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11-08-2015, 17:03


Changes on the wartime home front did not always translate into permanent shifts in European society. Many of the women who went into factory work during the war in Britain, France, and Germany returned to their homes following the Armistice. The expanded role of government in such areas as censorship went back to peacetime norms. However, inflation and, for a time, food rationing continued into the postwar years. After the war, France found itself with a permanent immigrant presence that had begun with the foreign laborers brought in to help run the wartime economy. The moral laxity of the wartime years was evident—at least to many worried observers—in areas like the divorce rate in the 1920s. The effects of prolonged malnutrition were evident in the German population long after the war had ended. The experience of factory workers in the war did not lead to the postwar upheaval some feared. Despite instances of labor unrest as the war went on, high wages and plentiful jobs eased the discomforts of working in a semi-militarized environment, and patriotism remained a powerful adhesive force. In Britain, organized labor enthusiastically supported the war effort even at the close of the long conflict. Moreover, the presence of Labour party officials like Arthur Henderson in the wartime cabinet from spring 1915 onward probably encouraged workers to believe that their party might some day take power. In the postwar period, the growth of unemployment removed much of the unions' bargaining power, and the basic structure of Britain's industrial society remained intact. In Germany as well, unions cooperated with the wartime government even as it became a military dictatorship. When Germany passed into revolution in the final months of 1918, the unions took an equally moderate stance vis-a-vis the country's industrial leadership. Here too the old social order survived. In France, as well, a surge of labor militancy during and immediately after the war soon gave way to relative peace in industrial relations. The rivalry between France's Communist and Socialist parties divided the political influence of even militant labor groups. A conservative majority in the postwar French parliament stood firm against the wave of strikes that hit the country in late 1919 and the spring of 1920, and French labor unions, swelled by new recruits during the wartime years, declined in strength equally fast as the newcomtrs abandoned them.