Cooper F - The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 and the Labor Question in Post-War...
The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 and the Labor Question in Post-War French Africa Author(s): Frederick Cooper Source: Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1990), pp. 165-215 Published by: Canadian Association of African Studies Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/485257 Accessed: 21/10/2008 18:50 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=caas. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]
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The Senegalese General Strike of 1946and the LaborQuestion in Post-WarFrench Africa FrederickCooper
Resume En janvier 1946, une greve general de onze jours - des dockers, des ouvriers du commerce et de l'industrie, et des fonctionnaires - a etc au centre d'une longue serie de greves de deux mois a Dakar et dans d'autres villes senegalaises. Les syndicats, supprimes depuis les annees 30, ont mene ces greves d'une main ferme et les reunions en masse ainsi que la participation des commercantes du marche ont fait de cette greve une veritable phenomene urbaines. Les ouvriers ont fait des gains substantiels, et les syndicats ont acquis a la faveur de ces greves une nouvelle confiance en eux memes. La grave a egalement oblige les fonctionnaires a remettre en question le probleme du travail. L'experienceeuropeenne du contr6le des classes ouvrieres sembla soudain devoir s'appliquer a l'Afrique. Les fonctionnaires se mirent a souhaiter une classe ouvriere stable, qui ne travaillerait plus comme elle l'avait fait jusque la de maniere episodique et temporaire pour de petits salaires, mais qui aspirerait a escalader l'echelle hierarchique et serait davantage sujette a la discipline du travail. Pendant ce temps, les syndicalistes franpais changerent le vocabulaire de la stabilisation - et le langage assimilationiste de l'imperialisme franQaisde l'apres-guerre- en une ferme revendication des droits des ouvriers metropolitains, etablissant ainsi l'ordre du jour des luttes ouvrieres des annees 40 et 50. Introduction In 1946 French officials found themselves having to think about African workers in ways that they had not expected or desired. They had not wanted to think about the labor question very much at all, believing that no significant African proletariat existed and that none should be encouraged to develop. But after ominous rumblings, a strike movement in Dakar spread from one group of workers to another - from dockers to civil servants - in December 1945,culminating in an eleven-day-long general strike in January I wouldlike to thankJaneBurbank, CatherineCoquery-Vidrovitch, MamadouDiouf, RhodaHoward,BogumilJewsiewicki,MartinKlein,and MohamedMbodjfor their thoughtfuladviceon revisingthis article. 165
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1946.The movement enveloped the other majortowns of Senegaland seemed for a time to threaten to take in the peasants of Senegal and workers in other parts of FrenchWest Africa.By the time the strike movement wound down in mid-February,the labor problem existed in quite different terms from the way it stood a few months earlier. Officials were now striving to find new categories for analyzing African society that would restore their sense of understandingand control of African workers. The sustained and well-organized strike movement of 1946,embracing a wide cross section of an urbanpopulation, was in some ways as unexpected and as dramatic as the better-known FrenchWest African railway strike of 1947-48;and its impact on thinking within the colonial state and the dynamics of the labormovement was at least as important. Less than two years earlier, as Frenchofficials met at Brazzavilleto set out their agendafor the postwar era, they had insisted that the Africanwas a peasant in his soul and that the advancement of the material welfare and cultural development of Africans had to take place within a "customary"milieu. The Brazzavillediscussions recognized that too much coercion - forced labor, taxation, and controls over movement - had undermined this evolutionary process and led to demographicregression in parts of FrenchAfricaand to flight to foreignterritories in others. Thus, at the same time that the Frenchgovernment wished to affirm its determination to preserve the Empireand to make it more productive, officials arguedthat reform meant thinking of the Africanas indeed very African.The Africaof the Brazzavilleconference was of course a fantasy, a projection onto the Africancontinent of a Europeanvision of organicfamily and village life. Although the Brazzaville agenda accepted that "evolues" would play an increasing role in political affairs while their rural brethren stayed in their villages and on their farms, the category of "worker"had no real place within a sociological system containing only two categories: "evolue" and "paysan." Scholars have recognized that the 1940swas a turning point in the history of Europeancolonization in Africa. Yet ruling Africa was not simply about rule - colonial powers wanted something from it. At the end of WorldWarII, France and Britain alike wanted more than ever before. Both saw Africa as one of the few- if not the only- partsof the colonized world where they could undertake new economic initiatives; and both saw their empires as essential for recovery from the war and indebtedness. Both recognized the inadequacy of past efforts to promote export growth, and both used that powerful and ambiguous word - development - to arguethat expandingthe imperial economy and improving the welfare of colonial peoples were mutually consistent goals. But what would be the social implications of such goals? And would colonial officials alone be the ones to set agendas for the post-war era? The labor question in FrenchAfricais a revealingarenafor exploring such
167 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 problems, for the explicit vision of society and of progressexpressed in 1944 collapsed with remarkablerapidity,and new forms of social analysis had to be reconstructed on the spot. Even while the issue of forcedlaborremainedin limbo, the problemof work and of the working class thrust itself upon French officials. The strike wave that began in Dakar in late 1945was more than an immediate crisis to be resolved. It showed that the analytical tools with which officials in Dakar and Paris were trying to understand Africa were totally inadequate. People who did not exist in French eyes in 1944became the focus of attention and of the elaboration of social distinctions in 1946. The concepts applied to analyze the situation in Dakar and Senegal and to think it through to a resolution were not new: they were imported from France. The very ethnocentricity of the official response - based on French labor codes, French concepts of trade unionism, and Frenchpractices of collective bargaining- was the mirrorimage of the bucolic ideal imposed on the continent before that.2 Both visions of Africa were fantasies, one culturally specific - the African as traditional villager - and the other universalistic the African (the male African)as industrial man. This article is about discourse, about the way in which a social question was posed in the administrative and political context of a colony. It is about discourse in a broadsense - a pattern of speech, debate, and imagination in terms of which some topics can be broachedand others excluded from consideration. It is about discourse as an interactive process between groups of unequal power - with unequal command over culture-defininginstitutions and means of enforcing their views - yet a process in which no one vision can be simply and unambiguously imposed. And it is about discourse not just as a verbal process but also as action, including acts of collective absence from work, picketing, mass meetings, police spying, and the threat or actuality of arrest. It is about the redefinition of social questions in colonial society. The last two words remain important. The vision of the African as traditionbound and the vision of the African worker as a worker pure and simple are both imperial visions; they both treat African culture in a power-ladenway. Yet African workers did force themselves into an arena from which their rulers had thought they could be excluded, and they did use their presence to pose quite concrete demands in a language that was mutually understood for higher wages, for rewardsforlong service and the acquisition of skills, and eventually for family allowances, pensions, and the other benefits that French workers had. Indeed, the French attempt to come to grips with the collective action of the Senegalese workersby imposing their own categories and language set in motion a process they could not control. Ultimately, this process called into question the meaning of colonial domination. This article is not about discourse among Africans, about the way they perceived the world of work, the symbols they evoked to mobilize them-
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selves, about the nature of communication between labor leaders and politicians and the rank and file. Here, my concern is the voices that were heardby colonial officials, necessarily only a portion of what was being said. That portion was in French: Senegalese, to be heard there, had to learn the colonial language. French officials did not address them in Wolof. What is not discussed here is revealing too: as administrators developed elaborate categories to describe the labor force, they chose not to ask about other sets of categories that may well have existed. Perhaps their avoidance of such questions - plunging too deeply into the world of work as it existed to a Dakarois - was itself a sign that officials wanted very much to think of a situation that was strange and dangerousas being understandablein terms they already knew.3
The Labor Question Unposed The BrazzavilleConference set out an Africanpolicy intended to respond to a changed international climate, more critical of rule over foreign peoples; to the Gaullist perception that Africa had been drawn more tightly than ever into French politics because of its role as a base for the FreeFrench;and to the expectation that the "evolue" class of colonial peoples would be demanding more political participation. The conference was a reaffirmation of the permanence of FranceOutre-Mer,combined with insistence that the old exploitative colonialism, benefiting a narrowrange of interests, had to give way to an economic policy that would be more productive and more mutually beneficial to the metropole and Africans alike. On social questions, the conferees were radical in their critique of past errors- forced labor was held to be an economic as well as a moral and demographicdisaster - and conservative in their remedies.4 Even forced labor could only be phased out over five years, for the long quest to teach Africanslessons in the value of wage laborstill had not produced convincing results. But officials hoped that wage labor needs could be kept to a minimum and that economic growth would come from peasant production, freed from the excesses of past coercion. The conferees called for the "application of demographicpolicies, giving a very large place to indigenous agricultural activity, freely exercised in the family, societal, and customary context." The Brazzaville discussions did not addressworkers as a distinct category of people and as a normal and desirablepart of Africansociety. The conferees rejoiced in the supposed fact that "the risk of a proletariatdoes not present, at this time, any urgent character."The categories of evolue and paysan were sufficient for Brazzaville'ssociology of Africa.6 Brazzaville'spolitical agendahas often, and with reason, been seen as hypocritical: France, in effect, promised colonial people a small minority of the delegates in the institutions of the metropole, hoping to forestall giving them
169 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 political control over their own homelands. But the assimilationist political principles, however compromised in practice, had implications outside of politics. So it was with labor. French political rhetoric created an opening in the language of politics which African trade unionists could seize. Without the concrete challenge of strikes and street demonstrations, such possibilities would have been limited; but use of such language meant that a strike became more than a simple demand for more pay or a test of strength. Words and power interacted, and if African trade unionists could use the social categories of the colonizers to express their own claims, the colonizers - with a stake in their own rhetoric and their own view of the world - had reason to reassert their control in similar terms. Some of this had been rehearsed in the 1930s. The Popular Front had wanted to minimize wage labor and to promote a peasantry,but those workers who unambiguously fell within the French definition of worker were recognized as such. At the very beginning of its rule, the Popular Front orderedits Governors General to study how to apply to the colonies the new social legislation passed in France, including the forty-hour week and paid annual holidays. This order provoked a flurry of protest from business and skepticism from Governors;only small pieces of the legislation were implemented. But the most important of these recognized trade unions, for Africans as well as Europeans.The legislation of March 1937was hedged - only workers meeting a minimal educational standard could join unions although in practice this control proved difficult to use. Even before that date, the possibility of a more dynamic situation had unleashed a flurry of union and strike activity focused on Dakar. From December 1936through January1937,a series of short strikes in some of the most importantbranches of business in Dakar -- the docks, bakeries, metal work - swept through the city, resulting in significant gains for workers. The best organizedunions, in commerce and the railways, won collective bargainingagreements without strikes. All this had limits; it was largely confined to Dakar, and if not to skilled or literate workers, at least to compact bodies of workers, such as dockers, who could easily organize and disrupt business. Another sort of limit was reached at the end of the PopularFrontperiod.In 1938the union of African railwaymen proved uninterested in organizing the large number of day laborers and auxiliaries, who were treated as temporary workers even though most were long-term employers doing similar work to members of the "cadres."The auxiliaries' poorly coordinated protest at Thies, betrayed within the labor movement and exploited by demagogues without, ended up in a riot, police violence, and death. This provedto be the last majorlaborprotest of the pre-warera, followed after the fall of Franceby the suppression of all trade unions (Bernard-Duquenet1985;Thiam 1972).
