Apprentissage et formation: « Que sais-je ? » n° 2129 (French Edition)

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It funneled a good part of the artisanal movement's energies into lobbying the government to broaden the definition of artisan and thereby to enlarge the benefits it had granted petits. In addition, as the definition of petits helped to set the movement's boundaries and agenda, the specific means by which credit was made available also helped to shape the internal organization of the artisanal movement. The law of December 27 provided credit to master tradesmen only at one removed. The government would loan the money to syndical cooperatives, such as those previously organized for agriculture, which could in turn distribute it among their members.

Nonsyndical organizations—that is, associations established according to the law of —enjoyed no similar access to funds. The credit law thus privileged those elements of the artisanal movement organized according to the syndical laws of and and gave significant leverage to the large trade federations and to the young CGAF. This was hardly a coincidence.

The Confederation had from the start made credit for artisans one of its top priorities and had worked closely with its friends in the Chamber defense group to insure that the CGAF would gain an institutional advantage from the new law. The apparent slowness with which funds actually became available to artisanal syndicates, however, raised once more the question of administrative cooperation, which moved artisans and their friends in the Chamber of Deputies to try to close the breach between the intent of the Parliament and the inaction of the state's agents.


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Artisanal groups were given representation on the Conseil superieur du travail and similar administrative corporate bodies. The legislators even invented a bureaucracy specifically devoted to the problems of petty producers. In December , the labor minister issued a decree creating an interministerial commission to study measures to encourage artisanal production.

Its composition became a model: two senators, four deputies, six representatives of the CGAF, two each from the Ministries of Labor, Finance, and Commerce. Yet the decree set an important precedent in recognizing the CGAF as the national representative for the artisanat. Similarly, the law of December 27, , established a special commission to oversee the operation of artisanal credit, which soon evolved into the Commission superieure de 1'artisanat,71 whose competence gradually expanded to all questions relevant to the artisanat.

In particular, the labor minister was obliged to consult the commission whenever he delved into artisanal affairs. The commission rounded up the usual suspects from the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies, the various ministries, the Bank of France, the banques populaires, and the artisanal trade federations and cooperatives. Edgar Hector, in his survey of interwar artisanal legislation, sponsored incidentally by the CGAF, wrote that the commission, through its advisory function on laws and decrees, attained an influence in artisanal matters comparable to that of the National Economic Council CNE or the Council of State Conseil d' Etai.

Hector again mistook the word for the act, however. The insignificance of the commission became evident in when a new government pledge to address the misfortunes of petty producers led to the creation of a new special artisanal commission. While the presence of the artisanat in the bureaucracy multiplied, its influence remained tiny. The state's discovery of the artisanat coincided with the stirring of consciousness and organization within the artisanat itself.

Twentieth-century artisans, to be sure, inherited a long tradition of unity and political action. From the cat-massacring journeymen printers in Old Regime Paris, to the sansculottes of Year II, the Lyon silkweavers in , and the defeated revolutionaries of and , petty tradesmen had swept dramatically across the French political stage. It is interesting to note more precisely how this worked in practice.

Early in the twentieth century France's blacksmiths found their old turf invaded by veterinarians, who launched a campaign focused on the so-called Darlot law to monopolize the care of livestock. It was this challenge to the blacksmiths' traditional jurisdiction, rather than any vague apprehensions about the modernization of the countryside, that politicized what had until then been a cooperative movement among rural artisans.

It led directly Inventing the Artisanat, 17 to the formation of the National Federation of Blacksmiths, Wheelwrights, and Farriers in According to Bernard Zarca, who has studied contemporary artisans, small tradesmen have always defined themselves by a kind of double negative. Artisans are neither boss nor bossed, neither those who exploit nor those who are exploited; that is to say, neither capitalists nor proletarians.

Masters saw themselves as a sort of conduit between the working and the lower middle classes. For example, the Syndicat mixte de patrons et d'ouvriers en batiment of the department of the Aude, founded in had for its goal, to base the relations among its adherents on the laws of justice and Christian charity, and thus to re-establish among its members a harmony and understanding of their common interests; to develop professional know-how, first of all through the reestablishment of laws on apprenticeship and by the creation of technical schools, and by the study of all those questions relevant to the trade; to defend the industrial and commercial interests of members of the syndicate, and to profit them by means of provident and fraternal institutions.

