Youth With The Will To Do Christian Work
From Our Paris Correspondent
Frenchmen set such store by the Paris Exhibition that this summer was to have seen a great number of ceremonies and celebrations in connection with national activities.
Catholic France has shared to the full in this hope and many meetings to unite the faithful on both religious and social grounds have been arranged.
In view of the disappointed hopes due to the spirit of materialism and jealousy these activities now stand all the more significantly against the dangerous currents which threaten the whole country.
In this connection the celebration of the loth anniversary of the J.O.C. (Jeunesse Ouzrrihre Chretienne) is outstanding, linked up as it is with other activities on behalf of Catholic trades unions and workers.
Hidden forces in France have conspired to lead thc world to believe that Frenchmen, one and all, will not be content until they are assured " a five-hour day in a fiveday week." True, this is the Utopia that the more stupid elements of the extreme Left expect to get as a result of their strike during work on the Exhibition; but there is the J.O.C., young men and women, who present quite another story.
They arc a working class to be reckoned with; determined to lead a full working life, tackling boldly the forces that are necessary while drawing inspiration in social matters strictly from the Church; seeking to restore dignity to the field of labour while accepting also its responsibilities; in a word, seeking to restore the Christian ideal.
That is a vast undertaking and one which, judged by human standing, is doomed to failure, had not the Church Herself by the voice of the Pope endorsed the effort as alone capable of saving the working classes that other forces have sought at all costs and for always to separate from her.
To hear the J.O.C. speakers announce their message to the workers, and especially to the young workers, is to refresh one's own faith. The story of the first ten years of the movement, is the evidence of its profound vitality and proof that, by which, the working classes can shake off the materialism which would prevent them from attaining dignity or peace.
It is not merely a question of fagures, though they arc impressive enough. What matters is the-change of hetrt which has been effected in ten years.
Grasp of their Problem They are working on real values. It is only necessary to listen to their active members to appreciate the depth of their understanding of their own class and its problems. The Jociste mission is to those members of the working classes who are capable of recognising the workers' destiny but who have been led astray by false hopes; being themselves of that class, they are quick to understand and sympathise with the difficulties and disillusionment and to restore a true sense of values.
This is a record of the actual situation of the Jocistes (including the movement both for men and women) in France, according to official statistics supplied by the two secretaries. The J.O.C. and the J.O.C.F. (the organisation for women) number 100,000 young workers.
In 1927, when the first aection was
founded at Clichy, there were four. In that same year nine federations came into existence, numbering 40 sections. In 1937 the J.O.C. comprises 86 Federations with 734 affiliated sections and 800 in course of formation.
The .1.0.C.F. comprises 96 Federations with 650 sections and 700 in course of formation.
The newspaper La Jeunesse Ouvriere, which had a circulation of 2.000 in 1927,
now sells over 100,000 fortnightly. La Jeunesse Ouvriere Feminine has a regular circulation of 100,000.
Width of Training
Those few figures give some indication of the progress of the J.O.C. movement in France in its, first ten years. There are also the thousands of study circles held each week all over the country, and special courses organised each year for the leaders.
It would be quite wrong to think of the organisation as a matter of meetings and study circles only. In fact, they merely round off the real and continuous work of the movement, which is to give to its members a religious, moral, and intellectual formation without neglecting the sentimental education of knowing how to live, social formation and physical and hygienic instruction.
The activity of these ten years is rich with signs of hope and promise.
Both the men's and women's organisations offer their help at an early stage. They offer opportunities to boys and girls while still at school to learn something of the world in which they will have to earn their livelihood. The official papers, My Future and Towards the Future, are scattered liberally among schools, and every opportunity is taken for personal help and instruction for boys and girls before they reach school-leaving age. Advice is also given to parents so that they may help their children to find suitable work.
Centres for Employment The J.O.C. endeavours to reduce unemployment of the young. In the greater
part of its branches there are unemployment offices and labour bureaux open to all young workers. Permanent offices at Paris, Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Arras, Calais, by their professional help, have come to the aid of thousands of young unemployed. The J.O.C. movement has distributed more than a quarter of a million francs collected by national subscription.
In 1928 another service was instituted—
the Thrift Department. This has more than 1,000 branches and more than 2,000,000 francs have been accumulated.
There is another department which specialises in recreation to help the young to amuse themselves healthily and usefully and at the same time to promote their intellectual, artistic, professional and moral formation. This is one of the oldest services of the .1.0.C., originating with excursions, camps, libraries, open-air games, etc.
Co-operation with Unions Following always the line of re-education, the J.O.C. occupies itself with the protection of the workers. It is able to work with other Christian unions to bring pressure to bear wherever conditions are bad from the point of view of hygiene, safety, child labour and morality. Since the strikes of last June, the J.O.C. influence has been felt at many points not only for the protection of 'morality but the furthering of understandireg with employers.
To this brief summary must be added reference to the national campaigns started by the two movements. Among the most important was the campaign against accidents to workers launched in 1930. It was preceded by a , minute investigation and culminated in thc• Exhibition at Valenciennes in February, 1930, as the result of which the Bureau International du Travail took action.
Previous Successes At the International Paris Congress a campaign was organised for the restoration of family life and the relief of family distress. The women's J.O.C. conducted an enquiry into the health of young women workers and published the results in a book by Lhotte and Dupeyrat, which had many satisfactory consequences.
The campaign of 1933 for better utilisation of leisure has already been mentioned. It ended with a full week of publicity organised all over the country, in the course of which 200,000 pamphlets were distributed, 10,000 notices posted, and 100.000 copies of a special number of La Jeunesse Ouvriere were sold and many hundreds of meetings held.
Another campaign in defence of apprentices, preceded by a three months' enquiry, produced a most happy adjustment in many workshops of France, especially at Anneville, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Paris, Nantes. Thanks to that campaign apprentices now receive proper treatment wherever the J.O.C. is working.
The J.O.C. of France may well be proud of the work which it has accomplished among the working class in ten years. On July 18 more than 60,000 young workers will attend the triumphal congress at Paris.