Part 2. The occupations movement

Throughout our account we have seen that the two precursors of the movement were the occupations at Sud-Aviation and Renault-Cléon. In each case, the occupation was decided in the heat of the struggle and in a way that was entirely dependent on circumstances. Because the workers, in response to the developing situation, felt that they had to hold their managers hostage in order to force them to give a rapid response to their demands, they decided that they were not going to return to their homes at the end of the day, but, to the contrary, that they would try to carry on with the negotiations throughout the night. And in order to make it perfectly clear that the executives had not been seized by a few militants who stood above the rest of the workers, it was natural that it would be the entire mass of the workers who, although not always to the same degree, would spend the night in the factory. At Sud-Aviation, among the trade unionists, the first concern was how to prevent the workers from abandoning the factory. Immediately, a system of guards was set up, but not to defend the occupation from external aggression … but rather to prevent departures. And those who tried to escape were quickly caught.

The occupations movement spread rapidly, like wildfire, but this was not true of the kidnapping and holding hostage of managerial personnel. What were the reasons for these occupations? If a factory went on strike, the goal of the occupation was to prevent the employer from resorting to scab labor. But is this explanation still valid when the number of enterprises affected by the strikes is such that it is no longer clear just where these scabs will come from—especially during a time of very low levels of unemployment? Furthermore, in most cases, the occupations were maintained by such small numbers of the workers that it would have been easy to evict the occupiers. Our examination of the activities carried out during the strikes leads us to conclude that the occupations immobilized, isolated and divided the workers. Allowing for some degree of simplification, we may describe this activity from the perspective of five aspects: 1) occupy, assume responsibility; 2) safeguarding the tools of labor; 3) drawing up a list of demands; 4) discussion; 5) go home or barricade ourselves inside?

Occupy, Assume Responsibility

In May 1968, there were very few instances where the workers displayed mass, long-term participation in the occupations of their workplaces. The very low average level of participation in the occupations is one of the most important characteristics of the movement. The workers voluntarily went on strike, but they wanted free time, vacations and no worries. We have already pointed out that the sales of home improvement goods notably increased during the weeks of May-June 1968. This merits closer examination. In any case, regardless of how many of them remodeled their kitchens, or went fishing, the strikers clearly demonstrated little desire to return to their factories or offices. Generally, the occupiers were the core trade union militants. These occupiers would be joined once a day, or sometimes less frequently, by a much larger mass of workers who would attend the general assembly (see below).

The Citroën factory in Paris (the Javel wharf district) was occupied by 100 trade unionists, on the one hand, and by 50 or so Maoists, on the other, whereas it ordinarily employed 10,000 workers. And we have already seen that, at Peugeot-Sochaux, on the morning of Monday, May 20, the majority of the personnel went home after voting for a strike and occupation. “‘Why stay?’, cleverly asked one worker, ‘the machines aren’t going anywhere’.”1 The same thing happened at the Lainière facility in Roubaix, and in a social services office for the distribution of family subsidies, cited by Leuwers,2 where most of the workers went home after having voted in favor of the strike and occupation. The occupation, in other words, is the trade union’s job.

At the enterprises where the strike was most energetic, the percentage of workers involved in the occupations was much higher. In the sample of enterprises we analyzed it is clear that this was the case of Rhône-Puolenc-Vitry, CEA in Saclay, Sud-Aviation, and, to a lesser extent, Renault-Cléon. Claude Durand utilized the distinction between the old/new working class as the key to his analysis in his study of the strikes of May ’68.3 He claims that the percentage of workers who participated in the occupations was higher in the technical sector (CEA, ORTF, Thompson, CNRS) than in the sector of traditional labor (automation). He likewise maintains that the proportion of occupiers was higher among the professional workers than among the specialized workers.

Whether their numbers were great or small, one of the first tasks that confronted the occupiers was “defense” against the outside. Shutting and locking the gates, identification of the strikers who worked at the enterprise, assigning guard duty, and the preparation of systems of defense against possible police attack, are the themes that were immediately discussed in most enterprises. Where the occupiers were most numerous, this preparation for self-defense was a “way of keeping the comrades busy”. We shall see below that, towards the end of the strike, these defense measures did not prove to be very effective. There would be pitched battles against the CRS4 in Flins and Sochaux, but they would take place outside the factories. In Flins, when the CRS attacked, “some comrades wanted to throw bolts at them. Then they were told, ‘No, comrades, we have not done anything wrong, there is no reason for them to hit us’. We were not looking for a fight”.5

