million etc. The first word of a “merchant” coming to sell something was “I don’t have any small change”. That is to say thousand drachma notes. Two days later, or even the next day, it meant ten thousand drachmas. And so it went.

The economic situation had changed, but also, first of all, the people themselves. People had got back on their feet. They found themselves again, and with that their dignity, their courage and their determination to fight. And everyone knew that this time it wasn’t the phalanga or castor oil which awaited them, but the firing squad. Nobody was afraid though. Young people and women in particular displayed an unbelievable contempt for danger. In fact danger and death was normal. Even the “former”, the “ex”, and the dilosias became fighters again. How people change! Who can give a logical explanation for this phenomenon of the metamorphosis of cowards into heroes, so common in history and which is so decisive in peoples’ struggles for their emancipation?
Organisations were created. Duplicated or printed journals were circulated clandestinely. Slogans covered the walls and the asphalt of the street. Groups of partisans had already appeared in the mountains. Strikes broke out. Demonstrations were organised.

We found ourselves there at the beginning, and what characterised that period was the selfless solidarity of everyone towards everyone else, independent of political differences, and the free debates on the content, forms and methods of struggle. Alas, that period didn’t last long.


The resistance of the people to the dictatorship [in '41-'42], spontaneous and unorganised, limited itself to hiding and helping the New Zealand soldiers who had not been able to escape with their units, rendering unusable and destroying German and Italian vehicles, and above all the action of the saltadors8. One day history must recall these intrepid kids. They jumped on the German vehicles while they were moving, ripping open sacks of supplies with their pen knives and throwing the contents onto the road: bread, tinned food, flour etc. And people picked it up.


I would particularly like to stress, in that virgin political period of the resistance, the solidarity without political or partisan distinction, the reciprocal trust, the free discussions, without animosity or hatred or attempts to impose themselves, the sincerity, the modesty, the simplicity, everything which characterises a popular movement when the tutors, the bosses and the professional saviours are absent.


This period couldn’t last long. Its duration was closely linked to the conditions of the war and the Occupation. Commandos began to arrive from the Middle East, to set up radios, organise espionage and carry out generalised sabotage.
Former members of the CPG, mostly dilosias, were put in position to take the initiative and were capable of it, but they lacked authority. EAM, which had already been formally created, started to develop itself gigantically, so as to eventually cover the whole political terrain of the country, when some former leading cadres enjoying the trust of the members took over the leadership of the CPG.


Autumn 1943

In Autumn 1943, we believed that the decisive hour of the war had arrived. In Italy, Mussolini had been overthrown by his own party and the general Badoglio put himself in charge of the government. He first surrendered, and then openly passed over to the Allied side against the Germans. The Italian army was disbanded. Part of it was taken prisoner by the Germans and the majority of them were executed. The others tried to find asylum and refuge where they could. Many houses, in the towns as well as the countryside, opened to them and welcomed them, and so many were saved. EAM didn’t so much as lift a finger: such acts of humanity were unknown and foreign to it.

Insistently, the word went round that the working class had undertaken an autonomous action in northern Italy, that it had seized some factories and that workers’ councils had appeared. We believed then that the October Revolution would finally be followed up, that it was the beginning of the transformation of the fratricidal war between peoples into a war of peoples against their exploiters.


At the same time the food and clothing shops closed and the market disappeared from Athens, for purely speculative reasons. The spectre of famine, of the terrible winter of 1941, menaced the capital once again. But this time the people did not let themselves die of hunger. The exasperated masses filled the streets of Athens in immense crowds, with women at the head and mothers in the front line. The doors of shops and warehouses were smashed to pieces and the masses looted the goods and clothing which they found there. In the warehouses of the big shops around Omonia they found an incredible quantity of women’s clothes. The women of Kaisariani, of Polygonos and other poor neighbourhoods helped themselves to plenty.
At the same time a series of strikes broke out with a clear class content. The German soldiers not only didn’t intervene but they looked at the looting of shops and strikers’ demonstrations with the greatest sympathy.

So as to satisfy both the soldiers and the masses and perhaps to prevent dangerous developments, that is to say their fraternisation, the German administration arrested two olive oil merchants, bringing them very quickly in front of a military tribunal, condemning them to death and hanging them in Amerikis Square with a sign round their neck: “Profiteer. Enemy of the people”.

