International networks and solidarity in the face of repression in harbors and at sea

9th Nov, 2016

International Conference

Third Jules Durand Days
University of Le Havre, France, 24-25 November 2016

Call for papers
The Maritime Labor History Network founded in Turin on December 15, 2015, during the European Labor History Network conference, noted that studies of port and sea workers had accumulated over the last twenty years. At the same time, a new interest has emerged in France for the figure of Jules Durand, a coal porter and leader of the 1910 Le Havre strike who became the victim of a judicial frame-up and the object of a wide-ranging solidarity campaign in his own country and around the world, bringing together human rights activists and trade unionists of all tendencies.

The Conference « International networks and solidarity in the face of repression in harbors and at sea » aims to shed light on the forms of this solidarity with Jules Durand in 1910, and to compare the events of 1910 with other incidents of repression in ports and at sea which also triggered international solidarity, in other places, at other times and on other issues.

The violence of the conflict which took place in the Le Havre harbor in 1910 had been foreshadowed in France and among maritime nations by directives which came from international networks of shippers (International Shipping Federation) as well as transport workers (International Transport Workers Federation). Such preparations included the resort to lock-out of strikers, to new labor-saving machines and to non-striking workers imported from elsewhere (English workers in Antwerp, Kabyles in Marseille). When the Havrais strike leader was condemned to the death penalty following false testimony and a frame-up organized by a very large company (apparently a rare, even exceptional, instance of such methods in the history of the Third Republic), demonstrations of support broke out in all cities of France, particularly port cities, and in Europe (Barcelona, Genoa, Antwerp, Brussels, and others), the Americas and Australia. What cultures of solidarity and information transmission networks enabled such a widespread protest?

Had the scope of the movement observed in 1910 and 1911 been prepared by earlier campaigns of information, solidarity or mutual aid organized by various networks during the nineteenth century (free masons, Christian seamen’s social work and missions, trade union, socialist, anarchist federations, seamen’s clubs, repeated socializing in the same pubs and inns of different ports, oral stories, songs, publications)? Did there exist a distinctive world of the harbor and maritime workers, which could sustain common cultural elements in several countries connected by navigation?

Did other instances of repression and solidarity display the same features as the campaigns in defense of Jules Durand? A few years earlier, in 1905, a mutiny had erupted on board the Russian battle ship Potemkin: it was immortalized some twenty years later by the film-manifesto of Sergueï Eisenstein. In 1908, a young Swedish Anarchist docker from Malmoe, Anton Nilsson, was condemned to death after a strike and a bombing. He later became a sort of hero of the Scandinavian revolutionary workers. In 1909, a dockers’ strike took place in Antwerp, during which strike breakers were imported from outside the city, as they were to be in Le Havre in 1910.

Later, after the Great War, French sailors refused to act against the Soviet revolution; they were prosecuted. But they were also defended by a memorable campaign in favor of « the French Black Sea mutineers ». Between 1921 and 1926, the Chinese revolution was born in the strikes of seamen and dockers and the solidarity boycotts organized in Hong Kong, Canton and Shanghai, which were harshly suppressed and became the setting for André Malraux’s novel, La Condition humaine. In 1934, the Communist leader of the Hamburg dockers, Edgar André was condemned to death by the Nazi regime, and was defended by a major international campaign organized by the Communist movement. In another sphere, the leader of the German KPD imprisoned in Buchenwald, Ernst Thaelmann, a former Hamburg docker, was known throughout the world by a photo of him wearing a cap typical of Hamburg dockers and seamen. In Amsterdam, dockers organized a strike against the round-up of Jews; their leader, Henk Sneevliet, was arrested and executed by the Nazis on April 13, 1942. A statue recalls this heroic gesture.

More recently, in 1995, the dockers of Liverpool who were attempting to defend their jobs, had to sustain first repression from their employers (a massive sacking of several hundred dockers), then from the relatively good-natured municipal police, then from the more violent specially trained police unit (OSD Operational Support Division), often called “robocops”, while the government unleashed a one-sided campaign of denunciation in the media. This strike gave rise to a vast movement of support both in the United Kingdom and around the world, particularly in ports.

These struggles, their repression, the solidarity they aroused, gave birth to songs, stories, novels, plays, films, which often had an international audience, in any case an impact well beyond the port where the conflict took place. A good example is the film by Ken Loach, A Flickering Flame (52 minutes), known in France as Les dockers de Liverpool, which had an important role in popularizing the strike in Europe. Others include Adalen 31 by Bo Wideberg, 1969, about Sweden, or Paul Carpita’s Le rendez-vous des quais, 1950-53, about Marseilles. Cultural representations of social conflict at sea and in harbors, such as Ken Loach’s film, have contributed to their broad impact and deserve to be analyzed.

We call for papers (or other forms of presentations) on these issues: the proposal should be from ten lines to a page, and should be accompanied by a brief presentation of the author and her or his publications. It should be received before June 1, 2016. Answers to the proposals will be sent out by July 1, 2016.

Some relevant publications

Anderson Clare, Frykman Niklas, Heerma Van Voss Lex, Rediker Marcus (dir.), « Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution: A Global Survey », International Review of Social History, vol. 58, special Issue 21, December 2013.

Bagwell, Philip S. "International Transport Workers' Federation, Solidarity: The First Hundred Years of the ITF," The Journal of Transport History 19.1 (1998): 80.

Balachandran Gopalan, « Les marins indiens et leurs univers, 1870-1949 », Le Mouvement Social, n° 241, 2012/4, p. 65-84. DOI : 10.3917/lms.241.0065

Balachandran Gopalan, “Making Coolies, (Un)making Workers: “Globalizing” Labour in the Late-19th and Early-20th Centuries”, Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 24, no. 3, pages 266–296, 2011.