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In 1944, as French officials contemplated restoring the status quo anteVichy, their thinking about laborreflected the dual notion that workers were not an important social category and that those Africans who were workers could not be treated in wholly different terms from French workers.7 Officials reinstated in 1944some of the older legislation, including the 1937act that had allowed Africans to organize trade unions. They droppedthe educational restrictions, remembering perhaps that they had proved unworkable and recognizing that in places like Dakar,the mixture of literate and illiterate workers in many professions would make such a provision difficult to manage. 8
This willingness to return to a favorableview of trade unions within the narrowly conceived world of wage laborreflected above all a fear that within that world, the greatest danger was the anarchy of demands posed without the restraint of stable organization. The Administrator of Dakar put it this way in his 1943 report: Union activity has never been as necessary as it is today.... [I]tis to be encouraged, because given the impossibility of following some 20000 employees and workers in Dakaralone, it is necessary that shop stewards act in constant liaison with the offices of their respective unions, the latter having to work in their turn in close collaboration with the Inspection du Travail.But this activity must be guided to be sure that union action does not follow any political current that comes along,while it must confine itself to its duties, which comprise the study and the defense of economic, industrial, commercial, and agriculturalinterests of the members it represents,clearly definedin the first article of the decree of 11 March 1937.9
At the same time, the Governor General continued to believe until the very eve of the strikes that a proletariat was still an unnecessary and undesirable social category. In the midst of wondering how free labor would be made to replace forced and how cash crop production could be encouraged, he returned to a warning characteristic of the Popular Front and Brazzaville, that Africans might lose "the ancestral contact with the land and this would mean the creation, full of hazards, of an indigenous proletariat, having lost its sense of landed property (in the customary sense), only counting on wages to live." But in Paris, a forward thinking Inspecteur du Travail, Paul Monie, commented that ... to prevent any proletarianization,the 15 million Africans are condemned to cultivate with the daba [hoe] and to maintain piously, like their ancesters, the sense of landed property. But what will become of the development of AOF [AfriqueOccidentale Francais]and can one still speak of promoting whatever it is? 1
171 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 Someone had noticed the contradiction in the Brazzaville approach.It was already late November 1945,and the next phase of debate would not be for officials only. Evolues and Workers: Demands and Definitions, 1944-45 The realities of African politics made the contradictions of the Brazzaville programeven more difficult to manage in practice than in logical exercises. The idea of phasing out forced labor over five years provedutterly incompatible with allowing even limited Africanpolitical participation.The electoral campaigns in the IvoryCoast broughtout the tensions that the hated recruitment drives produced,and the presence of Africandeputies in the Assemblee Nationale Constituante forced the French legislature to face the question explicitly. Based on a proposal by African deputies and a report by the Ivory Coast's Felix Houphouet-Boigny,the legislature voted in April 1946to abolish forced labor three years ahead of schedule. ' By then, the key events on which this article focuses had already taken place; labor proved itself to be a collective actor before it was a fully free one. The restoration of union rights provided a terrain of legitimacy. The volatility of political life among the educated inhabitants of Dakar provideda tradition of discussion and self-conscious identification on which to draw (Johnson 1971;Morgenthau 1964).InDakar, above all, Frenchadministratorsknew that the people they called "evolues," especially those from the so-called Quatre Communes, where French citizenship had been easier to come by than elsewhere in French West Africa, made demands. The Brazzaville reforms were intended to give this group a stake in the French system. But officials were so immersed in their own classificatory system - believing that literate Senegalese in white-collar jobs would seek to foster their own status and privileges as evolues - that they did not realize the potential that they might act as wage earners, who shared concerns, although hardly identity, with illiterate laborers. This perspective was not a total misreadingof evolue politics. The doyen of prewarpolitics, Lamine Gueye - Mayor of Dakar,former ally of the Popular Front, socialist deputy elected to the Assemblee Nationale Constituante in 1945- championed in 1944the cause of civil servants. They were paid less than their homologues of European origin in the "cadres administratifs" this was, as he bluntly put it, "racism."The Governor General denied the charge but not the terms in which the issue was posed, replyingthat civil servants were paid according to position and that differences reflected a "colonial supplement" to compensate for overseas service. His Secretary General expressed the concern some time later that the racism issue was "the most delicate point in the politics of this country."12
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In May 1945Gueye, returningfrom a meeting in Paris,spoke to a crowd of 3 000 at Dakar Airport,invoking the spirit of Brazzavilleand questioning the sincerity of its implementation when the indemnities paid to indigeneous and Europeancivil servants were grossly unequal. "This is true racism," he concluded to applause and cries of "Vive Lamine." But two months later, when unions had entered the fray and strikes were being discussed, Gueye met with the young trade unions in a "stormy session" and talked them out of striking. His newspaperpublished an "Appealto the Unions," which urged them to get involved in partypolitics on the side of Gueye's Section FranCaise de 1' Internationale Ouvriere (SFIO),rather than to pursue "immediative objectives of a corporativeorder."Beforethe war, Gueye had a less than clear recordfor supporting labor- especially the lowest paid workers- and he was to disappoint workers again duringthe 1946general strike. When he took up the issues of equality and race, he usually made implicit or explicit comparison between the educated African and the educated Frenchman.The problems were not same for African manual workers, who did not work beside whites with whom they could compare their qualifications. 13 Gueye was a "Saint-Louisien,"a "citoyen," and a socialist; he had been allied with the Popular Front administration in French West Africa in 1936-38,and he was close to the Frenchsocialists who were part of the postwar coalition government. Among the citizens of the Quatres Communes, this kind of politics still resonated, and Gueye helped to reconstitute a Senegalese political movement, the Bloc Africain.But in Dakar,outside of evolu6 circles, including the Lebou population which closely identified itself with the region, a certain political assertiveness - breakingaway fromthe old axes of elite politics - was arising at the end of the war. Somebody like Abbas Gueye, leader of the militant metal workers' union, scion of a well-established Lebou family, may well have realized the distance between the old politicians and the working population of Dakar and hence the opening for a new sort of leadership. The struggle in 1945and 1946would focus clearly on strikes and unions, but its leaders, its organizationalaccomplishments, and its spirit would over time have a strong impact on Senegalese politics.14 During 1945the issues of racism and equality remained important to the reorganized unions in the civil service, but the issue would not remain within such bounds. The Labor Inspector (Inspecteur du Travail) thought there were about 12000 unskilled laborersin Dakar, plus 7 500 skilled, semiskilled, or office employees. He guessed there were 13000 artisans, 7000 cooks, food workers, and servants, and 8000 market gardeners and fishermen. There were also 3 500 workers of the "deuxieme portion du contingent": military recruits working as involuntary laborers.15Dakar's population, according to figures for ration cards, included 145000 Africans and
173 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 20000 Europeans, plus an estimated 25 000 people who lacked ration cards. There had been some increase in local production to replace imports blocked by the war and an increase in the work force after late 1943because of Allied military activity, but in 1945 regular commerce was only slowly crawling back to prewar levels (Bouche 1978, 424,427). The port, the commercial firms,
and the government would be the principalaxes of the strike movement, but the large-scale workplaces existed alongside small shops and numerous domestic employers, and the regularworkers, becoming more numerous and more dependent on wages ever since the 1930s, coexisted with substantial numbers of seasonal workers from the countryside and the inevitable "population flottante" that eked out its living from casual labor,hawking, the generosity of kin, and crime (Lakroum1984). Agitation began among civil servants. During 1945groups of civil servants - white and black, often but not always separately - founded or revived unions. Forexample, the Syndicat des Agents du CadreCommun Secondaire des Douanes de 1'AOF,dormant since 1940,was revived and recognized on 16 February1945.The Syndicat du Personnel Auxiliaire des Bureauxet Services du Gouvernement-General, founded in 1937 but dormant since 1939, was revived in August 1945 with 432 members. The Syndicat des Agents et Assimiles des CadresLocaux de la Circonscription de Dakar et Dependences was registered on 21 September 1945, with 1500 members, and quickly became involved in "very large" activity. There was another burst of union registration in December.16 It was hardly surprising that workers were upset - Dakar, for all its particularities, was part of the same pattern of grievance, anger,and mobilization that led to strikes in many African cities in the two or three years after the war.17Inflation was astronomical. What officials estimated to be the "normal" cost of living for a bachelorin Dakar rose 272 percent from 1938to 1945, 290 percent for a family with two children. From 1943to 1945alone, the cost of living rose 30 percent for bachelors and 20 percent for a family. Vichy and the Free French both tried to keep wage increases to a minimum: they succeeded in keeping them well below the rise in prices. The minimum wage rose from 8 francs per day in 1938to 11in 1942and 12in 1944,up 50 percent as prices rose by over 250 percent. Government estimates of "normal" wages for "ouvriers" (manual workers) and "employes" (office workers) also suggested around a 50 percent rise since the war, and it was aroundthese figures that officials wanted to stabilize wages. In 1943, the government adjusted wages throughout the civil service: the changes were less than the 25 percent inflation since 1942alone. At this time, the Free French government implemented Vichy's proposed legislation on "surenchere et d6bauchage," forbidding one employer from offering a new worker higher wages than his
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previous employer had paid. Arguing that the labor market in the city was badly organized,they wanted to keep workersfrombiddingup their wages by switching jobs.
Wage restraint was the policy in Franceas well just after the war;profits were to be concentrated in increasing productive capacity, and officials feared runaway inflation. The Communist Party, a partner in the government until 1947,did not disagree.It urgedpotential strikers to restrain themselves in the interests of production. In Africa, officials feared that French products, as before the war, were not competitive with those of other colonial powers, while peasant producers- including Senegal's peanut growers, whose output had declined in favorof more food production duringthe warneeded better incentives to raise exports (Kuisel 1981).19Workers, about whom officials did not want to think, were caught in the middle. But in Dakar in 1945,maintaining such a policy was difficult. The key to understandingwhat happenedwas the dynamics of the situation. The escalation of collective action took place not in the Vichy era of wage stagnation, but after two years of concesssions, however unequal and inadequate they were. The 1943 attempt to hold wages below market levels unravelled in 1944. Selective wage increases were made by the government and private employers at the beginning and end of 1944:the lowest category of commercial workers went from a 1939wage rate of 450 francsper month to 900 in January and 1 250 in October; at higher levels wages went from 1200 to 2 200 to 3 000. Metal workers in the lowest category went from a 1939hourly rate of 1.10 francs to 2.75 in Januaryand 3.00 in December, and in the highest category from 4.00 to 6.50 to 7.50 to 7.75 duringthe course of 1944.20Among government workers, the elite was making demands for "improvements of a professional nature," and the issue was being discussed in newspapers, particularly Lamine Gueye's L'AOF As the government respondedselectively, those left out made their own demands - higher wages were contagious. 21 The first post-war strike in Dakar came from a differentmilieu. The laborers who unloaded coal in the port struck fora month, from 25 November to 27 December 1944.The administration used the workers of the deuxieme portion - forced laborin essence - to unload the coal.22 Discontent became manifest at a higher level of the laborforce by mid-1945,and government officials began both to negotiate with and to intimidate the civil service and railway unions. Officials managedto reach an agreement with the Union des Agents Indigenes des Chemins de Fer,which withdrew its threat of a strike, but they feared that the general strike among government employees in Nigeria would spread to French Africa. Reports of "a certain effervescence" among railway workers in Dahomey, of a meeting of civil servants "whatever the category they belong to" in Bamako,and of strike threats from postal workers reached official ears. The rumors were taken seriously enough that the
175 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 Governor of Senegal consulted military officials about maintaining order, and the Governor General issued stern warnings against any disruption of public services.23 In August, officials observed the "agitation" among the unions of civil servants and among regular railway workers and auxiliaries "who think themselves discriminated against." At Saint-Louis, workers of the electrical company struck, and the next day, officials used both concessions and their power to "requisition"essential workers into public service to get them back to work. In September, following a meeting at the crucial railway junction of Thies, about half the 1000 men present - mostly auxiliaries and younger men- decidedto stay aroundand talk instead of reporting to work as scheduled. The police eventually moved them to their quarters. Meanwhile, the postal workers theatened to go on strike and asked all indigenous civil servants and agents to follow them. The strike did not come off. Other civil servants, along with Lamine Gueye, counseled moderation. But even in the absence of a strike, unions submitted demands, including giving auxiliaries more permanent positions and integrating members of the cadres locaux into higher ranks.24 Modest wage increases did not solve the problem for two reasons. First, the administration's wage concessions were woefully inadequate, at best likely to bring people back to where they had been in 1938,at worst not providing enough on which to live. This the local administration knew. In August 1945,Dakar officials established a table of the "minimum vital," the total cost of a series of outlays which officials deemed necessary for merely getting by. For a bachelor, this came to 1 135 francs per month, for a family with two children, to 2 330 francs.At the same time, the monthly earnings of a metal worker in the lowest category was 675 (assuming a nine-hour day), and in the highest category 1 744 - still not enough for a family. A docker earned 675, a painter 1 125,an apprentice in the building trades 338, and the chief of a worksite 1 541. Monthly wages in commerce ranged from 1260 to 3000. The LaborInspector later cited this table to stress the "flagrantdisequilibrium existing between the minimum vital and the minimum wages then in vigor." In the lower ranks, wages "were manifestly insufficient in a city whose importance grows daily and where the cost of living has increased enormously." Actually, only the most senior of the commercial white-collar workers (employes in French terminology) earned enough to support a wife and two children. The Inspectorblamed business, particularlythe President of the Union Intersyndicale d'Entrepriseset d'Industriesde 1'AOF,Monsieur Roux, whom he accused of giving Africans the impression that they faced "un patronat de combat" and helped "to envenom" labor relations. The administration claimed to have tried to ease the situation by intervening with local businessmen for a "legitimate and reasonable readjustment of
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wages." But it met with "a categorical refusal," hedged in the case of the import-export company association but definitive in the case of Roux's group.25
The second problem came from the government's evolue-paysan model of society and its failureto realize that civil servants were part of a wider milieu of work. It tried to appealto evolu6s and recognized Lamine Gueye's views on equality as a challenge to its seriousness. The issue, officials thought, was disagreement over how to fit evolues into the type of hierarchy embeddedin the French civil service system. Thus, in December 1944 they reorganized the civil service hierarchies, enlarging the gap between the cadres communes secondaires - the bottom of the upper category of administrators, who could serve anywhere in Overseas France- and the cadres locaux, the lower ranks whose responsibilities were limited to a single colony. The reforms supposedly assured African access to the cadres communes secondaires and improved the terms. And so in November 1945, the Governor General congratulated himself on satisfying the discontent in the civil service. New salary scales had been approved,made retroactive to April, based on the revised rankings of December 1944.The Governor General applauded the new rankings and salary scales for enhancing the hierarchical system of the civil service, although he expected protests from those left behind. "In separating out from the indigenous cadres an elite destined to substitute for Europeanfunctionaries in subordinatepositions, it [the reforms]constitutes, in effect, the first step in the realization of the recommendations of the Brazzaville Conference." He was not yet facing the fact that he had a labor problem. The corollary of the advantages for top African civil servants was that the standards for entry had to be "very severe."26 High entry standards threatened those at risk of falling on the wrong side of the deliberately widened gap. In April, Senegalese civil servants had protested that the reforms were doing nothing to help the cadres locaux; and in July,the Federation des Fonctionnaires Indigenes du Senegal had decided that its members would abstain from applying for positions in the cadres secondaires. The boycott call spread from Senegal to Guinea and the Soudan.27Similar concerns caused auxiliaries in the railway to fear that their interests would be submergedby workers in the cadres(in this case the cadres locaux) who were pursuing their own sectoral improvements. Hearing of strike threats, the Governor General insisted that "the advancement of men to the summit" could only come on the basis of "moraland professional value," and warned that he would resist any strike movement by civil servants. 28 From October to December 1945, the tempo of demands escalated, and strikes began. In October came a half day strike of auxiliaries on the DakarNiger rail line - not approved by the union. A printers' strike in Dakar
