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7 Workers, Socialists, and the Winegrowers' Revolt of 1907
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Workers, Socialists, and the Winegrowers' Revolt of 1907

In early March in the tiny hill village of Argelliers in the Aude, a café owner and small vineyard owner, Marcellin Albert, called a meeting of the village viticultural defense committee and set in motion a protest movement that took the entire wine-producing south of France by storm. The committee's eighty-seven members, mostly small vignerons like Albert, had suffered year in and year out from the wine market depression, and they now blamed the government for failing to control the production of "fraudulent" wine. Marching to Narbonne on March 11 with drums and bugles and banners reading, "Death to fraudeurs ," they brought their "cry of misery" to a parliamentary commission that had come to investigate the wine crisis. In Narbonne, they marched through the streets singing "La Vigneronne":

War to the bandits who belittle our misery,
War to the fraudeurs  without mercy,
Yes, war to the death to our exploiters . . .[1]

Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee sat safely inside its meeting hall, barely aware of the clamor outside. Committee members closed their dossiers, promised reforms, and left Narbonne for other towns. Little did they know that this demonstration would be the first of many to sweep the towns and villages of lower Languedoc throughout that spring and summer.

Indeed, in 1907, responding to a major crisis of regional economic development, winegrowers, vinedressers, and artisans in the Aude, Hérault, Gard, and Pyrénées-Orientales took to the streets to compel the government to impose controls on the production and marketing of wine.[2] As a form of regional pro-


test, the 1907 revolt was especially significant in that it drew together virtually all classes, all elements of southern viticultural society, in an interclass front against the government. This massive popular movement, sometimes called the largest peasant uprising since 1789, had a profoundly divisive effect on the agricultural labor movement in the Aude.[3]

As we have seen, the diverse membership of the vineyard workers' unions, which included both small vineyard owners—workers and propertyless skilled vinedressers, proved to be both a strength and a weakness. By 1914 there was no vineyard working class in the classic Marxist sense; agricultural workers had not been completely proletarianized. The 1907 revolt underlined the fundamental differences not only between small landholders and skilled workers, but also between the movement's moderate rank and file and its more militant leadership; it also led to the further decline of the labor movement before the war. These changes caused the unions to reevaluate their position on women in the labor movement as well. The revolt also drove Socialists and syndicalists further apart after 1907, as Socialists divided over how to organize peasants and agricultural workers, and as syndicalists struggled to define their position with respect to Socialists both nationally and locally.

1907 in the Aude

The regionwide wine market depression that led to the formation of viticultural defense committees in the Narbonnais in the spring and summer of 1905, causing municipal resignations and tax protests as well, persisted into 1906 and 1907. Despite a small harvest in 1906 and slightly higher prices, sales lagged, and some small vineyard owners, fearful of being able to make any sales at all, sold their grapes directly from the vine. In the fall of 1906, angry crowds attacked tax collectors in Narbonne arrondissement and disrupted attempts to auction off villagers' furniture, seized for nonpayment of taxes.[4] Local union officials renewed strikes: seven were called in 1905 and three in 1906, to protest wage reductions and layoffs. In some villages unemployed workers appealed to mayors or to the prefect for jobs on public works projects. The subprefect called attention to the


activities of "revolutionary and anarchist elements."[5] Yet it was from neither revolutionaries nor anarchists that the most violent reaction came, but from communities of small vineyard owners.

Between March and June 1907, a series of mammoth meetings and demonstrations shook the entire wine-producing south. Mostly peaceful, these demonstrations snowballed under the leadership of Marcellin Albert and the Argelliers committee and of Narbonne's Socialist mayor, Ernest Ferroul. On March 31, 600 marched in Bize; 1,000 took to the streets of Ouveillan on April 7; and 5,000 gathered in Coursan on April 14. In the next weeks the numbers mounted: 80,000 protesters gathered in Narbonne on May 5; 120,000 in Béziers on May 12; 170,000 in Perpignan on May 19; 220,000 in Carcassonne on May 26; close to 300,000 in Nîmes on June 2; and over 500,000 in Montpellier on June 9. In demonstration after demonstration, the imagery of hunger and misery recurred on the banners and symbols that demonstrators displayed. Villagers from Bize carried empty purses on pikes; those from Ginestas carried an end of bread with a sign reading, "The last crust." A banner from La Redorte read, "Children of misery, freedom is coming, we are armed. Victory or death!" and marchers from Fitou carried placards reading, "Die standing up, yes. Die of hunger, no!" One from Bages punned, "La faim justifie les moyens." These symbols provided a dramatic reminder of the grinding poverty that winegrowers and workers faced.[6] Meeting in Nîmes, Narbonne, Montpellier, and Carcassonne under brilliant Mediterranean skies, Marcellin Albert and Ernest Ferroul urged all "sons and daughters of the Midi," regardless of political beliefs, to join the movement, and appealed to the government to take action against producers of "fraudulent" wines.[7]

