ALTENA, Bert. "Syndicalism - Mediators from below"

Publicaties van de Faculteit der Historische en Kunstwetenschappen. - Publications of the Faculty of History and Art Studies. XXIX.

UnionismHollandUnionism: revolutionary syndicalismFrance.- 3rd Republic (1871-1940)CGTJOUHAUX, Léon (01/07/1879 - 28/04/1954)ALTENA, L. J. "Bert" (1950 - ) KOLTHEK, Harm (1872-1946)Socialist Party, HollandLINDEN, Marcel van der (1952-....)NAS (Nationaal Arbeids Secretariat)

Edited by Nico RANDERAAD. Publicaties van de Faculteit der Historische en Kunstwetenschappen. - Publications of the Faculty of History and Art Studies. XXIX. Hilversum Verloren, 1998.

ISBN 10: 9065504311

ISBN 13: 9789065504319

For Arthur Lehning [*]

In analyzing state formation historians usually pay little attention to the human factor. All too often ’the state’ is treated as a superhuman entity, a depersonalized structure. [1] This tendency is reinforced by the fact that political scientists and sociologists tend to dominate the field. Such disciplines, by their very nature, focus on the structural and systemic rather than on the personal and contingent. [2] But when the historian seeks guidance from the other social sciences, he finds that anthropology, with its pleas for an ethnography of the nation, can help to redress the balance. John Davis, for example, thinks

’that we should recognise that the state apparatus, the higher levels of segmentation, consist not simply of depersonalised macro-processes but of people interacting, playing roles, occupying offices, operating within a structure of rules, categories, norms.’

For Davis, the current depersonalized approach to the processes of state formation merely ’substitutes one mystification for another.’ [3]

Anthropologists have developed two concepts which are key to the following article: the network and the broker. The network charts formal and informal connections, while the broker makes it possible to analyze the way state and society interact in greater detail. Network-analysis will play only a minor role in what follows because networks between the revolutionary-syndicalist labour movement and the state apparatus were, almost by defïnition, absent. Instead I will concentrate on the trade-union leader, and am choosing to use the term ’mediator’ instead of’broker’ because the latter term (at least as defined by the anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain) strongly imputes self-interest to the broker." [4]

Mediators in the processes of state formation are quite a heterogeneous group of people. They tend to come from one of two backgrounds. Most are state-employees: public relations officers, inspectors, teachers etc. They shape the state-formation process by fulfilling their duties as employees. They are the ’mediators from above’. But we also find ’mediators from below’. These come into contact with the state though their societal activity. They are, for example, leaders of social movements, who represent these movements at state level or inform their followers of state policies. Their role as conveyors of information sometimes causes these mediators from below to be seen as mediators from above. Parliamentarians can possess this hybrid nature, as can trade union leaders who are obliged to defend an unpopular agreement with employers. Generally speaking, however, mediators from below are well placed to become genuine intermediaries, because their powerbase in society makes them attractive to ’the state’. They can thus become important people who, knowingly or unknowingly, help to promote peace in society. To study the rise of such people, we need to consider their personal backgrounds, the types of movement/organization they represent, the relations between their movement or organization and the state, and the general character of state policies.

The rise of mediators from the ranks of the revolutionary syndicalist movement immediately raises the problem of the disappearance of revolutionary syndicalism, for a movement which maintains good relations with the state hardly deserves to be called revolutionary syndicalist at all. The Dutch sociologist and historian Marcel van der Linden has formulated an interesting theory on the disappearance of revolutionary syndicalism. He sees the rise of the welfare state as the most important factor in explaining this disappearance, since it greatly enhanced the living and working conditions of the workers, seriously undermining their radicalism in the process: stabilized working conditions and stable standards of living gave workers more to loose than merely their chains.

Consequently the syndicalists were left with three options, each of which would remove them from the political stage: they could choose to maintain their principles, thereby rendering themselves insignificant; they could comply with the new state of affairs, thereby forsaking their principles and ceasing to be syndicalists at all; or they could, according to Van der Linden, simply disband their organization. [5]

At first sight this might seem a plausible theory. However, the following discussion will show that the links between the rise of the welfare state, the rise from syndicalist ranks of the mediator from below, and the final disappearance of revolutionary syndicalism, were more intricate than Van der Linden suggests. It may even have been due to factors which he does not take into account. I will therefore approach the subject from two angles, looking first at the conditions under which mediators from below could become successful, and then examining the disappearance of revolutionary syndicalism. To this double end I will concentrate on the careers of two syndicalist labour leaders, the Dutchman Harm Kolthek (1872-1946) and the Frenchman Léon Jouhaux (1879-1954), both of whom were secretaries of a national federation of syndicalist trade unions.

Harm Kolthek, 1910
Source: International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

Kolthek was secretary of the Dutch Nationaal Arbeidssecretariaat (NAS) from 1907 to 1913, while Jouhaux held the same post at the French Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) from 1909 onwards. Kolthek left the NAS in 1913 to become a journalist with a populist daily newspaper De Telegraaf. From 1918-1925 he was the leader of the syndicalist-oriented Socialistische Partij, which he represented in parliament. His political sympathies later swung towards the teachings of Henry George and he died a poor man just after the Second World War. [6]

Léon Jouhaux (second from left, with hat) amongst his comrades at Aubervilliers, 1906
Source: International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

Jouhaux, by contrast, from 1917 onwards, combined his trade-union job with various state functions, serving on some important government committees. Although by now a reformist syndicalist, he managed to retain his position within the union movement. In 1937 (’il n’a plus la barbiche et les moustaches impériales, il n’a plus la longue cravate lavallière, il ne porte plus les pantalons d’un anarchiste - bouffants aux genoux et serres aux chevilles’)  [7] he became Minister of Social Affairs in Léon Blum’s Popular Front government and his star later rose to such heights that he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1951. After his death in 1954 he was even honored with a state funeral. [8] For two men who began with the same function in ideologically similar movements, these are strikingly different careers.


Although the socio-economic development of these two countries resembles each other, no comparison between the two has yet been made as far as I am aware.9 [9] France began to industrialize earlier, of course, but in both countries industrialization was slow and involved only a few branches of industry. Moreover, unlike in Germany, where the work force was drawn to industrial concentrations, industrialization had developed in a very decentralized way, with employers setting up their enterprises wherever they could find a good work force. Around 1900 the economies of both countries were still dominated by small and medium-sized companies, situated in small and medium-sized towns, using traditional production techniques and with similar shopfloor relations. Highly skilled workers in such companies often enjoyed a high degree of’ job control’.

Neither nation took a leading role in the development of social legislation in Europe, although France was certainly ahead of the Netherlands. [10] The slow development of social legislation is usually ascribed to the slow and decentralized nature of industrialization and urbanization in the two countries. To these should be added restricted suffrage, which for a long time made politics a preserve of the rich. Little attention was thus paid to the needs of the poor. In both countries we are confronted with a state and a tradition of national politics which lay far beyond the world of the workers. This was especially true in the Netherlands, where the development of social legislation followed directly upon the extension of the franchise.

State and politics in the two countries, however, differed considerably. The Netherlands were a monarchy. Loyalty to the monarch and the royal house was not only an important ingredient in Dutch nationalism, but was also used as a weapon against socialism. The republicanism of the Dutch socialists was explicit, but apart from a short period was never very pronounced. In France, however, loyalty to the Republic was part and parcel of both the socialist movement and of French nationalism. The socialist movement regarded a republic as the form of government best suited to the emancipation of the workers. [11] This tied even revolutionary syndicalist workers to the Republic to a degree which would become dramatically clear in August 1914. Nevertheless these workers were generally deeply opposed to bourgeois republicans, whom they called ’les faux républicains’. [12] The constant debate about the very principles and social content of the Republic helped make the French state much more repressive towards socialists and revolutionary syndicalists than its Dutch counterpart, which makes the contrasting careers of Kolthek and Jouhaux all the more interesting.

