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The Global Challenge of Peace1919 as a Contested Threshold to a New World Order$
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Matt Perry

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781800857193

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781800857193.001.0001

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The 1919 Mutinies in the French Armed Forces

The 1919 Mutinies in the French Armed Forces

Colonialism, Ethnicity and the Remaking of the French Left

(p.57) 3 The 1919 Mutinies in the French Armed Forces
The Global Challenge of Peace

Matt Perry

Liverpool University Press

1919 was a global moment of both the remaking of empire, not least the French empire, and a powerful contentious surge from below in metropolitan as well as colonial settings. During the Great War, the French Empire drew on what General Mangin called the ‘la force noire’ of colonial labour and troops to fill the factories and the trenches. As the war continued in the East after Armistice with Allied intervention against the fledgling Soviet Republic, a wave of army and naval mutinies undermined French efforts to topple the new regime. Using mutineer testimony, this paper considers their attitudes to class, military authority and ethnicity. This neglected imperial and colonial dimension of the revolt complicates our understanding of events that became the foundation myth of the French Communist Party, 'glorious hours' in which French military service personnel apparently fraternised with Russian workers in the spirit of internationalism. Not only was there a mutiny of colonial troops themselves in Siberia but also the French military authorities instrumentalised ethnic divisions to suppress the mutinies. Viewed more broadly, this French connection with the Russian Revolution was crucial to the remaking of the French left, feeding into the Congress of Tours the following year, and setting terms of debate for the left’s relationship with the colonial question.

Keywords:   Race, French colonialism, Force Noire, Mutiny, Black Sea, French Communism, André Marty, Fraternisation, Demobilisation

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