France History Archive
Paris May-June 1968
Source: Speech by Waldeck Rochet published in L'Humanité, May 31, 1968;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor.
Dear Friends and Comrades:
Our country is currently living through events of considerable importance.
A movement of exceptional breadth and strength is stirring up all the working strata of the nation.
While profits grow, the workers have seen their standard of living stagnate or even get worse.
Price increases, increases in taxes and rents, the dismantling of Social Security, 500,000 unemployed: these are the fruits of the anti-social policies of Gaullist power.
An out of date educational system, wildly insufficient social and cultural equipment, tens of thousands of young people — workers and students — without jobs: this is what Gaullist power has given French youth.
A unanimous cry today resounds through the factories, the offices, and the universities: “Ten years are enough!” (Applause)
Nine million workers have gone on strike in order to demand that their most urgent demands finally be met.
They call for a general increase in salaries, the guarantee of employment and resources, the reduction of the work day without a decrease in salary, the abrogation of ordinances, the defense of Social Security, the moving up of the retirement age, the rebirth and the extension of union rights in the enterprise.
At the same time, students and teachers are engaged in a great fight for a democratic and modern reform of the educational system.
They want a new university; its structures, content, and methods adapted to modern methods and the needs of the country.
The working class — only 10% of whose children have access to the universities — are in entire solidarity with this just demand of the students.
The peasants, too, are manifesting their discontent. They demand the ability to sell their products at remunerative prices, and the abandonment of an agricultural policy that deliberately exposes them to the blows of competition from big landowners and private banks.
The French Communist Party, which, from the beginning, has denounced the malfeasance of the Gaullist regime, supports the demands of the workers, the students and the peasants without reserve. These demands, far from being outdated, are just.
They must be satisfied.
The strength and the cohesion of the strike movement are such that state power and the bosses have been forced to enter into negotiations and make certain concessions.
Workers, employees, and civil servants have said they will return to work once they feel that, in the current state of their struggle, the negotiations currently under way will give them satisfaction.
We Communists fully support their determination to finally see their legitimate demands met.
We say to them: your resolution is all the more justified in that big capital’s regime is in trouble.
It has continuously grown weaker over the last few years under the repeated blows delivered by worker and democratic struggles, struggles in which the Communists have played a determining role.
Today this power shows itself incapable of resolving the pressing problems that the workers, students and peasants pose: all the social strata that are victims of the monopolies that have literally squeezed them for the past ten years.
It’s been ten years that Gaullist management has done everything possible to liquidate all forms of democracy in France, to prevent the French from having their say in the managing of the affairs of the country, which is to say their own affairs.
And this is why the question that is posed today is that of Gaullist power itself.
Incapable of resolving the problems that are posed, General de Gaulle — in his last speech — in a way declared war on the workers who are on strike for their demands; on the students and teachers in struggle for a democratic university; on the millions of Frenchmen who want political change.
Here is the essence of the declaration adopted by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party immediately after General de Gaulle’s speech:
“In order to oppose the workers, de Gaulle has violently gone after the Communist Party, which has always defended the interests of the working class, interests inseparable from those of the nation.
“The attack against our Party tries to mask the General’s will to impose his own dictatorship.”
The truth is that the working class and its organizations have demonstrated amazing calm; they've expanded their protest movement and mass political struggle while taking care to reject any kind of provocation. This is true in the factories occupied by millions of strikers, as well as in the impressive street demonstrations organized by the CGT, the other unions, and the Communist Party.
Showing his contempt for blue and white-collar workers, the chief of state hasn’t thought it worth his while to say the least word concerning their demands.
But the first condition to be met in order to settle the immense conflict provoked by the harmful policies of a power in service to the trusts, is to meet the legitimate and unanimous union demands. It’s also that of the French Communist Party.
De Gaulle has announced his intention to proceed to new elections.
The French Communist Party did not wait for this speech to demand that the people be permitted their say as soon as possible.
Our Party will go to this vote stating its program of social progress and peace, as well as its policy of union of all democratic forces.
It immediately calls on the millions of Frenchmen and women to have confidence in it, to push back Gaullist power, and to install a true democracy that will be in the service of the interests of the workers.
It calls on the workers, on all democratic forces to strengthen and extend their union, in the interests of the people and of France.
Despite the threats in de Gaulle’s speech, the workers will not allow themselves to be intimidated. (Applause)
May 31, 1968