Our group set about an impetuous activity. Thousands of tracts and flyers were circulated. We entered into a greater and greater contact with the masses. We talked to them about the workers’ councils in Italy and about the revolution which had begun and they listened with emotion and enthusiasm.

We actively participated in the pillage of the warehouses. Some comrades forced open one on Mavromichalis Street, full of pastries of the highest quality. People formed a queue and the pastries were distributed in an orderly fashion, without those who distributed them keeping any-thing for themselves. We broke open another one, in Vathis, full of bars of soap, which were then distributed in order, to each person in turn.

EAM was completely disoriented. What was happening in front of their eyes was not what they expected, was incomprehensible to them. They saw with stupefaction that the situation was slipping from their fingers. They tried to intervene in the looting without succeeding and asked for a part of it for the Partisan Administration (ETA), without obtaining it.

An official from EAM came to the warehouse that we had forced open and where we were distributing the pastries and asked us very severely who we “took the line” from. We addressed ourselves to the crowd and told them that they had to answer this gentleman who wanted to know where we “took the line” from. Laughter, disapproval and booing answered him. The gentleman left and was quite rightly astonished at the indiscipline of people with regard to EAM and the lack of respect for its representative.

Yet all these events were only a fleeting light in the darkness.
We don’t know and we never knew if there were really revolutionary demonstrations in northern Italy. The German troops very quickly seized the whole of northern Italy and that region was proclaimed the “Socialist-Fascist Republic” under the presidency of Mussolini, who German parachutists had already freed. Anglo-American troops progressed from the south of Italy, where the Badoglio government was considered an ally.

The masses had disappeared from the streets of Athens, EAM was perhaps even stronger than before and we, who had for a moment felt the popular wave carry us to the heights, saw ourselves once more isolated and even more against the current.

But this fleeting light was able to show which policy, which slogans and above all which actions could arouse the consciousness of the masses bleeding for the interests of their exploiters. In the masses who had looted the shops of the Greek merchant-exploiters, and in the strikes with a clear class content, the conscripted German workers had seen their brothers, recognised themselves, themselves and their class. But that didn’t last long and it could not have been otherwise in those conditions which were so incredibly contrary to the revolution.
Let’s note then, that in this context, the Unified Organisation of Communist Internationalists of Greece (EOKDE) made its existence known by a lamentable tract talking about associations and cooperatives.


Trotsky wrote that, a second birth being always easier than the first, the proletarian revolution in this war would be easier than in the first. But the war ended and the revolution did not appear in any part of the world.

The principal reason for the absence of the revolution can be found perhaps in the years which preceded the second imperialist war. And even before the 1930s, apart from a few exceptions, on the political scene we only knew of robots deprived of their judgement and critical spirit, who could only march in line and under command, under Hitler, Stalin or some ridiculous dictator or party boss in the other countries. The workers’ movement had been emptied of its substance as an autonomous revolutionary movement and, via the Stalinists, was used for the needs and interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. The way was open to war when, with the help of the Stalinists, the last fires of revolution were extinguished in Spain, France and Greece.

The form, so unfavourable to revolution, taken by the Second World War is a second reason, also very important. The military occupation of almost the whole of Europe by German troops created objective and subjective difficulties for the reconstruction of the movement and the awakening of the class consciousness of the masses never seen before. In the midst of Occupation, they could not see anyone else responsible for their terrible situation apart from the Germans. The bestial measures of the occupation authorities, provoked by the Stalinists in many cases, fed nationalist hatred and reinforced nationalist propaganda.

(Btw, if anybody has any more information on Aghis Stinas and the Internationalist Communist Union, I'd really appreciate if you'd share it.)


9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by

There had been a two-day strike, 25 and 26 February 1941, in Amsterdam and surrounding parts of the Netherlands, against pogroms and mass arrests of Jews. the so-called Februari Staking (February strike), yearly commemmorated as an example of anti-nazi-resistance, but with the class struggle mostly sanitizes out of view; and there hve been strikes an towdy demonstrations in the East and South of the Netherlands in april-may 1943, as e protest against the re-arrest of Dutch soldiers who had been imprisoned and released quickly after the beginning of the nazi occupation in May 1940. I only have Dutch-language sources for these kind of things.