177 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 continued, and 1500 workers at the Arsenal - civil employees of the military - struck. They returned only when the government promised that their wages would be revised at the same time as those of all other government workers: the government had committed itself to systematic wage revision and indicated that it took strikes seriously. The Syndicat des Auxiliaires du Gouvernment General, meanwhile, was submitting claims, including a call for changes in the indemnity of zone and family allowances - a revealing demand when one considers from whom it came. These allowances - to compensate for the cost of living in particularlocations and, in line with French policy, to promote family formation - had attracted the attention of the elite, but now such demands were coming from auxiliaries. In November came a teachers' strike, involving white teachers, but viewed as an important precedent: the government's concessions and, above all, its decision to pay teachers for strike days later provoked demands for parallel attention. 29 The government did not do enough for the high level civil servants, but made lower level functionaries fear that they would fall below the cut off for credentials and lose - relatively if not absolutely - because of the theoretically non-racialscales. Meanwhile, the lowest level workers, especially auxiliaries and workers in the private sector, saw that other peoples' demands could meet with a positive response, but that they themselves were getting little; the Frenchpatronat was living up to its stereotype of stinginess and indifference. Change appearedboth possible and obstructed. The pressure was alreadycoming from trade unions, led by civil servants and railwaymen. This distinguishes the Dakarsituation from that of another leading African port city, Mombasa, where a workforce of roughly similar size (around20 000 wage workers in crude estimates from both cities) participated in strikes that passed from enterprise to enterprise in 1939and 1942,a barely-avertedcity-wide strike movement in 1945, and a full-scale general strike in 1947- all without the efforts of a trade union. In Dakar, the union movement of 1936-38had been quickly resurrected after 1944,and it came under young and vigorous leadership.The Union des Syndicats de Dakar- an umbrella group of trade-specific unions - was taken over by Lamine Diallo from one of Senegal's first union leaders, Magatte Codou Sarr;PapaJeanKa led the commercial employees; and at the end of 1944,AbbasGueye took over the metal workers' union. All had origins characteristic of Senegalese evolues - Diallo and Ka from Saint-Louis,Abbas Gueye from an "old Dakar family." These would be the leaders of Dakar trade unionism for years to come.30 The first strike wave hit shore in December, in the form of a series of individual strikes. First came the metal workers, dockers, and ordinarylaborers, about 2 800 of them, in jobsconcentrated in the port areaand among the cargo handling and light industrial firms. They demanded better pay, paid leave,
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transport to work, and other benefits. They struck on 3 December, a busy period in the port. Officials tried to use workers of the Deuxieme Portion to maintain services, but they had to make concessions quickly. On the first day, the Administrator of Dakar proclaimeda raise in the wage of the lowest category of metal worker from 3 to 4 francs per hour, plus a daily ration. But when an agreement to end the strike was reached on 8 December (effective the next Monday, the 10th),it was on the basis of a whole new scale, the formerly narrow spectrum of 3 to 7.75 francs being widened as well as raised to 5.45 to 20.45 francs. The administration was to supervise the process of reclassifying workers. And the strikers received half pay for the days on which they had absented themselves from work. Dockers' wages rose to 6.95 francs per hour, specialists and team heads' wages to 9.45.These workers had participated to varying degrees in the stoppages of 3-10 December.3' Postal workers who had been at the forefront of "agitation" throughout the second half of 1945,went on strike in much of AOF,but curiously not in Dakar. The strike began on 20 December in Saint-Louis,the capital of Senegal (Dakarwas the headquartersof the Government General of FrenchWest Africa),and spreadto the Soudan,the Ivory Coast, and Guinea on the 23rd.It lasted only twenty-four hours in the Ivory Coast, to early Januaryin the Soudan and Guinea. In Saint-Louis, the postal union asked others to join them in a general strike, but the recently formed coordinating body of civil service unions decided on 22 December to support but not join the postal workers; over 25 000 francs were raised to support the strikers. The postal strike, draggingon in Saint-Louisfor forty-eight days, would in fact become a general strike of government workers in January.32 The railway workers held a big meeting on 23 December, in which one thousand men from major stations in Senegal discussed the possibility of striking. They were held back by FrancisGning, their General Secretary,who had long held close ties to the Frenchsocialists then in the Parisgovernment. The railway union would be the most important group not to join the strike movement in 1945-46,and Gning's reluctance to act cost him his position a few months later and perhaps cost the railway union more support from Dakar's workers when the railway went on strike in 1947-48.33 The argument for equality with Europeanswas very much in the fore, but its meaning had changed. It had percolated down into the ranks and served not as the key for separatingout an Africanelite - as the administration had hoped - but as a cry for unity in a situation spreadingthroughout Dakar and lapping into the other cities of Senegal and to some extent into other centers where government and railway workers were concentrated. As the monthly political report on Senegal commented in December, ... no one is satisfied.Therehas beencreateda sortof psychosisof demands.It comes froma badstate of mindthat drawsits own originsfroman unstated
179 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 reason.Everyonewantsto be assimilatedto theEuropean, in salary,in indemniin order of at the etc. ties, precedence, hospital, Everyonebelieveshimselfas as the other and competent person, everyonesays,"equalpayforequalwork," treatingas agiventheequalityoftheworkthatis done.Butnooneeverspeaksof eitherprofessionalconsciousnessoreffectiveoutput.34 In the first days of the December strikes, the Administrator of Dakar, Poirier,expressed frustrationwith the inability of both sides to negotiate in a predictable manner. He criticized the patronat's lack of understandingof the new "political and economic situation in France, as much as the world," as well as the African desire "to be on the same basis of equality as the European worker." The civil servants were encouraging the strikers, and concessions to the civil servants set off demands among railwaymen and other workers. The procedures for regulating labor disputes under the 1937 legislation requiringnotice and a process of conciliation - had proven too cumbersome and had been ignored.He felt frustratedbecause the dockers were not unionized, and he had to negotiate with them via the metal workers' union. Perhaps most interesting of all, he argued:"Itis necessary to solve as fast as possible for Dakar the question of family allocations. The wage calculated is enough for the worker, not for the worker plus wife and children."35 Family allocations for African workers had been regardedas inconceivable in 1943and 1944;the Frenchprogramwas justified on the grounds that it would promote the French race. Vichy's family policy was for whites only, and the Free French takeover of AOF did not change that. The intention of the policy was still thought to be "to safeguardthe French race; encourage French natality" and in any case family allocations for Africans would have "incalculable budgetaryand political consequences." 36 Civil servants in the regular cadres had had small family allowances since before the war; the amounts had been discussed in the context of civil service organization, not labor,and the issue of applyingthem elsewhere - or to government laborershad been slapped down whenever it was so much as mentioned.37The general strike, however, was about to raise not only the issue of equality of allocations within the cadres but also the point that, outside of those ranks, African family needs were similar. Now the argument was being mooted for the likes of metal workers and dockers. Probably, Poirier was hoping to find a way of providing the minimum vital for families without actually increasing basic wages - which would have repercussions on other emoluments calculated in terms of the wage. But he was making his proposalduringa strike; he was reacting to pressure by thinking that Frenchprecedents forregulatingsocial problems might be relevant to Africa after all. Ad hoc solutions worked for a time. The striking workers got substantial wage increases; they received one-half pay for the strike days;and a commis-
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sion with labor,employer, and government representatives was called on to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement.38But more was soon to come. Toward a General Strike: January 1946 The next phase began with the commercial workers, who were members of EMCIBA,the Syndicat des Employes du Commerce, d'Industries, et des Banques. This - as officials later noted - was the only part of the strike that was legal, for the union had been negotiating and had exhausted the procedures for compulsory conciliation specified in the 1937legislation. On 4 January,its members left work. The strike spreadto the nearbytown of Rufisque. Clerks, guards,and laborersstoppedwork. Their strike, no doubt, stimulated the metal workers to strike again. The administration had in fact realized that the December agreements were fragile- they had noted the "badwill" of the employers during the negotiations and seen signs of their wanting to renege. Putting pressure on employers, officials thought that they had obtained a satisfactory agreement for a modest furtherincrease on 6 January; but on the 7th, the metal workerswalked out again,apparentlybelieving that they could not trust the employers to abide by the agreement.39 Meanwhile, the Administratortried some intimidation. He requisitioned all auxiliaries and daily workers of administrative services as well as workers in electrical firms and in transportand cargohandling in the port of Dakar,in effect putting them under military discipline. The Governor General telegraphed Paris on the 8th: "Causes [of] strikes cannot be considered as being uniquely professional,and political tendencies seem to manifest themselves under the influence of commercial employees and certain civil servants." But the situation, he noted, was "calm."40 Within two days, Governor General Cournarie was in despair. He telegraphed that he had no hope of an agreeement and no legal means of imposing one. The requisition ploy had failed; the workers ignored it, and Paris questioned its legality and political wisdom.41 ... [A]llthe personnelof enterprisesnecessaryforessentialeconomicactivity, thatis theport,transport, electricity,ice plants,havequitwork.Thereis hardly any morehopeof seeingthe conflictevolvefavorably.On the contrary,some indicationsappearto allowpredictingthat the indigenouscivil servantswill join the currentstrike....The meetingof the assemblyof the UnitedNations givesme the dutyof avoidingall measuresof brutalconstraint.Nevertheless,I wouldbe gratefulforyouto confirmto meif,in applyingtheinstructionsofyour I amrequiredto opposeabsolutelyalladjustments telegramNo. 29of 9 January, ofwages.Imusttell youin averyfirmfashionthatIhavedecidedthat[anadjustment]is indispensableforthe privatesectorsbecauseit hasalreadybeendone foradministrative to a realincreasein the personnelandbecauseit corresponds
181 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 cost of living.Finally,anabsolutedismissalof all claimscouldhaveextremely gravepoliticalconsequences.42 The tone as well as the contents are revealing. A Governor General was confessing his powerlessness. He felt obliged to explain why he could not be brutal, but in any case he could not be. And he wanted to be released from an important orderfrom Paris;the telegram he alluded to ordereda wage freeze, an attempt to keep the prices of FrenchAfricangoods comparableto those of commodities from other colonial powers. He saw the situation in political terms and concluded that failure to resolve the strike could have an impact on colonial politics in general. The inability of colonial officials to be very colonial - to project to themselves and their subjects an auraof authority, be it paternal or brutal- had to to with more than the UN. The officials wanted Africans not just to accept French sovereignty but also to work. Dakar in 1946was not the first instance in which they had proved impotent in such regard,but it was one of the first where their authoritarianhand was held in check in such a collective, such a public, situation. Paris would not give a clear reply to Cournarie'srequest for release from the policy of freezing wages and demanded more information. The Minister, Jacques Soustelle, even worried that his own previously made plan to visit Dakar might be too risky: "I would fear in effect that my visit coming in the middle of a strike would lose the general political nature which it should have and that its significance would be reduced to the unnatural." The Governor General advised him to cancel the visit.43 In the end, he decided it would be worse to cancel than to visit, but he would keep his distance from the issue while in Dakar. Some demonstrations were laid on for his benefit, but just after his arrival,his government in Parisfell (20January1946),and he was replaced on the 23rd by the former Popular Front Colonial Minister, Marius Moutet. Unable to act like colonialists, officials were already beginning to bring a metropolitan approach to solving industrial relations disputes. Soustelle decided to send Colonial InspectorMasselot, whom he describedas someone who "specializes in the question of labor conflict" and who had recently settled a dispute in Martinique. Soustelle shared his flight to Dakar on 17January with the Inspector.44 Already, local officials were taking the industrial relations approach as well. On 8 January,Poirier,the Administrator of Dakar, and Berlan,Director General of Political Affairsunder the Governor General, met with PapaJean Ka, Secretary General of EMCIBA(the striking commercial workers' union) and agreed to further talks. The meetings took place around the framework of an expanded and explicit classification of jobs. The repesentatives of commercial firms were willing to pay the highest category - "elite accountant" -
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a basic wage equal to that of a Europeandoing the same service, although not the "prime d'expatriation"that Frenchmen received for the pain of leaving France. The union agreed. Next day, they discussed principles for setting wages. The starting point, officials thought, would be the minimum vital which would become the minimum wage - to which various coefficients would be applied to determine the wage for each category. Here negotiations got sticky. PapaJeanKa, officials complained, "always returns the discussion to a general assimilation of wages with European employees." Ka "thus insisted that the minimum vital could not be different for a Europeanand for an African."His wage scale went from 2 800francs per month for the bottom category to 13000 for the 7th and top. The employers wanted to leave the bottom category to seemingly objective determination; the government figure for the minimum vital would be put in its place. They offeredcategories 2-7 wages from 2 000 to 9 000 francs.Berlan,for the Government General, suggested a premium of seniority: augmentations of 5, 10, or 15percent for workers with 5, 10,or 15years' seniority. The employers agreed to this addition only for categories 6 and 7, that is, for the elite. No compromise was reached.45 Kawas making a very important point. He was using the Frenchstructure of the job hierarchy and the official argument about equality, but making the radicalleap of applyingit to the bottom - the minimum vital- and not just to the far less expensive problem of equivalences among educated people. He was addressingthe basic question of the standardsof food, housing, clothing, fuel, furniture, and medicine - the categories whose variations were charted whenever the minimum vital was recalculated by the French statisticians. He was denying the very idea of an African way of life, whose material demands and costs were differentfrom a Europeanway of life, an assumption so unquestioned it was rarelycommented on in the long parallelcalculations done for Europeanand Africanminima vitals. 46 The metal workers'union was saying the same thing: the idea of a classification system was fine; seniority payments, an indemnity for layoffs, and other benefits were negotiated by the union. But the employers refused to pay strike days, and the union submitted wage claims parallel to those of EMCIBA.An impasse was reached on 12 January,"the representatives of manual and office workers having demanded wages based on those of Europeans working in the colony."47 Undoubtedly, the metal and commercial workers' leaders knew what each other was doing; the strike was spreadingvia communications in the relatively small world of Dakar's workers and via example. But something more was happening.The Union des Syndicats Confederesde Dakarbegan to coordinate common action and proclaimed that a general strike was to start on 14 January:twenty-seven African unions were reportedly in on the
183 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 planning. As early as December, its Secretary General, Lamine Diallo, had been appearingat various union meetings.48On 11January,a big meeting was held in the Champ de Courses, which was to be the site of daily meetings during the general strike. There, the representative of the auxiliaries of the Government General and of the local administration,Coulibally,ordereda strike of auxiliaries to start. Diallo appealedto all workers: ... the blackshaddefendedthe MotherCountry,now theywoulddefendtheir soil, where they do not want to be consideredstrangers.Theremust be a general
strikein themostabsolutesenseof theword.No domestic,nocookshould,after tomorrowmorning,go to theirbosses,andas forbakers,all workshouldcease afterMondaymorning....PublicWorks,thePolice,Treasurer, the railways,the office were accounted for and would work post already stop Monday. Even food sellers should sell only to Africans.49 That same day, a resolution of the Union des Syndicats presented to the Governor General summed up its role and its demands.Under Diallo's signature, the resolution noted: "the growingdevelopment of the working class in organization and consciousness permits it to play a decisive role as the motor and guide of all the proletarianforces of FrenchWest Africa."Since the reappearance of unions in 1944,workers had received only partial satisfaction, leaving the issues alive. The Union declaredits affiliation to the FrenchCommunist central organization of unions, the Confederation G6nerale du Travail (CGT).And it averredits adherenceto "the union principal'equalpay for equal work and output."' It demandedunion participationin establishing job classifications and indexes; the minimum vital for the private sector should be fixed at 5 907 francs per month. In the public service, it demandedthat the same rates of indemnity of zone and family charges awarded the Cadres Superieurset Generauxbe paid to all workers, regardlessof position, including auxiliaries and daily workers. And it announced a general strike for 14 Januaryunless its demands were met, threatening that "This movement will eventually be extended to the whole of the Federation."50 The Governor General told Paris on the 12th that a general strike was inevitable. He was convinced of "the political character of this demonstration.... In effect the demands expressed with intransigence ... are such that the leaders can have no hope of seeing them met." The strike was timed, he thought, to coincide with the Minister's plannedvisit.51In a second telegram that day, the Governor General passed along the suggestion made by a union of European civil servants that the CGT send two representatives to "appease the grave tension" in Dakar.He hoped the French trade unionists could do what he himself could not - get a Frenchpoint of view across to the strikers and exercise some control over the news that got back to France.52 The general strike broke out as advertised on the morning of the 14th.