At Hispano-Suiza, the doors were locked only after a series of contradictory orders. It seemed that there were doubts about what to do: quarantine the factory, or open it to the outside? Finally, however, the factory was closed to the outside, and it was divided into nine geographical sectors that simultaneously served as electoral constituencies for the strike committee. At Sud-Aviation, one could only be impressed by how thoroughly the workers had shut themselves off from the outside world. All the roads surrounding this factory in the midst of open countryside were covered with barriers, and more than 20 guard posts, staffed around the clock, guarded the 1,800-meter long wall that surrounded the factory compound. Each post had its chief, and all the chiefs of the various posts met once a day with the trade union delegates who composed the strike committee.

At Renault-Cléon, the trade unions, which had been taken by surprise on the evening of May 15, managed to get the occupiers to elect a strike committee on the first night of the occupation. The committee included hardly any of the young workers who had initiated the strike: it was essentially a CGT-CFDT intersyndical committee. Immediately, security measures were implemented: identification of the strikers, periodic patrols, and the creation of eight guard posts with eight-hour shifts for the guards. “Organization within the factory is almost military.”6

And, just as in military barracks, boredom soon made its presence felt. For this reason, the organization of entertainment was a constant preoccupation of the trade unionists—at least in the factories where there were not many debates or discussions, that is, in most of them. We shall first examine the case of Renault-Sandouville, because it is exceptional. On the first night of the occupation, the young workers had some fun with the cars. The president of the strike committee related, many years later: “The first night? It was tragic. You have to understand: they were fed up, which was in turn accentuated by the fact that the workers produced valuable goods which they were not allowed to enjoy; so when they finally had the chance to get in the driver’s seat of an R-16, which they could own for just a moment, they took advantage of it. They set up obstacle courses and staged races around the factory, there were some fender-benders, but this did not last long, because we put all the keys to the cars in a safe and the damaged cars were repaired by the strikers themselves”.

To put the damper on pleasure to such a degree is a real accomplishment. But we must point out that this strike leader, with a permanent position on the factory committee, did not welcome the prospect of a revolution. “When May broke out, I was nervous and worried, hearing the protests and the shouts in the factory. This uneasiness made me irritated and a little upset…. It was a spontaneous revolt of people who had been pushed too far! I was very afraid because I could not see what could be done in such a large factory.”7

There would be no more obstacle courses in the parking lots at Sandouville. The strikers were bombarded with spectacles staged by volunteer political artists. “Not a day or a night passed without some kind of activity: movies, spectacles, singing, exhibitions of painting followed by debates, demonstrations of boxing or judo…. We had our game rooms to occupy our leisure time….”8 One young occupier held out for ten days. “For me, it was too serious. I wanted to fool around a little, too”.9

The dissident young communists of Hispano-Suiza in Colombes also displayed the same lack of enthusiasm for the popular artists. They would have preferred to produce these spectacles themselves, just as their fathers had in 1936. And they also would have preferred to disobey the instructions of the strike committee: “No women onboard, in 1936 it was chaos”.10

At Cléon, one witness especially recalled two meetings about family planning that generated so much interest that the workers requested that a permanent office of family planning be created in the enterprise after the strike.

At Billancourt, the CGT boss proudly recalled the “good behavior at the gates [of the factory]: there was never one alcohol-related incident. I had to take action twice in five weeks … because a woman tried to get into the factory. It was an extraordinary experience.”11 What an exciting atmosphere! According to François de Massot, “the factory is divided into zones—immediately there appeared people wearing red armbands with the words, ‘Strike Committee’ emblazoned on them, they are all members of the PCF—and the guard units were set up not so much in anticipation of the possibility of an attack on the factory, as to keep an eye on the workers in the factory. Whenever a small group formed or a discussion began, a ‘strike warden’ rapidly appeared on the scene”.12

The occupation of the factories proved to be a milestone in the history of the popularization of lawn bowling. At RATP, the strikers went so far as to spread sand on the platforms of the Metro in order to engage in this sport.