9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by

Sorry for such a long absence again, got pissed the other day when I wrote a post about strikes in Australia, New Zealand, a nazi prison camp and demobilisation strikes and my computer crashed so I lost my text and all the sources.

And thanks for that rooieravotr. If the sources are on the internet you can post them here even if they are in Dutch. I can google-translate them if I need more details or something.

Anyway, this isn't a post about the aforementioned subjects on which I wrote before but then lost the text (can't muster enough strength to rewrite that atm, people who have lost a text know how depressing it is to rewrite the exact same thing, especially if it is rather long :p), but about an interesting discovery I stumbled across when reading about the 80s in the UK (due to Thatcher dying).

The second file from there (LABD01: Labour disputes. (109 Kb Excel sheet)).

The file contains strike statistics from '31 to '13 in the UK. And quite clearly - without having to refer to second-hand accounts like newspaper articles and books etc - demolishes the myth of class peace during the war. If before I was under the impression that strikes were few and far between during WW2 the statistics show something completely different. But I'll let the facts speak for themselves:

year days lost stoppages
_____in 1000s__________

31. _ 6983 _ 515
32. _ 6488 _ 516
33. _ 1072 _ 447
34. _ 959 __ 578
35. _ 1955 _ 704
36. _ 1829 _ 969
37. _ 3413 _ 1275
38. _ 1334 _ 996
39. _ 1356 _ 997

(UK declared war on Germany on 03.09.39, there were 311 work stoppages and 407 (000) days lost from 01.09.39 to 31.12.39, so no significant reduction)
40. _ 940 __ 920
41. _ 1079 _ 1276
42. _ 1527 _ 1381
43. _ 1807 _ 1921
44. _ 3714 _ 2374
45. _ 2837 _ 2494
(Germany surrendered on 08.05.45, Japan on 02.09.45, there were 1674 strikes and 1501 (000) days lost from 01.01.45 to 31.08.45, so the war again seemed not to have influenced the strikes significantly)

46. _ 2160 _ 2431
47. _ 2432 _ 1897
48. _ 1945 _ 1907
49. _ 1807 _ 1569
50. _ 1388 _ 1490
51. _ 1695 _ 1907
52. _ 1792 _ 1913
53. _ 2183 _ 1909
54. _ 2458 _ 2164
55. _ 3782 _ 2634
56. _ 2083 _ 2868
57. _ 8413 _ 3117
58. _ 3464 _ 2837

(in the file the number of strikes was given for every month of every year, but I added all the strikes of every year together for clarity, it is possible this resulted in strikes being counted twice if the strike lasted during 2 months, but I presume this doesn't change the overall picture much, because as you can see strikes are shorter during the war so it is more likely this skewed prewar statistics more which means the difference should be even greater and there was an even bigger rise (in percentages) compared to the war)

As you can clearly see the number of strikes rose during the war compared to each previous war year and the prewar period average (only the first full war year, 1940, had less strikes than the most militant year of the prewar period, 1937). Also there were more strikes during the most militant war year (1945) than during any of the years of the period from 31-39 and 46-54. There were no pre-1931 statistics so I can't say how this compares to the period before that. Also, days lost due to strikes seemed to decline during the war in relation to the number of strikes which means most were rather short work stoppages (though that continued after the war too, it seems).

Actually these statistics shouldn't be a surprise as during a war there is almost no unemployment which means workers have way more leverage as there aren't many people who could act as strike breakers.

Also, these statistics should refute the myth that 50s and early 60s were rather peaceful.

This also seems to be about all strikes not only legal ones, as there were no legal strikes during the war iirc. So it should give a rather objective overview.


9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by

Good post, thanks!

Sorry about losing the other one. I would say that for any lengthy post you should write it in word and save it as you go, then just copy and paste it onto libcom. Too late for this one obviously, but a note for the future!


9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by

Did some googling, found two articles on the commune website which may be interesting, didn't read them yet myself, just posting here so I can find them later :P

Also found some other stuff while googling.

This seems to suggest some strikes during WW2 in America were organised by German spies who made deals with the Mafia. It's not really a credible source, but considering the influence the Mafia had in the American union movement I thought I'd ask does anybody know whether this could be true or is it just wartime propaganda?