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"Thereis perfect calm.... The strike is almost generalamong white collar and manual workers in industry and commerce and among the civil servants and auxiliaries of the administration. Manual and office workers of the railway are at work." The movement seemed to be extending to Saint-Louis. The Governor General noted as well the "enticing away" ("debauchage")of domestic workers, and pressure on fishermen, vegetable growers, and butchers not to supply the Kermel market (where Europeans shopped), which closed for a time. In the major offices of the Government General finance, personnel, political affairs, security - African workers were totally absent. Only one non-striker showed up at the Electrical Company, but the unions allowed some workers to report to the hospital and water works. Cafes and shops closed. But railway workers and African teachers did not join. Some arrests were made for intimidating non-strikers.53 A certain detente was maintained throughout the strike. On its eve, Diallo wrote Cournarie saying that measures would be taken to be sure that essential services were maintained, although there was in the event some disruption of water and electricity services. The police took down a barricade in the main African residential district (the Medina),and Diallo assured him that he would take measures to protect "public order"and prevent "the circulation of bands during the strike days."54 Lamine Gueye arrivedin Dakar on the 13th. In anticipation of his arrival, according to security services, some strike leaders planned to visit his lieutenants to be sure they advised him "not to intervene to end the strike, as he did during the first movement last August." Gueye should be told that "if he had the intention of doing anything in the course of this strike ... he [should] support the demands of the strikers.... In the contrary case, the strikers would be moved to give him, if needed, a bad mark."55The Governor General, a few days later observed that Lamine Gueye had indeed been cautious, claiming publicly to know nothing of the dispute and in a later public meeting simply noting that he had an electoral mandate. Privately, on the 15th, Gueye asked the Governor General for information and said he would contact union leaders - to what effect it remained to be seen. 56 But his unwillingness to take a stand did not go unnoticed. He appeared before a crowd of three to four thousand in a field on the 15th and managedto give a talk "without saying a word related to the strike." The security report seems to imply as much surprise as the crowd, which apparently "asked itself what that hid." The security people also reported - without naming their source - that Gueye met with Lamine Diallo and told the strike leader that France was not racist and Europeans and Africans should remain on good terms with each other. Although Gueye's public meeting took place at the same time as the regular mass meeting of strikers at another field, the Champ de Courses, the union gatheringhad an even largercrowd than usual. Strikers, clearly, were going their own way.57
185 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 On the 16th, the general strike in Saint-Louis- building upon the postal workers' strike - began. In the town of Kaolack, an important river port for the peanut region, an effective strike had also begun. The situation in Dakar, the Governor General reported,was unchanged.58Meanwhile, the workers' meetings in the Champ de Courses were drawing big crowds and hearing daily reports on negotiations from PapaJeanKa and Lamine Diallo. Lamine Gueye was expected, but - revealingly - did not appear.Diallo reada cable of support from the CGT in Paris, and he insisted that charges of the strike movement's being anti-Frenchhad nothing to them, "farfrom it." The strike "was solely to demand something to eat, because we are of the FrenchCommunity and not foreigners."59 Meanwhile, government officials, union leaders, and employers were negotiating. One of the remarkable aspects of this strike is the extent to which the sides interacted, and the meetings which are reported contain revealing evidence of the rapidevolution of a style of arguing,of attempts by all sides to define terrains of argument in their own ways, but not being able to. One forum was a commission - presided over by an official, A. Becq, and including Abbas Gueye, PapaJeanKa, representatives of employers, and the government's chief statistician - ordered to come up with a figure for the minimum cost of living for a laborerin Dakar.The statistician tried to define terms narrowly;he said that 3030 calories a day were needed by an African worker, and he asked to procede with calculating costs from there. This was done after protestations from Ka about "Europeanmethods of calculation." An agreement was reached on food, and Becq tried to lead the discussion through the other quasi-scientific "postes" of the minimum vital. But this did not happen. Instead, there took place ...a discussionin thecourseofwhichthemostscathingsentencesweresaid,the most unobligingwordswere pronouncedby representativesof the African unions, requiringsustainedattention,constantpatience,and multipleand severeinterventionsfromthePresidentto imposecalm,appeasespirits,andget on with the work.Havingfixedamongthemselvesa figurearound2500francs per month,they defendedtheirpositionbitterly,increasingceaselesslytheir claims,inventingthemostextraordinary necessitiesandsearchingbyallmeans to regainwhat they seemedto havelost on the cost of food,surprisedas they wereby the calculationof calories. Poor M. Becq had to listen to such arguments as "the better paid workerwill work better," and to descriptions of extortion by bosses and exploitation by merchants. The trade unionists finally asked for 2155 francs per month, which Becq refused. Diallo privately agreed to 2000. But the next day, the 18th, no one came to the meeting. Accordingly,the statistician went to talk with the Governor General and other top officials, who massagedthe data to come up with 1 539.50francsfor
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a newly hired bachelor, or 7.40 an hour. This was a tiny bit higher than what the Governor General had wanted, 7-7.25an hour,but a considerableincrease from the status quo - 5.45.The final figurewas not a consensus but a decision from above (the divided committee was in any case advisory),but the debate had affected the results and provideda sign that this figure would soon have to be revised. Above all, workers exposed the sham of scientific wage determination. They had fallen for one calculation but realized that the items were arbitrarily defined. They had tried to broaden the range of considerations that went into the minimum vital, and they had realized that the administration was playing the same game Becq accused them of playing: holding to a predetermined figure and fudging the cost estimates for each item accordingly.By the end of the meetings - from the 14th to the 18th- the imposition of a minimum wage under the guise of scientific measurement of costs had become a process of negotiation.6 From the first days of the general strike, top officials knew they had to budge and were thinking how. Governor General Cournarie now, on the 16th, simply told Paris he was going to ignore its instructions about holding down wages: "It will be impossible in current conditions to execute the instructions of your telegram ... and to block wages at their current rates. I have vainly tried to do this; it is now evident that it is impossible." He recommended, in reference to the private sector, raising the minimum wage and establishing a complete set of rankings, each of whose pay would have a coefficient relative to the wage of an unskilled laborer, as was done in French labor contracts. In addition, in commerce and industry it was necessary to create a "hors categorie" (off-scale classification) whose members "must receive, without any reticence, salaries based on those paid to similar European employees" except for the premium of expatriation. In the civil service, the indemnities were the crucial issue, and Cournarie did not want to concede the principle of equality because "the conditions of life of the immense majority of African civil servants are not comparableto those of their European colleagues, and because it would inflict on the various budgets a burden (on the order of several hundreds of millions) that it absolutely cannot support."The sticking point was precisely where the escalation in union demands in late 1945had taken place: applying equal indemnities to the lower cadres was far more threatening to officials' view of Africans' ways of life and to their budgets than applyingthem to the cadre commun supgrieur. So Cournarie proposed a scale of indemnities of zone; if the cadres generaux (the commanding heights of the bureaucracy,where Africans were few) and the cadres communs superieurs stood at a coefficient of 100,the cadres communs secondaires would be at 40 and the cadres locaux at 20. He arguedthat this plan had been under discussion before the strike. The family allowance question was even more touchy. The principle had
187 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 clearly become enshrined in the expectations of metropolitan government employees, and the Minister was directing the application of the recent Code de la Famille to government servants employed overseas and to African agents whose status was regulated by the civil code (i.e. under French, as opposed to customary law - a distinction which was shortly swept away by the universal citizenship law of 1946).Cournarie did not want the code to apply to AOF at all - it risked "confusion." But faced with quite explicit demands from his unions, he proposedthe same descending scale for family allowances (for"legitimate" children)as for the indemnities of zone, notably 40 per cent and 20 per cent of the top rate for the lower cadres.He also recommended, in the spirit of the 1944 reforms, that the cadres locaux be suppressed by integration of qualified Africans into the cadres communs secondaires, directly for those with ten years service, by examination for those without.6' This would, of course, be an extremely hard line to hold. Once it was acknowledged that African civil servants' families were enough like Europeans' families to deserve some support, it was not obvious why they only deserved a fraction of the support level or that the private sector should be excluded in Africawhen the law was universal in France.The comparability issue had in fact trickled down. Cournarie'sproposals of 16Januaryreveal how much the official position had moved since December: the orderfrom Paristo freeze wages was going to be ignored without waiting for Paris to make up its mind; the setting of the minimum vital was to be discussed with laborleaders;the concept of a working class as a complex entity - divided by sectors and hierarchies - was being rapidly embraced; the theoretical notion of equality - intended initially to imply the assimilation of the educated Africaninto French culture and society - had come to mean the extension of French social legislation, on a percentage basis, to Africans whose identity was defined by their jobs;and every time, in these days, that an official sat down to negotiate with a union leader, the legitimacy of the African trade union movement became ever harderto reverse. The Denouement: Dakar The general quality of the general strike had all along been complex. Although the general strike, strictly speaking, had been called by Diallo and the Union des Syndicats Confederes for 14 January,the strike had already spreadquite far by that date. The dockers, commercial workers, metal workers were out; the government workers, the auxiliaries, the day laborers,and the domestics were added on the 14th. At the same time, the fact that key workers were organized into unions made coherent bargainingby particular units possible, and hence the winding down of the general strike as each unit
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took home its victories. The railway workers' leader, Gning, had presented (on 10 January)demands while not striking, and officials knew that this too was a bargainingploy to which they had to respond: Itis certainthat,if therailroadhadfollowedthestrikecall,theoddsofattaining the goals that the strikershad fixedwouldhavebeengreatlyincreased.One couldevenhavefearedthatgiventheramification of therailwayin all thecolothe strike of could have like nies, railwaymen spread anoil stainandcarriedthe strike into all the Federation.62 general Neither Gning nor the railway administration handled this very well - the seeds for Gning's ouster and the growing militance of railway workers lay here. But other unions saw, after some days of strike, that they were getting some of what they wanted. It was Diallo - who had helped to take the government workers into the strike - who helped to take them out of it and to end the general phase of the strike after a dramaticeleven days. The security service's secret reports on the daily meetings of strikers at the Champ de Courses reveal simultaneously a mass element - the multitude assembling as a single collectivity - and tensions within the leadership. Diallo, on the 16th, hinted to the daily mass meeting that a solution was near. On the 17th, he was cagey: discussions were going on. The next day, the crowd took the spreading of the strike to Saint-Louis and other parts of the Federation as a positive sign. On the 19th, Abbas Gueye, the metal workers' leader,told the crowd: "Imust speak to you frankly,you shouldn't give yourselves illusions: nothing has yet been done for the strikers." But Diallo appearedwith one of the leaders of the Saint-Louisstrike, with whom he had been in regularcontact, affirmedthe solidarity of all strikers and told them of his meetings with the top financial officer of the Government General and of progressthat was being made toward agreements about the integration of the administrative cadres. The crowd was still large and vociferous on the 20th, when it assembled for the arrivalof the Minister - who was otherwise occupied with the fall of his government in Paris- and then assembled at the Champ de Courses again to hear Diallo report that satisfaction was being obtained, but that the strike must continue until a settlement was guaranteed. The strike would end when "he, Lamine Diallo" gave the order.And he criticized Abbas Gueye for his pessimistic words of the day before, calling him "a nothing."63 It took some more days for anything to break. The security reports claimed on the 23rd that certain unions were wavering. Diallo criticized them, as well as the railwaymen,insisting that all would benefit from continuing the strike. He asserted that 100000 francs had been collected for the strikers' benefit from the well-off of Dakar.The next day,Diallo complained
189 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 that the civil servants had been readyto settle, but EMCIBAwas holding up a settlement.64 The break occurred on 25 January.Diallo told the meeting that there were general and particularissues involved in the strike. He claimed that the general issue had been resolved: He "gavethe order"for civil servants,auxiliaries,dailyworkersandall other categoriesnot havingpresentedparticular claims,amongothersbakers,cooks, etc. ... back to to their domestics,drivers, go posts. Despite this return,the Union[desSyndicatsConfederes] is onthesideof thosewhoremainedonstrike. That meant EMCIBAand the metal workers' union.65 That is what the workers were told. Reportsof meetings with officials also show the critical role of Diallo in negotiating the agreement regardinggovernment workers, but farfrom all general issues were resolved. The basis of the agreement was what Cournariehad written Paris on the 16th- giving the two largely African cadres a percentage of the indemnities of zone and family chargesgiven to the cadres communs superieurs. After meetings with Diallo on 18 and 19 January,the African workers got better percentages than Cournarie had proposed:50 per cent for the cadres communs secondaires, 25 per cent for the cadres locaux, comparedto 40 and 20 per cent as originally proposed. This agreement in fact took the principle of family allocations and indemnities down to a quite modest level of government worker: guards, orderlies, policemen, watchmen, mailmen, sailors. The government promised to study "in the most benevolent spirit" conditions for integrating auxiliaries into the cadres locaux. Other claims would be studied in the same spirit.66 Yet the issue of the basic wage for the ordinarylaborerwas not resolved. The hostile meetings discussing the minimum wage had led to a government-dictated figure that came to about 7.40 francs per hour. But the President of the Chambre de Commerce, Tascher,insisted that some firms could not affordthis. Diallo, Tascher,and Becq went over this ground again. Diallo agreedthat a permanent laborershould be paid 7.40,but a temporaryone 5.50. He bargainedto get strike days paid, but Tascherwould not give in, although he agreed that all strikers would be rehired. Tascher made new offers to EMCIBAand the metal workers. At this point, negotiations continued with Papa JeanKa and Abbas Gueye as well as Lamine Diallo. But Ka and Abbas Gueye would not agree on all points. After the meeting, according to Becq, "Lamine Diallo in leaving, made me understand that all would be over tomorrow, but asked for the most absolute secrecy."67 So the next day Diallo announced the end of the general strike and a return to work to begin 25 January;there would be no reprisals or firings. But the "general" agreement of which he spoke in fact meant a less than ideal
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agreement on the minimum wage of a laborerand a quite specific agreement about the indemnities to be paid government employees. In the port, clerks, office workers, and auxiliaries went back to work on the 25th, but the port remained blocked because the foremen were members of EMCIBAand were not aroundto sign on and supervise the laborers.Some firms did not obey the agreement to rehire workers.68 On the 26th, the employers made a broadcaston the radio,as did PapaJean Ka, who asked workers to keep up the strike. Security reportedthat Lamine Diallo was being criticized by workers who were still striking, and some accused him of accepting a bribe. Diallo's own remarks on the strike, broadcast and published, seemed to refer to a total end of the strike, which is not what he had said at the Champ de Courses.69Four to five thousand people came to the Champ de Courses on the 30th, where they heard LamineDiallo be insulted by people following the orders of Abbas Gueye, according to the security report. PapaJeanKa urged calm and discipline - the strikes of the commercial workers and the metal workers were continuing. Present at the meeting was Roger Deniau, of the French CGT. He had arrived shortly before, with government blessing, to try to settle the strike. He came eager to restart the "reconstruction of the New France," and wanted workers to know that in exchange for their cooperation they "will benefit from centuries of civilization." This was the Communist line in France- restraining worker militance in the name of production and reconstruction - but it did not make much sense to Dakar'sworkers. The security report commented, "Many Africans, among the [evolue] strikers, said that M. Deniau didn't make anything clear which concerned the strike, the only question that deeply interested them." 7 The strike had reached a difficult conjuncture. The CGT had nothing to offer, and the Union des Syndicats was no longer united. EMCIBAfinally agreed on 4 Februaryto a convention collective (collective bargainingagreement) that divided the workforce into seven categories, and paid from 1540 (the minimum vital) to 9 500 francs per month, plus seniority bonuses of 5 to 15 percent of the base wage. The settlement, at the same time, emerged from the collapse of the united front of the employers as striking workers showed their persistence, and some of the larger firms made concessions on wages and job classifications. Only one of the two major employer organizations, SCIMPEX,supported the agreement with EMCIBA,but the Governor General used his legal authority to extend the collective bargainingagreement throughout the industry. The commercial, industrial, and banking workers went back to work a month after their strike began.71 The end of the commerce strike was not exactly clean cut. Some firms refused to take on all their former employees, others refused to pay the new rates. Many workers were embittered.72
191 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 The metal strike draggedon, with some defections but with Abbas Gueye trying to hold the line. Masselot believed that the variety of firms employing metallurgists made it so hard to get an agreement, and he thought that the employers kept thinking that the workers were on the point of caving in. But "the capacity of resistance of the strikers was maintained longer than one expected." Masselot's intervention failed;the Dakar administration tried its hand; and finally, on 12 February,a protocol to end the strike was signed. In the end, the employers conceded wage increases only slightly higher than their earlier offer and agreed to rehire strikers: the agreed-uponwage scale went from 5.5 francsper hour foran unskilled laborerto 7.50for a semi-skilled one to 30 for a craftsman,with the understandingthat the final collective bargaining agreement would include a bonus for seniority and indemnities in case of layoff. The Governor General commented, albeit a bit prematurely: "Thus ended in the most complete calm and without even the throwing of a punch the most important movement of workers yet recordedin AOF."73 As in commerce, the return to work did not go smoothly. Many workers returned, but some were not taken in, leading to "disarray."Abbas Gueye claimed he had in fact not ordered a return to work, saying that Lamine Diallo had. Finally, on 17 Februarythe metal workers' strike ended;they had been out forty consecutive days. Abbas Gueye thanked the workers for their tenacity; another activist called them "the brave among the brave."74 The first round of the strike had occurredon 3 December 1945.The movement as a whole - begun and ended by the metal workers- had lasted two and a half months and had been a general strike for eleven days. Workers with overlappingobjectives had acted together, encouraged by each other's militance and by the partial successes achieved by more specific groups early in 1944 and 1945and during the course of the events of December. The movement had, for part but not all of its extent, been coordinated by a leadership capable of organizing activities, negotiating with powerful officials, and keeping in touch with the masses. It was not a perfect instance of proletarian solidarity, but considering that the movement involved people from relatively high level civil servants to ordinarylaborersto people who sold vegetables in the market, the degreeof mutual understandingand coordination was remarkable. This was, by any standards,a long strike movement and an extensive one, effectively disrupting government operations in French West Africa'sheadquarterscity and shutting down FrenchWest Africa'sleading port. The material gains of the workers - discussed below - were considerable, but even more important was the fact of pulling off such a strike. Forall its rivalry,the leadership- none of whom had been involved beforein anything this big- did remarkablywell. The season had been well chosen - just after the peanut harvest - and the political moment was right too: when colonial officials were