The drama and excitement of the meetings electrified local populations. Entire villages mobilized to travel to distant towns by whatever means possible: some came on foot, others on bicycle, and still others by train.[8] Nor were the meetings exclusively men's affairs. Women marched in the forefront of long corteges that thronged the streets, bearing banners, flags, and placards; speakers recognized and addressed them in the mass meetings. Women engaged in the movement not only on the basis of their interests as producers and consumers; as the bearers and nur-


turers of life, too, they were concerned with the health issue of the harmful additives that were used to manufacture wines.[9]

Indeed, the 1907 revolt galvanized the entire Midi. Despite the class warfare that had so recently shaken the peaceful vineyards, despite the FTAM's declarations of war against employers, workers marched alongside small vignerons and large estate owners who joined the movement once they realized they were incapable of resolving the wine market depression. (Although, as Harvey Smith has shown, large proprietors probably did not assume control of the movement, they were definitely present in viticultural defense committees in the Aude; indeed, some politically conservative estate owners did attempt to use the 1907 movement to discredit the Radical government by blaming the Bloc des gauches for the wine depression.)[10]

Much to the dismay of revolutionary syndicalists, the viticultural defense movement made an energetic and largely successful attempt to enlist workers' support. Proprietors lent workers wagons and horses to enable them to travel to the meetings; the Compagnie des chemins de fer du Midi accorded a 50 percent fare reduction and provided a special car for workers who could not afford even a half-price ticket.[11] Throughout lower Languedoc, isolated groups of workers—such as the union in Cuxac d'Aude—followed syndicalist discipline and refused to participate in the 1907 movement. In the inaugural issue of Le Travailleur de la terre (which replaced Le Paysan in June 1907), Ader supported workers who did not "officially march in the demonstrations; . . . syndicalism requires a different strategy." Following the syndicalist model, Ader argued that the fight against fraud demanded not class collaboration but class struggle. Although he acknowledged the "educative value" of the coordinated movement, he warned workers not to expect concessions from employers just because they had marched side by side.[12] The Bourse du travail in Montpellier characterized the meetings as "bourgeois demonstrations"; one union activist went still further: "All our activities are directed against the capitalist class . . . whose disappearance must be the basis of . . . the transformation of society. We do not really understand how, in this social crisis, the working class can abdicate its ideals and get into bed with its worst enemies."[13]


Despite FTAM leaders' appeals, however, most rank-and-file workers took part in the meetings and demonstrations of 1907. Their participation was scarcely surprising given the large proportion of small proprietor—workers in the unions. Moreover, concerns about basic material issues, including the effects of the crisis on wages, mingled with antigovernmental feeling (fueled by confrontations with troops and police in the recent strikes) to draw workers in. In the words of one worker who attended the mass meetings, "We went to the demonstrations because . . . they were a sort of Fronde against the government." In some villages employers even promised to hire the unemployed in return for workers' support in the mass demonstrations.[14] The manifesto of the impoverished, Qui Nous Sommes (Who we are), brilliantly illustrates the interclass character of the 1907 movement as well as its self-consciously apolitical thrust.

Who We Are

We are those who work and don't have a cent;
We are landowners who are broke or ruined, workers without work or almost none;
We are merchants who are hard up or who are up against the wall;
We are the ones who are dying of hunger.

We are the ones who have wine to sell and can't find a buyer;
We are those who have our labor to sell and can scarcely find a job;
We are those who have goods that no one can afford to buy;
We are the ones who are dying of hunger.

We the wretched, and what's in the air won't fill the stomachs of our women and children;
We are those who have vines in the sun and tools in our hands;
We are those who want to work in order to eat and who have the right to live;
We are the ones who are dying of hunger.

We are those who love the Republic, those who detest it, and those who could care less;
We are its ardent defenders and its open adversaries;
Radicals or conservatives, moderates or syndicalists, socialists or reactionaries,


We are those who have intelligence and also our opinions;
But we also need to eat, and
We are the ones who are dying of hunger.[15]

In addition to the widespread economic depression, Ferroul's and Albert's regionalism and attacks on the government also facilitated a temporary cross-class alliance. The image of southern vineyards colonized by northern sugar interests; the rhetoric of south against north; the implicit protest against a government that supported the interests of certain economic and social groups against others'—all appeared prominently in speeches and the press.[16] The regional and antigovernmental aspects of the movement also surfaced in a series of dramatic actions that galvanized local populations: a massive tax strike, the resignation of village municipalities on June 10, and the rebellion of military troops following the military occupation of lower Languedoc.

