Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History

6: How to organise

From La voix des travailleurs de chez Renault, No 8, 3 June 1947

La voix des travailleurs de chez Renault was a printed paper, price 2 francs. Though on the front page, the Bois piece is not the main article. Whatever opinion readers may have of its contents, its style and vocabulary are simple, direct and so very easy to translate. Simply from the point of view of the technique of communicating with workers; it may have something to teach many of us.

How can we stay as united as we were during the strike? To run a strike we had a strike committee. But a strike committee stops functioning when the strike ends.

Some comrades think that we should turn the strike committee into an action committee.

Now a committee is a body which has a clear job to do. It can only exist for a well-defined purpose. For instance, a committee can be set up which groups together workers of every type, to run canteens, which will try to control the canteen.

A committee can be set up to purge, which has the well-defined task of purging (whether this is a good or bad thing is another question). A committee can be set up for workers’ defence which will have the job of defending workers’ meetings, premises and press.

But there are continual daily jobs to do in the working class movement. I am thinking of the collection of subs, getting premises for meetings, putting out agitational propaganda and creating continual liaison between workers in different shops and factories; in a word organising the most militant workers. That is the job of a union. And if we disagree with the CGT union it is because they have not done these jobs. Do they tap us for subs? Then they do it to put out lies about strikes. Trade union meetings? They do not do this – they want to prevent the workers from speaking. The shop next door can be on strike and they are not even told about it by their union.

The CGT does not organise workers – it just collects their subs.

We need a real union, that is a union which is not controlled by operators, but which is controlled by the trade union’s rank and file.

We must have democracy now. And we cannot do that in the CGT today. Everyone who has contradicted the leadership has been chucked out. And even where a tiny opposition can still hold out they are forever prisoners of the ‘majority’.

That is why the Collas comrades, after electing an executive from their ranks, are heading into opposition from the trade union bureaucracy, which has refused to recognise them. That is why this Executive Committee, which has organised itself into an Action Committee, has decided to create a union.

Some comrades think that this is too difficult a job. That is to underestimate our strength, and to overestimate that of the leadership of the CGT.

In actual fact the union does not contain millions of trade union members. The union groups and organises the most conscious and combative workers. If today there are a lot of trade union members it is because the trade union only asks them for 40 francs a month. Fifty active trade unionists are better than 2,000 passive subpayers.

The position that we put forward is not that of building a union opposed to the CGT. What we wish to do is to reconstruct the union from its base upwards. We will not build a single separate union either, for that would be to say that we are limiting ourselves to Renault. We are in favour of a single all-embracing union, that is to say a federation of unions grouped into a confederation – like the CGT.

But we think that at the moment there is no CGT. There is only a trade union bureaucracy putting our subs in the bank.

We do not want to pay subs to those people who only betray us. To reform the CGT without its bureaucracy we must rebuild the trade union from the bottom up, which will then group together federations which will then unite in a national confederation. This work may seem difficult, but we have no choice in the matter – there is no other way. What we must do is to reform our union from the base up to create a real democracy through a continuous control of the union by its rank and file. That is why the Collas workers are building the Renault Democratic Union, whose constitution will soon be available and will be put before all the Renault workers.

They appeal then to these workers to support them.

Pierre Bois

Updated by ETOL: 6.7.2003