A final difference between the two countries, which also bears upon our subject, is the relation between state and society. In France the state was much more centralized than in the Netherlands, where the autonomy of local and provincial government was far more widely recognized. The Dutch state was also much more reluctant to interfere in the workings of society. Consequently it preferred to solve problems through the creation of new societal institutions (e.g. supervising councils) and by invoking the co-operation of existing organizations, such as trade unions and employers’ associations. One might therefore expect the opportunities for mediators from below to have been better in the Netherlands.


Between 1900 and 1914 the socialist movements in both France and the Netherlands were numerically quite small. The CGT and the NAS represented only a small part of their respective working populations. Only 5% of French workers were members of any CGT-trade union. [13] In the Netherlands the NAS organized only 0.5% of industrial workers in 1909." [14] More important for our comparison, however, is the position of the two organizations in relation to the other trade-union movements in their respective countries. The CGT had a 30% share of the total population organized in a trade union compared to the 4% represented in the NAS. The CGT was also the only socialist oriented trade-union movement in France, whereas the NAS had to compete with the (social democratic) Nederland’s Verbena van Vakvereenigingen (NVV), which accounted for some 30% of organized workers.’ [15] The two organizations resembled each other, however, in the weakness of their organizational structure, the result of low contributions from members and a general lack of organizational professionalism.

Both organizations are here classed as ’revolutionary syndicalist’, a term which generally refers to anarcho-syndicalism. [16] A revolutionary syndicalist organization, to use the words of Jacques Julliard, does not aim ’à la dissolution de 1’individu dans le groupe, mais au contraire à l’extraction de 1’individu du groupe anonyme.’ [17]The importance attached to the individual was common to both organizations from the start (NAS: 1893; CGT: 1895) and explains their federalist and democratic character. The delegation of tasks to specialists and especially the delegation of power was almost anathema to both. By emancipating the individual, they hoped to emancipate the working class as a whole. According to Shlomo Na’a-man, social movements have to choose between two alternatives: messianism or emancipition. [18] Both the CGT and the NAS emphatically chose for the latter.

In their view it was the economic, not the political, struggle which would be decisive in realizing socialism. To them the political struggle was even counter-productive. In this analysis of the class struggle the trade union was the most important tool at the workers disposal, and one which would go on to organize production in the future socialist society. ’L’atelier sera le gouvernement’, Jouhaux claimed.1919  [19] That made the revolutionary syndalist trade union much more than a machine fighting within a capitalist society. It was also striving, via the trade union struggle, to educate the workers for their future tasks after the revolution. Consequently the revolutionary syndicalists maintained a close link between their union activities and their revolutionary goal. This led to a preference for a qualitatively sound movement over a quantitatively impressive one,2020  [20] and could even result in these trade unionists subordinating the interests of their organization to the wider interests of the class struggle. It was certainly a reason for their keeping strike funds at a low level, since not only would this protect them from the dangers inherent in controlling large sums of money, but it would teach the workers the value of solidarity when funds had to be collected to support strikes. [21] Revolutionary syndicalist trade unions were dedicated to raising the consciousness and the sense of responsibility of every individual worker. That in itself was a significant obstacle to power being centralized within a union and to the domination of small unions by larger ones. [22]

Revolutionary syndicalism was workers socialism with a libertarian nature. This type of socialism, unlike the socialism of the bourgeoisie, was not primarily a socialist critique of bourgeois liberalism, but was focused upon the role of the worker in the capitalist and the future socialist society. [23] Bourgeois socialists were regarded with mistrust and were usually only permitted to occupy a secondary role within the movement. Revolutionary syndicalists tended to ignore the bourgeois world and by extension the world of parliamentary politics. Yet such a movement would be forced to redefine its identity as soon as parliamentary politics began to concern itself with the world of the workers.

Revolutionary syndicalist mistrust of bourgeois politicians increased greatly when these politicians were social democrats. Indeed, the CGT militants had mistrusted the latter since the 1880’s at least. [24] ’Le Parti socialiste n’a rien à faire dans les assises ouvrières’, wrote Jouhaux in 1909. [25] Politicians, social democrats included, should be kept out of the trade-union movement because they would not only damage the solidarity of the workers, but would also divide their organizations by making them subsidiaries of political parties. With politics left out, revolutionary syndicalism could present itself as the revolutionary, legitimate and united representative of’the proletariat’.

Thus the NAS and the CGT each wanted to stay a workers organization, with a very small organizational apparatus [26] preferably consisting of workers. As such they were trying to counter the organizational laws being formulated at the time by Robert Michels. Yet such an organization could only really exist where the world of the workers was intact and left alone. As soon as the state began to interfere through social and labour legislation, revolutionary syndicalist principles and organizations came under fire. From then on, syndicalist leaders had to understand and translate the language of bourgeois politicians and they had to have a strategy towards politics and the state. They also had to find solutions to the problem of delegating power within their own movements and to that of allowing the rise of specialists without threatening libertarian principles.

In fact between 1900 and 1914 both movements canonized these principles. In the Netherlands discussion of an Industrial Injuries Bill (1898-1900) not only demonstrated just how much politics still belonged to the bourgeois classes (except for the liberal variety, trade unions at first stopped short of addressing parliament), [27]but also prompted the Dutch revolutionary syndicalists to define their position vis-à-vis parliamentary reform politics. During the spring of 1901 the NAS decided to withdraw from any promotion of social legislation. From now on it would refrain from electioneering, nor would it agitate for improved social legislation. It would only react when government threatened to worsen the situation of the workers. [28] It even formulated anti-parliamentary principles and declared the economic struggle to be decisive for the attainment of socialism. In December 1904 this position was reaffirmed.

The CGT took the same road, but stated its anti-parliamentary, revolutionary syndicalist principles only in 1906: the famous Charter d’Amiens, drawn up ’sur un coin de table, au buffet de la gare de la ville’ (Julliard), was subsequently adopted as the CGT’s statement of principles without much debate. The Charte would remain controversial for a long time. [29] In opposition to the broadening of social legislation and to the growing importance of political action in parliament, the CGT formulated an alternative strategy called action directe, according to which workers would act on their own instead of waiting for help from the state. Action directe was also deemed to be an excellent weapon on the shopfloor where any law was of little value if workers did not act for themselves.3 [30] It also had an important educational function, because action directe taught workers to represent their own interests with solidarity. Thus, in both theory and in daily practice the revolutionary syndicalists were developing ideas which ran counter to the growing involvement of the state in the life of society. In 1912 Jouhaux said:

’Nous agissons du dehors ayant pour direction générale la disparition de 1’Etat et pour pratique le détachement progressif de notre action de tout contact avec 1’Etat.’ [31]

By then, however, la pratique was demanding more than just a statement of principles.


Social legislation in general, and labour legislation in particular, complicated the work of trade unions; to be a good trade-union leader one had to be well-educated and capable of commanding a lot of technical knowledge. Workers with at best only elementary education were at a disadvantage here. This is even truer of the NAS than of the CGT. On the one hand it had been run by workers with little formal education, whilst on the other hand Dutch government interference in industrial relations had taken quite complex forms. In France the CGT’s size and powerful position within French trade unionism gave it important strategic advantages in relation both to the French government and to socialist parliamentarians. In addition these parliamentarians, unlike their Dutch colleagues, lacked both cohesion and the endorsement of a sympathetic and large trade-union organization (which the Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij (SDAP) enjoyed from the NVV). In 1910 the NVV had 40,660 members compared to the 3,454 of the NAS. By 1914 the figures had become 84,261 to 9,697. [32]

The contrast in the size and relative importance of the CGT and the NAS go a long way towards explaining the subsequent careers of Kolthek and Jouhaux.

