From the Creation of Free Thinkers to the Administration of the Faithful: Developing the Training Curriculum at Force Ouvrière (1948–1971)

By Paula Cristofalo, Karel Yon


The article explores the practical meaning of the shift from “worker education” to “union training” within the French Trade Union CGT-Force Ouvrière. It deals first with the failure of an educational approach based on a cooperative, de-centralized structure. Second, it describes external pressures to establish a more centralized, selective training plan. Here we emphasize the link between changes in form and content: the substitution of Centre de Formation de Militants Syndicalistes for Centre d’Éducation Ouvrière created an “union-directed administrative plan”, which separated education from politics, and syndical training from strategic thinking. While the syndicalization of training is closely linked to incentives from public authorities, it also depends on shifts in personnel within the organization. During the period under study, we see the development of an administrative staff for educational activities. We also see an evolution in the profiles of educators: at first they were intellectuals from the teaching world, then intellectuals from the business world, and finally activists with no specific links to intellectuals.


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