Just a year earlier, in a few scattered areas, villagers had refused to pay taxes and attacked tax collectors who attempted to seize property in the Aude. Now, however, municipalities in all four Mediterranean departments agreed to suspend not only collection and payment of taxes but all municipal operations as well. Fifty-six percent of all municipalities in the Aude resigned, including many towns and villages not in wine-producing areas.[17] When Clemenceau responded by arresting Albert and several other members of the Argelliers committee and sending troops to occupy the south, tensions escalated. Villagers in Coursan, outraged at the government's failure to pass a sugar tax, tore down telegraph poles in anger.[18] On June 10 and 16 two minor military rebellions erupted as troops in Narbonne and Perpignan refused to obey orders and marched off singing the "Internationale." A few days later, on June 19, demonstrators in Narbonne responded to the arrest of Ferroul by battling police; troops charged, killing one person. Later, when an angry crowd stormed the town hall, the 139th Infantry opened fire, wounding ten and killing five, including a young woman from Coursan.[19]

These tragic events provoked a storm of reaction. In the subprefecture shocked and angry Narbonnais turned their hos-


tility on the police, stoning and very nearly drowning a Parisian officer. In Paris, Albert Sarraut, Radical deputy and undersecretary in the Ministry of the Interior, resigned his ministerial post in protest against the shooting. A palpable tension reigned in surrounding villages as well. In one incident, a crowd attacked a beggar whom they suspected of being a police informer. Placards reading, "Clemenceau assassin" and "Gouvernement d'assassins," printed by the CGT, appeared overnight and served as a potent reminder that until Clemenceau's military occupation of southern towns the demonstrations had been peaceful. But the rebellion of the 17th Infantry received even greater public attention. These men—the vast majority local recruits—were outraged that the military had fired on, killed, and maimed their own countrymen. During the night of June 20–21 they mutinied and marched from their temporary garrison in Agde to Béziers, where they were normally stationed.[20]

The Narbonne shootings and subsequent riots in Montpellier marked a sober turning point in the 1907 revolt. Demonstrations died down and the government finally took action, passing legislation requiring that all winegrowers declare the size of their vineyards and harvests each year. From July on a series of legislative initiatives outlawed the addition of water to wine, raised the surtax on sugar, required a special permit for sales and shipments of sugar weighing over twenty-five kilograms, and gave local vintners' organizations the right to bring legal action against individuals who failed to comply with these laws. At the end of August the government voted to exonerate small winegrowers from taxes owed between 1904 and 1906.[21] In the meantime, a second Argelliers committee (designed to replace leaders who had been arrested) laid the foundations of an organization that would protect the position of southern wine in the domestic market, combat fraud, regulate wine prices, and encourage the expansion of agricultural credit: the Confédération générale des vignerons du Midi (CGV).

The CGV, formed in September 1907, brought together local viticultural defense committees under the leadership of Ernest Ferroul and included landowners of all kinds, including large proprietors. As Harvey Smith has suggested, large estate owners, initially resistant to government controls that would restrict


their use of sugar and other profitable practices, were eventually forced to accept regulation.[22] Eager to continue the interclass front for the defense of the vine, Ferroul appealed to workers and small vineyard owners to join the organization and called on "all children of the Midi" to come together to save the vineyards. Minimizing the importance of class differences, Ferroul insisted that "before we are proprietors or proletarians, we are men who need to live." The CGV would thus represent the "fraternal alliance of capital and labor."[23]

Such a position could hardly have differed more from the earlier views of this former member of the National Council of the POF. Needless to say, Ferroul's appeal fell like a bombshell on the ears of syndicalist leaders. Moreover, while small proprietors stood to benefit enormously from an organization that promised to regulate wine production and end market instability, nothing in the organization addressed the special needs of landless workers.[24] This was precisely the breach into which the unions stepped. Although the 1907 movement succeeded in momentarily bringing together small growers and large, workers, syndicalists, and artisans, the formation of the CGV called that alliance into question. Socialists now divided over the inter-class partnership of labor and capital, and the labor movement attempted to steer landless workers toward affirming their own class interests.

Socialists, Syndicalists, and the CGV

From the very earliest demonstrations in 1907, Socialists expressed reservations about the interclass character of the winegrowers' revolt. In the Hérault and the Gard, Socialist federations warned workers and small vineyard owners against letting themselves be co-opted by the large proprietors who guided the movement, and refused to blindly accept Ferroul's leadership.[25] Early on, the SFIO National Council reminded its members that the reforms that demonstrators demanded would do nothing to erase the deeper causes of the crisis, a view that even Ferroul supported in Nîmes on June 2.[26] Ferroul, however, led the movement not as a member of the Socialist party, but as a non-


partisan méridional . The 1907 revolt in fact proved problematic for the SFIO because the diverse class participation made independent party influence of the movement very difficult.[27] In 1908 a member of the SFIO National Council took the CGV to task for encouraging workers to collaborate with proprietors, who, he charged, dominated the organization. At the Socialist congress in St-Etienne in April 1909, during a prolonged debate on the "peasant question," delegates condemned the CGV for the same reasons, and the federations of the Seine and the Hérault both moved (unsuccessfully) to encourage workers to stay out of the CGV.[28] Even Jaurès, who campaigned for the nationalization of the vineyards, argued that the 1907 movement was really about "saving the vines, and not saving the property of the vines." Jaurès had initially praised the 1907 movement and the CGV for revealing the disorganization and the exploitive nature of viticultural capitalism; eventually, though, he distanced himself from the confederation.[29] Only in the Aude did Socialists actively participate in the CGV leadership with Ferroul.

