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Seminar Presentation: A History of French Labour – 29.11.17

Today I gave a seminar presentation on the History of French Labour and below is the 15 slide presentation I prepared on Powerpoint for the seminar.   History of French Labour – Seminar 29.11.17   The history, present and future of the French labour movement: continued division, contestation and weakness?   History 1789 Revolution creates a strong Jacobin State, characteristic of the French government until the present day. (An archetypical dirigiste state) Original Revolution plus three subsequent 19th century revolutions (July Monarchy, Second Empire, Third Republic) all tend to use the working class / masses to ignite the fire of revolution but ultimately all favour bourgeois ideals. Industrialization France is relatively late in comparison with its European neighbours to undergo the industrial revolution. When it does industrialize, it maintains a large peasant element in rural areas and the emerging working class are concentrated in certain northern regions and in the big cities The Nature of the French People Due to the Jacobin structure of government, intermediary bodies between the state and the people are not encouraged. Also, the French people have a genuine disinterest in ‘signing-up’ to large groups / organizations although they do have Nationalistic tendencies when it comes to State interests. This leads to the small membership numbers of Trade Unions. Trade Unions 1791 Le Chapelier Law – Outlaws Trade Unions Trade Unions eventually legalized in 1884 Right to strike recognized in 1864, before Unions were legal. Working class solidarity not encouraged at all and there has always been conflict in any attempts for the Labour movement to organize itself. Trade Unions Union membership always been traditionally low, rising to a peak of about a third of employees following 1968 Strikes. Today’s membership figures are only around 7% of workforce. Union membership, however not essential to the way they work in France and their core members are good at propelling the workforce into strike action. Lowest Union density in Western World Collective Bargaining coverage, however, is very high at 95%, much higher than international economic competitors. Trade Unions CGT Confédération Générale du Travail CFTC Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens CFDT Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail CFE-CGC Confédération Française de l’Encadrement – Confédération Générale des Cadres FO – Force Ouvrière Others – SUD – Solitaires Unitaires Démocratiques –CNT – Confédération Nationale du Travail –FSU – Fédération Syndicale Unitaire   Employers There is a Paternalistic approach to employees Many of…

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Review: Marxism and the French Left – by Tony Judt

This is an in depth study of socialism in France. The book is broken up into a series of long chapters, each covering a critical period of the political left in France. The emergence of working class political culture in the nineteenth century is explored and we see the development of trade unionism and the creation of socialist parties. The development of the social party, the SFIO is looked at in detail, prior to its rise to power under Blum. We then see the decline in the power of the socialists as they concede proletariat votes to the PCF, communists. The chapter on the French communists looks at the theorists who were so successful at internationalising the ideas and images of French Marxism. Sartre among the most famous, also there is a detailed study of Althusser, who unlike many of the French Marxist writers – was also an actual member of the PCF. The tailing off off Communist popularity as it clung hopelessly to the vestiges of Stalinism, leads to the book’s final chapter, where the rise of the socialists yet again, culminates in the ascendancy of Mitterand at the 1981 French general elections where the socialists swept surprisingly into power. this victory is compared with the Revolution of 1791 and the Paris Commune of 1871 in terms of its relevance to leftist politics in France. I found this book to be very detailed and some chapters were a bit tricky in terms of ideas and specialist vocabulary – but the book, read for a History of French Labour course at Cardiff University – has certainly enlightened me on certain aspects of French working class politics and I feel that the knowledge imparted has been vital.

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Review: Marxism and the French Left – by Tony Judt

marxism and the french left

This is an in depth study of socialism in France. The book is broken up into a series of long chapters, each covering a critical period of the political left in France. The emergence of working class political culture in the nineteenth century is explored and we see the development of trade unionism and the creation of socialist parties. The development of the social party, the SFIO is looked at in detail, prior to its rise to power under Blum. We then see the decline in the power of the socialists as they concede proletariat votes to the PCF, communists. The chapter on the French communists looks at the theorists who were so successful at internationalising the ideas and images of French Marxism. Sartre among the most famous, also there is a detailed study of Althusser, who unlike many of the French Marxist writers – was also an actual member of the PCF. The tailing off off Communist popularity as it clung hopelessly to the vestiges of Stalinism, leads to the book’s final chapter, where the rise of the socialists yet again, culminates in the ascendancy of Mitterand at the 1981 French general elections where the socialists swept surprisingly into power. this victory is compared with the Revolution of 1791 and the Paris Commune of 1871 in terms of its relevance to leftist politics in France. I found this book to be very detailed and some chapters were a bit tricky in terms of ideas and specialist vocabulary – but the book, read for a History of French Labour course at Cardiff University – has certainly enlightened me on certain aspects of French working class politics and I feel that the knowledge imparted has been vital.

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Review : Chávez: Venezuela and the New Latin America – by Aleida Guevara

This book is based on a series of interviews given by Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, to the daughter of Che Guevara, Aleida. Although the book doesn’t cover the entire period of Chavez’ rule up until his demise, it presents a wonderful tale and grasps fundamental insight into the way the mind works of one of the most popular Latin American leaders of the modern era. Chavez, a man of military background, discusses his rise to power in Venezuela, his roots and also the wider world of South America. His relationship with Fidel Castro is striking and his leftist tendencies are very apparent. His goals for the Venezuelan people and socialist objectives cover the first part of the story and he moves onto topics as diverse as the Gulf War and his family in the second, more broken series of short interview chapters. The book concludes with appendices of a TV interview with Hugo and Aleida and also with some of the insider details of the attempted military coup d’etat that took place against Chavez. I found the book to be very insightful and interesting on a subject that I previously understood very little.

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Review: The FARC: The Longest Insurgency

The FARC: The Longest Insurgency by Garry Leech My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book covers a very interesting subject for what in general there is a dearth of information and that which does exist tends to be fundamentally skewed with bias. The left wing of Colombia’s forty year civil war is headed up by the FARC-EP. This revolutionary Marxist guerrilla group holds a vast amount of Colombian territory and is the de-facto government of a large amount of mainly impoverished rural people who are in general greatly neglected by their government. The FARC have a very strong propaganda campaign in action against them and in this rather brief book, the author attempts to unravel the myths surrounding the FARC, and to determine the truth of what lies behind the propaganda against them. The Americans and Colombian government accuse them of being narco-traffickers and narco-terrorists, and use these accusations in order to fund their fight against their enemy. The book is good at unravelling many of the myths and in general one gets a decent balanced impression and a feeling that one has touched upon the truth. the FARC can be seen as a genuine combatant army and are a bit different to the way they are portrayed as a terrorist or criminal organisation. Their insurgency, although very bloody and difficult, is based in the realities of a real war. They have an ideological struggle and truly represent the feelings of their people. Some of the facts are quite surprising. I found the chapter on human rights abuses very revealing. It shows that although the FARC are very far from perfect and have committed some truly heinous acts, in general, the Colombian government forces and right-wing paramilitary groups are far more oppressive towards the average civilian. I think the author, who is an investigative journalist based in Colombia, has done a very good job with this work. I feel that for such a subject, a much broader and deeper piece of writing could be done. If anything the account is just a bit too brief. I hope to check out some of Garry Leech’s other books. View all my reviews

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