Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, December 8, 2019

France 1917: Mutinies in the Army; Discontent on the Home Front

Historians have come to view 1917 as the year when the moral fortress of [France's] Sacred Union was at its most tortured. The months of May and June 1917 saw the first major wave of strikes since the beginning of the war, as well as a series of mutinies on the Western Front. . .

In the meantime, workers in the capital brought numerous factories to a standstill. From May to mid-July, 133,000 workers launched 197 separate strikes in Paris, primarily in the textile, clothing, metal, and food industries. These strikes were mostly initiated from below, by workers on the shop floor, and most of them were led by women.

Parisian Midinettes (Dressmakers) on Strike, May 1917

Though the major demands made by strikers in May and June of 1917 were work related, recent research has highlighted the degree to which female strikers combined both political and economic protest. . . As one group of strikers argued: "The soldiers will come back sooner, the war will end of its own accord on the day we cease building weapons and munitions of war."

Antiwar sentiment grew even more manifest throughout the autumn of 1917. . . By the spring of 1918 antiwar sentiment played a decisive role in the largest strike of munitions workers during the war. . . The granting of the Nobel prize in literature in November 1917 to French pacifist writer Romain Rolland—("I find war detestable, but those who praise it without participating in it even more so.")—helped to [further] legitimize antiwar sentiment.

From: The Moral Disarmament of France: Education, Pacifism, and Patriotism, 1914–1940
By Mona L. Siegel


  1. Strikes in factories *and* trench rebellions?
    How close did France come to revolution?

  2. "...the war will end of its own accord on the day we cease building weapons and munitions of war." So true--throughout history. But sadly has never happened.

  3. The business of government is WAR!