Les machines à mort ?

LONDRES – Au début de la révolution industrielle, les travailleurs du textile dans les Midlands et dans le nord de l’Angleterre, principalement les tisserands, ont déclenché une révolte spontanée, détruisant leurs machines, et incendiant leurs usines. Leur revendication était que les machines modernes leur volaient leurs salaires et leurs emplois.

Les rebelles prirent leur nom, et leur inspiration, d’un supposé Ned Ludd, dont on dit qu’il fut un apprenti tisserand qui détruisit deux métiers à tricoter en 1779 dans une « crise passionnelle. » Robert Calvert écrivit une ballade à son sujet en 1985 : « Ils disaient que Ned Ludd était un garçon idiot/Que tout ce qu’il savait faire était de démolir et détruire, » commençait la chanson. Puis : « Il dit à ses compagnons de travail : ‘Mort aux machines’/Elles piétinent notre avenir et écrasent nos rêves. »

Les ravages des Luddites atteignirent leur point culminant en 1811-12. Un gouvernement alarmé envoya plus de troupes pour mettre au pas ces régions agitées qu’il y en avait de disponible pour Wellington dans la guerre péninsulaire contre Napoléon. Plus de cent Luddites furent pendus ou déportés en Australie. Ces mesures ont permis de restaurer la paix. La machine a gagné : les Luddites sont une note de bas de page dans l’histoire de la révolution industrielle.

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