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eager to convince themselves - let alone skeptics in the outside world - that free labor worked, that Francehad established strong new principles for running an empire in the post-war world, and that material progressfor Africans and recovery for France were mutually compatible goals. French officials were shaken by events in Indochinaand did not want to see Africatake a parallel turn behind the leadershipof even nominally Communist trade unions; they were preparingfor the debate, which took place in April, on the provisions regardingOverseas France in the new constitution. The strike forced French officials not just to make concessions but to think. The Denouement: Saint-Louis and Beyond The general strike in Saint-Louis, the seat of the Government of Senegal, began on 16January,two days after the Dakar general strike. It developed out of the postal workers' strike which had begun on 20 December, and which had been supported verbally and financially by other civil service unions. The Governor of Senegal, Maestracci, had reacted with bluster; he wanted to invoke sanctions against the strikers "to rid the administration of their presence." The GovernorGeneral calmed him down, pointing out that the postal strike was not general - it had sparedDakar- and sanctions might cause it to spread. There was a further problem: the strike of white teachers had recently ended, with no sanctions and strike pay, and disciplining black postal workers in the midst of a strike would be "maladroit"- although sanctioning them afterwardwas a possibility left open.75 As the postal strike went on in Saint-Louis- having ended in the Soudan, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast - other unions put in their demands. Saint-Louis had been the scene of intense mobilization since December. Commercial as well as civil service employees had met and constituted unions during the course of the month. Not only were there particular civil service unions, such as the postal union or one among workers in the Water and Forestry Department, or a union of auxiliaries that sprangto life on 23 December, but also a Comite de Coordination des Fonctionnaires Locaux was founded on 12 December, changing its name to the Cartel des Services Publics. Two days after the postal strike began (20December), the Cartel decided not to stage a general strike but to demonstrate in support of the strikers. The next day it organized a meeting and parade,which officials banned. The meeting took place nonetheless as a "private meeting," with 1000 people in attendance, and 400 paraded before the Governor's Palace. Meanwhile, leaders established a strike fund, and asked African businessmen to help. On the first of the year, the Cartel became the Union des Syndicats du Seneigalet de la Mauritanie with Assane Diop of the commercial workers' union as Secretary General.76
Here the events on the labor front overlapped the process of political
193 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 mobilization - not surprising since a large proportion of the educated Africans of Saint-Louis would have worked for the government and the two movements thus had similar constituencies. Political meetings, talk of equality, hostility to Frenchpolicies were backgroundto the strike itself.77 The demands that emerged in Januarywere nonetheless specific and coherent. The Secretary General of the Union des Syndicats wrote the Governor General on 9 Januarywith a list: integrating the agents of the cadres locaux with six years service into the cadres secondaires; integrating auxiliaries with six years experience into the cadres locaux; improving the salaries of low level civil servants; basing the indemnities of zone and family charges on the scale for the superior cadres;adjusting wages in commerce, industry, and the civil personnel of the military on the basis of the Dakar scales, modified by the differencesin cost of living in differentzones; a single scale for productivity bonuses; and better hospital and travel indemnities. The letter warned of taking the "necessary measures." Maestracci immediately wrote that these demands were "manifestly exaggerated."78The Governor General was still thinking about them three weeks later, although by then some claims, notably in regard to indemnities, had already been incorporatedinto the Dakar settlement.79 The move toward action was accompanied by the development by union leaders of an extraordinarycontrol over the language of Frenchimperialism. This combination - the pressure of mass action and the posing of claims in the language with which the integrity of the French empire was expressed was important to the dynamics of the situation. On 14January,the Union des Syndicats gave forty-eight hours' notice of a strike to the Governor General, unless the PTT strike was settled and something done to satisfy the cadres locaux. The government responded by sending to Saint-Louis two officials, and the meeting that ensued clearly revealedthe struggle to control rhetoric. As the meeting went over the demands of the Union, its Secretary General, Assane Diop, pointed out: "Wewant to make clear that this question of indemnities constitutes the essence of our demands." BabacarDiouf of the postal union admitted that wages differedby the circumstances underwhich people were hired but that indemnities were intended to offset certain risks and should be the same for all who faced them. IbrahimaSow, of a clerical union, made the crucial point: Theevolutionof this country,the longcontactof the Africanwith whiteshas createdneeds in him. We have habitsthat we cannotabandon,needswhich mustbefaced.Ifwe havechildren,we wantto givethema secondaryeducation, we don'twantthemto stayin thecadreslocaux,justaswe wantcomfortforourselves.All thisrequiresa costlycourseoflifeandwe needthemoneythatwe are askingfromyou.
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To this Assane Diop added:"Yourgoal is to elevate us to your level: without the means, we will never succeed." The two French officials had no direct reply.They only raised the technical question of whether this argument meant that basic wages, rather than the indemnity, should be raised. But they promised to report what had been said to Dakar. Before they left, Assane Diop made clear: We want to say to you: the agentsof the Administration,the commercial employees,andthe militarypersonnelforma bloc to sustaintheirclaimsand theyagreeto saythattheywantglobalsatisfaction; theywill notacceptthatsatisfactiongo to one of thesecategoriesandnot the others. The two officials got the point; they reportedthat the indemnities were the issue, and a single rate the demand. "They believe that the Africans, long in contact with Europeans,have acquired exactly the same needs; they assert that local products are as expensive for the one as for the other, that they are just as expensive for a gardede cercle as for an indigenous clerk."80 The next day at 6:00pm, the strike began, organizedby the Union des Syndicats through its constituent unions. A meeting at the sports stadium attended by 3 000 people heard Assane Diop argue that the Postal Union had been making its demands since July 1944, and had only resorted to strike action on 20 December 1945.He listed the demands of the Union des Syndicats (as described above), and pointed out that a Europeangot 100francs per day indemnity of zone, while a Senegalese of the cadres secondaires received 28, and in the cadres locaux 18. A Europeanwith six children received 308 francs per day family allowance, while a Senegalese, even with twelve children, got 37.50 francs, as well as inferior treatment in hospitals and railway cars. A circularissued the day the strike began ordereda daily "permanence" of its Comite General and Commission Executive at the Bourse du Travail (the government's laborrecruiting center)from6:00am to noon and from 2:00 to 6:00pm. The secretary general of each union was orderedto appeareach morning to receive orders and each evening to hear reports about the day. Strikers were told not to hang around in groups on the street. Union leaders were to deposit a list of members. No negotiations were to take place independent of the Union des Syndicats, but a return to autonomy was promised after the strike.81 According to the Governor - a hostile witness - the strikers allowed the health services to function, but otherwise only Europeancivil servants went to work. The local police decided not to strike but to declare "astrike in principle," which led the Commissioner of Police to believe he could not count on them "in an absolute fashion." The strike spreadbeyond civil servants to the commercial sector. Maestracci was annoyed that the union had agreedto
195 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 allow limited production of bread but had gone back on this understanding on the grounds - true enough, accordingto the Police - that the bakers were refusing to sell breadto Africans.82 The daily meetings of union leaders and strikers continued, drawing crowds of 1 500 to 2000. Lamine Gueye - whose Bloc Africain was popular among the evolues of Saint-Louis - was contacted by local leaders, and the crowd was told that Gueye would bring the visiting Minister to Saint-Louis, which of course proved impossible. The report,however, caused "euphoria" among the crowd.83 By the 22nd, rumors of a settlement at Dakar began to reach Saint-Louis, and on the 25th, leaders had to make clear that the strike was still on and that Dakar workers were returningbecause their demands had been met. Lamine Diallo telegraphed from Dakar to explain the terms of the settlement. At their meeting, the workers of Saint-Louis decided that extension of the indemnities awarded civil servants in Dakar would not be sufficient to end the strike. Diop and the "clan commerce" - the striking commercial workers - were concerned that, as in Dakar,unity might collapse beforethey received satisfaction, and the arguments between the commercial and administrative workers grew heated on 26 and 27 January.A leading local politician, M'Baye Salzman, gave a ringing speech, arguingthat "the indigenous element must form a block: equal pay for equal work." On the 28th, Diop, feeling his side in the minority, brought in Adama L6, President of the Conseil Colonial of Senegal - the main legislative body at the level of the territory of Senegal- to pronounce in favor of solidarity. L6 promised to telegraph the Minister. His telegram of that day asked for the government's benevolent attention to the situation of auxiliaries and day workers and to commerce, and expressed concern about the paralysis of economic life. He reportedhaving contacted Lamine Gueye. An ever bitter Maestracci blamed the regainedunity of the strikers on the "noxious influence" of Diop, supportedby L6.84 The strikers maintained their tenuous accord, as Diop went off to Dakar to try to negotiate directly with the Governor General. For his part, the Governor General thought that civil servants in Saint-Louis would be satisfied with the terms won by the workers of the Government General in Dakar, above all the indemnities, so long as the private sector also accepted the Dakar scales when they were finally worked out.85 But the commercial employers stubbornly insisted that they would fire whomever they chose and not pay strike days. Diallo came to Saint-Louis and became involved in further negotiations, pushing, apparently,for the use of the Dakar accords as a model for Saint-Louis, and to stay the hand of the commercial firms in exacting reprisals. On 4 February,the Chamber of Commerce finally gave way, accepting the Dakar rates, adjustedto the local cost of living, and dropping their threat to fire strikers. That evening, Diallo told the meeting at the
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Bourse du Travail: "Our field is sown, the harvest is ripe, we will gather it tomorrow."It took another meeting, but a final accordwas reached with the Chambre de Commerce, effective 7 February. For both commercial workers and civil servants, the Dakar accords proved a precedent of some importance. The strike had shut down commercial operations in Senegal's second city and the government of the territory for three weeks - the strike had remainedgeneral even when one of its major components, the civil servants, had received a satisfactory promise of a settlement. As the police report concluded, "the mass of indigenous workers led by about a hundred leaders showed itself to be perfectly disciplined, and even at the start enthusiastic." There were no "street incidents." Although he was unsure of exactly what role the Bloc Africainhad played, the Police Commissioner thought the political leaders had been "preciousallies" of the strikers. He also had high praise for Lamine Diallo, "skillful, conciliatory, persuasive." He had no answer to his final question: "when and in what form will the next demonstration come?"86 Maestracci's interpretation of the events showed his obsession with the evolues - their sense of France'sweakness, their taking the promises of Brazzaville too seriously, their susceptiblity to propagandafromoutside and from "a group of 6volue blacks resident in Paris."He did concede that the cost of living had risen.87His stress on politics was not without foundation, but he overestimated the extent to which the evolues were a groupapart,with concerns separate from those lower down on the hierarchy.Indeed,within SaintLouis, the Bloc Africain, Lamine Gueye's group, became closely involved with the demands of labor,whereas its leader- with his wider political horizons - was aloof and evasive. The labor question had reached Saint-Louis. The heart of the strike in Saint-Louislay among white collar workers, in government and commerce, but the strike had spreadbeyond them even in this city conscious of its status as the home of Senegal'selite. The Dakar and Saint-Louis strikes were connected; information was regularlypassed back and forth; but they were not a single, unified movement. Dakar's movement took much more of its momentum from manual laborers,such as the metal workers and the dockers. What is remarkableis the extent to which the divisions within and between these cities was transcended. The movements both drew their sense of collective power from each other's activism. They began out of phase, Dakar's manual workers and Saint-Louis'postal workers (as part of a federation-wide effort) starting things off in their own ways in December. On 16 January,two days after the general strike in Dakar began, Saint-Louiswas fully mobilized. The terms won by Dakar'scivil servants and commercial workers set the terms forresolving the strike in Saint-Louis.The differences and suspicions between the cities underscore the dynamics of
197 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 the situation; possibilities of new kinds of collectivities, of new kinds of collection action were opening up. The dynamism reached beyond the two leading cities. In Kaolack, the strike wave hit the peanut exporting harbor on 16 January;workers would not load the two boats awaiting their peanuts. The strike there lasted until 4 February.In Ziguinchor, in the south of Senegal, a briefstrike took place from 25 to 28 February,when officials brokered an agreement based on that in Dakar.88 Then there was what did not happen. The postal strike had succeeded in Saint-Louis with considerable support from the other workers of the town, but it failed quickly in the Soudan, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast.89The railway workers, who officials rightly feared could transport the Dakar strikes into all corners of AOF, never struck, probably because of the ties their leader, FrancisGning, had with Lamine Gueye and the Frenchsocialists then in the government. Then too, the union, and again Gning, had failed to realize the deep concerns of its auxiliaries - it had not learned from its failures before the war - and was more easily moved by a government approachthat focused on the cadres exclusively. Gning was ousted a few months later, and the railway workers would show in their own strike a year and a half later that they had enormous resources among themselves and in their connections to farmers and merchants near the railway towns. Finally, there was one dangerwhich lay heavily on officials who had seen Africans act in unexpected ways: that of the struggle spreadingto peasants. Maestracci worried about precisely this: Ifthe movementhadhadthe supportof thepeasants,we wouldhavewitnessed theeconomicandfinancialcollapseofSenegal....Butif thedangeris putasidefor now,it continuesnoless to existandwe mustfendit off.Forthesuddenbreaking out of this generalstrikehas disclosedthe existenceof an organization whose ramifcationsextendto the most remotecomersof thebush. He warned his local officials to watch for the spreadingof such a movement to the "mass of peasants." If that happened, "we would thus be completely paralysed; and our impotence would give them even more courage in their action."90Maestracci was slightly paranoid,but not entirely. He had no way of knowing what workers' connections - social, cultural, and political - to rural Africa in fact were. Posing the Labor Question In assessing the impact of the events of December through February on French thinking about work, workers, and African society, the first point to emphasize is their effect on the colonial service's sense of command. The "Roi de la Brousse" did not reign in the city. The Governor General had
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confessed his impotence to his Minister in mid-strike.91The Minister in turn had sought a solution not through the channels of colonial authority, but through expertise, by sending Inspector Masselot to bring the techniques of social engineering to Dakar. Masselot symbolized by his very presence as well as by his actions the notion that a majorsocial problem had to be analyzed not in the framework of African society, but in relation to thinking about labor and industrial relations in Europe. The contents of that thinking were not new in France,but their sudden application to Africawas a breakthrough,and even if they had been imported in a matter of weeks in the heat of a crisis, they had a lasting impact. ForAfrican trade unionists, they defined a terrain to defend, and for administrators they provided a sense of having once again found in French civilization the key to a situation that had momentarily eluded them. The central tenet was a reversal of the belief so firmly stated at Brazzaville,that an Africanproletariat could and should be a minimal part of Africansociety and that evolutionary development of the customary milieu was the route to progress.The thin dossiers on labor in Dakar and Parisfrom 1944and 1945suggest that officials had indeed given such matters little thought. They had revived pre-Vichylegislation and responded to the main challenge - the slow growth of civil service unionism - by thinking of the problem as one of civil service reform, of defining a better place for evolu6s. What then did officials make of the strike?The local representative of the administration in Dakar, Poirier, admitted that the grievances of workers were real, but he still suspected that the elite of Dakar were involved in a political conspiracy. He was relieved that strikers were not demonstrably anti-French or anti-white and had marched under the Tricolore rather than the green flag as in Algeria. He was grateful that Lamine Gueye had stayed aloof.92The Governor of Senegal, as we have seen, fearedthat a vast political conspiracy lay behind the strike and that its success would put "insufficiently evolved" African masses under the thumb of demagogic leaders in a campaign for "The Independenceof Black Africa."93 Governor General Cournarie was more inclined to see the events as a labor dispute, but no less farreaching for that. 94He reportedthat "there had not been the smallest riot, the least disorder,"and he noted that Lamine Gueye had "disappointedthe strikers" by not taking a stand, that the political parties - notably the SFIO - had "during the period of the strike ... avoided
bringingabout meetings, duringwhich they would have been constrained to take a clear position." Astute and prescient as were his comments on politicians, he went too far in denying the political nature of the movement: its very assertiveness changed the meaning of power in a colonial context. In the heat of struggle,
199 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 Cournarie's belief that the African proletariat was of no consequence gave way to a perception that it was a fact of modern life in Africa,a problem that could be contained by properindustrial relations machinery but not eliminated: "The strike, which is not a new fact in AOFhas now passed into African mores." He expected more strikes, noted that the union of railwaymen was starting a strike fund, and asked for new legislation to stop the strikes of civil servants to "preventany movement analagousto that recently recorded in Dakar and Senegal, which wounds deeply the economy of the colony and paralyses, by this very fact, all profoundsocial improvement."95 Masselot, the expert, saw not only the professional issues in the dispute but also that it was "a movement forprofoundemancipation"that was manifesting itself in all of Africa. He admired the "worker solidarity" he witnessed, which went beyond immediate "common material interest"; but he also noted the specificity of the demands, particularlyof the commercial and metal workers who had struck the longest. They had only gone back when "a solution had been found on the professional level." He concluded that "the indigenous union movement is not to be disdained,"that it had developed "a serious organization" and, among the metal workers in particular, "very strong discipline."96 The strike, Masselot concluded, revealed the need to think seriously about the laborquestion: discontent should be anticipated, not respondedto, and the administration needed the work of a good statistical departmentand labor inspectors. Most important of all was the precedent set by the conventions collectives, the collective bargainingagreements signed with each of the majorunions involved and which providedwage hierarchies.He believed that such schemes "will have the effect of classifying the workers of each establishment according to well-determined categories [and] will mark a very clear improvement compared to the previous situation.... There is a technique to organizing work, as with everything, and it cannot be improvised."97 The principle here was more nuanced than a divide and rule strategy, although individual agreements had been the key to reversingthe process by which a series of strikes had become a general strike. It was an intellectualized approachto the labor question, an attempt to see a work force as a total structure. The way to approachconflicts was to confine and define them: to limit issues to the wage rates and benefits to be assigned to accepted categories, to separate industries from each other, and to insure that people like domestics and market sellers, who had joined the Dakar general strike, would be defined out of the working class. The cost of this approachwould be significant: hierarchyhad to be made attractive and attainable to a sufficient portion of African workers.