Small organizations tend to produce only a small number of capable leaders. In the case of the NAS this was a major handicap, especially after 1905 when its ability to pursue an independent policy was declining fast. It was by far the smallest of the national trade-union federations, and its views consequently lacked force. To avoid impotence and even dissolution it therefore had to start taking account of the views of other organizations. In these circumstances the NAS needed someone (far more than did the CGT) who could understand government papers and communicate them to the rank and file. At the same time, this person had to be capable of developing and arguing alternative policies on behalf of the NAS.

The 35-year-old Harm Kolthek, who became Secretary of the NAS and editor of its weekly De Rabid in 1907, seems to have been exactly the man they were looking for. For a while he had studied to become a teacher, but was soon forced to abandon his studies due to lack of funds and had gone to work in a printing shop. Nevertheless, he soon became a very able editor who could write about difficult subjects in a way that the ordinary worker could easily understand. But as well as being a prolific writer, Kolthek was also a very good organization man. Under his leadership the NAS recovered from a severe crisis and its member ship began to grow once again." [33]Kolthek was the opposite of a narrow-minded trade unionist. He quickly became the trait d’union between the NAS and the world in which it had to operate and at the same time attempted to open the eyes of other revolutionary syndicalists to what was happening in parliament. He soon became more than a primus inter pares, and was rather the David of the revolutionary syndicalists, the only one who could defend them in the language of the upper classes. In the end this had negative consequences for egalitarianism within the NAS, since the rise of Kolthek increased inequality within the syndicalists’ own ranks. In 1913 this would lead to Kolthek’s resignation.

Unlike Kolthek, Jouhaux was almost unknown when he became the General Secretary of the CGT in 1909. He was 7 years younger than Kolthek and his ambitions to study had also been frustrated at an early age. At the age of 16 he was working in a matches factory at Aubervilliers, but was able to attend adult education institutions after being laid off. In 1906 he was elected to the Comité Fédéral of the CGT. For a couple of years he remained in the background, but in 1909 he became the organization’s Treasurer and some months later its Secretary General. [34] His emergence coincided with an intense debate on the general line to be taken by the CGT, in which the revolutionary syndicalist approach was attacked by more moderate socialists. Jouhaux, an anarchist in the Proudhon tradition, was therefore not particularly eager to take the job. He deeply mistrusted social democratic politicians, especially those of Jaurès’ Section Française de L’Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO). In spite of these intense discussions, the CGT was not in a numerical crisis when Jouhaux took over. In fact the organization grew by some 70,000 during 1909 to a temporary high of 357,810 members. [35] In contrast to Kolthek at the NAS, Jouhaux was but one figure in a group which could well defend an established policy on matters of social legislation: the others included men like Victor Griffuelhes, a former Secretary General, Alphonse Merrheim, Georges Yvetot, Georges Dumoulin, Alexandre Luquet and the young Pierre Monatte, all of whom were able trade-union leaders. In further contrast to the NAS, the CGT was able to contain a powerful social democratic reformist opposition, with leaders like Renard (textile workers) and Keuffer (typographers). It was by clever maneuvering that Jouhaux, after the first few years, managed to become the undisputed leader of CGT, with a power-base within each of the organization’s two camps. This skill contributed significantly to his long reign as General Secretary.


The introduction of a state pension scheme was being debated in France and the Nether-lands at the same time. This coincidence enables us to compare the opportunities open for Kolthek and Jouhaux to rise as mediators from below and to see how they made use of them. The bill on state pensions, accepted by the French parliament in April 1910, seemed to bring an end to a long-running debate which had at times been quite heated. In earlier proposals a clear trend had been recognizable: the means to finance the project were increasingly sought in compulsory insurance contributions, while the proposed retirement age kept going up as proposed pension levels went down. Of the various options available for organizing the insurance scheme, successive French governments chose for the creation of a special fund administrated by the state. This meant that schemes subject to less state interference, like administration by a non-governmental body or dividing the costs among the working population, were rejected. In the end the government’s proposals had been very hurriedly debated in parliament because of impending elections. The result was a decision to increase the fund to allow for higher pensions, partly by raising the premiums and partly by making insurance contributions compulsory for all industrial workers. These workers would be pensionable at the age of 65, which meant that only 10 to 12% of the industrial workforce would actually receive a pension, the rest having died beforehand. [36]

Since 1901 the CGT had held a clear view of the matter: it favoured non-premium state pensions. The employers should pay for the scheme or even the state, because the workers had done enough in keeping society going. [37] The plans put forward by the government in 1909 had therefore been totally unacceptable. This had brought the CGT into fierce conflict with Jaurès and his followers who had reluctantly accepted the bill. However, the more Marxist oriented parliamentarians under Jules Guesde had sided with the CGT. Together they would form a powerful opposition to the Pensions Act. [38] In January 1910 the CGT launched a big propaganda campaign, denouncing the proposed pensions as too small (33 centimes per day). It rejected the idea of the state administering the fund from which the pensions would be paid, without any control by the contributing workers. [39] Merrheim warned of corruption, stating that nobody could prevent government from using the fund for quite different ends, such as preparations for war. [40] In short: the French industrial worker was confronted with a ’ monstrueuse duperie [and] formidable escroquerie’. If workers had to pay a premium, it should be calculated and distributed directly in response to current needs, thus reducing the state’s role to that of a giro. Alongside these main grievances the CGT argued for other amendments, such as equal rights for male and female workers and for foreigners (who had to pay the premiums but were denied the pensions). [41]

During the parliamentary debates, in February 1910, meetings were held all over the country to protest against the government’s proposals. La voix du peuple, the CGT weekly, also ran a fierce campaign, going so far as to print the whole bill at the end of February. [42] But all this effort did not prevent the Lower House from accepting the bill. Georges Yvetot immediately urged workers to sabotage the whole plan, arguing that government had clearly sabotaged workers’ interests. [43] In March the Chambre des Députés also accepted the bill, which only now became law. This prompted Jouhaux to endorse Yvetot’s appeal for sabotage. [44] As they studied the plan in greater detail, the trade unionists’ aversion only grew. Alphonse Merrheim reckoned that the whole scheme would lead to a vast bureaucracy with equally vast costs, and of course to nepotism of all kinds. [45] In the autumn of 1910 the CGT decided to boycott the law until the retirement age had been considerably reduced, the pensions raised and the fund system replaced by a system of direct distribu-tion. [46] Moreover, various contributors to the weekly drew their readers’ attention to state employees, who were much better provided for than other workers. The whole campaign of the CGT had been, and remained, militant and straightforward. Detailed investigations and complicated arguments were generally absent. In view of the straightforward nature of the government’s proposals, this is not so surprising.

