The Making of Counter-Internationalism. Political Violence, Strikebreaking and the Yellow Movement in Pre-1914 Europe


Abstract


The term "Yellow" is a synonym for strikebreaker in many European societies (gelbe, amarillo, giallo, etc.). In pre-1914 Europe, which remained dominated by monarchies, only in republican France this term was explicitly used by a nationalist armed group of strikebreakers, namely, the Yellow movement. In 1899-1901, the French and industrial society experienced an unprecedented wave of massive strikes. Historians saw this popular mobilisation as a prefiguration of the "great labour unrest", which subsequently affected the United Kingdom, between 1911 and 1914. The mobilisation of French workers and republican citizens in this fin de siècle took place in the industrial stronghold of France, along the German border. As a reaction, powerful industrialists created the first "Yellow" organisations. They explicitly conceived them as their "social movement". At the turn of the century, these strikebreakers were officially recognised by octroy. This differentiated the Yellow movement (with a capital "Y") from the many informal yellow organisations which emerged concomitantly, with the same antidemocratic purpose. This article provides an original analysis of the case of the Yellow movement. It explains how this Paris-based organisation developed by practicing political violence through strikebreaking, and why its transnational development was so important.

Keywords: Political Violence; Social Movements; Nationalism; French Republic; First Globalisation

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