Barzman John, « Les dockers du Havre, de la brouette au portique (XIXe-XXe siècles) », manuscrit HDR, U. Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2000.

Barzman John et Castelain Jean-Pierre (sld), Jules Durand : un crime social et judiciaire, Paris : L’Harmattan, 2015.

Barzman John et Pigenet Michel, « L’évolution des modes d’organisation syndicale chez les dockers havrais et rouennais dans l’Entre-deux-guerres », dans Wauters Eric (sld), Les ports normands : un modèle ? Actes du colloque Rouen-Le Havre 1998, Rouen : Presses universitaires de Rouen, 1999, p.185-198 (13 pages).

Barzman John et Lenhof Jean-Louis, Dossier du numéro « Travail et travailleurs maritimes XVIIIe-XXe siècle : du métier aux représentations », Revue d’histoire maritime, n° 18, 2014/1.

Broeze, Frank, "Maritime Labour 1870-1914: an International Perspective," International Review of social History 36 (1991): 1.

Davies, Sam, ed., Dock Workers: International Explorations in Comparative Labour History, 1790-1970. 2 volumes. Ashgate Pub Limited, 2000.

Domenichino Jean, Guillon Jean-Marie, Mencherini Robert (dir.), Dockers, de la Méditerranée à la mer du Nord, des quais et des hommes dans l’Histoire, Aix-en-Provence, Edisud, colloque international, 1999.

Fink, Leon. Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World's First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to the Present. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Hamark Jesper, 2013. Strikingly indifferent: the myth of militancy on the docks prior to World War II. Labor History 54, 271–285. doi:10.1080/0023656X.2013.804271

Herod, A., 1998. Discourse on the Docks: Containerization and Inter-Union Work Disputes in US Ports, 1955–85. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 23, 177–191. doi:10.1111/j.0020-2754.1998.00177.x

Mah Alice. "Intergenerational Lessons from the Liverpool Dockers’ Strike: Rebuilding Solidarity in the Port." Port Cities and Global Legacies. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014. 113-135.

Margain Constance, « L'Internationale des gens de la mer (1930-1937). Activités, parcours militants et résistance au nazisme d’un syndicat communiste de marins et dockers », thèse dirigée par John Barzman et Mario Kessler, Université du Havre 2014.

Nijhof Eric in collaboration with Barzman John and Lovell John, « Dockers Unions in the Ports of London, Le Havre, Rotterdam and Hamburg, 1850-1914”, in Robert Jean-Louis, Prost Antoine, Wrigley Chris, eds., The Emergence of European Trade Unionism, Manchester: Ashgate, 2004.

Perry, Elizabeth J., Shanghai on strike: the politics of Chinese labor, Stanford University Press, 1993.

Piétri-Lévy Anne-Lise, Barzman John, Barré Eric (sld), Environnements portuaires-Port Environments, Rouen : Publications des universités de Rouen et du Havre, 2004. 509 pages. 2-87775-359-X.

Pigenet, Michel, « Les dockers. Retour d’un long processus de construction d’une identité collective en France (19e- 20e s.), Genèses, n° 42, mars 2001, p. 5-25.

Pigenet, Michel, « Les voies et les facteurs de l’unité organique : les syndicats des Ports et Docks dans la seconde moitié du XXe siècle », Colloque ihs-cgt.fr 2007 Montreuil.

Powell, Leslie Hughes. The Shipping Federation: a history of the first sixty years, 1890-1950. Shipping Federation, 1950.

Reinalda Bob (ed.), The International Transportworkers Federation, 1914-1945 : the Edo Fimmen era, 1997.

Selvin David F., A Terrible Anger: The 1934 Waterfront and General Strikes in San Francisco, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1996.

Turnbull, P., 2006. The War on Europe’s Waterfront — Repertoires of Power in the Port Transport Industry. British Journal of Industrial Relations 44, 305–326. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8543.2006.00499.x

van der Linden, Marcel. "Globalizing labour historiography: the IISH approach." International Institute of Social History (2002).

Viaud Ronan, Le syndicalisme maritime français. Les organisations, les hommes, les luttes (1890-1950), Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, « Histoire », 2002.

Literary and film productions

Malraux, André. La condition humaine. Editions Gallimard, 2010.

Marty, André, La révolte de la mer Noire, Bureau d'éditions, Paris, 1929. Première partie (un volume), "Des tortures…et du sang". Deuxième partie (un volume), "Les soulèvements". Réédition en fac-similé, éditions François Maspero, 1970.

Salacrou, Armand. Boulevard Durand: chronique d'un procès oublié. Vol. 275. Gallimard, 1960.

Melville, Herman. Billy Budd, Sailor. University of Chicago Press, 1962.

Bo Widerberg, Adalen 31

Paul Carpita, Le rendez-vous des quais

The conference, because of its aim to reach the broad enlightened public, will take place in Le Havre mainly in French, except for one or two interventions, but the preparatory exchanges can be held in French or English, as convenient.

Organization

The international conference is organized by the research center IDEES Le Havre (cirtai) UMR 6266 CNRS with the support of the Association des Amis de Jules Durand.

Steering Committee : John Barzman, Jean-Pierre Castelain, Sophie Fauvel, Christelle Merrien, Arnaud Le Marchand.

The Steering Committee proposes the program of the event to the Scientific Committee, manages the budget and selects the speakers and chairpersons for each session, organizes the publicity and the reception of the conference participants.