Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History

4: Taking off again ...

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

Taking off again – this time with the left foot forward!

According to official figures, production has doubled within the last year, but nevertheless, the situation of workers has got worse. In high places they try to confuse workers with ‘technical’ explanations and speeches about the “race between wages and prices”.

But if the situation is catastrophic for the masses, it is not so for everyone. We can be sure that the rich, despite the lack of bread, ate as usual, Monday as Sunday, today as yesterday, and will also do so tomorrow ... if workers don’t react. Because the explanation for the whole situation and all the difficulties for the masses is the action of all governments up till now, who have all had a policy in favour of the rich and against the poor.

With a government of the workers, wouldn’t the growth in production naturally improve the life of the masses? This is so obvious and the discontent so great that the entire working class, in the provinces and in Paris, the entire population, is indignant and wants to fight. All-out efforts were needed, not just official, but above all by those organisations which still pretend to be workers’ organisations, in order to keep this discontent from transforming into a groundswell.

But the wave is swelling. On Monday morning, several hundred workers and clerks demonstrated in front of the Hotel Matignon [Prime Minister’s residence]. In our factory, the Collas sector and Bas Meudon struck for a half-day in immediate reaction to the government’s manoeuvres. Indeed, it [the government] only pushed the bakery workers out on strike (their punishing work is very badly paid) with the unstated hope that this latter strike, which affects the whole population, would incite it against the strikes in general.

In addition, with what’s happening in the factories in the provinces and in Paris, we can see that the general strike movement (which the Collas strike committee called for) is tending, day by day, to become a reality.

The need for this struggle is making so much progress in the consciousness of the workers that the CGT leaders, who first presented a general strike as an idiocy, are now trying to say that it is premature, that “we don't know where it will take us”, that this will be an insurrectionary strike, that “the reaction is just waiting for this.”

Why are the CGT leaders threatening us with the reaction?

The working class has been through two general strikes: February 1934 and June 1936. In the first case, the general strike was intended precisely to crush the reaction, which had fed on passivity and parliamentary scandals. And, despite the formation of governments such as those of Doumergue or Laval, which were reactionary governments, the working class constantly improved its position through struggle and, finally, it was with the general strike of June 1936 that, for the first time, it succeeded in winning demands which were urgent and indispensible for its life: paid holidays, the 40-hour week, wage increases ... It is because later struggles, in 1937 and 1938, were sabotaged by the official leadership that the working class later pulled back.

The government is already relying on the reaction, on the capitalists, their high-level bureaucracy, and the corps of generals to smother workers’ struggles (through requisitions, etc). And it is only because these reactionary forces don’t feel able to attack the working class head-on that they hide behind a government which is socialist only in name.

It’s not insurrection that’s posed.

Today, as in June 1936, what’s posed is self-defence.

The CGT policy is everyone for himself, when only a general strike (not including essential services) can make the capitalists and the government capitulate. In a general strike of industries which are non-essential for daily life, the wages of bakery workers, for example, would go up like all the others, without them going on strike.

Isolated and dispersed strikes waste precious time; in the long run they wear down both the workers and the population. This is what the reaction is waiting for, and if the so-called workers’ representatives are supporters of these methods it is because their goal is above all to use workers’ struggles to accomplish their own ministerial designs, and not to defend the workers’ bread.

As in June 1936, the working class, all together, must once again put its left foot forward!

Updated by ETOL: 6.7.2003