It seems likely that petty producers, for example, became involved with the activities of Deroulede's Ligue des Patriotes and the antiDreyfusard Ligue de la Patrie Francaise, the foot soldiers of the "new right. These rallied around a broad strategy of social harmony, and were dedicated to the proposition that the classes moyennes were not so much "the conciliator of class conflict [as] its living denial.

Logic and some evidence suggest that the latter depended on the disproportionate activity of the more prosperous small businesses, while the so-called contemptible trades, such as shoemakers or tailors, maintained a more rigorous syndicalism. To be sure, the new borrowed heavily from the old: a corporatist vocabulary and imagery; a pantheon of heroes, such as Proudhon and the legendary compagnon, Agricole Perdiguier; and villains, like the Allarde law of that had destroyed the corporations.

Trade syndicates, federations, and confederations remained the organizational base of the new movement, but these never cut themselves off completely from the other elements of the classes moyennes. Yet the artisanal movement became something more. Essential to the new conception of the artisanat was an extension, or rather a transformation, of consciousness from Trade to Class. This implied that master craftsmen from different professions had begun to recognize that a shoemaker in Paris, a master mason in Strasbourg, and a cooper in the back country of the Lyonnais shared a common interest.

In addition, it meant separating the idea of the artisanat from that of the trade, per se, while closing it off from the classes immediately above and below it. The new artisanal movement cut artisans loose from the tutelage of commercial and industrial interests. At the same time, the movement did not look for members among the skilled industrial workers who had been the backbone of early syndicalism.

These, as the work of Scott and Hanagan suggests, had largely lost their battles for control of production and against the effects of mechanization. The Confederation generale du travail CGT was their natural home in the twentieth century. Perhaps more surprisingly, the new movement had no intimate ties to the old societies of compagnonnage that had been such a central part of artisanal politics in the nineteenth century. In truth, the structure of compagnonnage, facing "an industrial world deaf to the anxiety and disarray of the worker's soul,"85 had been crumbling for some time. The societies, hard pressed to maintain their membership, stretched some of their old rules, retaining married journeymen and, even on occasion, those who had set up in business.

Emile Coornaert believes that compagnonnage suffered above all from a change in mentalities. Revealingly, the societies of compagnonnage showed a reluctance to strike themselves, although they sometimes followed the lead of the trade unions as was the case in a carpenters' strike in Paris in , or in strikes by farriers in , , and By , therefore, compagnons had become more a curiosity than a vital element of the labor movement. At their acme in the nineteenth century, estimated Marcel Bris, the societies of compagnonnage had included 19 Inventing the Artisanat, 89 some , "fideles du Devoir," "Coeurs loyaux," and others, whereas in the early twentieth century maybe 20, or 25, remained.

Some trades and rites held on more tenaciously than others; compagnonnage proved relatively durable in the building trades and among the rural artisans. Surveying compagnonnage in , Bris reports approximately 1, blacksmiths, or wheelwrights, and saddle- and harnessmakers still in the societies. To further complicate matters, even within a particular trade some rites resisted erosion better than others.

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The carpenters of the "rite Soubise," for example, prospered in the Belle Epoque, while the carpenters "du Devoir de Liberte" all but disappeared. In Abel Boyer, "Perigord Coeur Loyal, Compagnon Marechal du Devoir," recognizing that some homogenization of rites was essential to any collective action helped to set up the Union Compagnonnique in an attempt to convince the various rites to sacrifice some of their idiosyncrasies and autonomy in the name of unity and strength: "All united for the same ideal, let us rally to our colors; let our hearts beat in unison, and, in the Temple of Wisdom, let us form the fasces of true Brotherhood," wrote Bablot, the editor of the union's new journal.

In the Federation intercompagnonnique de la Seine launched its journal, Le Compagnonnage du Tour de France, open to all rites. It immediately became a forum for debates on the unity, dispersion, and future of compagnonnage.


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  • Then in it expanded into the Federation generate du compagnonnage. At the same time, the warfare between the trade unions and the societies of compagnonnage began to abate. Some compagnons even began to join the CGT, perceiving that there was no longer any contradiction between the nonpolitical aspects of compagnonnage and the demands of the contemporary labor movement. This was a new beginning for compagnonnage in a more limited and survivable form, as a quaint cultural appendage of the labor movement.