If the question of class collaboration divided Socialists, it raised even more fundamental problems for syndicalists, who debated the issue in the November 1907 congress of the FTAM. The debate brought to a head a fundamental dilemma within the rural labor movement: what was the place of the small producer in the class relations of peasant society, and to what extent did the interests of small vineyard owners really coincide with those of propertyless workers? Workers who demonstrated alongside employers in the mass meetings earlier that year, and who subsequently joined the CGV,justified their participation before their fellow syndicalists. One claimed that he supported the viticultural defense movement because "I saw in this organization from which politics was banished the image of the revolutionary union that fights against state oppression." Those workers who were landowners saw their membership in both the CGV and the FTAM as perfectly compatible: the CGV defended their interests as proprietors; unions, their interests as workers.[30]

Others were strongly opposed to the CGV, arguing that collaboration with employers was contrary to the essence of syndicalism and that workers should never forget that proprietors


once used force against them. Earlier, syndicalists did not question the common interests of workers and small vineyard owners, and many of the latter, as part-time workers, felt quite at home in the unions. Indeed, Ader insisted, "the small proprietor is really a proletarian who owns only the tools of production; he shouldn't act any differently from those who possess nothing, because he suffers as much as we do from current conditions."[31] The 1907 revolt, however, had changed all that. In 1908 the FTAM took a radical step that in the end seriously weakened the labor movement: it resolved to exclude automatically any union that supported the CGV or union member who was simultaneously a member of the new organization.[32]

Two factors pushed the FTAM to take this categorical position. One was the decline of the union movement as the strike momentum receded and small proprietors or proprietor-workers rejected the radical stance of syndicalist leaders and left the unions. As Table 22 shows, membership in the FTAM had declined precipitously after 1904–1905.[33] The battle by syndicalist leaders against the CGV was part of their effort to win workers back into the unions, but it likely had precisely the opposite effect. Although we do not know how many small proprietor-workers actually left the unions in 1907 or later, it is virtually certain that a large number abandoned the labor movement for the CGV.

The second factor was the renewal of strike activity at the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908, when employers failed to live up to earlier promises to hire workers or raise wages.[34] These events strengthened leaders' arguments that employers could not be trusted and that workers should under no circumstances collaborate with them. Thus the FTAM embarked on a strategy of defending the class interests of unpropertied workers; yet in so doing it effectively denied the complex class identity of agricultural workers in the Aude. It underestimated the number of members who were small proprietor-workers and the extent to which landless workers and small vintners continued to share common interests. By deciding to defend only some workers and by expelling those who joined the CGV, it condemned itself to a position as a minority movement.


Attempting to Rebuild the Labor Movement

During 1908 and 1909, labor activists Léon Jouhaux, Paul Ader, and François Cheytion toured the countryside, trying to win workers back to the FTAM.[35] They attempted to push the unions to undertake job actions for conditions unmet by 1907 and, in the spring of 1908, encouraged workers to demand two liters of wine as part of their daily wage. Using the argument of entitlement to the fruits of their labor, workers struck over wine in six of eight labor conflicts in the Aude in 1908. The following year workers in Coursan struck for a wine allocation, this time using force and sabotage to get farmhands to join them.[36] Meanwhile Clemenceau, as minister of the interior, had begun to crack down on the unions, arresting syndicalist leaders Griffuelhes and Monatte and calling in troops to control demonstrations and break strikes. These attacks on the labor movement drove the agricultural unions in the Aude further to the left, and different forms of militant labor activity emerged after 1907.

The 1907 shootings in Narbonne and the subsequent shooting of striking workers at Raôn l'Etape, Draveil-Vigneux, and Villeneuve-St-Georges fanned the fires of antimilitarism (already awakened during the first Moroccan crisis in 1905) among agricultural workers.[37] Antimilitarist propaganda through 1907 drew mainly on workers' hostility to the government's use of troops to silence demonstrations and break up strikes. In the fall of 1907, as the CGT stepped up its antimilitarist campaign nationally, antimilitarist groups including agricultural workers and artisans organized in Narbonnais villages like Leucate, Coursan, Fleury, in Narbonne, and in the Corbières village of St-Laurent de la Cabrérisse. These groups subscribed to such publications as Gustave Hervé's forcefully antimilitarist Guerre sociale , Emile Pouget's Père Peinard , and the anarchist Les Temps nouveaux . In addition, villagers came into contact with antimilitarist propaganda through songs and plays performed in cafés.[38]

