The French Miners Strike of 1948: Some Scraps of history

The French Miners Strike of 1948: Some Scraps of history

What little information I've managed to dig up on what seems to have been an important struggle in post war France.

There are a lot of important events in Labour history that get overlooked. The Coal Miners strike in 1948 in France is one of them. I have tried for days to find information on this event and so far all I've found is a short interview on Radio Fours History Hour, some archival footage from Pathe with no commentary just a few minutes of film reel recording random events during the strike and one article by a French Trotskyist organisation written at the time and translated into English at a later date. I'm assuming there's more information in French, but even with my limited French I wasn't get many results and couldn't read what I found.

The Trotskyist article is interesting but unfortunately the authors were motivated by a naked desire to discredit the French Communist Party (PCF) and cast themselves as its replacement, rather than recount the events of the strike accurately for the benefit of all. And since its the only source I've found I can't tell how accurate the information it does provide is. Indeed it seems to contradict the miner being interviewed, in the BBC documentary on some important points. I have found two other sources, however one is hidden behind a pay wall and the other has only translated a brief abstract, the rest of the article is in French, so no help there.

In frustration and a desire to make things a little easier for other searchers I've made a video by splicing some of the Pathe footage together with the part of the History hour on the strike. I'm hoping that by making this blog other users and readers of this site will know of some more in depth articles and histories of the strike and this period such as the strike wave of 1947.

ADDENDUM:

A French user shared this(http://www.cinearchives.org/Catalogue_d_exploitation_GRANDE_LUTTE_DES_MINEURS__LA_-494-149-0-2.html?ref=f67ef3b524e29b901703fa543c97d706) an eleven minute account of the strike including more footage and commentary, worth watching if you understand French.

Comments

Mike Harman
Aug 11 2017 05:36

This looks like a really good start.

Did you find http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/3rd-december-1948/8/the-french-coal-strike already?

I've been meaning to read more about the Renault strikes in 1947, they're mentioned briefly by Dauve and Socialism ou Barbarie (google Renault 1947 libcom) but couldn't find anything good specifically on them.

http://libcom.org/library/occupation-factories-paris-1936-flint-1937 has detail on Renault strikes in '36 which must have influenced the 1947 ones.

There was also a strike wave in the Ruhr region of Germany in 1948 which is covered in this book
I haven't read around either of these, but they've been on my list for a while.

What I did read fairly recently was Joe Moore's Japanese Workers and the Struggle for Power https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Japanese_Workers_and_the_Struggle_for_Po.html?id=s-6yAAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y

This covers 1945-47, where there were massive strikes at Japanese coal companies, as well as 'production control' where workers occupied their firms and ran them directly.

On top of that, Brecher on the post-war strike wave in the US: https://libcom.org/history/world-war-ii-post-war-strike-wave, and the Saigon Commune https://libcom.org/history/articles/saigon-commune-1945 - probably British dockers 1945-1950 too against Labour government.

I think there's enough of these instances to recognise them as part of an international wave of post-war strikes and uprisings in the same way that people talk about 1917-18 (and 1865-1877, 1968-69) except that 1945-50 hasn't had nearly the same attention, so it would be good to expand on things a bit. Just added http://libcom.org/library/coal-miners-general-strike-1949-50-birth-marxist-humanism-us to the library with that in mind.

Reddebrek
Aug 12 2017 14:45

Thank you for the information, especially the Spectator article. I made this a blog post in part from frustration with something I keep running into while looking for history articles. I'll find a reference to an event usually a strike or wave of strikes, with just enough information to convince me that it seems important, and yet I can at best confirm that it happened and come across twelve different sources that briefly mention it.

This seems especially bad if its a miners strike thanks to the importance and fame of the UK miners strike in 84-85. I just hope I can help popularise what little I've found on it.