Maurice Thorez 1946
Speech at Auby, March 1, 1946;
Source: Ouevres Choisies. Paris, Editions Sociales 1965;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2009.
We are here to continue the essential task that we have assumed: that of increasingly and continuously developing our country’s coal production, for this production is the basis and the condition of its independence.
I think that work is not only a necessity, but a joy. All are attached to their labor: the old miner misses the mine and wants to return there, like the old sailors whose age prevents them from returning to the sea, like the old farmer who doesn’t want to stop hoeing, digging, or harvesting, like the old homemaker who doesn’t want to rest. No, work isn’t a punishment for those who have it in their blood.
The labor of some conditions that of others, and this is especially true when it’s a question of the miners. Everything depends on coal. In this ravaged and ruined country we have to fulfill an immense effort if we want France to remain a great free, democratic, and independent nation.
It was in this region that, starting in April 1940, the miners unleashed a strike against the mining companies and the Nazis. The miners of the North and the Pas-de-Calais sacrificed themselves in the hundreds. From among them sprung our first and glorious [resistance fighters of the Communist-led] FTP. Without hesitation they gave their blood, and it is now claimed that they are incapable of giving their strength and their labor for the country!
He who can give his life can give his labor, especially when this labor has the virtue of improving the living conditions of our people.
Is it possible that the young have forgotten this?
I too went to dances. I knew festive nights, but in the morning I went to work. No one would ever have accepted missing a single hour.
You degrade yourself if you don’t have the consciousness of and pride in your labor; you slip downwards, you become a wreck. Those who speculated on cowardice yesterday speculate on laziness today.
We must work. We have attained pre-war production levels, despite out of date and dilapidated tools, the lack of compressors, fuses, wood, etc. We have arrived at these results thanks to the hard work of the miners, towards whom the entire nation shows its gratitude.
The Constituent Assembly unanimously said: “Miners, we are proud of you,” and I was happy to bring to the miners’ congress at Monceaux-les-Mines the congratulations of the government, headed by M. Felix Gouin.
The government didn’t restrict itself to congratulations. It has given substantial encouragement to the miners’ efforts: since the liberation salaries were tripled. The principle of equal wages for equal work has been applies to women and workers on the surface. Pensions were raised to 36,000 francs.
Nevertheless, average individual production is below pre-war figures. We need 100 kg more per day per miner, which would allow us to reach 75% of the pre-war production levels of smelting and steel.
In Auby new methods for the allocation of salaries were inaugurated.
Alongside team payments, individual payments were introduced.
Some are all too happy to complain that progress brings with it new work methods. But this is progress, and we are moving in progress’ direction.
We are accused of having once combated the new mining methods. Yes, we were against them when it was a matter of exploiting and beating down the miners, but we advocate them when it’s a matter of applying them with the miners’ cooperation so as to improve their productivity and increase their salaries.
Once, when two workers and an assistant worked together it was simple to do a collective accounting. Today, with fifty or sixty workers, this is difficult. It is necessary that each one, giving in accordance with his strength, receive according to his work.
We have begun to apply this system in Auby. This morning I went down into the mine with the union activists and we spoke this afternoon with the delegates of the pits as well as the engineers.
The result of these new methods? Great progress in production.
Here are the figures; in the first two weeks of February, instead of 5 tons extraction we went to 8 tons 600, and the average salary went from 311 francs daily (266 in November) to 522.
Every miner found the salary increase advantageous, and the country found the increase in production advantageous. The increase in production was 70%.
No one has contested the excellence of these methods.
Discussions were held on mine openings: one meter or I meter 30. We shouldn’t think that an opening of one meter is indispensable for security, since it’s also a matter of terrain, wood, opening of the vein, and ease of work, and this question can’t be settled routinely.
There was no discussion possible about individual payment.
Another question was that of support beams. It was alleged that they were too heavy – 40 kilos – and some want to stick to wood. Here too we shouldn’t fear to go forward.
There are people lacking in the class sense who haven’t understood the changes that have occurred. They complain of a sell-out. They forget that the mines are nationalized, that they are ours, that they belong to the comrades yet they dare liken them to the shameful exploitation of the past.
These people turn their backs on the working class. The smashing of the sabotage by the trusts, not relaxing their efforts, putting the country back on its feet: these are the interests of the working class.
The percentage of unproductive workers is too high. We need fewer gardeners and more workers down below.
Let more young girls work on the surface and let them not go work in textile factories and remain near their families; this will be better for their morality and we could then send men down below.
A mining delegate, Autem, complained that in ten years there will no longer be any good mine workers. I congratulate him for showing so much concern for his corporation. Once, as soon as it was possible, young men were sent to the mines and they worked at all activities until they became good mineworkers. Should we not continue down this path? Of course, and for this reason the young shouldn’t wait 25 years to go down.
In order to obtain this result we have to interest the unproductive in general labor and production. We need more coal; we need it to make cement and for smelting.
We are currently suffering from financial difficulties. We will reduce military expenditures without falling into a ridiculous and reactionary pacifism that we have never shared.
We will reduce civil expenditures. In a few weeks the regional scale will be abolished, and we will also abolish Vichy’s organizational committees; we will sweep away the forces of inertia. We will cast aside both those who hinder us and the saboteurs.
In order to get back on our feet we can count on the assistance of our allies, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, but in the first instance we have to count on ourselves: we must demand the payment of our reparations and ensure the security of our eastern border.
In order to do this we must unite and bring together all those determined to fight with the same ardor for democracy and the rebirth of our country.
We won the battle for liberation. We will win the battle of production. I am convinced that the French people will have confidence in us and follow us.