Antimilitarist discourse also reached agricultural workers through the Fédération des travailleurs agricoles du Midi and its press, Le Travailieur de la terre . Influenced by the antimilitarist


campaign of Hervé and others within the CGT, agricultural workers in lower Languedoc adopted antiwar and antimilitarist resolutions at the Narbonne congress of the FTAM in 1908. These resolutions differed from earlier expressions of antimilitarist sentiment among agricultural workers (such as support for the sou au soldat ), in that they marked the first real expressions of antiwar and internationalist feeling. Congress speakers condemned the idea of la patrie as meaningless for "poor proletarians who at all latitudes, in all countries, are odiously exploited and massacred in the same way when the capitalists' interests demand it." The working class, they declared, must resist all mobilization for war with a general strike and mass insurrection.[39]

Although many workers agreed with this position, workers in the Aude responded only half-heartedly to the CGT's call for a twenty-four-hour strike for peace, with antiwar meetings, on December 16, 1912. Some four to five hundred showed up in Narbonne, a tiny gathering given the size of Narbonne's working class and the number of agricultural workers in the surrounding countryside. One is inclined to agree with Jacques Julliard that the fact that so many workers later rallied to the union sacrée suggests that the CGT and its member federations simply did not succeed in spreading these ideas among the rank and file at this time.[40]

Syndicalist leaders also stepped up their attacks on local Socialists in the wake of 1907 and openly criticized Ferroul as a traitor to the working class for colluding with large proprietors in the CGV.[41] One union activist, writing in Le Travailleur de la terre , brought together both antisocialist and antimilitarist sentiment as he criticized

the great Socialist orators, all the party notables who, having a heritage to defend, run the whole gamut of patriotic sentiments . . . raise the specter of the Kaiser's armies overrunning our land, destroying our homes . . . while they shoot down the proletariat of the "sweetest of countries."

Chalons, Martinique, Limoges, Longwy, Raôn l'Etape, Narbonne, all these towns are crushed under the boots of republican cossacks, or washed with workers' blood, while the patriotic socialists counsel strikers to . . . moral insurrection![42]


FTAM leader Paul Ader reflected these views when he rejected a proposal to run an FTAM column in Le Midi socialiste on the grounds that syndicalist leaders should not write for any political newspaper.[43]

Finally, after the CGT had begun to tone down its revolutionary stance after about 1909 (the so-called rectification de tir ), the FTAM on the contrary campaigned against the dangers of reformism. At its 1909 congress, delegates from Narbonne angrily criticized the recent election of Louis Niel as secretary general of the CGT (the result of an internal struggle to eliminate "anarchist influence" from the confederation) and the ascendancy of reformists within the Federation of the Bourses du travail. Likewise, FTAM activists continued to exclude those who broke syndicalist discipline by joining the CGV and so forced small proprietors and proprietor-workers out of the unions.[44]

Attempts to rebuild the agricultural workers' unions across the region were not altogether successful. By the end of 1908, the first year of its new organizing drive, the FTAM's membership stood at 3,360, a far cry from its pre-1906 level of some 10,000 and more (see Table 22 above), though by 1911 members numbered 6,000. In the Aude, union membership recovered but was still unstable (see Table 20), fluctuating between 1909 and 1914. Union leaders there expressed continuous frustration with rank-and-file workers' apparent lack of enthusiasm. When in January 1910 syndicalists in the Aude formed a department organization grouping all labor unions, the Union départementale des syndicats ouvriers de l'Aude, agricultural workers responded feebly.[45] In areas where vineyard workers did drift back to the unions, their reengagement owed as much to the material difficulties workers continued to face after 1907 as to leaders' organizing efforts.

Strike Activity and the Standard of Living

The sound and fury of strikes and demonstrations that occurred between 1904 and 1907, although they produced tangible results, changed little in vinedressers' material situation. Neither government regulation of wine production and the wine market


nor the creation of the Confédération générale des vignerons du Midi arrested the prolonged depression of the southern wine economy. Even when wine prices improved marginally, vineyard owners did not raise wages enough to match the cost of living, which had increased almost 30 percent between 1905 and 1912—almost three times that for France as a whole over the same period (see Table 17 above).[46] From 1908 to 1914, fifty-six strikes took place in the Aude, bringing almost 8,500 workers off the job. Most of these strikes attempted to restore earlier agreements that employers had broken: apart from wage increases, the most frequent demand involved the wine allocation. Many strikes (43 percent) succeeded; 39 percent ended in compromises, and 18 percent failed. But had the 1907 revolt altered the pattern of strike activity?

The "shape" of strikes in the Aude before and after 1907 was remarkably similar. It is true that more strikes ended in failure after 1907 than before (ten as opposed to four).[47] Strikes after 1907 tended to be somewhat smaller and last longer as well (Table 24; compare with Table 22). Although noticeably fewer strikes occurred after 1907, this was scarcely surprising, given the shrinking of the labor movement after 1905–1906 and again after 1907. Furthermore, although as time went on syndicalists exhibited a more revolutionary posture, their bark was louder than their bite. When, after the winegrowers' revolt, it came time to negotiate settlements, union leaders were just as prepared to accept the arbitration of justices of the peace and mayors as they had been earlier, and just as eager to obtain contracts for their members.[48] One aspect of labor strategy did change, however: as Smith has noted, unions became more careful about the timing of strikes after 1907. This shift was due both to the hard lessons of the earlier strike movement and to the awareness that, since the 1907 revolt, large proprietors (who had lost their control of the market to the government and the CGV) would be more reluctant to make concessions to workers.