The occupation of the factories had a strong symbolic resonance—as its minimum impact. At the moment they took possession of the factory, the strikers confronted the employers or the managers. The cases where the latter were held hostage were very rare indeed. In general, the strikers were content with making the managers leave, which the latter took with more or less aplomb. At Dassault, in Bordeaux, the seizure of the factory by the trade unions was the object of negotiations with the management with respect to the question of the establishment of a security service. According to the testimony of a member of the CFDT, however, it was always a “bitter pill” for the bosses to see the workers take over the plant. Numerous eyewitness reports testify to the pride the workers exhibited in taking possession of “potential collective property”. It might be more correct to speak of the pride of the trade union members, since the rank and file workers as a whole seemed to be more interested in going home than in exercising their new potential right to ownership.

At Somafor-Couthon, in La Courneuve, the management tried to engage in an intimidating maneuver at the beginning of the occupation, and tried to deal with the workers in each department separately. “The workers refused, saying […] that the situation was new and that it was no longer management that summons the workers to a meeting, but that it was the workers who summon the management to a meeting. We therefore had the sense of experiencing something that was totally revolutionary: we sought to indicate with this response that the factory in fact belonged to us [….] the idea of and the desire for collective ownership of the means of production was quite clear in the minds of the guys”.13

At the SNCF in Tarbes, the trade unionists “went to the various stations of the city and invited the station managers to hand over the stations”. The managers, who seem to have received orders to avoid incidents, withdrew. “Only one station manager wanted to resist and he saw how a strike picket squad made itself at home in his office. After a little while, he preferred to leave”.14 At the maintenance center of Air France, the intersyndical strike committee declared to the dismissed management, that it was now responsible for the enterprise. The director was given authorization to come to the enterprise for one hour each day.

Safeguarding the Tools of Labor

The pride felt in taking control of the workplaces took the form of a fastidious dedication to protecting the tools of labor whose success was confirmed by the management’s expressions of gratitude regarding the good condition of their facilities when work resumed. The trade unions, especially the CGT, took exquisite care of the machinery and tools. “The historical period when the machines were smashed has passed. To the contrary, we take care of them, we protect them, at least where the workers have an advanced class consciousness”,15 explained one communist. This attitude at least partly explains the tranquil response of the employers to the occupations. As Léon Blum once said, “the worker occupies the factory, that is true, but meanwhile the factory also occupies the worker”.16

At Renault-Cléon, “the first concern of the occupiers is to assure the security of men and materiel [….] Between two thousand and three thousand machines were no longer operating [….] The temporary shutdown of such an infrastructure entails a mass of minor technical problems. Very regular patrols detected the most minor leaks of air, of water or of oil, which led to immediate intervention to resolve the problem, however trivial it may have been […] which required, at times, the competent presence of a supervisor who did not participate in the strike. This supervisor worked under the surveillance of a member of the security patrols”.17

The management at RATP was first of all concerned to make sure that, once the strike was over, commuter traffic would be instantly resumed. In addition, the interest in maintaining the machinery was itself a bridge between the management and the trade unions. This was also true at Dassault-Saint-Cloud, where the trade unions had no objection at all, quite the contrary, to displaying to the management the condition of the departments after one week of occupation. The management took advantage of this opportunity to obtain authorization for 20 people to go back to work. And the Christian trade unionist of Dassault-Bordeaux thought that “the occupation of the facility has made the workers aware of the seriousness of their action by placing the means of production in their hands; their first reaction was to guarantee its safety and maintenance….”.18

The safeguarding of the tools of labor is also their protection against theft or sabotage. The security of the machinery is one of the explanations offered by the CGT for keeping the students out of the workplaces. Thirty years later, a former worker at Rhodiaceta still shuddered at the very idea of students getting into the factory: “When we saw that the students were beginning to arrive, we said to ourselves: ‘Already! We have to be careful, we have to occupy the factory as soon as possible, or else there will be sabotage and they will accuse the workers of having sabotaged the factory”. Another worker tells us, simply, that they “occupied the factory because we knew quite well that it was a general movement, and we did not want the machinery to be damaged”.19 It was important, above all, to prevent certain kinds of kilns or furnaces from being turned off. If they were turned off, it would take several weeks to restart them after the end of the strike and this would entail a further hiatus in production.

This respect for the machinery, as we have already seen, did not cause the average worker to lose any sleep. If he did not remain in the factory in order to participate in auto races, he went home and abandoned the factory to its sad fate. For the trade unions, however, this was by no means the case. They are or wanted to be the privileged interlocutors of the employers, and had to prove that they operated on the same terrain, that of the exploitation of labor. From the very beginning of the strikes they were thinking about the return to work, of productivity, of discipline. All of this would take place all the more smoothly the more carefully the machinery was maintained. There are numerous accounts regarding the pleasure felt as a result of the employer’s acknowledgment of this maintenance. “‘When the strike ended’, said the chief of the strike committee at Sandouville, ‘we received the thanks of the management for having maintained the machinery and for having returned a clean factory’.” We saw above that the leaders were somewhat timid, but even so one cannot but be stunned by this attitude befitting a well-trained lapdog.