    Yet it was the opposite of what Boyer, Bonvous, and the other contributors to Le Compagnonnage had in mind, which was to reinfuse the life of the working class with the esprit compagnon. The rites continued to argue among themselves and recruitment to fall off. The economic crises of the interwar years favored the more politicized approach of the syndicates. Thus the tempest of compagnonnage was confined, at least until the Vichy regime without much success attempted to resurrect it.

    These points should be noted: First, the dwindling ranks of compagnonnage did not serve as a recruiting ground for the new artisanal movement; second, and rather more curiously, the leadership and the organizations of compagnonnage and of the artisanat appear to have had almost no contact with one another. Indeed, one of the artisanal movement's innovations was to reinforce the distinction between masters and journeymen. Its corporate organization destroyed? Its self-consciousness at low ebb, and its welfare ignored by the government?

    He concluded that all this was true, but continued optimistically that the artisanat was on the rebound. The earliest calls for artisanal unity and demands for state action immediately after the war came from the artisans in the recovered provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, in particular from the leadership of the chamber of trades in Strasbourg. Amid worry that the economic and social trends of the new century were leading Europe to "un abime inscrutable,"95 Ley and his collaborator, president of the Alsace chamber, Frederick Schlieffer, presented the artisanat's historic mission as the guarantor of "social peace" through a "solid union of capital and labor"—a theme much reprised over the next twenty years.

    In the basic matters of consciousness and organization, the approximately 37, artisanal businesses of Alsace-Lorraine enjoyed a clear headstart on their French counterparts. The Imperial German law of July 26, had established chambers of trades across the Reich. In , for example, it introduced a compulsory master's examination examen de maitrise obligatoire for all who would independently practice an artisanal trade. At the end of two or three years' apprenticeship the young worker would present himself to the chamber to be Inventing the Artisanat, 21 examined on his professional skills.

    Alphonse Daniel recorded the following examination for apprentice butchers and bakers: Butchers Practical exam—slaughter a large animal; split it and cut it up; clean the intestines.

    Theoretical exam—write a business letter; keep accounts; read a business lease; perform professional and mental calculations. Bakers Practical exam—prepare the yeast, with butter; prepare the varieties of dough. Theoretical exam—prepare the leaven, taking care for its appearance; treat the yeast and leavened dough; discuss the influence of temperature on fermentation; perform professional calculations.

    Insofar as the German chambers of trades aimed to secure the economic independence of the "little guy" and to protect him from competition from larger businesses, they were at best a qualified failure, for, as David Blackbourne notes, the period preceding World War I witnessed a decline in the independence of these members of the Mittlstand 99 these members ofgovernmenmt the M i t t e l s t a n d. Their creation was an element of the regime's Mittelstandpolitik, an attempt to harness the conservative instincts of the middle classes to the struggle against social democracy.

    At the foundation it placed the trade corporations of masons, bakers, shoemakers, and others. A quasipublic body, the corporation included all the social elements of a trade: masters, journeymen, and apprentices. In fact, it rested on the principle of social harmony and class collaboration in the interest of the profession that had supposedly suffused the traditional gilds, and which the Wilhelmine state was trying to resurrect.

    Naturally, the masters dominated the corporations. In France, as we have seen, some trades and localities had syndicats mixtes to defend broadly professional interests. For the most part, masters and journeymen, employers and workers belonged to different groups. The definition of artisan in German law further augmented the power of the masters within the chambers.

    Unlike French jurisprudence, which limited the artisanat to only the smallest businesses where the patron took a personal hand in production, that in Alsace and Lorraine defined it by the trade rather than the size of the workshop. In practice this meant that a mason in Strasbourg could remain in the chamber of trades even if he employed thirty workers and a foreman. It meant that Fernand Peter, future president of the Strasbourg chamber, could simultaneously serve as president of the local syndicate of building trades employers.

    They identified the interests of the artisanat with those of employers, opposed the eight-hour day for workers, and even encouraged the practice of scabbing. It makes sense to assume that the more prosperous artisans subscribed in greater proportion to the corporations than did petits and journeymen.

    Ley's estimate that only about one quarter of those entitled actually joined the corporations, therefore, suggests an even further skewing of the chambers toward the interests of the masters. The Alsatians built their campaign around the issues of technical education, social peace, and the defeat of the eight-hour law.