Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
With the present issue our magazine commences the second year of its publication, its first having been successful enough to ensure its appearance for a further year. Whilst keeping to the thematic approach we adopted after our first number, we have in this instance decided to abandon the purely geographical/historical format and concentrate instead upon the general problem of revolutionary policy in a situation where Marxists find themselves in the leadership of strike action. The examples we have selected from three continents span a period of just under 20 years.
The aim of this selection is to show the r61e of those who claimed to be revolutionaries and the way in which they sought to apply their programme in the course of striving to lead major class battles. We try to show that the difference between Social Democratic or Stalinist leadership of strikes and that by revolutionaries involves a more comprehensive understanding of the class struggle and the way to wage it, and that this is reflected in the structure of the organisation of the strike, the different relationship between the leadership and the rank and file, and the elaboration of new methods of struggle and programme. The accounts chosen show the real life of the movement in its first-hand experiences, as well as illustrating the differences between those who see themselves as revolutionaries as to the meaning of what had transpired. Defeat as well as victory figure here, and each has its lessons for the future.
As always, our intention is not to hand out readily-digested answers to those who prefer not to do their own thinking, but to place in front of thoughtful revolutionaries a real arsenal of ideas and experiences for when they, too, assume their rightful place at the head of the working class movement.
The Renault Strike of 1947
This section collects together a number of accounts of the Renault strike of May 1947, both by key participants at the time and by others reflecting upon its lessons some years afterwards. The strike marked a turning point, not only in the history of the French Trotskyist organisations, but in the wider politics of France, for it was the occasion of the French Communist Party’s exit from the government and its further progress as party of opposition during the period of the Cold War. Nearly a generation was to pass before it returned to office. The strike should be placed within this wider context, as well as that of other industrial disputes at the same time, such as the 1948 miners’ strike, an analysis of which, by a French Trotskyist, F. Moreau, The Eight Week Struggle of the French Miners, (translated from Quatrième Internationale, Vol.III, nos.1-2, January-February 1949, pp.14-15) was recently published in English in Trotskyist International, no.2, Winter 1989, pp.40-45.
The last two issues of our magazine brought together some of the material necessary for the study of the historical background to French Trotskyism at this time, so we see no need to repeat it here. But a few additional remarks are necessary to place these documents in context.
The unification of the POI, the CCI and the Octobre group into the PC1 in February 1944 left only two organisations claiming to be Trotskyist in France, the Parti Communiste Internationaliste and the Union Communiste led by Barta. The latter group condemned the attempt of the PCI to get its newspaper, La Verité, legalised after the end of the Occupation, and the PCI in turn threatened the UC with a court action to force them to remove the words Quatrième Internationole from the masthead of their own newspaper. The main aim of the UC during the time up to the Renault strike was of trying to unite the French Trotskyists around a particular concept of activity in the trade unions, and they regarded their work at Renault as a demonstration of the validity of their concept of organisation in that milieu. The second and third items in our collection express the viewpoint of the modern Lutte Ouvrière group, which lays claim to the heritage of Barta’s original Union Communiste.
The other organisation, the PCI, was much larger, and remained the section of the post-war Fourth International until 1952, when its majority was expelled. Later this group joined the International Committee along with the British, American and other sections. In 1967 it assumed the name of Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, but it has since returned to the name PCI. The first and last items in our collection represent the views of this organisation. With the sole exception of the final article, translated by John Archer and here reproduced by his kind permission, all documents are printed in full. The length of the final item and its long quotations from our first article have prevented us from being able to follow our normal procedure, but we have been very careful only to make cuts to eliminate repetition and have done our best to allow the author to develop his theme.
Updated by ETOL: 5.7.2003