French trade unions played a historical role in the 1930s quite unlike that of any other labor movement. Against a backdrop of social unrest, parliamentary crisis, and impending world war, industrial unionists in the great metal-fabricating plants of the Paris Region carried out a series of street mobilizations, factory occupations, and general strikes that were virtually unique in Western history.
The unionization of the metal industry, following a series of anti-fascist demonstrations and plant seizures, would constitute the defining episode in modern French labor history and one of the great chapters in European social history. Yet little is known of these extraordinary events.
With a style that captures the vivid character of these experiences, Every Factory a Fortress tells the story of the Paris metal workers, who succeeded in organizing the largest Communist union in the Western world, reshaping the parameters of French social relations, and, ultimately, altering the course of French destinies.