Strikes in the Aude, like strikes nationally, occurred partly in relation to changes in the standard of living. The organization and mobilization of rural workers took place in a period when workers' living standard was in sharp decline (just before 1900 and after the turn of the century), and when real wages had been


Table 24. Strikes in the Aude, 1908–1914


No. Strikes

No. Strikers


Mean Duration (days)

Mean Size























































Source: France, Ministère de commerce, Direction du travail, Statistique des grèves et des recours à la conciliation et à l'arbitrage (1908–1914) (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1909–1915).

a S = success, F = failure, C = compromise

falling for some time. Before and after 1907 unions tended to call strikes when rising wine prices suggested that employers might make concessions, a pattern that Jean Sagnes has noted also in the Hérault.[49] Thus, these strikes caused, rather than resulted from, an improved standard of living.[50] Similarly, both before and after 1907, once workers obtained wage improvements, labor organization often disintegrated, instead of expanding as might have been expected.[51]

Although gains made in earlier labor conflicts brought workers higher wages, real wages, which had increased from 1900 to 1905, actually fell between 1905 and 1912: workers' situation in fact deteriorated after 1905–1906. In Coursan more villagers worked in the vines than ever before, but official documents like the census no longer described vineyard workers as cultivateurs ; rather, they used the term journalier agricole , a symbolic reminder of their loss of status.[52] As workers all over France began to experience the crise de la vie chère , and the CGT and the bourses stepped up their national campaigns against inflation, the first Audois consumers' cooperatives were established in Cuxac, Durban, St-Jean de Barrau, Canet, Marcorignan, and Ornaisons.[53] In this context, agitation for the wine allocation that brought


workers off the job in 1908 and 1909 took on particular significance—for it was designed to allow workers not only to enjoy the fruits of their labors (literally), but also to maintain a certain standard of living.

As workers' living standards continued to decline, the FTAM launched a new campaign for a six-hour day, a 50 centime hourly wage, and a wine allocation throughout the year. Leaders invoked the concept of the moral economy (although they did not use the term) by reminding workers and vineyard owners of the mass meetings and demonstrations of 1907, "when workers' blood ran in the defense of employers' interests." Employers, they charged, had gone back on their word: they had cut back wages, asked workers to put in longer hours, and refused to give them wine. Still worse, "wine has sold . . . well, beyond all hopes, and what have we gotten from all that? Nothing!"[54] Nationally, demonstrations against the rising cost of living, organized by the CGT, brought French workers into the streets from 1910 to 1912.[55] If nothing else, these conditions aroused public sympathy for workers' demands. In the Narbonnais, when wine prices improved at the end of 1910 employers cleverly anticipated workers' demands and actually raised wages. Other workers, however, had to fight for improvements. Strikes in 1911, 1912, and 1913, timed more effectively to coincide with periods of activity in the vines, raised wages, obtained the year-round wine allotment, and resulted in annually renewable contracts.[56]

These successes notwithstanding, most strikes after 1907 were defensive attempts to retrieve lost ground. Moreover, the FTAM did not manage to bring masses of workers out in these strikes. This situation paralleled the national decline of strike activity between 1910 and 1913, as workers all over France sought to hold on to their jobs rather than risk new confrontations. Only women's strike activity proved an exception to this pattern.

Women, Unions, and Strikes

In attempting to rebuild the unions after 1907, the FTAM leadership shifted its position on women's work and ceased to argue for women's return to hearth and home. The participation of women in strikes and demonstrations between 1903 and 1908


deepened their commitment to securing rights for themselves and also convinced union leaders that they could be counted on to support men's labor struggles. These union men seemed to realize that by failing to organize women they were missing an important opportunity to rebuild the unions and create a mass movement of agricultural workers. As a result, from about 1909 labor activists praised women's participation in the conflicts of the past six years and agreed to organize women, "who will be very useful when we next present our collective demands."[57]

These good intentions, however, were not acted on, and ultimately the potential of unionizing women remained a lost opportunity. By 1914 women in only eight Audois villages had actually formed their own unions (108 women in Coursan unionized in 1911). Nevertheless, they continued to participate actively in local labor conflicts, as before. In the thirty-four strikes between 1911 and 1913 they counted for some 22 to 35 percent of strikers, three and four times the national average of women's strike participation in these years.[58]

Whereas earlier women had acted essentially to support men's claims, now they used the rising cost of living to justify wage increases for themselves. After all, large numbers of married women worked in the vineyards as wage workers, and they continued to occupy a vital place in the working-class household economy. Moreover, women's community ties and social networks provided them with "organization," helping them to build a collective awareness of their rights as mothers and as workers and creating a community of interests that overlapped with workplace solidarities. These same ties had facilitated women's labor activism earlier. Finally, women had the advantage of an accumulated experience of participation in protest from 1903 through 1907 that broke down some of the gender barriers of Mediterranean village society. Not that their participation in labor struggles alongside men changed male workers' essentially masculine concept of class, but the strikes did force unionists in the Aude to accept women's place in the public (and essentially male) world of labor conflict.[59] The extent to which women's work and claims were enmeshed in both community and family is illustrated by the women's strike in Coursan in 1912–1913.

