Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
5: For Bread, for wages, general strike
PCI Declaration, undated, by internal evidence July 1947
Working men and women,
Starting with the Renault strike, from April to July, most categories of workers have gone on strike to win better living standards.
Metal workers and office workers, railway workers and miners, public employees and agricultural workers have joined the battle against the bosses and the government.
The PCF, PS and CGT leaders have used the worst kind of manoeuvres in order to discredit and demoralise workers, to stop them from moving towards a general strike.
Hand in hand with the bourgeois ministers, Thorez, vice-president of the Cabinet, is the inventor of the wage freeze, as L’Humanité of 19 February 1946 testifies: “The government will maintain wages at their present level.”
Slanderers, like Victorien Duguet, Secretary of the Miners Federation, who dared to declare at the CGT congress that “strikes are the weapon of the trusts”.
The Stalinists, forced by the workers’ strength to leave the government, still remain a party of bourgeois government. Didn’t Duclos, that servant of social peace, declare in April: “Only fools are capable of talking about a general strike.”
For three months, they’ve used every crafty tactic to divide the will to fight of the workers, to distort and divert the direction of their class action, trying to get Renault to go back before Citroen comes out, the railway workers before the public services, the bakery workers before the railway workers; the loyal Stalinist lackeys of capitalism split the movement, and generalise sectional strikes as a divisive weapon to prevent a general strike of all trades, which would strike a decisive blow against the capitalist system which produces crisis, inflation and poverty.
All workers must draw the lessons of the powerful strike wave of April to July, which developed outside of, and against, the instructions of the Jouhaux-Fractions, who nevertheless succeeded in keeping control of these movements in the best interests of the capitalists.
Today, faced with the anti-working class measures of the Ramadier government, workers understand that they must fight together and unify their struggle for bread and wages through a general strike.
Platonic demonstrations at the Champs de Mars will only wear out the workers’ shoe-leather. These demonstrations and limited work-stoppages will only serve to exhaust the workers, in order to prevent them launching a general strike.
How should the general strike be prepared? Committees of struggle!
Workers can place no confidence in the leaders of the CGT to prepare, organise and launch the general strike. More interested in discussions with the top bosses of the CNPF [employers’ federation], Jouhaux, Frachon and Co intend above all to ensure social peace against the most legitimate interests of the working people.
Workers should count only on themselves to prepare action.
Irrespective of, and transcending, all party or union barriers, the advanced workers of the PCI, the revolutionary tendency of the CGT, the Workers Front, the CNT, the PCF and the PS, the Anarchists and those without a party who have understood the betrayal of the leaders of the big workers’ organisations, must get together to prepare action in committees of struggle.
What are committees of struggle? Towards a congress of enterprises!
During the engineering workers’ strike in February 1947, workers from different political and union tendencies got together in committees of struggle in order to discuss programme and the ways and means of conducting the strike. At Renault and Unic, they understood that within the framework of the bureaucratic discipline of the Jouhaux and Fractions they had no chance of preparing the struggle.
Today, at Peugeot in Sochaux, the committee of struggle has brought together the most militant workers. These committees of struggle need to be generalised, their experiences in preparing the general strike shared, in preparation for a congress of enterprises.
In every enterprise, the workers who are ready to go into action should get together and meet in order to establish a committee of struggle. They should, after work, convene meetings where the programme and methods for launching actions would be democratically discussed. The enterprise committees of struggle must make contact with each other and organise together around a central committee of struggle which must prepare a large-scale meeting where all the workers of whatever tendency would meet in a ‘congress of enterprises’ in order to launch and organise generalised strike action. There is no time to lose. We must move quickly. Today the provinces are restless. They’re waiting for help, for a push, for leadership from the workers of the Paris region.
How to conduct the general strike. For elected strike committees.
The PCF trade union bureaucrats want us to believe that they’re for action. They’re not. Their leftism only covers up their intention to keep control of the movement, to wear it down and sink it. At Sochaux, Lyon and Brest workers booed the Stalinist bureaucrats who preached quiescence and passivity.
There must be no confidence in these servants of the bosses in disguise. From the beginning of the strike, we must democratically elect a strike committee which will flush out all those who have preached “Produire d’abord” (production first) and the class collaborationist policies of the PCF for the past three years. Spreading the strike will be the work of those workers who, en masse, will go to other factories and call on them to elect strike committees which will be organised in a central strike committee.
