France 1969

On the Question of the Line of Demarcation in Union Matters


Source: Supplement to Internal Bulletin no. 11 of Gauche Prolétarienne;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

After our “proletarian syndicalist” detour we had to accept the evidence: In order to set ourselves apart from the reviso-reformists it’s not enough to have new and tough forms of action, if we keep the same syndicalist spirit, or the same isolated demands taken from the program of the CGT.

All we succeed in doing is getting ahead of them by a couple of days; and, in the end, the union apparatus is quickly able to recover everything.

Ever since comrades have been trying to establish programs based on demands, our problem remains the same: the line of demarcation must be radical, and it isn’t always. The old syndicalist spirit still drags along in all of our programs for struggle. Nevertheless we must go forward and concern ourselves with the immediate working and living conditions of the largest part of the working class.

We believe, comrades, that we have not only to revolutionize our spirits, but also our language. For, whether we like it or not, demands, unions, and all these lists of demands smell of the reformist litany.

In fact, it is the revisionists who have rendered these slogans banal and stupid by repeating them so often without any context, the same way they once distorted the name of “social democrat.”

For worker militants the eternal list of demands at the end of every tract, of every poster, has become an attribute of the CGT, just like its emblem.

Instead of advancing the consciousness of the masses, these constantly diminished lists amuse the people and give the union an excuse to live.

As for past struggles and their victories, they constitute the juridical baggage of the union. To be a good delegate or full-time union worker you have to have your juridical baggage. This has become the so-called tradition of union struggle, a legislative or bourgeois-legal tradition.

At every blow, the syndicalist reflex prefers the juridical argument to struggle. “I've been working in this place fifteen years, so I have a right to a seniority bonus.”

The syndicalist spirit must be destroyed. It’s not a matter of doing “better” than the CGT — for example, to ask for 5% more than them — because for the workers all that means is that we're one more organization that “asks.” It’s a matter of protesting the salary, not asking something of the boss. In fact, it’s not a list of passive demands that will mobilize the workers.

At Olibet Bourdeaux, how did the workers smash the unbearable pace of work? By deliberately breaking 333,000 old francs worth of cookies. These comrades didn’t beg for anything, but the acceleration of the work pace has stopped.

This is a form of struggle that opposes itself to “demands” synonymous with “discussion.” Because talking would have allowed the bosses to redirect the problem by raising salaries or by giving, like at Dasault, a technical bonus while preserving the same rhythm.

The “demand” is the legal brake between the boss and the workers. It leads to participation, and has as a goal the preventing of the posing of fundamental problems, of getting to the root of evil.

This is what we can hear from the mouth of an experienced swindler, a former PCF journalist and theoretician: “We can’t always put at the end of every article that we want to overthrow capitalism; that we're for the revolution.” It is, in fact, tiring for the bourgeoisie and those who don’t believe in this any more. This is the kind of spirit that leads directly to revisionism. The goal is too far away, so instead of bringing ourselves closer to it, lets get stuck in the present.

When we make demands that don’t want to be demands (as we often inevitably find in our tracts) the result is ambiguities, and roundabout ways of saying things (“if the workers were in power”) that aren’t clear.

Unions are currently like Councils of the UER, which exist purely and simply for participation.

Those comrades who have begun by fighting against the hierarchy of salaries have often fallen into this trap: is the problem between increase, decrease, or modification?

And so, in the first place, we allow to be accepted the idea that hierarchy is necessary, and we don’t contest either its principle or the scale itself (which is as arbitrary as can be).

Should we fight on the field of the bourgeoisie or of the proletariat? Should we adopt the bourgeois or proletarian concept of life? Should we prefer syndicalism-participation-integration to struggle for the revolution? For syndicalism is a variant of revisionism: “the union movement is everything, the revolutionary goal is nothing.”

The juridical field is the field of bourgeois forms of struggle and knowledge. When a union delegate, or any other, adopts it, he becomes a specialist taken by capital from his class. In order to control him he must become like them: a parvenu of the worker’s aristocracy. In any event, in the majority of cases no one controls him, for no one any longer understands his calculations.

At Labaz, near Bourdeaux, they had someone come from the PCF-CGT office to get the workers to return to work during a period of electoral peace. His great art was to camouflage a defeat through the use of numbers; to confuse that which all would have obtained without going on strike and that which was accorded them.

Another example, two years ago at Dassault: the longer the struggle continued, the less the workers understood why they were fighting. Their starting point being parity with Paris, it ended up being about pay-raise percentages.

Even so, the methods of struggle were tough, but when the workers don’t have the political direction of their strike, when the concrete goal is incomprehensible to them, they lose their footing. In fact, only 200 of the unswerving remained at the end of the movement, determined to fight for the sake of fighting.

What is now certain is that we must show proof of imagination, and invent new forms of struggle by relying without any reservations on the initiative of the masses. But above all, we must accept a new language in order to express the aspirations of the masses.

Syndicalist sprit and jargon must be destroyed, and be replaced by a dynamic, revolutionary and new spirit.

It is by this radical change that we will construct, on the syndicalist corpse, a program of revolutionary protest.

We propose is that all of our comrades compete amongst themselves in this direction.



For a new form of protest!

In a revolutionary militant spirit!

Long live Maoism!