RED & BLACK and Mouvement Communiste present:
WORKERS AGAINST WORK: '68 in France,
Italy's "Hot Autumn" in '69 and Beyond...
Workers occupying Renault automobile factory at Flins, France, May 19th
Friday, November 7, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
A film screening, to be followed by discussion, of:
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win
By Jean-Pierre Thorn, 1968 (96 minutes; English subtitles)
Thorn was a French film student who took his camera into the factory in May and June of 1968 to capture this cinéma vérité classic of the worker occupation of the Flins Renault plant and the struggles around it. The strikers had to fight not only the bosses but also against the CGT (France's largest trade union federation closely linked to the PCF) and the French Communist Party(PCF) to maintain it. Also depicted are the film are the heroic attempts of as many as 5,000 students and workers from other workplaces and other regions to reach the factory in its rural location to support the occupation. The police, also numbering in the thousands, attempted to block them from reaching the factory and the street fighting in the small town of Flins takes on a similar appearance to the battles of the Latin Quarter in Paris, as the local residents support the strikers and their supporters who came to show their solidarity. This is a powerfully moving film; discussion will follow.
Chausson automobile parts factory at Asnieres, on strike in May 1968
Sunday, November 9, 2008 from 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Presentation by first-hand participant in ’68 events in France:
May-June 1968: An occasion lacking in workers’ autonomy
This account will be based on two testimonies that will be available at the event in pamphlet form (in English translation), as well as online here. One of the writers will be present in-person in Oakland to give his first-hand account of his actions as an organizer of the Action Committee of Montreuil, his experiences during the actions with the immigrant workers at his workplace, and with students in street fighting which occurred under never-ending clouds of tear gas -- to which the insurgents returned Molotov cocktails. He will give his critique of the strengths, weaknesses and the seriously limited revolutionary potential of the actions in May and June.
He and the other Mouvement Communiste presenter will recount the other testimonial account in the pamphlet, which is from a worker who took part in launching the strike at Alsthom Works in Saint-Ouen that went up not only against the bosses and the police, but the union bureaucrats and Stalinists who tried to stop it as well. With each celebration of the uprising of May ’68, the myths around these events take on a life of their own. The event in France remains beyond these myths: the general strike involved 10 million strikers. But that is also a myth which should be challenged: if, between May 20th and June 4th, there were around 9 to 10 million wage earners who did not work, that does not mean there were 9 to 10 million active strikers. With some exceptions, the strikers were passive spectators of their own strikes by staying at home, leaving the trade-union bureaucracy and its supporters to occupy the factories and to organize the “strike.”
This presentation will dispel the romantic myths and give first-hand, detailed accounts about a few of those exceptions where workers rose up with near insurrectionary intensity and fought to overthrow capital. These historical lessons, critiquing the strengths and weaknesses of '68, are crucial for any future struggles we might be engaged in. To be followed by a question and answer session and discussion.
Friday, November 14, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
Presentation, to be followed by discussion, on:
Fiat in the hands of the workers:
The “Hot Autumn” of 1969 in Turin
This presentation is based on Mouvement Communiste's 2005 French translation of the book of the same name (LA FIAT aux mains des ouvriers. L’automne chaud de 1969 à Turin by Diego Giachette and Marco Scavino, written in Italian in 1999). Since many of details of the 1968-1969 period of workers struggles in Italy are little known, this account will situate the wildcat strikes at the FIAT Mirafiori factory from May '69 through the "Hot Autumn" of that year within the context of the massive wave of rebellion that shook the entire country and which continued, with various levels of intensity, for the following 10 years. Where the French general strike in May-June '68 only officially lasted 13 days, the strike wave in Italy crippled industry for nearly 2 years. In 1969 alone 300,000,000 hours of work time were lost due to strikes (compare with the all-time record in the U.S. in 1946, when 116,000,000 hours were lost), perhaps the greatest period of mass-based class struggle ever.
Italy experienced massive reconstruction after World War II with large-scale migrations of the unskilled, often peasants, from the south to work in the factories of the north. As industry grew so did cities like Turin, but chronic housing shortages continued to plague workers. The Hot Autumn was sparked at FIAT's Mirafiori plant in Turin as the class struggle spilled past the factory gates as workers coordinated movements for self-reduction; in September '69 FIAT workers refused to pay for the trams and buses, as well as going into stores to demand 30, 40 & 50% reductions in prices, backed only by showing their factory ID badges. They squatted houses, formed neighborhood committees that self-reduced their rents, occupied government offices, and thousands of workers collectively burned their electricity bills. The social wildcat moved from factories to universities, from working class districts to the entire social terrain. Young workers made demands for more pay with less work; massive worker-student assemblies made unconditional demands for "workers' power" and even began to question the nature of work itself. The government and the unions were helpless in stopping these new forms of working class offensive.
The state's secret service responded with its strategy of tension which reached its first climax in the killing of 16 people and wounding of 87 in a bombing attack at Piazza Fontana in Milan on December 12, 1969. Yet the struggles continued throughout the 1970s and resulted in many inspiring examples of working class self-organization in the struggle against capital. Presentation to be followed by questions and answers.
All events at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library
6501 Telegraph Avenue (at 65th Street) Oakland, California
Nearest BART: Ashby