Vineyard journalières in Coursan were one of the few groups of


women to organize in the Aude. Following labor conflicts in 1911, 108 women established a section within the Syndicat des cultivateurs et travailleurs de la terre de Coursan and, in October 1912, took the radical step of attempting to negotiate a separate contract (as men had done just a year earlier). They demanded a 25 centime hourly wage (exactly half of men's wages); a 50 centime increase over the 3.50 francs for every hundred bundles of branches they gathered; and standard rates for "women's work"—sulphuring, sulfating, and harvesting. In addition, they demanded that "women's work," gathering branches and spreading chemicals, be reserved for them alone—in other words, that the gender-based division of labor in the vines be preserved to protect their jobs.[60] When vineyard owners refused to talk to the women, they refused to return to work, and brought an additional 250 nonunionized women and about 675 men off the job in a two-day sympathy strike.

In this strike, which lasted two months (longer than any other strike in the Aude), the women mobilized the support of the entire community. Male workers took up collections in Coursan and surrounding villages and held concerts to raise money. Contributions poured in from sympathetic unions as far away as Paris.[61] Even though work in the vines could not proceed until the vines had been cleared of branches, male workers refused to act as scab labor by performing women's work. Such work, they rightly protested, was not in their contract. When employers responded by imposing a lockout, the men briefly joined the strike. Thus, curiously, the gender-based division of labor served the cause of labor solidarity.[62] Although the women eventually returned to work without a settlement at the end of January, the men's support showed that they accepted women's place in the vineyard labor structure. Workers recognized that women's position in the workplace differed from men's and had to be dealt with separately. This recognition did not betoken protofeminist consciousness on the part of either male or female workers. On the contrary, the women's attempt to preserve conditions that to us seem highly exploitive is not difficult to explain.

In the first place, women faced increasing competition from unskilled male immigrants. Their attempt to secure a contract was above all aimed at protecting their position in the labor


market—necessary given the importance of their wage contribution to the family in these inflationary times. In addition, many of these women were mothers as well as wage earners. Their acceptance of a secondary place in the labor hierarchy and of a secondary wage was a tacit recognition of their complex roles. Behind the insistence on maintaining a gender-based division of labor lay a demand that they be permitted to continue to fulfill their roles as mothers and as family providers—what some have called the "rights of gender"—and an assertion of their right to control the pace of work.[63]

The effort to negotiate a separate contract also implied an agreement that women would not compete with men or drive down their wages. These journalières , over half of whom were married, did not strike only with an eye to material gains. Their acceptance of the gender-based division of labor and, by implication, of women's culturally ascribed roles also involved an understanding that the family's control of labor power was a vital element in working-class independence and resistance to exploitation. Preservation of their husbands', fathers', and sons' jobs was also at issue. Their failure to reach a settlement points to both the difficulties unions now faced in negotiating with employers and the strength of centuries-old gendered divisions in Mediterranean villages—something that even the war did not change.

The failure of strikes like this one did not cause syndicalist leaders to modify their militant stance. Cheytion, Ader, and others continued to denounce the "yellow" CGV, and they pursued their antimilitarist campaign right up to June 1914, spurred on by the 1913 law extending military service to three years. In February 1913 Vincent Daïde, secretary of the Narbonne Bourse du travail and a strong supporter of Ferroul and the CGV, was ousted, replaced by François Cheytion.[64] Moreover, syndicalists' relations with Ferroulist Socialists remained strained well after 1907.

Socialists, Workers, and Elections in the Wake of the Winegrowers' Revolt

After 1906, the political map of the Aude changed slightly. Socialist unification, together with Socialist hostility to the Radi-


cal government's use of force against demonstrators in 1907 and against strikers in 1908 and 1910 (especially Briand's brutal repression of the 1910 railway strike), combined to end these two parties' electoral alliances.[65] Simultaneously, the wretched economic situation of workers in these years caused alienation from the "pie in the sky" promises of politicians, who either minimized workers' efforts as useless or failed to address their concerns directly.

Syndicalists had certainly done their best to encourage workers to maintain a certain distance from political parties. Moreover, their anti-electoral campaign after 1907 not only criticized the uselessness of political action (their primary argument before 1907) but now also attacked politicians' intentions given the imprisonment of labor leaders and the government's use of military force to repress strikes. In villages where important syndicalist leaders resided (such as François Cheytion's Coursan and Paul Ader's Cuxac d'Aude), abstentionism—which was especially high in Third Republic elections—was also an expression of loyalty to labor leaders, as we have already suggested.

