Race and Class in France: The Case of Moroccan Coal Miners (1950s-1980s)

Anton Perdoncin, ERC Lubartworld, EHESS

This paper is based on original sources from a social history study of labor policies in the French coal industry (1945-1990). We will discuss the articulation between race and class relations. More precisely, we will show how the racialization of certain categories of workers makes it possible to exploit their labor force: the manipulation of racial categories and racist practices stemming from the colonial period makes it possible to integrate Moroccan coal workers into an industrial order and organization of work. We intend to contribute to articulate two sets of discussions: on the one hand, debates on the scope of the concepts of race and racialization in the social sciences, particularly in the analysis of the historical dynamics of the working classes, and on the other hand, the question of the importation into metropolitan France of racist ideologies and practices stemming from the colonial management of populations. From the end of the 1940s to the end of the 1970s French coal mines recruited tens of thousands of Moroccan workers, mainly in the Souss, a Berber region in Southern Morocco. Their number increased as coal pits were closing (the last pit closed in December 1990). The racialization of Berber Moroccan miners is a structuring element of their integration into a declining fraction of the working class in France. In other words, racialization is an defining element of class position, in the general dynamics of the economic recession of coal mining and of the disappearance of coal miners as an organized professional group. We will first describe the positions of Moroccan coal miners in coal production. And then, we will analyze racial categories as the instruments of recruitment and management of Moroccan workers. To conclude, we will elaborate on the intersection or consubstantiality of social relations of race and class.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 223. Of Proletariats and Professors: Race, Labor, and Mobility