In July 1911 the law came into effect, but it proved disastrous from the start. The CGT ’s boycott campaign was fuelled by anger at high food prices, which had only recently led to food riots and trade-union action. On top of all this came uncertainty as to who precisely was to pay the premium, the employers or the workers. The CGT seized the moment. In the Voix du Peuple various writers criticized the law anew, [47] while regional organizations urged workers to agitate, [48] and circulars were distributed announcing May Day 1911 as the start of the boycott campaign. [49] This would consist of local protest meetings to be held throughout the country, which were to end in an appeal for all pension payments to be re-fused and all application forms to be burned:

’La loi des Retraites ne fut, à son origine, qu’une nécessité électorale; elle est devenue aujourd’hui une nécessité flnancière. Le commerce, 1’industrie ont besoin de capitaux; par le fonctionnement de la loi, ils les trouvent dans les poches des travailleurs.’5050  [50]

Mass meetings held on July 1st added to the success of the campaign, especially in industrial centers where CGT and guesdistes co-operated closely. In various places application forms were openly burned, while in others only very few were filled in. Even after an ex-tension of the closing date for applications, workers in Paris and the surrounding communes had returned only 100,000 of the one million forms issued. In the end from a total of 11 million workers only 5,633,630 applied for a pension, and of them only 30% had applied voluntarily. The rest had been registered by others, generally employers, and the majority of the volunteers turned out to be elderly people. [51]

This result is all the more impressive, given the fact that in the months leading up to 1 July the government had brought in improvements designed to undermine the opposition. Indeed, they continued to make improvements (a lower retirement age, a small in-crease in the pension, better definition of employers’ obligations). The application date was even set back to July 1912. But even then the project remained a failure. The government would not change the system of financing and the CGT therefore refused to cooper-ate. Besides, the improvements were judged to be both superficial and a confirmation of the CGT’s success. [52] Merrheim told his readers that the government was already using naval pension funds for other purposes.  [53]Thus far from complying, the CGT intensified its campaigns; in the autumn of 1911 it began agitation against the notorious lois scélérates, which hung like a sword of Damocles over the trade unions. [54] In the summer of 1912 it added a campaign against the extension of military service. [55] At the same time it persevered in its boycott of the pensions law. At its Reorganization Congress in Le Havre in 1912 only one delegate defended the law and its backing by Jaurès. Many other delegates must have agreed with the revolutionary syndicalist Péricat: ’La carte des retraites est une carte de police.’ [56]By the end of 1912 only 7,854,132 people had been registered, and of these only 2 million voluntarily. Although workers in big industries and state industries were registered by their employers, taking the numbers to an all time high in 1913, at the start of the Great War the French pension scheme looked much better on paper than in practice. The only people covered were industrial workers (state servants were in a different scheme) and more than a third of these remained outside the scheme. [57]

Many factors helped make the CGT campaign a success: low wages coupled to rising prices; mistrust of the state; the fact that the scheme was designed exclusively for industrial workers, whose group-consciousness thus became even stronger; disagreements between socialist parliamentarians; an experienced and active trade-union leadership. The campaign of CGT was passionate, clear in its simple rejection of government policies, and convincing to the rank and file. Moreover, the CGT was by far the most important trade-union organization and its leadership consisted of several competent people. Jouhaux, as General Secretary, officially started the actions and it was he who drafted the resolutions against the retirement legislation, but his contribution was certainly not a dominant one. On the other hand, as the organization’s principal spokesman, he naturally became the man whom the government approached once they had decided to negotiate in pursuit of certain goals. Over time, as we shall see, he was able to maneuver himself to strengthen that position while slowly evolving a new stance towards the state itself. Unlike Kolthek in the Netherlands, however, Jouhaux managed to maintain good relations with his rank and file.

The Dutch case differs substantially from the French. During 1913 a Disablement Act introduced a state pension for everybody over 70, not merely for industrial workers. [58] Public discussion had begun at the start of the century and from September 1900 a Bond voor Staatspensioneering had acted as a lobby for the introduction of a state pension scheme. At first it had met with little success and it was not until 1908, when the Bond organized a special conference devoted to ’legal retirement pensions’, that its campaign managed to attract the NAS. The NAS had previously kept aloof from this lobby, if only because its appeal was directed to the state, but now the new Secretary, Kolthek, was allowed to take part in the conference. He was ’only to learn about the subject and study the propositions’ of the Bond. [59] Apparently Kolthek himself had not mastered this subject and had convinced his more hesitant colleagues on the Executive of the value of participating in the conference.

It was to Kolthek’s credit (and perhaps also partly due to an intensified campaign by the parliamentary Social Democrats) that the NAS committed itself to the study of retirement legislation much earlier than in the case of the Industrial Injuries Bill ten years before. It could also have taken on board the experience of the CGT, but this it failed to do.60  [60] In fact Minister Talma had submitted a much more sophisticated bill than the French government. It proposed obligatory retirement insurance contributions, paid into a fund administered by the existing Sociale Verzekeringsbank (social insurance bank) which would be paying the pensions. This bank would be supervised by independent councils. As in France the state would contribute, but it was to keep its distance from the implementation of the scheme and the administration of the funds. One factor in provoking opposition to such plans in France was therefore absent in the Netherlands. The Dutch state was apparently less keen to interfere in society than its French counterpart.

The retirement scheme proposed in the Netherlands was thus more complicated and had a much broader target group. However, the pensions were set at about the same low level and the age of retirement was to be much higher. The NAS, like the CGT, could well have declared it inadequate and called for it to be sabotaged by direct action, but Kolthek opted for another approach. In 1910 he proposed a resolution (which the executive put on the agenda for the next congress without further debate) which stated that the NAS should use all means to rouse the workers against the government’s plans. The parliamentary Social Democrats of the SDAP severely criticized the NAS for failing to defïne these means more precisely. In their view, of course, the matter should be fought out in parliament. The NAS-executive immediately rephrased the resolution in a more positive fashion: it proclaimed its preference for non-premium state pensions and its determination to agitate for them ’up to a point’. Minutes secretary Christiaan Teders added (with many spelling mistakes): ’The resolution is cautiously worded, because as yet the NAS is not in a position to launch a powerful campaign.’ [61]

Unlike the CGT at its congresses, the NAS congress adopted this resolution without any debate, due to lack of time. [62] Until a referendum of members had confirmed the resolution, a brief debate was to be published in the weekly De Arbeid: two people would defend the resolution and two would attack it. In the end, however, Kolthek as editor wrote three articles in its defence and only one trade unionist was allowed to attack it. [63] As a result discussion had barely started when the referendum settled the issue by confirming the decision taken at the congress. From now on the NAS had an opinion on state pensions, however vague.

The resolution now became the basis for further action. Kolthek tried to collect reliable death statistics from a life-insurance firm and meanwhile commissioned the theorist Christiaan Cornelissen, now living in Paris, to provide the readers of De Arbeid with a review of retirement systems in other countries. [64] The Dutch plans soon turned out to be even more complicated than had first appeared, for the government tried to find the assets for its own contributions by extending and raising import duties. Thus the Disablement Bill was linked to a new Tariffs Bill. According to Kolthek, the workers now had to take a position regarding this second, much more complex problem. [65]

Kolthek’s study of tariffs resulted in a series of articles [66] and a pamphlet, De Tariefwet. Past op uw zakken? [67] which was distributed amongst organizations linked to the NAS and to other sympathizers. It was even sent to members of parliament in both upper and lower houses. [68] In this pamphlet Kolthek criticized the huge bureaucracy the Disablement Bill would create. ’We will Germanize more and more, if we are not careful.’ [69] He condemned the Tariffs Bill from a free-trade standpoint. He considered it wrong to protect the jobs of Dutch workers by making their German colleagues, for example, redundant. [70] He had other objections too, but in the end Kolthek accepted the principle of state help for the elderly and disabled: ’Every other system of pensioning the elderly... is more harmful to the workers.’ [71] Here we find a revolutionary syndicalist defending state pensions. As such Kolthek’s attitude towards government proposals was much more positive than that of the CGT in France. As was to be expected, his ideas were soon criticized. In De Vrije Socialist, the paper of F. Domela Nieuwenhuis, Gerhard Rijnders called Kolthek’s opinions ’senseless tinkering’.72 [72] From the ranks of the NAS itself K.W.F. Henneke, editor of the construction workers’ journal, published a harsh critique. Henneke condemned state pensions on principle, because they would give the state a more prominent place in people’s minds. While Kolthek had argued that the state, the traditional guardian of bourgeois interests, was finally looking after the interests of the workers, Henneke believed that state pensions, even non-premium ones, would not reduce the power of the state in any way. [73] Following Henneke’s critique different camps developed within the NAS. The construction workers backed their leader and preferred premiums to indirect taxes like import duties. The manual labourers thought that, in that case, the NAS would have to send delegates to parliament, and the seamen declined to agitate for or against any law for precisely that reason. Thus by 1912 Kolthek had to defend himself using many different arguments. In the end, however, he managed to find the right anarchist tone to convince the delegates at the next NAS congress:

’If we could succeed in making the State look after our elderly by paying them a state pension, without exacting contributions from the workers, it would not strengthen the State, but weaken it as an institution of capitalist power. This system undermines capitalism, because it makes the workers more independent." [74]

The much more ideological tone of the Dutch discussions regarding the state is striking. In France the very word ’state’ seemed enough to awaken antipathy in the revolutionary syndicalist breast. Apparently the less repressive character of the Dutch state, which also played a much smaller role within Dutch society, fostered the need to theorize.