Even though the Aude had one of the highest levels of abstention of any department in France under the Third Republic, and even if some rank-and-file syndicalists did respond to the call to boycott the ballot box, no evidence suggests that vineyard workers alone were responsible for these high levels. Workers remained divided over the wisdom of relinquishing the rights and duties of the ballot. Nor did high abstentions prevent Socialists from winning legislative elections in the Narbonnais. They may, however, indicate that if socialism was a logical choice for small winegrowers and artisans, it was not necessarily the obvious route for all unionized agricultural workers.

While die-hard syndicalists struggled to sustain both their membership and their ability to wrest concessions from employers, the moderate, pragmatic socialism of urban workers and small vineyard owners expanded. Ferroul's leadership in the 1907 movement played a crucial role in helping Audois socialists gain municipalities and extend their popular base in the west and south of the department. The Socialist Federation of the Aude now organized sections in Carcassonne, La Nouvelle, Gruissan, Fabrezan, Thezan, and Quillan.[66]


Table 25. Legislative Elections of 1910 and 1914 in the Narbonnais (percent of votes cast)






Narbonne I













Narbonne II













Coursan commune













Source: AD Aude 2M58, "Recensement général des votes, 1876–1914."

Although the 1907 revolt did not cause a major shift from radicalism to socialism in the Aude (Audois Radicals defended the interests of small winegrowers too well for that to happen), in the legislative elections of 1910 and 1914 Socialists advanced considerably (as in most areas of France where they presented candidates), more than doubling their share of votes since 1906 (Table 25).[67]

In contrast to the Var, where Tony Judt has shown that radicalism gave way to socialism during the depression at the end of the nineteenth century, radicalism in the Aude retained the support of small winegrowers up to World War I. While Radicals benefited from a powerful regional press and a popular base in local clubs and societies, their defense of distressed small vignerons was every bit as important in gaining them political support in the Aude.[68] Socialists, of course, benefited from these things too, but here local traditions and loyalties to local men influenced the vote significantly. Peasants and workers may have identified with national political parties and issues; yet allegiance to "favorite sons" such as Sarraut, Aldy, and Ferroul still carried weight in the political life of rural France. This even syndicalists, with their disdain for the electoral process, had a hard time fighting.

The day after the 1914 legislative elections, for the last time in


his life, François Cheytion led the May Day parade around Coursan, bearing the red flag and followed by a village band playing the "Internationale." Winding through the streets, the parade picked up followers. After the customary speeches, all made their way to the village square for a bal populaire . In retrospect it was a poignant scene, for within two months this ardent antimilitarist had joined the union sacrée , along with most of the French labor movement. Just over a year later, Cheytion lay dead on a battlefield in the Somme, "a martyr to that odious war."[69] The state's readiness to use violence against workers, together with the defeats the labor movement sustained before the war, sapped the morale of even the most radical activists. But the union sacrée itself was ephemeral. Well before the end of the war, old divisions among Socialists, syndicalists, and the state reappeared, to reemerge after 1917 in new forms that were deeper than ever.

Ultimately, the great winegrowers' revolt of 1907 had profound repercussions for both the agricultural labor movement and the evolution of Socialist politics in the Aude after 1907. It confirmed syndicalist leaders in their more radical vision of the class relations of rural society, even if it did not significantly change patterns of strike activity. The formation of the Confédération générale des vignerons du Midi divided both Socialists and syndicalists on the wisdom of collaborating with men whom both groups had previously considered the class enemy. In the Aude, Socialists' support of the viticultural defense movement and the CGV not only enabled them to win followers in the department; it also established a historical foundation on which Narbonnais Socialists could later build.

In contrast to what Harvey Smith has argued, the 1907 revolt did not mark the end of class conflict in the Aude, any more than it represented the end of syndicalism.[70] Smith contends that unions in lower Languedoc became more moderate and more willing to bargain with employers after 1907. While he is right that workers learned that massive protests could lead to concessions from the state, they also learned that the state was prepared to shoot workers and break up strikes with military force. Unlike syndicalists elsewhere who acquiesced after 1907, activ-


ists in the Aude rejected the movement's appeal to join the "fraternal alliance of capital and labor" and refused to abandon their revolutionary rhetoric even after the CGT's rectification de tir . This position, as we have seen, cost them members and, indeed, left them in the role of a minorité agissante .

The 1907 revolt not only raised the issue of class collaboration (which syndicalist leaders fixed on at the time), it also vividly illustrated the fundamental complexities of rural society and class identity in the Aude. These complexities came to the foreground immediately after the revolt, especially when it came to organizing individuals for whom the distinctions of "peasant" and "worker" were often blurred. The aftershocks of 1907 also showed how divided the class loyalties of small vineyard owners really were. Ultimately, this very complexity sapped the strength of the labor movement as much as did the persistent economic depression that finally eroded workers' ability to risk costly strikes. The withdrawal of small vineyard owners weakened the unions numerically and psychologically, and at the same time diminished their capacity to resist further proletarianization.


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