Not only were Nazi spies working the docks in New York for information they were also organizing strikes with the workers. Since Charles "Lucky" Luciano ran the docks for the mafia "Wild" Bill Donovan of the OSS contacted Myer Lansky to incorporate his help, since Luciano was in jail on a weapons charge. A deal was struck were Luciano would be deported after the war was over and not face other charges in exchange for the unions not going on strike. It is said that for his part in the deal Myer Lansky was given a Bronze Star, however under the table.

Adding my own opinion: Nothing the mafia ever did was Patriotic. You would think that Myer Lansky being a Polish Jew would have done as much as he could for the war effort, but as with all organized crime it is all about the money. It would not surprise me to find that the Mafia organized the strikes with the spies to extort money or favors from the government. Where can we benifit the most type attitude. And of course the Mafia on Italy wanted the Allies to land, Nazis were bad for business.

Also, this seems to be about a strike in a German POW camp by Russians. The translation is bad, so I can't understand it very well, maybe somebody who knows Russian can correct me.

Military strike in the USSR

We went on strike - the three hundred and sixty. Refused dinner. Plant management was responsible for the food, was among them Lagerführer. Forced us to eat, but not a soul touched the food. Our two girls - Zina Shapovalov, who the German language, and Cerga Schur, who knew a few words of German, translated the Germans.

The night passed in trouble, we were afraid for themselves, for Zina

and Shura. In the morning interpreters released, they were sitting in a bunker inside the plant. After that, the soup began to prepare of peeled potatoes.

In the shop where I worked, the Germans were not enough. They are mostly packed products and monitored. They were women. Of the two men in the shop: a German and a German foreman, who carried off products. Brigadier-Nazi we called Gobsek. Fritz was the name of a German, who went to the electric car, first became interested in Russian language. Women Germans treated us incredulously.

By the winter of 1942 we moved to live in the camp barracks. Outdoor bathroom in the corridor stool. Drowned themselves, coming from work. For firewood - wood, then coal briquette. Receive fuel duty in the room. Went to work under escort.

Winters them raw. Moving column of a few hundred people on their feet shoes with wooden soles. The legs do not bend, shoulders gray blanket almost everyone. Grey avalanche moves, and only heard: zhuh-zhuh. And no sound anymore.

We wandered past the Italian, French, Belgian, Dutch camps. There also lived in the barracks, but went to work freely. Treated us well, especially the French. When Jack became ill with tuberculosis, they helped the food, even the oil brought. Could not be saved. Jack died.

We were in the shop no one talked about the situation at the front. We guessed the mood of the hosts. "Heil Hitler" uttered almost in a whisper. So we learned that things are on the front of "grappling". We are enlivened, and they hated it, especially the foreman Gobseck. Some time later, he was drafted into the army. Three months later, sent a letter to a neighbor, was taken prisoner by the Americans.

After that we worked as a foreman on a German nickname Nightingale. Constantly whistling in the shop. When things got worse at the front, Nightingale became silent.

This Nightingale helped us with Galka Gamaley with meals. Gave us your pint of milk, sometimes - two thin slices of bread, even tomatoes. Treated me, saying: "And give to Anna." Belonged to all of us well. Only let in severity when the shop foreman looked rod nicknamed the Gray. This was a Nazi. On certain days, walking in a brown uniform with a swastika on his sleeve, yelled "Heil Hitler!"


9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by


Good post, thanks!

Sorry about losing the other one. I would say that for any lengthy post you should write it in word and save it as you go, then just copy and paste it onto libcom. Too late for this one obviously, but a note for the future!

Yeah, that's probably a good idea.

Btw, I was thinking of posting this article you linked to earlier ( in the library as it is a very good analysis of the war from a class perspective, but I wanted to ask does there have to be a permission from the author to do that or can I just post any article I run across on the internet to the library?

Anyway, some new inf on Canada. First I'm going to post some smaller texts I found that are not that relevant but in the next post I'm going to take a more statistical look at Canadian labour unrest during the war.