The programme of the general strike
The results of three years of ‘Production first’ are laid out clearly in front of us: cuts in the bread ration and price increases. Aviation factories without work and 300,000 public employees threatened with unemployment in order to meet the 300 billion (franc) budget for the war in Indochina.
Inflation is rampant. The capitalist ship is leaking everywhere. The lot of the working masses gets worse every day.
The responsibility for the situation falls entirely on the leaders of the PS, PCF and CGT who for three years have had a policy of ‘unity’ with the patriotic bosses, the MPR and the bourgeois parties.
It is Ramadier who has taken all the anti-working class measures on behalf of the bourgeoisie.
The French Communist Party is even more responsible, if that’s possible, since, while having the total confidence of the working masses, it has been the initiator of the policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie for the past three years. Thorez remained vice-president of the Cabinet, Croizat, Minister of Labour and Marcel Paul, Minister of Industrial Production, all in the governments whether of De Gaulle, Gouin, Bidault or Ramadier.
And today, after this disastrous experience, the PCF advocates that its ministers re-enter the government with the PS and bourgeois ministers.
This solution will bring no relief for the ills that are grinding down the workers. Because there is no solution in the framework of a system where the boss is the master of his enterprise and the government of the bosses remains master of the country.
Working class and revolutionary solutions? They exist for wages: a living minimum
The cost of living rises constantly. Since the beginning of 1945, when the CGT demanded a minimum of 4000E per month or 23 francs an hour, prices have quadrupled. Today, to have the same purchasing power as in February 1945, a labourer should receive 75 francs and the lowest monthly-paid worker, 13 000 per month.
Guaranteed by a sliding scale
No confidence should be placed in charlatans who daily promise to stabilise prices. As a first step against price increases, the general strike will impose a sliding scale. For every price increase, a wage increase, and then the bosses will think twice before increasing prices.
Stabilisation of prices under workers’ control
The price watch commissions, in which the CGT honchos collaborated with the bosses and the bourgeois state functionaries, have failed miserably, just like the enterprise committees.
The fight to keep prices down means the ending of business secrets and control, through elected delegates, of prices at all levels of production and distribution.
No invoice, no accounting document will be valid if not countersigned by the elected delegates of the workers’ control committee.
The general strike is the fight against inflation
By stopping the 100 million a day spent for the war in Indochina, by ending the 300 billion in military credits, and by the confiscation of the billions that the banks and big trusts have in reserve.
Expropriation without compensation of all national enterprises.
General strike for bread
The impotence of the bourgeoisie and its Stalinist and Socialist agents brings unending poverty. As a first step, workers in struggle will force the bourgeois state to maintain the bread ration.
The peasants want ploughs, fertiliser, clothes and tractors. The capitalists build bombers and explosives.
By instituting workers’ control of production, the workers will orient production towards peaceful works and basic necessities. If the peasants could buy what they need at affordable prices, they would deliver at affordable prices wheat, meat and potatoes.
For a workers’ and peasants’ government
Only a general strike of all sections of the working class can win these demands. The general strike is the question posed by the masses in struggle.
Will the capitalist anarchy continue?
Will the boss remain master in his enterprise?
Will the bourgeois government, manager of bourgeois business, remain master of the country?
The PCF leaders explain that everything will be solved if the Stalinist ministers return to government.
They are liars and traitors!
Is it possible to win a minimum living wage of 13,000 francs a month, to protect this minimum against price increases through a sliding scale and workers' control? Is it possible to win bread through workers’ control of production, with a government that defends the capitalists' interests and where Thorez and Croizat keep company with Bidault and Ramadier?
Only an anti-capitalist government, a workers’ and peasants’ government, breaking the coalition with the bourgeoisie, supported and installed by workers in struggle can put in practice the programme of the general strike.
The proof of the betrayals of the PCF, the CGT and PS is that, having the confidence of the broad masses, they don't want to rely on this will to fight to constitute a government of the workers’ parties and the CGT, which would be controlled by the masses in struggle and by their organisations.
Build a revolutionary leadership! Join the PCI
To impose this revolutionary programme, we need a new revolutionary leadership. The Stalinist party, the Socialist Party, and the leaders of the CGT, have gone bag and baggage into the camp of the bourgeoisie. The workers’ vanguard, which has understood the betrayal of its leaders, must organise in the Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI), world party of Socialist revolution.
The only party whose programme is capable of leading the masses to victory against capitalism:
The Parti Communiste Internationaliste, IVe Internationale
Updated by ETOL: 6.7.2003