Nevertheless, Kolthek’s strategy remained controversial amongst NAS-members and amongst Dutch anarchists generally. His behaviour further fuelled the critics. As an editor he could be quite harsh with his opponents and gave the impression of permitting them much less space than he gave to his own views. It seemed as if he wanted to confirm his own superiority and that raised their antipathy even more. To this we should add that, unlike the CGT in France, the NAS was certainly not the dominant anarchist tendency in the Netherlands. F. Domela Nieuwenhuis and his De Vrije Socialist held that position, helped by Gerhard Rijnders, a real street fighter who could be just as polemical as Kolthek. During 1911 the people around Domela Nieuwenhuis and Rijnders became very critical of Kolthek and his ideas. Rijnders spoke of ’His Majesty Kolthek’, [75] while others criticized his authoritarian [76] and aggressive [77] style as an editor. At the root of these criticisms was Nieuwenhuis’s more individualist approach to organizations:

’If an organization really is needed, if you cannot do without it, make it as loose as possible by introducing all kinds of precautions [against centralization]. Otherwise you will become like the NW." [78]

It would have been difficult to find stronger language to use against Kolthek and his followers. During the discussions the ever-rebellious P.C. Bos called Kolthek a ’revisionist’. [79] And Kolthek had indeed begun to reformulate the role of the revolutionary syndicalist trade unions, both within the broader anarchist movement and in terms of their relations with the state. He now thought the latter necessary because of the multiplication of state functions within society. At first (1909) he had vented quite ordinary anarchist opinions: social legislation was intended to mislead the workers and to divide their united front. Otherwise the state would have implemented this legislation much more carefully. The state was apparently still ’an instrument in the hands of those who control the production of goods which meet the needs of society.’ [80] We have seen how this opinion changed when confronted by the issue of state pensions. Now, for pragmatic reasons (the weakness of Dutch anarchism), Kolthek was prepared to accept certain state provisions. [81] At the same time he was coming to appreciate the importance of a solid organization with a strong executive. This can be gleaned from a remark he made in December 1911:

’No socialist could possibly oppose reforms, either in theory or in practice. Theoretically he could not, because the theory of Socialism is based upon the evolution of the productive forces; in practice he could not, because day by day we learn that misery demoralizes, and the Socialist movement can only be sustained by proud, sturdy and self-aware fighters. False ideas, however, stem from the fact that people behave as if reforms are the result of our gentlemen in parliament. That is not the case. It is the level of consciousness and organization of the proletariat which alone determines the state of social legislation.’ [82]

This boils down to an acceptance of the need for political action to improve legislation and thus of the trade union’s obligation to engage itself in reformist solutions to societal problems. [83] The revolutionary syndicalist trade unions, therefore, had to commit themselves to politics.

At the same time this view was linked to an increasingly narrow view of the task of the revolutionary syndicalist movement. Kolthek tempered the conventional anarchist view of the economic struggle, which should automatically change the whole range of relations within society. Society for him was like an organism, simple at first but becoming quite complicated. [84] Revolutionary syndicalists should now stick to their trade-union activities, because to fight capitalism in all its manifestations was simply too big a task. Already in 1908 he had pronounced to his colleagues on the NAS-executive that trade unions had nothing to do with capitalist tendencies in art nor with the corruption of morals in marriage. [85] ’To fight the State, as we know it at the moment: that is the anarchist movement’s job.’ [86] The NAS was to be just one element of a broader movement, responsible for the defense of workers’ rights. As such it would resemble the social democratic NW, but should be somewhat more radical. Many anarchist members of the NAS were strongly opposed to this idea [87] and they could use De Vrije Socialist as a vehicle to fight Kolthek. They were helped in their opposition by the fact that, unlike the CGT in France, the NAS had a powerful reformist competitor in the NW. To preserve its identity, the NAS should remain a revolutionary movement refusing to co-operate with the state in any respect.

In the end a whole tangle of structural and personal factors made Kolthek less and less acceptable as NAS Secretary. Life within the organization became unpleasant for him. In the summer of 1912 he fell ill. He announced that he would leave the work on state pensions to his successor. In February 1913 Talma’s Bill was debated in parliament, but apart from writing a few articles [88] Kolthek took no action. He could have tried to build up informal contacts with politicians, but apparently avoided doing so. During the coming years the NAS and ’the state’ would remain worlds apart. On June 1, 1913, Kolthek stepped down. [89] In the matter of state pensions he could not be replaced by any of his colleagues on the executive, ’because we lack anybody who has studied this legislation and we lack the capacity to lead the struggle against it.’ In the end, after parliament had diluted Talma’s original plans, the NAS advised it to reject the entire Bill. [90] Some 150,000 leaflets were distributed, but beyond this the NAS declared itself too weak to organize any meaningful campaign against the pension scheme. [91] Thus the pensions part of the composite Bill became law and on December 8, 1913, the elderly received their first state pensions at the rate of two guilders a week (or 28.5 cents a day).

It will be useful here to return briefly to Jouhaux. During his campaign against state pensions he too changed his view of the revolutionary syndicalist movement and of political action. Opportunism seems to have been only one of the factors involved in this change. State repression was also clearly important and a gradual decline in CGT membership even more so. Visiting colleagues abroad, Jouhaux could observe the thriving state of German and British trade unions, and began to think of narrowing the role of the CGT, to make it less obviously a revolutionary syndicalist organization and at the same time more attractive to non-unionized workers. He thereby hoped to reduce state repression. During the summer of 1913 he proposed centralizing power within the CGT [92] and limiting its role to representing the economic interests of workers. His argument was similar to Kolthek’s:

’Non, le syndicalisme ne peut songer à résoudre tous les problèmes qui s’imposent à 1’attention humaine. Le Parti socialise non plus, mais ce qu’il faut retenir de 1’affirmation syndicaliste, c’est le souci pour le prolétariat de dresser en face du capitalisme une organisation faite du cœur, de la peine, de 1’action, de la vie des ouvriers et dont les efforts sont dirigés vers la suprématie du travail facteur essentiel de civilisation et de progrès.’ [93]

In addition to this he wanted to adopt a more positive attitude towards politics and politicians. The election returns of 1914 showed an increase of the socialist vote. Politics were apparently becoming more important to the workers. To ward off the danger of being marginalized, Jouhaux concluded that the CGT had to take a more constructive line towards reforming laws. This time his views were accepted by the organization, unlike in 1910 when he had argued that the workers would always accept real improvements who-ever they came from. [94] The successful boycott of the state pension scheme had meanwhile demonstrated the strength of the CGT. To win the co-operation of the workers, politicians could no longer afford to ignore the CGT. Parliamentary socialists like Jaurès were particularly convinced of this and were certainly not slow in establishing good relations with Jouhaux and his men. The proven influence of his organization made Jouhaux an interesting person to deal with, while his attempts to reduce the aversion to politics and politicians within his own ranks removed an important obstacle to doing so.

