Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) at the Extremes of the French Third Republic
Chapter 9 The Postal Strikes of 1909, the Francisco Ferrer Affair, and the Liabeuf Affair
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In 1909 Hervé and La Guerre Sociale were searching for a method that could push the “masses” to action. Such a tactic would reverberate if it involved risk and hence demand courage. A tactic involving secret groups of militants in illegal activities would fit Hervé’s insurrectional methods and the results could be reported in the press. It could certainly be argued that such activities would be especially efficacious if they had some connection to immediate worker interests. It was no coincidence that the tactic involved almost no threat to life. The tactic chosen was the strike-related sabotage of the telephone and telegraph lines that ran beside the French railway network. The postal strikes in 1909 and the strike of French railway workers in 1910 were the events which allowed Hervé to try to adapt insurrectionalism to workers’ reality. Hervé’s long talked about secret organizations undoubtedly came into some kind of existence then and played some role in sabotage. But it seems probable that La Guerre Sociale adapted to spontaneous and popular actions rather than created the movement of sabotage. The police and the Hervéists both credited La Guerre Sociale with control of these illegal acts, but from the very beginning Hervé stressed that he did not sanction, much less control, saboteurs who wanted more frightening results than downed telegraph lines. Jonathan Almosnino admits that it is impossible to assign direct responsibility to the Hervéists and their legendary Organisation Secrète de Combat ← 309...
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