Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) at the Extremes of the French Third Republic
Chapter 11 The Railroad Strike of 1910 and the Origins of Le Retournement
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In 1910 several interesting developments occurred in Paris. Among them were: the great flood of the Seine, the Railway Strike, and, for some on the Left, certain nuances in the political ideas of Gustave Hervé which soon signaled his gradual political shift. If the flood had no connection to Hervé’s “new course”, the same cannot be said for the October 1910 strike among French railway workers, les cheminots. Still, it is probably misleading to date Hervé’s retournement in a precise fashion because the change was gradual and arguably unconscious at first. Ironically, the shift away from revolutionary romanticism grew out of what appeared to be the most extreme phase of Hervé’s neo-Blanquism. In order to get revolutionaries to act and unite instead of argue and attack one another, Hervé proposed a “conquest of the army” and an end to internecine conflict on the Left. To implement this hybrid political program Hervé and his staff continued to promote Insurrectional organizations and develop new ones that seemed no less incendiary. However, he increasingly appealed to the mass of workers above the heads of their often conflicting leaders. This attempt to redirect and fortify his elitist-mass strategy occurred around the time of the Railway Strike of 1910 whose perceived failure was proof that something even more drastic had to be done. The leftist reactions to his new extreme course were so negative that Hervé gradually reversed his strategy to implement his goals. In some ways, the most...