In France, as in other countries, the events of August 1914 led to a break-through. At the funeral of the murdered Jaurès, Jouhaux paid his last respects:

’On a pu croire que nous avions été les adversaires de Jaurès. Ah! comme on s’est trompé! Oui, c’est vrai, entre nous et lui, il y eut quelques divergences de tactique. Mais ces divergences n’étaient pour ainsi dire, qu’à fleur d’âme. Son action et la nôtre se complétaient. Son action intellectuelle engendrait notre action virile.’ [95]

These words have been regarded as the suicide of genuine revolutionary syndicalism, but Jacques Julliard has argued with more precision that they in fact announced the end of the CGT’s struggle to maintain a social and ideological cleavage between the workers and the rest of the French nation. [96] However we interpret his words, it is no coincidence that Jouhaux had such an important part in the last act of this play. Just before Jaurès’s funeral he had proclaimed a truce in the class struggle. He had suddenly realized that his ties to the French state were more complex than could be expressed simply by the anarchist struggle against it. This state was itself the child of a great Revolution, and now, as in 1793, it had to be defended against reactionary forces from outside. [97] In the summer of 1914 he had already contacted other socialist leaders to unite against Russian mobilization and against war.

After August 1914 he approached President Poincaré requesting an end to all prosecutions of revolutionary syndicalists. It was the importance of his organization which prompted him to take this step, but Jouhaux went even further. On August 4, he sat down with representatives of the employers as a member of the Comité de Secours National. [98] At the end of August, on the intiative of Jules Guesde, by now a cabinet minister, délégués à la nation were appointed. Their task was to keep their circles accurately informed of government policies and to raise support for them. Jouhaux accepted such a position. After the war, in a review of his activities during these years, he explained:

’Comprenant 1’intérêt qui s’attachait à une telle besogne, qui n’était rien moins que de constituer une opinion publique, à une époque où 1’état de siège régnait, le secrétaire confédéral accepta.’ [99]

He proved extremely loyal to his new obligations, even though he came to dislike the truce in the class struggle (which he saw as costing the workers a great deal whilst giving them little in return). [100] Indeed, the truce would eventually split the CGT, with leading trade-unionists like Alphonse Merrheim [101] and Georges Dumoulin [102] breaking off relations with their former colleague. In spite of this Jouhaux retained the support of the majority of CGT members, and thus continued as Secretary General.

Thus in August 1914, at a time of a grave national crisis, the revolutionary syndicalist Jouhaux became an acceptable person for the state to deal with. Had the CGT proven less powerful during the preceding years, I doubt whether Jouhaux would have come so far. As the representative of a powerful organization in a time of war, he became indispensable to the French state. On the other hand, as the representative of such an organization, he was inclined to exploit its power wherever possible and became steadily more reformist as his star rose.


In 1907 the anarchist Amédée Dunois praised revolutionary syndicalism as ’expression théorique la plus parfaite des tendances du mouvement prolétarien’ and Pierre Monatte lauded the superiority of its practice over theorizing anarchism in general: ’c’est dans 1’action plus que dans les livres qu’on doit 1’aller chercher.’ [103] These tributes hailed what in effect were the first steps being taken by one part of the anarchist movement towards integration into bourgeois society. In 1907 revolutionary syndicalism was certainly not seen in this way and many historians have since failed to see it thus. However, it was due to the syndicalist reinvention of anarchism that men like Kolthek and Jouhaux could seek to be-come mediators from below, embodiments of integration.

I have tried to show that the respective size of the CGT and the NAS, together with their relative importance within the labour movement as a whole, were crucial factors in deter-mining whether one of their representatives could succeed in becoming a mediator from below. Furthermore, the comparison seems to suggest that size and relative importance are related inversely to a state’s interference in society and repression of opposition. This leads to the paradox that a state which is shy of interfering in society and seems tolerant of opposition movements, provides a worse scenario for a revolutionary syndicalist leader to become a mediator from below than does a repressive, interventionist state.

Size and the relative importance of the organization seem also to have been important factors in themselves. For the CGT, as the main trade-union organization in France, it was vital to notice that politics had become important to workers. The NAS was much less well placed to reappraise the importance of politics, faced as it was by strong competition from the Social Democratic party and social democratic trade unions. Indeed, the NAS seems to have accepted being small and an increase in votes for the SDAP barely affected it. Purity of principle was much more important for them than popularity with the masses. Because of its size, the NAS was much more dependent on the ideas of a single person than its French counterpart. While the CGT could develop competent cadres, the NAS was too small for this and thus ran the risk of finding itself with a leader running far in advance of his troops. The climate within the NAS was much more supportive of egalitarianism within the ranks than that of the CGT. Consequently somebody who put himself above his colleagues was more likely to be thrown out. This is exactly what happened to Harm Kolthek, whose career did not turn him into a mediator from below. Jouhaux, on the other hand, was obliged to maintain good relations with other leaders, who sometimes had much more experience within the trade union than he did. He was thus prevented from rising too high above the rest, but paradoxically given more space to manoeuvre. [104]

Where does all this leave Marcel van der Linden’s theory? Any theory is necessarily an abstraction from a much more complex reality and so the question becomes: how far we should abstract from a given reality. To take the welfare state on one side, and an undifferentiated view of revolutionary syndicalism on the other, and then to make a connection between the two via the benefits emanating from welfare state arrangements, seems to me to be an oversimplification. Inclusion of the size and relative importance of revolutionary syndicalist organizations would significantly increase the power of the theory. It would add a dimension which would help to explain why a particular organization might have chosen one of the three options which Van der Linden has correctly defined.

[*The author likes to thank Rob Bland, who has translated this article very ably. Because this contribution was completed in December 1996, the author has not been able to include B. Vandervort’s, Victor Griffuelhes and French Syndicalism 1895-1922 (Baton Rouge 1996), nor K. Schniedewind’s, ’Life-longWork or Well-deserved Leisure in Old Age? Conceptions of Old Age within the French and German Labour Movements in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries’, International Review of Social History 42 (1997) 392-418. Schniedewind focusses on the SFIO.

[1See Patrick Joyce’s discoveries regarding ’structures’ in: P. Joyce, ’The End of Social History?’, Social History 20 (1995) 73-93, esp. 81-9.

[2Theda Skocpol, e.g., neglects the role of groups and persons in the state formation process in: D. Rueschemeyer, ’Bringing the State Back in: Strategies of Analysis in Current Research’ in: P.B. Evans and T. Skocpol (eds.), Bringing the State Back in (Cambridge 1985) 3-38, esp. 16-7.

[3J. Davis, ’Beyond the Hyphen: Some Notes and Documents on Community-State Relations in South Italy’ in: J.

Boissevain and). Friedl (eds), Beyond the Community: Social Process in Europe ([The Hague] 1975) 49-56,49.

[4J. Boissevain, Friends of Friends. Networks, Manipulators and Coalitions (Oxford 1974) 148. Mart Bax has tried to formulate a more neutral defïnition of the broker, M. Bax, ’On the Increasing Importance of the Small Community in the Irish Political Process’ in: Boissevain/Friedl, op. cit. 134-47,144 note 1.

[5M. van der Linden, ’Vorläufiges zur vergleichenden Sozialgeschichte des Syndikalismus’ in: H. Baumann et al. (eds), Anarchismus in Kunst und Politik. Zum 85. Geburtstag von Arthur Lehning (Oldenburg 1985) 45-64, 58-60.

[6F. Becker, ’Harm Kolthek jr (1872-1946)’ in: P. Hoekman c.s. (eds), Een eeuw socialisme en arbeidersbeweging in Groningen. 1885-1985 (Groningen 1986) 160-4; A. de Jong, ’H. Kolthek overleden’, Ons Erfdeel January 1947. See also: De Arbeid, 24/3/12.

[7’he doesn’t wear a goatee and the emperor’s moustache any more, nor does he have the lavallièretie, he no longer wears the anarchist trousers - buffed around the knees and tight around the ankles’, Raymond Millet, Jouhaux at la C.G.T. (Paris 1937) 24-5.

