French Trostskyists Under the Occupation

Working Women Organize the Fight to Slow Down Production

Source: La Vérité, March 1, 1943;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.

“We’ve never before worked while so filled with disgust,” a comrade told me. It’s true. We’re veritably hunted down by the “relief” [1]. We have nothing to eat and wages no longer correspond to anything in the face of the rise in the cost of living. You can’t find a meal at a restaurant for less than twenty-five, thirty, or thirty-five francs. And even so, a manual worker is hungry an hour later. We know that work serves only to prolong the war. Everything pushes workers to work as little as possible.

In the factories in the Parisian region, harshly affected by the so-called “relief,” women are replacing men in ever greater numbers in front of machines. In general they find it easier to adapt to new tasks. Wives of prisoners or of those who’ve been requisitioned need to earn a living, and particularly the women who have experience of worker’s struggles need to earn a living. This is why the new feminine manual labor is generally productive.

However, the fight against production corresponds to the interests of the working class, and the women who have newly arrived in industry are doing their apprenticeship.

Machines are poorly maintained. No one should accept working at machines in poor condition. Frequent adjustments and repairs are necessary. Don’t be afraid to demand them. Doing so gains some time, and the workers must ensure their own safety. Demand that safety measures are in place.

But everywhere the principal effort must aim at a legal reduction in production while not cutting off salaries. It is obvious that working women can’t allow their wages to be reduced. There is only one method of struggle: unity, the road of the Worker’s Front. The times set for piece work were established under conditions that have now changed, not to mention physical resistance, which insufficient nourishment has considerably diminished (forgetting this means exposing oneself to illness in a short time). We must at all times put forward:

1. La relève: program begun in 1942 whereby for every three French workers who went to work in France one French POW would be released. The official rate of three for one in practice was nearly seven to one.