The strikes of May-June 1936

The strikes of May-June 1936



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  • Strikers playing cards in the courtyard of an occupied factory in the Paris region.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Léon Jouhaux speaking to the strikers at Galeries Lafayette - May 1936.

    ANONYMOUS

To close

Title: Strikers playing cards in the courtyard of an occupied factory in the Paris region.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1936

Date shown: June 1936

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: Eyedea - Keystone website

Contact copyright: © Keystone / Eyedea - "reproduction and exploitation prohibited without prior written agreement from the agency"

Picture reference: K002886

Strikers playing cards in the courtyard of an occupied factory in the Paris region.

© Keystone / Eyedea - "reproduction and exploitation prohibited without prior written agreement from the agency"

To close

Title: Léon Jouhaux speaking to the strikers at Galeries Lafayette - May 1936.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1936

Date shown: May 1936

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: Eyedea - Keystone website

Contact copyright: © Keystone / Eyedea - "reproduction and exploitation prohibited without prior written agreement from the agency"

Picture reference: K007417

Léon Jouhaux speaking to the strikers at Galeries Lafayette - May 1936.

© Keystone / Eyedea - "reproduction and exploitation prohibited without prior written agreement from the agency"

Publication date: September 2004

Historical context

The victory of the Popular Front

Formed on July 14, 1935, the Popular Front coalition united the Communist Party and the Radical Party alongside the Socialists, thus achieving for the first time this “alliance of the middle classes with the working class” that Maurice Thorez called for. For the first time in the history of the Third Republic, the socialist group won a majority of seats in the Chamber (147 elected), the S.F.I.O.

led by Leon Blum coming in first, followed by the radicals (106 elected) and the Communists (72 elected). Launched in the Bréguet factories in Le Havre on May 11, 1936, following the dismissal of workers who had refused to work on May 1, this movement quickly spread throughout the country.

Image Analysis

The strikes of May-June 1936

On an unprecedented scale, this spontaneous social explosion is the result of the combination of several factors: to the enthusiasm aroused by the electoral victory of the Socialists is in fact added popular mistrust of the political class, born of the frustrations which followed the victories of the left in 1924 and 1932, and the revolutionary aspirations which animated part of the working class. Mobilizing two million workers, these strikes take on a new character, as various photographs of the time clearly show: on the one hand, they result in the occupation of workplaces by workers, intended to immobilize the machines and prevent employers from employing replacement staff; On the other hand, the workers voluntarily adopt an exemplary pacifist behavior, avoiding any violent incident or any destruction of material. Unlike the social conflicts of the 1920s, these “joy strikes” were not followed by brutal repression. It is precisely an atmosphere of camaraderie that emanates from this image of strikers playing cards to the sound of the accordion, in the courtyard of an occupied factory in the Paris region in June. Forming a circle around the card players and the accordionist, the workers, with a smile on their lips, express in this photograph their joy at the victory of the Socialists in the May elections. Going beyond the metallurgy sector, these strikes reached other branches of industry and, even, commerce: for the first time, employees of Parisian department stores followed the movement, notably at Galeries Lafayette, which a photograph took in May 1936 shows occupied by employees, gathered on this occasion around the main staircase to listen to the speech by Léon Jouhaux, secretary general of the CGT (1909-1947). Suspended above the speaker's gallery, a banner reads "Let us stand united, we will conquer". An essential figure of 1936, Léon Jouhaux, rejecting the revolutionary trade unionist tradition, tried to channel this spontaneous social explosion and negotiated a solution to the crisis with the government.

Interpretation

Towards better days?

Negotiations between the unions and the government led to the Matignon agreements on June 7, 1936. These provided for an increase in wages of around 7 to 15%, established respect for union rights, and created employee representatives. in companies and laid down the principle of the generalization of collective agreements, instituted by the law of March 25, 1919. Faced with the continuation of the strike movement, despite the calls of Léon Jouhaux to resume work, these agreements were soon completed. following by a legislative arsenal aimed at improving the working conditions of workers: law of 40 hours per week and law on paid holidays lasting 15 days. Intended to remedy the economic crisis and unemployment, these social measures thus aroused immense hope for better days within the working class, all the more so since they were in line with the humanist ideal of the Popular Front. implemented in the field of culture, leisure and sport. However, the economic difficulties, the counter-offensive led by the employers and the internal dissensions in the government prevented Léon Blum from continuing his reformist policy, which he was forced to officially suspend in February 1937, before resigning himself on June 20. .

  • Third Republic
  • Blum (Leon)
  • social crisis
  • SFIO
  • PCF
  • Thorez (Mauritius)
  • speaker

Bibliography

Serge BERSTEINFrance in the 1930sParis: A. Colin, 1988 (2nd ed.)

Fernand BRAUDEL and Ernest LABROUSSEEconomic and social history of Francet.4, vol. 2. Paris: P.U.F., 1980

Jean-Paul BRUNETHistory of the Popular FrontParis: P.U.F. (QsJ? 1209), 1998 (2nd ed.)

Georges LEFRANCJune 1936. The social explosionParis: Gallimard, 1966 -The socialist movement under the Third RepublicParis: Payot, 1963

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The strikes of May-June 1936"


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