This is right after the war:

Ford Strike of 1945

The 99-day Ford Strike of 1945 took place in Windsor, Ontario, Canada from September 12, 1945 to December 19, 1945. Under UAW Local 200 President Roy England, 11,000 workers walked off their jobs after 24 of their demands went unmet by the Ford Motor Company. Negotiations for a new contract had spanned 18 months and officially ended with the exodus of Ford workers at ten o'clock on the morning of September 12. The Strike included picketing and eventually led to a two-day blockade of vehicles surrounding the Ford plant on November 5. The strike ended on December 19 as both sides agreed to return to previous working conditions while arbitration regarding implementing a fully unionized shop and medical coverage continued under Justice Ivan C. Rand. His report was released on January 29, 1946. The Rand Formula, as it became known, gave the UAW formal recognition as the sole negotiators representing all employees of Ford Motor Company.

Context and outcomes

During the great Ford Strike of 1945, a huge barricade of workers’ cars and trucks assembled on 4 November 1945 along Drouillard and Riverside. Some 2000 vehicles reinforced the United Autoworkers picket line and prevented a violent assault by a joint force of OPP and RCMP ordered in by Tory Premier George Drew and the provincial government. In addition the federal government was readying armoured tank units in Camp Borden to break up the barricade. On 5 November Windsor City Council issued an ultimatum “calling for the Ford strikers to remove the motor-car barricade outside the Ford plant or troops may be called in to remove the vehicles”. Mayor Art Reaume consistently bucked decisions involving the use of police or force against the picket lines.

United Auto Workers Local 200 President Roy England declared such an action would be equivalent to strikebreaking. Chrysler Local 195 walked out in sympathy, and thousands of workers flocked to the picket lines in support. Cross-Canada solidarity for the striking autoworkers led to a settlement 10 December 1945. Roy England summed up: “The provision that everyone covered by the agreement must pay dues for the benefits he receives is in effect a modified union shop. . . . It is true that under the present agreement everyone does not have to belong to the union, as in a union shop, but it is a condition of employment that everyone must pay his dues”.

The historic Ford strike of 1945 had won the unprecedented Rand Formula, named after Justice Ivan C. Rand, himself the son of a railwayman. The watershed victory for the United Autoworkers was a precedent that put into contract terms the concept of union security. In essence “those workers that share in the benefits established by the union should also shoulder part of the burden, the maintenance of the union”. The Rand Formula promoted union stability against company efforts to return to the open shop, and the check-off became a pattern for contracts across Canada in the postwar period.


1946: Stelco, Hamilton. 2700 workers strike. Replacement workers brought in. One witness reported that 300 club-wielding men attacked picketing strikers. Dozens injured on both sides.


The publication of the Labour Gazette, beginning in 1901, gave the public better information on industrial disputes. Throughout the 20th century, 3 waves of work stoppages, of different duration, were identified. The first 2 occurred during the periods 1911-19 and 1943-48. In the 1950s a higher plateau was established. The third wave encompassed the period 1965-81, with a year of relative labour peace in 1977. It might be worth noting that time lost through work stoppages, even at their peak, hardly surpassed one-half of 1% of total estimated working time, accounting for much less time lost than that due to accidents or unemployment.


Such disappointment coupled with the GREAT DEPRESSION of the early 1930s might explain the low level of strike activity until the late 1930s. The textile industry in Québec had been so troublesome that Justice Turgeon was appointed to conduct a public inquiry into its difficulties. This inquiry revealed so many sore spots that, instead of solving any problems, it contributed to a province-wide strike in all of Québec's textile mills in 1937. It was the first major fight carried on by the Québec-based Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labour (now CONFEDERATION OF NATIONAL TRADE UNIONS). Its second and best known strike is the ASBESTOS STRIKE of 1949.

Despite the government's severe restrictions on the right to strike in the war industries and the freezing of prices and wages, there were major strikes during and after WWII; restrictions were lifted only on 1 Dec 1946, to allow for readjustment of the industry to civil production. Strikes causing the greater loss of working days in the war period occurred in the aircraft industry in Montréal (1943) and in the auto industry in Ontario (1944 and 1945). In the latter case, the award by arbitrator Ivan C. RAND included a compulsory union dues checkoff which applied even to nonunion workers; this has been known ever since as the RAND FORMULA.


9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by

Have people seen this?


9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by

Now that I have discovered the wonderful world of strike statistics I'm going to put more emphasis on the big picture (for those countries that have statistics from that period) not single incidences and passing-by mentions of strikes.