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The resolution of the Senegalese general strike - by far the most widespread and best organized such event in FrenchAfrica to that date - laid out the outlines of the labor question for the ensuing years, culminating in the debate over comprehensive labor legislation, the Code du Travail passed in 1952,and in the subsequent debate over extending family allocations to regular workers in the private sector, which was finally accomplished in 1956. Officials continued to put their emphasis on structure:on defining who was a worker, what rules should be generally applied to workers - weekly hours, paid vacations, pensions - and what issues could be contested in accordance with specified rules. The labor movement turned an emphasis on structure and control into one on entitlement, trying to attach rights to the categories and hierarchies and to the very identity of a worker.Justas the administration tried to divide the working class into industries and job hierarchies, the labor movement tried not only to struggle for entitlements within those boundaries but also to act as a broad collectivity. Here too, the events of 1946were precedents: labor unions organized themselves into confederations (rival confederations at times) at the level of cities - as in the Union des Syndicats de Dakar- of territories - the Union des Syndicats du Senegal et de la Mauritanie - and of French West Africa as a whole - the Union des Syndicats de 1'AOF.Widerangingcollective action - from city-wide generalstrikes to a one-daygeneral strike across all of FrenchWest Africa in 1952- were interspersed with localized industrial disputes.98 For officials, the concept of the job hierarchy continued to be the basis of an attempt to order the world of work. At the end of 1946,the report of the Inspection Generale du Travailde 1'AOFdevoted four pages to describing the categories in commerce alone: from "First category: semi-skilled worker, illiterate watchman, illiterate shop assistant, driver, carriage man" to the third category, that included typists with little experience, the managerof a small shop, and telephonists, to a final "hors categorie" capable of working directly under the head of the enterprise.The scale went from 1540 francs per month to 9 500. The earlier categorization had had only three ranks;in other professions, the job hierarchy had been rudimentary or arbitrary.99 In the ensuing few years, officials insisted that this precise mappingof the working class was the key not only to social peace, but to the rational organization of production. A heated argument over the connection of wages and the structure of the labor force began while the strike was still on, the substance of which is debated by academics and policy-makers to this day. The Governor General, among others, had long believed that low wages and forced labor led to the wasteful employment of vast numbers of workers. A more compact, better organized,better paid, and more productive work force was a promise that arose from the strike itself. But it too had its risks:
201 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 The firms, particularlyin commerce, have discovered that they are employing a plethora of manpower without output. The union leaders have seen very well this side of the problem.Fromwhich comes the demandforunconditional rehir-
ing,whichwill be followedlaterby layoffs.Thiswill pose,in a shortwhile,the doubleproblemforthe localadministration of unemploymentanddecongesting the indigenousquarters. For Cournarie, the more rational organization of production would give rise
to political challenges, and these he was willing to face.' In Paris in early February,the Director of Economic Affairs saw in Cournarie's comment something entirely new. The dangerof unemployment rose over the dangerof labor shortages:"This is the first time that this has been a question in AOFwhere all the problems of development run up against manpower difficulties as soon as one approaches them...."'10 If manpower was used inefficiently in Dakar, it should be sent to the interior. Above all, he argued, no wage increases should be made in Dakar. Such increases, he argued, would simply drive up local prices (he considered the supply of consumer goods inelastic), force devaluation of the colonial franc, drive up the cost of French African exports, and undermine the policy of moving away from controlled trade within the franc block and toward free competition within the world economy. He wanted a new telegram sent to Dakar instructing them against raising wages. This of course is a form of an argument made to this day by many market-orientedeconomists. This was the last thing Dakar wanted to hear- the commercial strike had just been settled by giving wage increases. Political Affairs in Paris blocked the proposed telegram, insisting that Paris had to await the report of Masselot on the labor situation. His report- seconded by the LaborInspectors in the following years - argued the opposite of Economic Affair'sposition: for a stable work force, paid enough to supportfamily life and encourage training and loyalty.'02A jobhierarchy and differentiatedwage scales would both avoid "social trouble and a strike which would rapidlybecome general" and "separateout an African elite and consequently ... maintain the attractiveness of superior positions." The administration should be willing "to expand the hierarchy of wages, to pay and always pay better those who, by their high output will allow us to win the battle of production costs, that great battle that the new Africamust win." This strategy was the opposite of the one by which the Minister had ordered the battle of production to be fought in 1945and which Economic Affairshad briefly tried to reinstate after the strike. '3 The strike - by focusing attention on laboras a social problemhad created, or at least widened, the space for an argument that the quality of labor and its political consequences was not simply a question of the market wage. A particularstructure of work - even if it meant paying high wages -
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was necessary to establish the social conditions for orderly and productive labor. The approachwas institutionalized in the Inspection du Travail.Revived in 1944(afterbeing allowed to lapse in 1939),the office was upgradedin 1946 by the appointment of an Inspecteur General du Travail,who supervised the inspectors in individual territories. Reports for the rest of the 1940sreveal a bureaucracyextending its field of operations and making itself into an advocate for systematizing laborlegislation and working for a more stable, skilled labor force. The new institutions were tied into a new discourse, in terms of which abstract political principles acquired concrete social meaning and legitimated certain forms of contestation. 104This had happened in the heat of the strike, as the Governor General conceded that the idea of racial equality, proclaimed at Brazzaville, had to include indemnities not just for the most distinguished evolues in the civil service, but for watchmen, clerks, and postal workers. The African trade unionists in Saint-Louis had explicitly made the point that the family needs of Africangovernment workers were of the same nature as those of Europeans;by then the administration was not contesting the argument, and was only discussing percentages and timing. This principle, farfrom separatingout a small bureaucraticelite as some officials had hoped, became a platform from which ever wider groups of workers could claim family allowances until these payments became a legal right of all wage workers in 1956. Through this decade, the labor movement proved adept at turning the constitutional rhetoric of the Union Francaise - the insistence that colonized people were part of a Greater France - into claims for the concrete entitlements of metropolitan workers. The logic was unassailable until French officials tore themselves loose from the moorings of imperial ideology, and the power of the logic was enhanced by the potential that every large scale strike action could turn from a well-defined appeal on the labor question into an unbounded struggle against French imperialism. For the administration, it was difficult to counter directly the argument for equality among workers of all races, not only because of its logic but because of the hope that Africans might, after all, act in the predictable manner expected of industrial men. Governor General Courarie wrote in late March: "The Administration has always pushed for the application of the principle, 'equal wages for equal output."' He warned against "any difference in juridical treatment" between the races and cited racially specific legislation in East and South Africa as negative examples. "The only criterion," he concluded, "is professional value."105His claim was not quite accurate. The administration had not pushed the principle of equality until political and trade union pressure had made the principle an issue; but Cournarie'sletter
203 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 does reveal that in private, let alone public, discourse the principle now had to be asserted. The contrast he made with anglophone Africa was apt. One could occasionally hear a reference to equal pay for equal work in a strike manifesto in the 1940s(as in the Mombasa general strike of 1947),but the idea had no echo in official rhetoric. In fact, the commission studying civil service pay scales in East Africain 1947-48specifically rejectedthe idea on the groundthat "the African is at the present time markedlyinferiorto the Asian of the same educational qualifications in such matters as sense of responsibility, judgement, application to duty and output of work" (Cooper 1987, 101, 105).1?6British officials, in other words, clung to the belief that the way people worked was a collective characteristic, racially determined. They would cede the point that wages should cover the needs of an African family before they would accept the rhetoric of equality as used in Overseas France. Yet it should be remembered that at the very time Cournarie wrote the letter cited above, forced labor was still legal in French Africa; and in the letter Cournarie expressed concern that abolishing it, while morally, politically, and in the long run economically necessary, would in the short run reduce economic activity. He seemed uncertain whether all Africans- andhe probablyhad public works labor in remote areas and laborerson the farms of white settlers in the Ivory Coast in mind - would actually respond to wage incentives. The contrasting messages in a single document reveal the fundamental duality of French thinking about Africans and about work. In some contexts, it was necessary to think and to act as if the Africanwere just like a European,while lurking behind was the fear that in reality he was not. Conclusion Forworkers, the consequences of the strike were first of all material. Exactly who gained what is difficult to say, for the revision of classifications and wages during and after the strike widened the range of possible benefits. From the labor movement's point of view, the widened wage spreadwas not the original goal - it ran contrary to the spirit of unity expressed in the daily meetings at the Champ de Courses - but each gain gave other groupsof workers a sense of empowerment to demand more. From the administration's point of view, differentiation was a strategy to get workers to think of themselves as ascending a ladderwithin their own industry or trade ratherthan as part of a city-wide working class seeking common gains via collective action; but this strategy risked providing a basis for new claims. The minimum wage as set by the local administration of the manoeuvre ordinaire, had been the one wage that had been revised regularly between 1939 and 1943, rising from 1 to 1.50francs per hour (assuming an eight hour day, which was a much abused norm), although prices more than doubled
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during this period. In 1944it was raised to 2.40, then to 2.50 in May 1945.But as the strike process began in early December, it was immediately raised to 5.00. At the end of the strike movement, 18February,it was raisedto 5.50.But before then, by negotiation, the minimum wage had alreadybeen split in two for some of the most important employment categories, into a wage of 7.40 for "permanent" workers and 5.50 for casual - an abusable distinction, but one which carrieda certain ideological content in its assumption that some, but not all, workers were truly workers and that their minimum vital had to be covered by their hourly wage. And the process by which the minimum vital had been discussed - those acrimonious meetings in January- had signaled that the definition of how an Africanwas supposed to live would be settled politically, and not just by the pretense of scientific determination.107 Beyond that, the conventions collectives negotiated during Januaryand February were the key process, and the revisions of categories and wage spreads were the most important result. In commerce, for example, the prestrike scale (November 1945) had had three categories at 1 674,2 418, and 4 464
francs per month respectively. Afterward, the hierarchy went to six categories plus hors categorie, and ordinarylaborers,who had not been mentioned in the previous scale, were brought on at the new minimum vital of 1 540 per month, the former bottom becoming the new second category at 1900 francs. The top category received 6000 francs and off-scale 9500. In metal work, the old four-partscale became a six part one plus off-scale. The wage range went up in December at the beginning of the movement and again in Februaryat the end, from a 3 to 7.75francsperhour rangeto 5.13to 20 and then to 5.50 to 30. In the construction industry,the process was similar:a scale with two levels and hors categorie became a range of 7 plus hors catggorie, with wages going from a 41 to 96 francsper day rangein December (the minimum would have been 20 the month before) to a 44 to 240 francs range in February.'08 Although the Dakar minimum wage more than doubled in December, after the strike movement began, it was not changed at Saint-Louis where the strike movement became general only in mid-January.Then, indeed, the minimum wage was doubled from 20 to 40 francs per day (comparedto 44 in Dakar after mid-February).During 1946 officials tried to bring minimum wages in other West African capital cities into some kind of order, holding the Dakar wage steady throughout the year and raising others; most were from thirty-four to ninety percent of the Dakar figure. '9 Outside of basic wages, the crucial fact was that existing labor legislation did very little to protect workers. An eight hour day was written into law, but the LaborInspector admitted that legal defects prevented its enforcement. In Dakar, eight hours was the norm - this was less obvious elsewhere. No law required payment of vacation days, but some conventions collectives
205 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 provided fifteen days per year for workers having served at least 240 days. There were no pensions for Africans, either by law or by contract, and this issue was to be addressedonly slowly. The legislation on work accidents had been admitted in the late 1930s to be inadequate. The law provided that rations had to be issued to laborersat the lower levels, or else a small sum in lieu of them; the composition of the rations was problematic. These issues, however, were on the table, and the strike strengthened the hand of the Labor Inspectors, for whom such matters were part of a rational and predictable organization of work. All of this became partof the long debate over the Code du ?Tavail. Key gains in the new conventions collectives were overtime payments and seniority bonuses. The model contracts stipulated that overtime would be paid at between ten and twenty- five percent above regularhourly wages. Seniority was rewarded by raising the basic wage in one's category by five, ten, or fifteen percent for workers with five, ten, or fifteen years service. The LaborInspectors thought this provision particularly important, "to induce the stabilization of the work force."10 In the civil service, the main strike issue was indemnities. Basic wages which had been revised in 1945- were not altered, but the gains in practice and in principle were important. The top rank where Africans were found, the cadres communs superieurs, had previously had the right to the indemnity of zone - intended to compensate, accordingto family size, for the costs of living in a particular place - and a virtually nominal payment for family allocations. After the strike, the indemnity of zone for this elite was kept the same - it became the model for the other categories - but the family allocations "increased considerably."An annual payment of 1440 francs for a family with two children became an annual rate of 2 100francs for the first child, 4 500 for two children, and 5 400 for three. ' But in terms of numbers and in terms of its effect on thinking about Africans in the civil service, the main breakthroughoccurredover precisely what civil servants' unions had demandedthe most vigorously - extending the system of indemnities to the lower levels. The next rank, the cadres communs secondaires, received family allocations at half the rate of the cadres communs superieurs. The indemnity of zone had previously been from 28 francs per day for a bachelor to 40 francsfor a marriedman with two children. It was raised to 50 francs per day for a single man, plus 15.50for a wife and 17.50per child - one half the rate for the cadres communs superieurs. The cadres locaux was awardedfamily allocations and an indemnity of zone of one quarter of the rate for the top ranked African civil servants. 112 The ideological breakthroughwas important:the agreements recognized that the most ordinary government servants - clerks and watchmen - had families who were not part of a mythical customary economy. The percent-