[8A copious biography, full of quotations and thus rather obedient, is, B. Georges et al, Léon Jouhaux: Cinquante

ans de syndicalisme (Paris 1962,1974).

[9As far as the Netherlands is concerned, the following is based on the usual literature, which can be found in the annotation to my ’Zu den Wirkungsbedingungen des niederlandischen Sozialismus 1870-1914’ in: H. Lademacher and W. Mühlhausen (eds), Freiheitsstreben, Demokratie, Emanzipation. Aufsdtze zur politischen Kultur in Deutschland und den Niederlanden (Munster 1993) 245-83. For France I have used: Roger Price, An Economic History of Modern France (London 1981) esp. 42-99; H. Kaelble, Nachbarn am Rhein. Entfremdung und Annäherung der französischen und deutschen Gesellschaft seit 1880 (Munch 1991) 19-41,59-151.

[10I. Bourquin, ’Vie ouvrière’ und Sozialpolitik: Die Einführung der ’Retraites ouvrières’’ in Frankreich um 1910.Ein

Beitrag zur Geschichte der Sozialversicherung (Bern etc. 1977) 324-5; A. de Swaan, Zorg en de Staat. Welzijn, onderwijs en gezondheidszorg in Europa en de Verenigde Staten in de nieuwe tijd (Amsterdam 1989) 215-20.

[11H.-G. Haupt, ’Republikanische Sozialisten und soziale Republikaner. Zur politischen Strategie der französischen Arbeiterbewegung zwischen 1880 und 1914 im internationalen Vergleich’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 20 (1994) 519-32.

[12A. Dulcite in La voix du peuple. Journal syndicaliste paraissant Ier dimanche. Organe de la Confédération Générale du Travail [henceforth: Voix du Peuple], 23-30/6/12.

[13Georges, Jouhaux, 11-3.

[14Calculated after [H. Kolthek), Jaarverslag NAS 1910 [s.1. s.a.] 90 and J.A. de Jonge, De industrialisatie in Nederland tussen 1850 en 1914 (Nijmegen 1976 [reprint]) 228-9. Another indication of the small size of the Dutch organization: during 1909 the NAS sent 514 and received 486 letters, [H. Kolthek), Van strijd en leed. Jaarverslag over 1909 van het Nationaal-Arbeids-Secretariaat in Nederland (Amsterdam 1910) 54. In the United Kingdom at the same time the TUC organized about 26% of wage-earning workers and the German Freie Gewerkschaften about 63%, Georges, Jouhaux, 83. Absolute figures about the trade-union movement in the United Kingdom, Germany and France in F. Boll, ’International strike waves: a critical assessment’ in: W.J. Mommsen and H.-G. Husung (eds), The Development of Trade Unionism in GreatBritain and Germany (London 1985) 78-100,83-4.

[15J. Julliard, Autonomie ouvrière: études sur le syndicalisme d’action directe (Paris 1988) 208; G. Harmsen and B. Reinalda, Voor de bevrijding van de arbeid. Beknopte geschiedenis van de Nederlandse vakbeweging (Nijmegen 1975) 430-1.

[16This labeling implies an anachronistic approach, for the practice and convictions were there well before the name received currency. The term ’syndicalisme’ (which in Dutch always refers to anarcho-syndicalism) was introduced by Christiaan Cornelissen writing from Paris in ’Internationale Brief’, HetVolksdagblad l6/6/07, but came into use at the NAS only after 1911 and especially after 1913. My labeling has provoked criticisms from J. Frieswijk, Om een beter leven. Strijd en organisatie van de land-, veen- en zuivelarbeiders in het noorden van Nederland (1850-1914) (Ljouwert 1989), thesis 1; Buschman, revolutie, 67-8; M. Buschman and D. de Winter, ’Syndicalisme in Nederland: to syn or not to syn’, Bulletin Nederlandse Arbeidersbeweging [henceforth: BNA] 34 (June 1994) 20-33. See however: B. Altena, ’Lang leve het syndalistische NAS’, BNA 34 (June 1994), 11-9.

[17J. Julliard, Fernand Pelloutier et les origines du syndicalisme d’action directe (Paris 1985Z) 13.

[18S. Na’aman, Emanzipation und Messianismus. Leben und Werk des Moses Hess (Frankfurt/NewYork 1982) 10.

[19Georges, Jouhaux, 44.

[20See e.g. Correspondentieblad NAS, 1 /12/04. The NAS even corrected official state figures when they misrepresented the organization as too big. The organization did not want to give a false impression, minutes of NAS-executive 2/7708 in: International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam [henceforth: IISH], NAS-archive, 4.

[21Besides, strike funds were not decisive in strikes, as secretary G. van Erkel remarked at a meeting of delegates 20/1/01 in: IISH, NAS-archive, 21.

[22NAS congress report 1903,32. The organizational structure of the CGT was different, because for a long time both the CGT and Bourses du Travail remained intact as organizations. In general, however, the rights of the individuals and of small organizations dominated the structure of the confederation, especially during the secretariat of Victor Griffuelhes (1902-9) Georges, Jouhaux, 20-1.

[23On the difference between the socialism of the workers and of the bourgeois: B. Altena, ’Burger in der Sozialdemokratie. Ihre Bedeutung für die Entwicklung der Sozialdemokratischen Arbeiterpartei (SDAP) in den Niederlanden 1894-1914’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 20 (1994) 533-48.

[24Georges, Jouhaux, 14-6. This mistrust can already be found in Proudhon. For the NAS see e.g. Correspondentieblad NAS, 1/9 /03.

[25Georges, Jouhaux, 35, note 1.

[26See Congresverslag-NAS 1903, 51-2.

[27Buschman, revolutie, 53-4. See especially W. de Vries Wzn, De invloed van werkgevers en werknemers op de totstandkoming van de eerste sociale verzekeringswet in Nederland (de ongevallenwet 1901) (Deventer 1970) 154, 222, 314-7 and addendum 1.

[28Buschman, revolutie, 61-4; NAS beschrijvingsbrief mei 1901,1.

[29J. Julliard, Autonomie, 202-3; id., ’La C.G.T. devant la guerre (1900-1914)’, Mouvement Social 49 (oct.-déc. 1964), 47-63; For the Bourses du Travailsee also: P. Schöttler, ’Politique sociale ou lutte des classes: notes sur le syndicalisme

"apolitique" des Bourses du Travail’, Mouvement Social 116 (juillet-septembre 1981) 3-21.

[30In 1904 Christiaan Cornelissen introduced action directe in the Netherlands: C. Cornelissen, ’Directe Actie’, Correspondentieblad NAS 1 /2/04. Zie ook id., ’Directe Actie’ (Zelf Doen). De taktiek van vakvereenigingen en revolutionaire groepen (Amersfoort 1904). The concept of action directe strengthened the anti-parliamentary tendencies of the NAS Correspondentieblad NAS, 1/5/05.

[31Georges, Jouhaux, 41.

[32Harmsen and Reinalda, Voor de bevrijding, 430.

[33Ibidem, 426.

[34This short sketch is based on Georges, Jouhaux, Millet, Jouhaux and M.-A. Renauld (ed.), ’Mémoires de Léon Jouhaux’, Mouvement Social Al (Avril-Juin 1964) 81-110.

[35Georges, Jouhaux, 82.

[36Bourquin, Retraites, 326-8.

[37For more in this vein, A. Luquet in Voix du Peuple, 2-9/1/10.

[38Bourquin, Retraites, 329

[39Voix du Peuple, 16-22/1/10, declaration of the CGT executive.

[40Voix du Peuple, 16-23/1/10. Merrheim remembered earlier experiences with Crédit Agricole.