I tried to find some inf on the US, but I couldn't find statistics that go further back than 1947. And as we have quite a lot of inf on the US already, I decided to look at other countries for the moment. So this post will be about Canadian labour unrest during the war.

In the years 1891-1950, some 2,600,000 Canadian workers engaged in almost 9,700 strikes which absorbed a total of over 42,000,000 person days.


Disaggregated by decade, the war decades 1911-1920 and 1941-1950 emerge as the most active with 4,886 of the strikes (50 per cent), 1,654,000 of the strikers (64 per cent), and almost 25,000,000 person days of duration (59 per cent).


Table 1
National Strike Estimates by Decade, 1891-1950

________Number of_Number of Workers_Duration in
________Strikes___Involved (000) 1_____Person Days (000)

1891-1900 _ 511 _______ 78 _________ 1742
1901-1910 _ 1548 _____ 230 _________ 5492
1911-1920 _ 2349 _____ 521 ________ 10821
1921-1930 _ 989 ______ 261 _________ 6626
1931-1940 _ 1760 _____ 376 _________ 3444
1941-1950 _ 2537 ____ 1133 ________ 14142
_ Total ____ 9691 ____ 2599 ________ 42267

1 Workers involved in strikes extending beyond 31 December are counted twice in these totals.


If we continue simply to look at the absolute frequency of strikes in Canada, we can discern an overall pattern in the first half of the twentieth century as well. Strikes grew in absolute numbers in the 1890s, 1900s, and especially the 1910s but fell in the 1920s well below the level established in the 1900s. The number climbed above that level again in the 1930s and reached a peak in the 1940s higher even than the World War I decade.


Table 2

National Strike Dimensions, 1891-1950

_Frequency (Strikes/1m____Size (workers__Duration (Working
_nonagricultural employees)_involved/strike)_days/strike)

1891-1900 __ 55 ____________ 218 ________ 25
1901-1910 __ 115 ___________ 180 ________ 23
1911-1920 __ 123 ___________ 286 ________ 20
1921-1930 __ 43 ____________ 270 ________ 30
1931-1940 __ 61 ____________ 218 ________ 11
1941-1950 __ 70 ____________ 452 ________ 9


The 1930s, of course, were a decade of depression, ended only by the outbreak of World War II. As in World War I the working class mobilized strongly and made major strides in the later war years which they fought to maintain in the war's aftermath.


Similarly, methods of dispute settlement throw only limited light at this gross aggregate level, especially given the high number for which the method was unknown. Yet in the years of the strike waves we can detect increases in settlements by negotiation and third-party intervention combined and, more obviously, decreases in resolutions involving the return or replacement of the striking workers. In contrast, years of economic trauma for workers led to disastrous strike records. (See table 5)


In the period from the mid 1920s to 1950 the undetermined or indefinite category almost always fell well below 20 per cent. In these years workers' victories exceeded employers' in 1925, and, perhaps surprisingly, 1933-1938. The combination of victories and compromises exceeded 60 per cent in 1933-1938. 1941, and 1947. Meanwhile, employers' successes topped 40 per cent in 1930, 1932, and 1943-1945. Thus the pattern of the first three decades which clearly related the strike waves and high success rates is less apparent during Great Depression and World War II. Workers in the 1930s enjoyed high rates of success in both the strike wave years of 1934 and 1937 and in 1933, 1935-1936, and 1938. On the other hand, the militancy of workers during World War II was rewarded with far lower rates of success, even in one of the three years of the 1941-1943 strike wave. It seems likely that the extremely high rate of third party settlements of 1941-1945 (Table 5) is related to the lower rate of success. During World War II state involvement in labour relations reached unprecedented heights with the advent of PC1003 in 1944, which as later entrenched as the Industrial Relations and Labour Disputes Investigation Act of 1948.