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age figure could be and was to be debated over the next few years, and the Lamine Gueye Law of 1950 would take the next step of demanding formal parity, although it too would lead to contestable issues of definition and implementation. The victories of January1946made an elusive question critical:who was a worker?The administration,like the Railway,employed many "auxiliaries," who were not treated as true workers even though many had been in their jobs foryears. Such workers- who had contributedgreatly to the strike effort - did not benefit from the settlement awardedthe cadres locaux, although they did gain from changes in basic wages. The issue of their entitlement to indemnities had, however, already been raised by the unions during the strike, as had the possibility of assimilating them into the cadres locaux after a certain number of years. The question of the auxiliaries was long debated, but beyond it lay one which was excluded from discussion in 1946:market sellers (who had participated in the general strike), agriculturalists, and many others who, in some sense of the word, performedwork fell outside of the category of worker. The boundaries of that category became more circumscribed as workers' entitlements and rights became better defined. The Code du Travail would ratify this silence after a legislative debate and vote exclude "customary workers"from the definition of "worker"underthe law. But by February1946,something had happenedwhich would be very difficult to undo. The most basic questions about work had entered an arena where negotiations, political mobilization, strikes, and other forms of collective action could further affect change. The self-confidence gained by workers in the strike is critical. The general strike itself - eleven days in Dakar, twenty-one in Saint-Louis- was long by any standards,say in relation to the twelve-day general strike in Mombasathat had so shaken British authorities. The movement as a whole had maintained pressure for two and a half months, longer even than the strike of civil servants in Nigeria (one month). Out of the events of 1945-46came a strong impetus for union organization in Dakar and Senegal and efforts - significant even if less successful - to extend that organization over the whole of AOF.After the strike, fifty-four trade unions were operatingin Dakar,forty in the public sector (whereparticular services and often particular cadres or groups of auxiliaries had their own unions), and fourteen in the private sector. In the rest of Senegal, there were eighteen public sector unions and six private ones. The trend was toward growth. By 1948 Senegal and Dakar together had thirty-eight public sector unions and thirty-nine privatesector unions, enrolling 6 700and 17300 workers respectively, about twenty-five percent of the work force. In the rest of AOF, the private sector was far less effectively organized, but the public sector was heavily unionized. Some civil servants had educational and political linkages throughout the federation, and their networks linked national
207 Cooper:The Senegalese General Strike of 1946 Unions des Syndicats and helped them, on occasion, to mobilize at a very wide level, as well as to develop volatile yet important links to political parties. Officials watched the union movement carefully,considering that it held the potential for repeatingthe events of 1945-46.These fears were realized all across AOF in the five month-long railway strike in 1947-48,and in the oneday general strike of 1952,as well as in several city-wide general strikes in 1949-50.But when negotiations took place and wages were raised without recourse to strikes, officials congratulated themselves on the wisdom of their industrial relations policy. 13 The city-wide confederation of trade unions that had played such vital roles in Dakar and Saint-Louisbecame a model for confederationswithin territories and at the level of FrenchWest Africa.The early confederations were affiliated to the French CGT or, later, to its rivals. African workers knew when to ignore their Frenchcomrades- as they did in January1946- but the fact that the CGT was an accepted and established organization in France providedlegitimate space in which Africantradeunionists could for better or worse make their own organizations, with the CGT's name and some material help and international affiliations.14 By 194842 500people, aroundthreefifths of all unionized workers in AOF,belonged to CGT-affiliatedunions. It was a good label to have, especially beforethe Communist Partywas expelled from the governing coalition in 1947;but it is not at all clear that the CGT was of great importance in shaping the agenda and language of the African unions that used its name.115 Politically, there were lessons to be learned, and they were learned with remarkable speed. The experience in August 1945of seeing Lamine Gueye dissuade civil servants from striking led union leaders by Januaryto make sure that he at least remainedneutral, and Gueye's evasive comments during the strike made a bad impression in Dakar.Government spies reportedthat he had been called "the elected one who betrayed," and "false socialist." People at the meetings asserted: "we are not marriedwith the Senghorsand the Lamine Gueyes"; and they talked of turning to the communist party, which would "automatically" support wage increases, or of forming a new political party, a "bloc des ouvriers," that would be independent."6 The Senegalese unions continued to keep their distance from Senegal'stwo leading politicians, Gueye and Senghor,and to chart an independent course. This early tension between the labor movement and elite politics is revealing.With hindsight, it is tempting to projectbackwardthe antagonism so evident today between bureaucraticelites and popularclasses, to see this division as a legacy of colonial bureacuracy.Yet in 1946the dynamics of a long strike movement brought bureaucrats and manual workers together, and the victories of civil servants - acting collectively as wage earners - helped
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to open up a widening range of entitlements to a broader segment of the working population. Cleavages did open up later on. They should be examined in their own contexts. The separationof specific groups of wage workers - in terms of ways of living and of self-identification - was an historically contingent phenomenon, not a universal social fact. For a moment, in 1946, another trend appearedto be a real possibility. One should not, on the other hand, romanticize working class unity. The general strike developed as different groups with their own rather different demands came together duringa month-long process;they started to peel off after a week in Dakar,although they held together in Saint-Louis.Diallo was more the compromiser than Abbas Gueye, and he did some of his maneuvering with French officials in secret, although on the whole he seems to have maneuvered ratherwell. But in at least some of its phases, the movement did embrace issues such as the minimum wage that affected the poorest of the working poor as well as issues like family allocations for civil servants, a question relevant to the best off. French officials could not decide if the movement was anti-white, anti-French,or professional:it developed a quite particulardynamic in a situation where the partial successes of a number of different causes led to common action to get something for all. It ended when material concessions were made, and the implications this had for independence movements had more to do with the self-confidence that Africans gained in backing down the colonial government and the patronat than with any specifically anti-colonial project. Indeed, much of its success stemmed from an astute argumentation in committees and in demonstrations that seemed simultaneously to promise acceptance of French assimilationist rhetoric and to threaten action by the African masses. This combination underlay the rapid shift in the terms in which French officials discussed labor. They had been inclined to avoid the issue, or to think of it as a question affecting the old category of evolue. Yet they rapidly discardedthe tired idioms of FrenchAfrican policy in favor of a vision of the African workplace remade in a Europeanimage, of formulas for labor contracts and bargainingproceduresimportedfromEurope.The eagerness of top officials to make this break reflected not only the inescapable reality of the labor movement but also a fear that the reality might actually be worse - a mass revolt against colonial rule. The menace of the strike lay in the fact that it was so general, and the thrust of the official response was to break down the mass into component categories. Over the next several years, the Inspection du Travail provided a rationale for building a stable, well structured labor force that would be productive as well as peaceful. The Dakar general strike of 1946set off a process that worked itself out over the following fourteen years, to be transformed again when the labor question was transferred from France to the newly independent states of Africa. The Dakar strike began to link - on terms which officials could not
Cooper: The Senegalese General Strike of 1946
themselves set - social questions to the question of colonialism itself. The powerful message from Brazzaville that French overseas territory would remain French, that its people would be given a better standard of living and more political rights, and that France would determine the peculiar blend of assimilation and conservationism, of economic change and social stability was now open to question at every point. The very terms in which French leaders tried to reassert their mastery of the situation became the terms in which new claims were made, claims which challenged economic and social policy and more fundamentally still shattered the illusion of imperial control. Notes 1 The 1947-48 strike - lasting over five months - was a more sustained test of wills, yet in some ways it was a defensive strike, as workers tried to hold onto promises made earlier but taken away and to realize for themselves gains that had been put on the agenda in 1946,against a more determinedly resistant government. Curiously, Jean SuretCanalebarely mentions the 1946strikeinhis textbook (1972,37),although elsewherehe has written at length on the 1947-48events (1978).A comparisonof the two strikes cannot be undertakenhere, but the present article is partof a largerprojecton decolonization and the labor question inBritishand FrenchAfrica. 2 The myth of traditional Africa was itself historically contingent, following upon the failure of more ambitious visions of remakingAfricansociety in the early colonial era and challenged periodically by calls for a more profound"mise en valeur."See Ranger (1983, 247-251).
3 Archival series used here are: K (labor)13G (Senegal)and 17 G (politics), as well as Annual Reports, from the Archives Nationales du Senegal, and AP (Affaires Politiques), AE (Affaires Economiques), AFOM (Agence France Outre-Mer), and IGT (InspectionGenerale du Travail),as well as Telegrammes,from Archives Nationales, Section Outre-Mer,Aix-en-Provence,France.Informationnotices from security services (sometimes informants'reportsand sometimes digests) are cited as "renseignements." 4 Marseille (1984)stresses -probably overly so - the conservatism of post-warreform. s "R61eet place des europeens dans la colonisation," paperfor Brazzavilleconference, 1944, AP 2201/4; "Les Grandes lignes de la politique economique," AE 101/5; "Pro-
gramme general de la Conferencede Brazzaville(Janvier1944),"AP 2201/7;M. Delmas, "Contribution a la recherche d'une organisation du travail et d'un regime du travail appropriesaux necessites de I'AEF,"paperfor Brazzaville, 1944,AP 2201/4.
6 Programme general, AP 2201/7; transcript of session of 7 February 1944, AE 101/5; final
resolutions in La Conference Africaine Francaise (Brazzaville:Editions du Baobab, 1944), esp. p. 55.
7 Tension over this duality came up in 1945and 1946in debates over a proposedcomprehensive labor code for "indigenes." Officials shelved the draft code because another law passed in 1946conferredcitizenship on everyone in Overseas France,and made a specific code for Africansuntenable. This meant that a unified code had to be devised, applying to any worker in Overseas France,regardlessof origin. The definition of who was a worker became the critical issue, and the exact rights conferredwould apply to millions of potential workers and not to some thousands of white workers overseas: the task was so daunting that it took six years.
8 Governor General, Circular to Governors, 26 March 1944, K 331 (26).
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9 Dakar,Annual Report, 1943. 10 Extracts of letter of 26 July 1945from the GovernorGeneral, and note from the Inspection Generale du Travailfor M. le Directeur du Plan, 28 November 1945,AP 960. 11 Annales de l'Assemblee Nationale Constituante 2 (1 March 1946):548;3 (30 March 1946): 1320;4 (5 April 1946): 1514-1551.
12 Petition presentedby LamineGueye to de Gaulle at Algers,21January1944;Note confidentielle au sujet du statut du personnel africain,23 February1944,later incorporated into Governor General to Minister (draftletter), March 1944,plus other correspondance in this file, 17G127;SecretaryGeneral(forthe GovernorGeneral)to Minister, 14 June 1944, i7G 132. Gueye had petitioned in February 1944 to restart the political party
he led, which he claimed had 3000 members before the war, and to restarthis journal, L'AOF.By summer, Gueye - his newspaper and his organization going strong - had emerged as the leading light of evolue andyouth politics. Gueye to GovernorGeneral, 23 February1944,AP 872/3;Expose sommaire de la situation politique de I'AOFet du Togo pendant le mois d'aott 1944, 15 November 1944, AP 872/18.
13 Report of speech by LamineGueye, in GovernorGeneralto Minister, 22 May 1945,17G 127;Paul Bonifay,"Appelaux Syndicats,"L'AOF5 October 1945.In an interview in September, Gueye discussed together his argumentfor "l'assimilation totale a la metropole" and his call for equal pay for blacks doing the same work as whites ("Une interview de Me LamineGueye," L'AOF 21September 1945).On the failureof Gueye andhis Socialist allies in the trade union movement, to extend themselves to low-ranking workers (the auxiliaries) duringthe 1930s,see Bernard-Duquenet(1985,182-218). 14 I am grateful to Mohamed Mbodjand MamadouDiouf for giving me some insight into Dakarpolitics in the 1940s.This subject clearly needs more scholarly attention, but for now see Morgenthau (1964, 134-45).
15 Dakar,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1945.
16 List of unions as of 1946, in K 189 (26). 17 For comparison, see Cooper (1987:chaps. 3, 6).The month-long, colony-wide strike of
government workers in Nigeria in Juneand July 1945brought out particularlystrong concerns among Frenchofficials. 18 Dakar, Inspection du Travail, Annual Report, 1944, 1945;Soldes de Personnel du Gouvernement General, decision of 12 September 1943,K 273 (26);Conclusions de la Commission d'Evaluationdes Salaires Normaux, 23 June 1943;Secretaire ala Production, Alger, to Governor General, 16March 1943,K 172(26).
19 Senegal, Annual Economic Report, 1944, 1945.
20 Dakar, Inspection du Travail, Annual Report, 1944;Direction Gendrale des Affaires Politiques, Administratives et Sociales, "Note sur l'evolution des salaires en vigueur a Dakar avant et apres les greves de Decembre 1945et Janvier1946,"K 325 (26). 21 Direction generale des Affaires Politiques, Administratives et Sociales, Expose sommaire de la situation politique, September 1944,17G 120. 22 Dakar,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report,1944,copy in AFOM381/63bis.The report makes clear that this was the only significant strike in the year. 23 Etat-MajorGeneral de la Defense Nationale, Bulletin de Renseignements, 17-27July 1945;Directeur General des Affaires Politiques, Administratives et Sociales, "Note pour M.le Directeur des Travaux Publics," 21 July 1945,Renseignments, 8 July 1945 (Bamako),all in 17G138;Governor,Senegal, to GovernorGeneral, 19July 1945,Governor General, circulartelegram to commandantsde cercles (urbanareas),19July,1945,K 28 (1).In the IvoryCoast, GovernorLatrillenoted strike threatsfrom auxiliaryworkers on the Abidjan-NigerRailway line andcomplained to Dakarthat he was not being kept informed of the implications of the strike in Nigeria. Telegramto GovernorGeneral, 12 July 1945.
