WORKING-CLASS CULTURE AND THE LABOUR MOVEMENT IN THE SOUTH WALES AND THE RUHR COALFIELDS, 1850 -2000: A COMPARISON' Stefan Berger For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Ruhr in Germany and south Wales in Britain were among the industrial powerhouses par excellence of their respective countries. Both were regions dominated by heavy industry, coal and steel in particular. Britain and Germany were amongst the most industrialised countries in Europe around the turn of the twentieth century. The industrialisation process in both countries had many similarities and contributed to the emergence of labour movements which shared characteristic features.2 Yet in making any comparison between south Wales and the Ruhr one is immediately confronted with stark contrasts: a more unified working-class culture and a remarkably homogeneous labour movement in south Wales stand out against a whole range of distinct working-class cultures and a badly divided labour movement in the Ruhr. Admittedly one must be careful not to present the unity of working-class culture in south Wales in an idealised manner, just as one should be careful not to romanticise the term 'community'. However, in comparison with the strong confessional, ethnic and political divisions within the working-class culture in the Ruhr one can talk of a relatively homogeneous working-class culture in south Wales. Even if one keeps in mind that there is a certain unity of miners' lifestyles everywhere, the degree of unity in the working-class culture of the south Wales coalfield was remarkable. The aim of this article is to explain the greater heterogeneity of working-class cultures in the Ruhr and discuss its impact on the character of the labour movement by comparing it with the situation in south Wales. In the first part, the structure of the evolving working-class cultures in both regions will be discussed with reference to their respective industrial development. Population growth, levels of urbanisation, the impact of geography and of industrial crises will all have to be assessed in this context. The second part of the article will then proceed to discuss the importance of the workers' lifeworlds3 for the working-class cultures. The thoroughly proletarian character of both regions is beyond doubt. Yet divisions and conflict were never absent and frequently related to issues of workplace organisation, poverty, unemployment, housing, religion, ethnicity, the workers' associational culture and gender. All of these determinants will have to be discussed in order to establish levels of homogeneity/heterogeneity in the working-class cultures of both areas. In the third part of the article, the impact of different working-class cultures on the labour movements of both regions will be examined. Here, the emergence and fortunes of the trade union movement will be discussed as will be levels of radicalism and reformism and the importance of social democratic parties in the Ruhr and south Wales. The fourth and final part of the article will assess the development of both areas after 1945 with a view to establish what happened to the working-class cultures and the labour movements in the Ruhr and in south Wales over the whole of the twentieth century. This article originated in a paper on 'Schwerindustrielle Arbeiterkulturen im Ruhrgebiet und Südwales vor 1945' commissioned by Klaus Tenfelde for the conference on 'Modemisierung der Kultur? Milieu- und Stadtkulturen im Ruhrgebiet wahrend der Nachkriegszeit', held at the Institute for Social Movements at the University of Bochum in June 2000. 1 am grateful to Prof. Tenfelde for his encouragement and to the conference participants for many useful comments. I would also like to thank Norman LaPorte for his help with translating an early version of this article from the German. Furthermore, Andy Croll, Neil Evans, Dick Geary, Norman LaPorte and Chris Williams all made perceptive comments on the final draft which helped to improve the overall argument. Any remaining shortcomings are, as always, entirely my own. See more generally Hartmut Berghoff and Dieter Ziegler (eds), Pionier und Nachziigler? Vergleichende Studien zur Geschichte Grossbritanniens und Deutschlands im Zeitalter der Industrialisierung. Festschrift fur Sidney Pollard (Bochum, 1995); specifically for the British and German labour movements see Stefan Berger, The British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats, 1900-1931 (Oxford, 1994); Berger, 'Labour in Comparative Perspective', in: Duncan Tanner, Pat Thane and Nick Tiratsoo (eds), Labours First Century (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 309-40. 3 On the concept of lifeworld see Jürgen Habermas, The Theoty of Communicative Action, vol. 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason (New York, 1989). The lifeworld, in Habermasian terms, comprises all everyday communicative practices and consists of three structural components: culture, society and personality.