While the state's role as conciliator, mediator, and "umpire" in class conflict has received considerable attention in Canadian labour historiography recently, the state's coercive function was also extremely important throughout this period as can be seen in tables 7-9. Despite the state's enthusiastic recourse to coercion, violence of a serious kind as rare in Canadian strikes. Workers remained aware of the state's potential for violence and behaved in a generally disciplined fashion. As can be seen in Tables 7 strikes involving collective violence fluctuated in number over our period reaching a peak during the Great Depression. On the other hand, military intervention all but disappeared by the 1930s suggesting that it was not closely related to labour "violence." Its disappearance arose from an increasing public sentiment that sending in the troops was not an acceptable response to a labour dispute. Police forces - national, provincial, and municipal - quickly filled any gap left by the changes in legislation governing military aid to the civil power. Table 8 shows the pattern of collective violence in strikes on an industrial basis and demonstrates the significant shift that occurred in the 1930s with the spread of strike "violence" into the manufacturing sector and the invention of the sit-down strike as a weapon in labour's arsenal. Coal mining maintained its position throughout the period. Without doubt the 1930s witnessed the most "intense" strikes, to use Stuart Jamieson's phrase to describe strikes involving violence and illegality. Over 40 per cent of all "violent" strikes occurred in that decade with Ontaria leading the way with 47 incidents of strike-related collective-violence, followed by Quebec (18), British Colombia (10), and Nova Scotia (8). Over the 40 years for which we collected this information those same four provinces led all others with 95,59,26, and 26 "violent" strikes respectively.


The World War II strike wave of 1941-1943 came closest to matching the prominence of the 1917-1920 labour revolt. Its 1,106 strikes and nearly 425,000 strikers represent slightly over 11 per cent and 16 per cent respectively of all Canadian strikes and strikers in the 60-year period. These figures exceed those of 1917-1920 for strikers but fall short in strikes. Rough annual averages for frequency and size suggest similar conclusions. The World War I wave's index numbers averages 130 for frequency, while the World War II wave averages are higher. Given the vast growth of the nation's labour force in the years between 1920 and 1940 it remains evident that the four-year long labour revolt of 1917-1920 must be seen as the major strike wave of the period to 1950.

The trends evident in the strike waves of the 1930s toward an increased prominence of the eastern provinces continued in World War II. The Maritimes increased their share of Canadian strikes during strike waves to its highest level with 24 per cent of strikes and 31 per cent of strikers. (See Table 11.) Meanwhile, Quebec did the same and raised its proportion of strikes to a century high 28 per cent with 31 per cent of strikers only slightly behind its high of 34 per cent in 1937. Growth in the Maritimes and Quebec was largely at Ontario's expense which fell to 31 per cent of strikes and 22 per cent of strikers, while the west stayed approximately at its Depression strike wave levels of 18 and 15 per cent, far lower, of course, than its role in the earlier waves. Industrially, manufacturing continued to dominate with 58 and 59 per cent, while mining contributed 21 per cent of strikes and 26 per cent pf strikers. Construction, service, and transport trailed far behind.

Strikes appear to have been fought primarily for improvements in wages and conditions and recognition struggles declined when compared to the 1930s. (See Table 4.) Given the existence of the war, the rapid rise in third party settlements to its century high is not surprising. (See Table 5.) Indeed the struggles pf 1941-1943 would force the state to implement it's most interventionist labour relations policy in the century. PC1003 of 1944 and its later entrenchment in 1948 as the Industrial Relations and Labour Disputes Investigation Act brought an entirely new legal regime to bear in Canadian labour relations. Perhaps not coincidentally, the 1941-1943 strike wave witnessed not only the most third-party settlements but also an unusually large number or workers' losses for a strike wave. Employers won 30, 39, and 40 per cent of the struggles with clear workers' victories at 23,22, and 34 per cent respectively. The combination of worker victories and compromises led to 61, 50, and 54 per cent in the three years. (See Table 6) Nevertheless, the higher level of employer victories seems quite suggestive and is quite out is step with the pattern of the previous strike waves.

Indeed the strike wave of 1941-1943 was typified by a new pattern of quick, mass walkouts which under the pressure of war conditions often led to short, sharp workers' victories. If strikers did not finish quickly, workers' chances were much worse. The strike wave consisted primarily of short, often effective mining strikes, especially in Nova Scotia, the continuation of efforts to organize the mass production industries, especially in Ontario and Quebec, and huge strikes in war production industries, especially shipbuilding. Manufacturing and mining dominated this strike wave more totally than in any of the previous five waves in percentage of strikes with 79 and its 85 per cent of strikers was second only to 1937's 88 per cent. (See Table 11.)