Cooper: The Senegalese General Strike of 1946
24 Governor General to Minister, 2 August 1945, AP 960/syndicalisme; Renseignements,
17September 1945,17G 138;SecretaryGeneral,Syndicat des TravailleursIndigenes de la Region Abidjan-Niger to Governor General, 11 July 1945;Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 26 March 1945;Syndicat des Agents et Assimiles Locauxde la Circonscription de Dakar to Administrator, Dakar, 3 August 1945, K 327 (26);Renseignements, Dakar, 18, 23, 27 July, 1945, Soudan, Rapport Politique Mensuel, June 1945,
Guinea, Rapportpolitique mensuel, June 1945,K405(132);Governor,Senegal to Governor General, telegrams, 30 August, 1 September, K252 (26).
25 Inspection du Travail,Circonscription de Dakar,Annual Report, 1945. 26 Governor General to Minister, 30 November 1945,AP 960/syndicalisme. 27 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 29 April 1945,17G 126;Governor General to Minister, 16 July 1945, 17G 132; Rapports politiques mensuels, Guinea, June 1945,
Soudan,June 1945,K405(132).At least some officials thought that the top functionaries saw things their way: a report from the Soudan claimed that members of the cadres secondaires "regardedas excessive the pretensions of 'local' civil servantswho wanted to accede to the same terms without having the same training." Renseignements, Soudan, December 1945, 17G 138.
28 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 26 March 1945,17G 126;Governor General, Circular to Governors, 24 June 1945, 13G 57 (180). 29 Governor General to Minister, 13 October 1945, 20 December 1945, 17G 132; Dakar,
Inspection du Travail, Rapport Annuel, 1945;Renseignements, Senegal, December 1945, 17G 138.
30 Dakar,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1945;Administrator,Dakar,to Governor General, 5 March 1946, K 325 (26). On Mombasa, see Cooper (1987).
31 Administrator, Dakar, to Governor General, 8 December 1945,and Expose chronologique sur la crise, 12 January 1946, K 327 (26);Governor General to Minister, 16 January 1946, IGT,9;AOF,Direction Generale des AffairesPolitiques, Administratives et Soci-
ales, Note sur l'evolution des salaires en vigueur a Dakar avant et apres les greves de Decembre 1945et Janvier1946,September 1946,K325(26),Exposesommaire de la situation politique, December 1945,17G 120;wages from AOF, JournalOfficiel, 8 January 1946, copy in AFOM 381/63/9.
32 Governor,Senegal, to GovernorGeneral,2 March 1946,K327(26);GovernorGeneralto Minister, 16January1946,IGT,9; Renseignements, Senegal, February1946,17G 138. 33 Governor General to Minister, 19January1946,17G 132. 34 Renseignements, Senegal, December 1945, 17G 138. 35 Administrator, Dakar, to Governor General, 4, 6 December 1945, K 325 (26).
36 ProcureurGeneral, note pour M. le Directeur des Contributions Directes de I'AOF,3 December 1943;K323 (26);Dakar,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1944. 37 See the government memorandumin response to the cautious advocacy of family allocations for indigenous civil servants in Fdderationdes Fonctionnaires to Governor General, August 1939, K 4 (1).
38 Administrator,Dakar,to Governor General, 8 December 1945,K 325 (26). 39 Governor General to Minister, 5, 8 January1946,Telegrammes 903;Renseignements, 4 January 1946,K 328 (26);Governor General to Minister, 16 January 1946,IGT 13/3; Administrator, Dakar, Expose chronologique sur la crise, 12 January 1946, K 327 (26). 40 Governor General to Minister, telegram, 8 January 1946, K 28 (1).
41 Minister (Jacques Soustelle) to Governor General, telegram, 9 January 1946, Telegrammes 903. One union telegraphedto Paris to protest requisition, warning that it was a "provocation susceptible to degeneration into bloody confrontations." EMCIBAto Minister, 8 January1946,Telegrammes921.Poirier,the Administratorwho had technically issued the order, admitted a few days later "overestimating my
CJAS I RCEA 24:2 1990
influence andunderestimatingthat of certainagitators."Exposechronologique,12January 1946, K 327 (26).
42 Governor General to Minister, telegram, 10January1946,IGT 13/3. 43 Minister to GovernorGeneral,telegram, 12January1946,IGT, 13/3;GovernorGeneral to Minister, 12January1946,Ttelgrammes 921. 44 Minister to Governor General, 12, 16January1946,Telegrammes 903. 45 Governor General to Minister, 16January1946,IGT 13/3. 46 See for example the calculations in AOF,Inspectiondu Travail,Annual Report,1946. 47 Governor General, 16January1946.Emphasisin original. 48 Renseignements, 49 Renseignements,
50 51 52 53
14 December 1945, K 328 (26);Marches Coloniaux, 2 February 1946. 11 January 1946, K 328 (26). Emphasis in original.
Resolution, 11January1946,enclosed in Renseignements, 11January1946,K 328 (26). Governor General to Minister, telegram, 12January1946,IGT 13/3. Governor General to Minister, telegram, 12January1946,IGT 13/3. Governor General, telegrams to Minister on 12January,and letter of 16 January1946, IGT 13/3;Marches Coloniaux, 2 February1946. 54 Diallo to GovernorGeneral, 13January1946,GovernorGeneralto Diallo, 14,16January 1946,Governor General to Governor,Senegal, 16January1946,K 28 (1).
9 January 1946, K 328 (26).
56 Governor General to Minister, 16January1946. 57 Renseignements,
15 January 1946 (two separate reports), K 328 (26).
16, 17 January 1946, K328 (26).
58 GovernorGeneral to Minister, telegram, 16January1946,IGT 13/3. 60 Summaryreporton work of Commission chargeed'evaluerle coft minimum de la vie pour un manoeuvre a Dakar, A. Becq, President, 19 January1946,K 327 (26).For the Governor General's predetermined figure, see his letter to the Minister, 16 January 1946, IGT 13/3.
61 Governor General to Minister, 16January1946,IGT 13/3. 62 Renseignements, 10January1946;Directorof Railway,Transcriptof meeting of Conseil de Reseau, 24 January1946,K 328 (26). 63 Renseignements,
16-20 January 1946, K 328 (26).
25 January 1946.
64 Renseignements, 23-24January1946.
66 SecretaryGeneral,AOF,to LamineDiallo, 20January1946,K325(26),confirmingagreement on meetings of 18-19January. 67 Note by Becq,23 January1946,K325(26).On the 24th,agreementwas reachedbetween the Railway and the Syndicat des TravailleursIndigenesdes Chemins de Ferde 1'AOF centeringon new provisions for integrationof Africanworkersinto highercadresanda raise for auxiliaries. Gning claimed all demands were met. The Director noted that auxiliaries on the railway continued to work when Government auxiliaires had not, and promised the formerwages as good as the latter obtained from the strike. 68 Commissariat special du Port et de l'Aeroport,Renseignements, 26January1946,K328 (26).
69 Renseignements, 26 January1946,K 328 (26). 70 Renseignements,
31 January 1946, K 328 (26). Deniau, meeting with union leaders, was
surprised that white and black workers did not understand each other. He wanted unions to develop without distinction of color, and he wanted "to encourage the indigenes to improve their mastery of their trades, the only way to avoid rancor between Europeans and Africans" Renseignements, 29 January 1946. If he accomplished anything, it was to act as go-between for the Governor General and to try to persuade the commercial and metal workers to lower their demands.
Cooper: The Senegalese General Strike of 1946
71 Renseignements, 29 January,4 February 1946, K 328 (26);Inspecteur des Colonies Masselot to Minister, 23 February1946,AP 960/syndicalisme; Governor General to Minister, 23 February1946,K 325 (26). 72 Renseignements, 4, 6, February1946,K328(26). 73 Governor General to Minister, 13February1946,K28(10);Masselot to Minister,23February 1946,AP 960/syndicalisme;Renseignements, 12February1946,K 328 (26). 74 Renseignements, 12, 17, 18February1946,K 328 (26);Governor General to Minister, 23 February 1946, K 325 (26).
75 Governor,Senegal, to Governor General,telegram,20,25,28December 1945;Governor General to Governor, Senegal, telegram, 21, 29 December 1945, K 405 (132).
76 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 2 March 1946,K 327 (26);Report of Commissioner of Police (Canale),Saint-Louis,to Commandant du Cercle, Bas-Senegal,February 1946.
77 Forparanoidversions of Saint-Louispolitics, see the reportof its Commissaire de Police to Commandant du Cercle, Bas-Senegal,February1946,K327(26),and Maestracci's report to the Governor General, 2 March 1946.They saw union and political movements as a single conspiracy of gvoluds, all awareof the revolutionaryhistories of Indochina and Algeria, of the strike histories of Nigeria, of the riots in Cameroun,all united in anti-white, anti-Frenchaction. It was a bit more nuanced than that. 78 Secretary General, Union des Syndicats Indigenes du Sdndgal et de la Mauritanie [Assane Diop] to Governor General, 9 January1946,and Governor,Senegal, to Governor General, 10 January 1946, K 405 (132).
79 Governor General to Roger Deniau, CGT, 1 February1946,K327 (26). 80 Transcript, 15 January1946,of interview between representatives of the Unions des Syndicat and Cande, Director of Personnel, and Leglise, Director of Finance, of the Government General, K 405 (132). 81 Compte Rendu of meeting, 16January1946,and circularfrom Union des Syndicats, 16 January1946,annex to Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 2 March 1946,K 327 (26). 82 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 18 January 1946, K 325 (26); same to same, 2
83 84 85 86
March 1946, and Commissaire de Police, Saint-Louis, to Commandant du Cercle, Bas-Senegal,February1946,K 327 (26). Commissaire de Police to Commandant du Cercle. Adama L6 to Governor General, telegram,28 January1946,and Governor,Senegal, to Governor General, telegram, 29 January1946,K 327 (26). Governor General to Minister, telegram, 28 January1946,IGT 13/3. Commissaire de Police to Commandant du Cercle, Bas-Senegal,February1946,K 327
(26). 87 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 2 March 1946, K 327 (26). 88 Directeur des Services Economiques to Directeur des Affaires Politiques, Administratives et Sociales, 16 January 1946, K 327 (26); Chef, 4e Secteur, Strete to Chef, Sfrete, Senegal, 15 March 1946, K 325 (26).
89 Guinea, report on Activitd Syndicale, December 1945-January 1946,K 405 (132). 90 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 9 February1946,incl. Governor General to Minister, 23 March 1946,AP 960/syndicalisme. 91 This well-known phrase was used by a veteran Governor in his autobiography (Deschamps, 1975).The myth of the French Governor General is discussed in Cohen (1978).
92 Poirier thought strikers were mainly young and either Catholic or Protestant.Administrator, Dakar,to Governor General, March 1946,K 325 (26).
93 Governor, Senegal, to Governor General, 2 March 1946, K 327 (26).
CJAS / RCEA 24:2 1990
94 Earlyon, Cournarie'sinterpretationput more weight on the political dimension, on Africans trying "to test the measure of our reactions."Perhapshis failure of that testas in the panic of his letter of 16January- led him to shift the problemover to the category of industrialrelations. The earlyversion is in GovernorGeneralto Minister,5 January 1946,Telegrammes 921. 95 Governor General to Minister, 21 February 1946, 16 March 1946,17G 132;same to same, 16 January 1946, IGT 13/3; same to same, 23 March 1946, AP 960/syndicalisme.
96 Masselot to Minister, 23 February1946,AP 960/syndicalisme. 97 Masselot to Minister, 23 February1946,AP 960/syndicalisme. He attributed the fact that railwayworkers did not strike to the fact that they alreadyhad "awell defined status and wage scales that were the result of serious studies undertakenin good time." There was of course more to it than that. 98 These lines will be followed out in the overall study of which this article is a part. 99 AOF,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1946. 100 GovernorGeneral to Minister, 25 January1946,AP 960/Syndicalisme.In a similarvein, the Governorof Senegalhad arguedshortlybeforethe strike that the lower levels of the civil service were overstaffed, and after the strike, that reducingnumbers was all the more important to offset the cost of the new benefits. Governor,Senegal, circular to Commandantsdu Cercle, 10November 1945,and same to same, 9 February1946,K405 (132).
101 Directeur des AffairesEconomiques,Note pourM. le Directeurdes AffairesPolitiques, 7 February 1946, AP 960/syndicalisme.
102 See for example AOF, Inspection du Travail, Annual Report, 1947.A very similar approachwas articulated between 1945and 1947in Kenya, and it followed the same sequence: concern was first focused on laboras a social problemas the result of a series of strikes, and then the argumentabout social peace was joined to one about the social determinants of productivity. Stabilization became the key to both. See Cooper (1987, ch. 4). 103 Inspecteurdu Travail,Senegal, to SecretaryGeneral, 13May 1947,and "notes d'etudes surl'appel de la sentence surarbitraledu24avril 1947,"29April 1947,IGT 13/4;speech of GovernorRoland Pre to the Conseil General, Guinea, 1950,AFOM,393/5bis. 104 Fora more generalview of the transformationof colonial discourse in the postwar era, see Cooper (1989). 105 Governor General to Minister, 30 March 1946, K 327 (26).
106 Reportof the Commission on the Civil Services of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar, 1947-48. London: HMSO, 1948, 24-25.
107 AOF,Direction Generale des Affaires Politiques, Administratives et Sociales, "Note sur l'evolution des salaires..." K 325 (26);AOF,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1946;Dakar, Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1945. 108 The metal workers'figuresin particulararehardto comparebecause of revisions in the categories and in the provision of daily meals. The December and Januaryfiguresuse the impermanent laborerfigure(41francsper day,raisedto 44)as the bottom, although that category was apparently not in the December protocol but simply left to the Administration to determine. The sources - the same as in the above note - are thus somewhat inconsistent in reportingdifferentwage scales. 109 In Conakryfor reasons describedas "accidentaland provisional,"the minimum wage was slightly over that of Dakar. AOF, Inspection du Travail, Annual Report, 1947.
110 AOF,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1947. 111 Soldes du Personnel du Gouvernement-General,decision of 12September 1943,K 273 (26); AOF, Direction generale des Affaires Politiques, Administratives,
"Note sur l'evolution des salaires..."K 325(26).
Cooper: The Senegalese General Strike of 1946
112 AOF,Direction generale des Affaires Politiques, Administratives, et Sociales, "Note sur l'evolution des salaires..."K325 (26). 113 AOF,Inspection du Travail,Annual Report, 1946,1947,1948. 114 Forone of the more thoughtfuldebates, see Dewitte (1981,1983)andDelanoue (1983). 115 AOF, Inspection du Travail, Annual Report, 1948.Although the French Communist Party provided some support for African deputies in the National Assembly in Paris, Christian reformists affiliated with center or right parties were among the leading architects in the legislature of the Code du Travailandthe legislation on family allowances which were the great triumphsof the Africanlabor movement. 116 Renseignements,
28 January, 11 February 1946, K 328 (26).
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