[41Voix du Peuple, 16-22/1/10. On the CGT and women, M. Guilbert, Les femmes et l’organisation syndicale avant 1914 (Paris 1966) and very interesting J.-L. Robert, ’La CGT et la famille ouvrière, 1914-1918. Première approche’, Mouvement Social 116 (juillet-septembre 1981) 47-67.

[42Voix du Peuple, 20-27/2/10.

[43Voix du Peuple, 2712-613110

[44Voix du Peuple..

[45Voix du Peuple, 23-30/10/10


[47e.g. Voix du Peuple 12-9/3/11. From 28/5 until 18-25/6/11 all leading articles were devoted to agitation against

the law; the last article in this series came from Jouhaux.

[48e.g. Indre et Loire, Voix du Peuple 9-I6/4/11.

[49Voix du Peuple 16-23/4/11 and 30/-7/5/ll.

[50Voix du Peuple 2-9/7/11.

[51Bourquin, Retraites, 329-30, 275-85.

[52That was Jouhaux’s opinion, Voix du Peuple 10-7/3/12

[53Voix du Peuple, 27/8-3/9/11.

[54Voix du Peuple, 22-9/10/11. In 1911 Georges Dumoulin was in jail for 11 months because of these laws, P.M.

Arum, ’Du syndicalisme révolutionaire au réformisme: Georges Dumoulin (1903-1923)’, Mouvement Social 87 (avril-juin 1974) 35-63, 38.

[55Voix du Peuple 30/6-7/7/12. In general, J. Julliard, ’La C.G.T. devant la guerre (1900-1914)’, Mouvement Social

(octobre-décembre 1964) 47-63; J. Howorth, ’French Workers and German Workers: the Impossibility of Internationalism 1900-1914’, European History Quarterly 15 (1985) 71-97.

[56Voix du Peuple, 6-13/10/12

[57Bourquin, Retraites, 286-9.

[58On this bill in general see: L. van der Valk, Van pauperzorg tot bestaanszekerheid. Armenzorg in Nederland 1912-1965 (Amsterdam 1986) 36-8; E.A.M. Bulder, The Social Economics of Old Age. Strategies to Maintain Income in Later Life in the Netherlands 1880-1940 (Amsterdam 1993) 98-100 and Appendix 2. Parliamentary discussions are dealt with in W.H. Vermeulen, Parlementaire geschiedenis van Nederland 1901-1914 (The Hague 1950) 207-13.

[59NAS-executive 29/6/08 in IISH, NAS-archive, 4.

[60De Arbeid, 8/1/10, is one of the few times the CGT’s struggle is mentioned. De Arbeid of 20/5/11 took an article from Bulletin Internationale Syndicaliste CXCI about the CGT’s activities and finally the 12/10/12 edition of the weekly thought that, ’the French trade unions, therefore, demand the same benefits as the Dutch NAS.’ However, the article failed to notice that CGT practice was very different..

[61Minutes of NAS-executive 22/2 and 8/3/10 in IISG, archief-NAS 6: ’De motie houdt voorzichtigheid in, op grond dat het N.A.S. op heden niet bij machten is, in volle actiefïteit een actie te gaan voeren.’

[62NAS congresverslag 1910, 29-31.

[63Kolthek, De Arbeid, 1,7 and 14/5/10; reply, De Arbeid, 14/5/10

[64Minutes NAS-executive 2/8,6 and 27/9 and 11 /10/10 in IISH, NAS-archive, 6.

[65Minutes NAS-executive 18/4/11 in IISH, NAS-archive, 8

[66See De Arbeid, 22/4,13 and 27/5,17 and 24/6/11.

[67The Tariffs Bill. Watch your pockets!

[68Minutes NAS-executive 23 and 25/8/11 in IISH, NAS-archive, 8

[69[H. Kolthek], De tariefwet. Past op uwzakken (Amsterdam 1910) 3.

[70Ibidem, 6-7

[71Ibidem, 24.

[72Lamzalig gepeuter’, De Arbeid, 21/6/10.

[73De Arbeid, 21/1 and 11/2/11

[74NAS-congresverslag 1912,70

[75De Vrije Socialist, 8/3/11.

[76Henneke in De Vrije Socialist, 21/6/11. By then Rijnders had called Kolthek (idem, 17/5/11) ’a liar and a very mean man to boot.’

[77J. Hagemeijer in De Vrije Socialist, 19/4/11.

[78De Vrije Socialist, 20/5/11. Nieuwenhuis’s critique of revolutionary syndicalism was, besides, much broader, see De Vrije Socialist, 3/6/11: ’for us socialism is a world view and a view of life, which has to penetrate the life of society in all its aspects, whereas Kolthek will be satisfied when a well organized working class is ruling society instead of a capitalist class....For us, the working class is only a part of the big social question, which is in itself much broader, because it means a total transformation of society in mind and body....However, we fear the tyranny of the working class as much as we fear the tyranny of the capitalist class.’

[79De Vrije Socialist, 15/3/11.

[80(H. Kolthek], Van eenheid en strijd. Populaire beschouwingen over klassenstrijd en kapitalisme, naar aanleiding van de beginselverklaring van het nationaal-arbeids-secretariaat Is.l. s.d.1, 79, 85-6, 32-3, 20. Kropotkin had influenced Kolthek to a considerable extent.

[81Pragmatism, see his comments on the Stone Masons Bill in De Arbeid, 20/9/11: ’This damned legality, which

handcuffs life and imposes a terrible formality, has already damaged the development of individuality.’

[82De Arbeid, 20/12/11.

[83De Arbeid, 6/4/12 writes in this vein.

[84[Kolthek], Eenheid, 28

[85Minutes NAS-executive 7/12/08 in: IISH, NAS-archive, 4

[86NAS-congresverslag 1910,17.

[87See e.g. Tj. de Jong’s criticisms in De Arbeid, 15 en 22/5/12.

[88De Arbeid, 1/1 and 8/2/13. In the final article we find the argument that the revolutionary-syndicalist trade unions are still so weak (another argument for Kolthek to leave his job) that an ideal scheme for old-age pensions

would be generations in coming.

[89De Arbeid, 31/5/13.

[90The address to the lower house in De Arbeid, 8/3/13

[91De Arbeid, 12/3/13.

[92This was achieved at the 1913-congress of the CGT: Voix du Peuple, 21-28/6/13,28/6-6/7/13,20-27/7/13,27/7—3/8/13.

[93Voix du Peuple, 4/10/13 as cited by Georges, Jouhaux, 43-4.

[94Georges, Jouhaux, 55-100.

[95Voix du Peuple, 1/5/15.

[96Julliard, CGT, 47, 62.

[97J. Jennings, ’Syndicalism and the French Revolution’, Journal of Contemporary History 26 (1991) 71-96,79; Voix du Peuple, 1 /5/15.

[98Papayanis, Merrheim, 87

[99Georges, Jouhaux, 149.

[100Arum, Dumoulin, 41. John Home argues that Jouhaux was much less involved in the French state-machinery than his British and German counterparts. I doubt whether this assessment holds for Germany. J. Horne, ’Comité d’Action (CGT-PS) et 1’origine du réformisme syndical du temps de guerre (1914-1916)’, Mouvement Social 122 (1983)


[101N. Papayanis, Alphonse Merrheim. The Emergence of ’Reformism in Revolutionary Syndicalism 1871-1925 (Dordrecht etc. 1985) 99.

[102Arum, Dumoulin, 40.

[103Congrès anarchiste tenu à Amsterdam. Aoüt 1907. Compte-rendu analytique des séances et résumé des rapports

sur l’état du mouvement dans Ie monde entier [s.1.1908] 36-7 and 62.

[104In 1918 the CGT debated whether Jouhaux should be dismissed. Moderate opponents of Jouhaux, like Merrheim, argued against this because they feared a schism in the CGT and thus Jouhaux was saved, Arum, Dumoulin, 43.