In coal mining the struggle built through the wave with 47,57, and 112 strikes in the three years. The 112 strikes of 1943 was the highest in the 60-year period. Nova Scotia dominated with numerous strikes in both the mainland and Cape Breton coal fields. Only in November 1943, when there was a UMWA District 18-wide shutdown involving almost 10,000 miners in B.C. and Alberta for two weeks, did the west figure prominently in coal strikes in these years.

Similarly, in auto and steel and in shipbuilding and aircraft, the struggles built to a peak in 1943. A three-week strike of 3,700 St.Catharines auto parts workers in 1941 was followed in 1942 by a Windsor strike of over 14,000 autoworkers fighting for equal pay for equal work. In 1943, some 15,000 Windsor autoworkers fought speed-ups. The final showdown in auto would come in 1945. The pattern in steel showed like developments. Various strikes in steel fabrication in 1941 in Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal, and Trenton were followed by 1942 struggles in Trenton and Vancouver, but in 1943 an almost nation-wide strike in basic steel by nearly 13,000 steelworkers at Sydney, Trenton, and Sault Ste, Marie brought the industry to an abrupt halt.

The pattern in shipbuilding and aircraft, relatively unstudied to date, looks almost identical. A brief aircraft strike in Toronto in 1942 was followed the next year by a Vancouver strike of almost 7,000 workers and by a massive Montreal walkout of over 21,000 for nearly two weeks. In shipbuilding strikes were huge and generally short as workers struck over control issues. These strikes were especially prominent in 1942 and 1943 and took place in virtually all Canadian shipyards in the east, on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, and on the west coast. The largest stoppages took place in Lauzon, Sorel and Montreal, Quebec, and in Vancouver. East coast strikes were smaller but no less frequent.

Manufacturing's 58 per cent of strikes and 59 per cent of strikers was almost totally dominated by metals and shipbuilding with 51 per cent of strikes and 78 percent of strikers. Clothing and textiles added 17 per cent of strikes and 6 per cent of strikers. Outside of manufacturing and mining, the largest strikes occurred in 1943 in Montreal where 3,000 transit workers struck and where a series of strikes by civic workers foreshadowed much later developments elsewhere in the country. Again, as in 1919, Montreal policemen and firemen organised as well.

The events of the strike wave of 1941-1943 led eventually, after much delay, to a new industrial relations system, which we have mentioned briefly earlier in this paper. The clear aim of the King Liberal government in labour and in general social policy was to the as quickly as possible in an attempt to maintain power in the post-war world and to prevent the massive upheaval of 1919. The strikes of 1945-1946 at Hamilton Stelco, Ford Windsor, and in the British Columbia woods made 1946 the sixty-year leader in person days lost, but unlike 1919 it did not bring the country to the brink of political crisis.

Table 12A

Number of strikes and workers involved in Great Britain, France, and Canada, 1891-1950 d

_____________Great Britain____France_______Canada

Table 12B

Percentage of strikes and workers involved in Great Britain, France, and Canada 1891-1950 c

___________Great Britain_France_Canada

The french statistical series is not strictly comparable for either decade owing to the World War II occupation experience

It should be noted the the operative definition of a "strike" used by these authors varies. In Britain small strikes ere not counted which biases frequency down and size up.

Table 13

Frequency and size of strikes, Canada and the United States, 1891-1950


(a) Total number of strikes per 1,000,000 non-agricultural employees.
(b) Number of workers involved per strike
American data tends to eliminate small strikes thus biasing frequency down and size up.

Taken from this superb article here.

These tables were originally given by year, I, however, thought it'll be better to get an overview if they were given by decade, so I averaged them myself.

Table 4

Strike Issues, 1891-1950 1

Issues_____________________Percentage of Total Issues

1 Issues articulated at the beginning of each strike. More than one issue for some strikes.

Table 5

Methods of Strike Settlement, 1891-1950

Methods ___________________________Percentage of Total Strikes

Table 6

Strike Results, 1851-1950

Results_____________________________Percentage of Total Strikes


8 years 2 months ago

In reply to by

Thank you

Mike Harman

3 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Another one - the 1942 Chinese seaman's strike:

They were stationed in Liverpool. As soon as WWII finished, the Labour government mass deported them - including people who were married and/or had kids with British women - literally grabbed people off the street without informing anyone in some cases.

Would be great to get some more of this in the library.