France After the Liberation: The Labour Movement, the Employers and the Political Leaders in Their Struggle with the Social Movement
The French defeat in the spring of 1940 and the ensuing German occupation, as well as the establishment of the authoritarian Vichy regime, made it theoretically impossible for social movements to emerge; that is to say, to allow the development of mobilisation(s) and challenge(s) to authority within companies and/or against any aspect of government policy. However, in the summer of 1940 and a fortiori from 1941 onwards, resistance movements were born precisely because of their ability to convey the discontent of the French society and to use its momentum. In this sense, the French Resistance undoubtedly was a social movement, whose members were leading a ‘normal’ life as civilians under occupation whilst also leading a clandestine life as members of the Resistance. It intended to both reform the country and preserve its republican character. It had a strong working-class component Working-class resistance fighters organised a number of strikes, although they were prohibited. Two corporations, railway workers (especially those in repair workshops) and miners, were distinguished by going on strike repeatedly. Amongst the miners, particularly in the North, patriotism and a class consciousness merged and led to a large strike between 27 May and 9 June 1941, which gathered up to 100,000 strikers. After this initial outburst, two other waves of strikes hit the coalfields in 1942 and 1943.