Volume 56 part 1 (April 2011)


Nicola Pizzolato. Transnational radicals: labour dissent and political activism in Detroit and Turin (1950-1970).
This article investigates the entangled histories of radicals in Detroit and Turin who challenged capitalism in ways that departed from "orthodox" Marxism. Starting from the 1950s, small but influential groups of labour radicals, such as Correspondence in Detroit and Quaderni Rossi in Turin, circulated ideas that questioned the Fordist system in a drastic way. These radicals saw the car factories as laboratories for a possible "autonomist" working-class activity that could take over industrial production and overhaul the societal system. They criticised the usefulness of the unions and urged workers to develop their own forms of collective organisation. These links were rekindled during the intense working-class mobilisation of the late 1960s, when younger radicals would also engage in a dialogue across national boundaries that influenced each other's interpretation of the local context. These transnational connections, well-known to contemporaries but ignored by historians, show how American events and debates were influenced by, and impinged on, distant countries and how local activists imagined their political identity as encompassing struggles occurring elsewhere.

Sigrid Wadauer. Establishing distinctions: Unemployment versus vagrancy in Austria from the late nineteenth century to 1938.
This paper deals with the making of vagrancy in the context of early state welfare policy. Vagrancy is neither understood as an anachronism nor as deviance or marginality. Rather, it raises central questions concerning social policy and the history of labour. Starting from the problems of definition in the context of contemporary transnational debates, I will then focus on the practical implementation of distinctions in Austria from the late 19th century to the Anschluss in 1938. Different practices of varying efficacy will be accounted for, starting with the first attempts to formalise unemployment emerging in the late nineteenth century, when, based on a new understanding of unemployment as an effect of the labour market, new forms of supporting and regulating those wayfarers in search of employment were established. Such practices also aimed at outlawing vagrancy, with consistent penalties under the law. In addition, vagrancy will be discussed with respect to changing political regimes. Focusing on the 1920s and 1930s, the paper analyses crime statistics and crime records, and last but not least, the perspective of those who were "on the tramp".

Jerònia Pons Pons and Margarita Vilar Rodríguez. Friendly societies, commercial insurance and the state in sickness risk coverage: the case of Spain (1880-1944).
The main aim of this paper is to analyse the singularity of the Spanish position with regard to coverage of the risk of sickness within the context of the different welfare models described in international literature. This analysis enables us to verify that in Spain, as in other countries, there were initially different forms of sickness coverage which coexisted, created by the market, by workers themselves and, gradually, by the state. Within this so-called mixed economy of welfare, the most extensive health coverage for the Spanish population was a result of the self-organisation of workers, and this continued until the Civil War (1936-1939), not so much due to its efficacy and viability, as to the slow development of private insurance companies and the inability of the state to implement compulsory sickness insurance. The installation of the Franco dictatorship meant that the introduction of compulsory sickness insurance was further delayed, and when it was eventually passed, it offered only limited coverage, was enacted more for political than for social ends and was to result in the virtual disappearance of friendly societies.

Andy Croll. Starving Strikers and the Limits of the "Humanitarian Discovery of Hunger" in Late Victorian Britain.
By the late nineteenth century, the hungry increasingly found themselves constructed as objects of compassion. However, there were real limits to the "humanitarian discovery of hunger". Not every famished body was understood as deserving of sympathy. Compassionate citizens were particularly troubled by the mass distress that often accompanied lengthy strikes. How should they respond to such hunger? A study of newspaper representations of strike-induced hunger reveals that a gendered discourse evolved which repeatedly concentrated attention on the starving "innocents": the wives and children of male strikers. The discourse was apparently apolitical but, in truth, it was nothing of the sort. It adjudged the "innocents" worthy recipients of food aid, whilst frequently ignoring the hunger of the striking male and denying him support. Labour leaders had to choose their words carefully if they were to get his suffering recognized.