Drawing Up a List of Demands

It has sometimes been said that the strikes, at least the first ones, broke out despite the trade unions and without any demands, out of the pure exasperation of the workers against work. This was not true of the strike at Sud-Aviation, where the demands, which had been well defined for some time, were very precise.

The demands revolved for the most part around the issue of compensation for the working hours lost due to the reduction of the working week, itself a result of the reduction in the number of orders placed for the company’s products. Here, therefore, the exasperation that led the workers to hold the management hostage (which was not, on the other hand, their first act of violence) had nothing to do with an anti-work impulse, but was the result of the obstinate refusal of the management to satisfy a wage-related demand.

In other strikes, especially during the first days of the movement, it is true that the workers’ first reaction was not to proclaim any concrete demands. At Renault-Cléon, and at Hispano-Suiza, the strike broke out while the trade unions were polling the personnel regarding the advisability of engaging in an action against the Social Security reforms. The workers probably did not care about the Social Security reforms, against which the trade unions had been trying to organize mobilizations for several months. They went on strike because of the general climate generated by the student movement and its repression. Here we see the beginning of strikes without specific demands. The trade unions did not take long to present them. These demands comprised one of the elements required for taking control of the strike. Demands always crop up during the course of discussions, especially in the large enterprises. The trade unions then had a list of requests or demands at their disposal. Sometimes this was not enough to quell the enthusiasm of the workers, and they “upped the ante”. At Hispano-Suiza, for example: when the trade union leadership proclaimed the demand of “48 hours pay for 45 hours work, and early retirement”, the enraged workers responded with shouts of “40 hours and retirement at 60”. This raise in the stakes of the demands posed no problem for the trade unions. We shall see below that they never had any problem with renouncing, when push came to shove, demands made as conditions sine qua non for the resumption of work, and even non-negotiable conditions for opening negotiations. In the SNCF, where the trade unions were more interested in reasserting their authority than in recovering control over the process, an intersyndical pamphlet was distributed which presented the demands (trade union rights, 40 hours, wage increase, defense of public services, repeal of the Social Security reforms).

There were, then, outbreaks of strikes full of rage and exasperation, and strikes in which specific demands were not the motive force of the paralysis of the work process. There were other strikes without specific demands, but also without rage. This was especially the case with the strikes that took place during the second week, when the process that led to going on strike was characterized by a more or less sheep-like passivity. The trade unions said that the workers had to stop working, and the workers stopped. The specific demands of each strike were undoubtedly formulated and disseminated, but they had less of an impact than the national movement that, with each passing day, saw hundreds of thousands more workers go on strike. And while there was hardly any rage in these work stoppages, this could be due to fatigue, which would also explain the workers’ indifference with regard to demands. “At the end of the day, they are completely empty. One feels so tired. When you get home, you only want one thing, to go to bed. And you don’t want to hear anything; you don’t want to see anything. You have no desire to do anything. Totally emptied from head to toe. With a leaden exhaustion that nails your feet to the ground”.20 This testimony from Sandouville undoubtedly helps to explain the ease with which, once the movement had crossed the threshold of a certain critical level, once a certain number of strikers had been reached, the movement had no need for specific goals in order to become generalized. The workers, exhausted by working hours that were among the highest in the industrialized world, by constant speed-ups, by inadequate transportation and housing, took a few vacation days, even if they were not paid vacation days. Who could blame them, except for militants?

At the enterprises where there was active participation in the occupation and where there were multiple debates, the drafting of lists of demands was carried out by work commissions or subcommittees of the strike committee. We have already referred to the case of Rhône-Poulenc-Vitry. The CGT proposed to the other trade unions that the strike should be managed by means of a pyramid of commissions based on 39 rank and file committees that would elect 176 delegates, of whom half would be required to be permanently in session, in a central strike committee, supported by an executive committee. The rate of participation was high, and one of the commissions was made responsible for drafting the list of demands.

At the little Frimatic subsidiary in Puteaux, there were no trade unions. At the beginning of the second week, on May 20, a petition circulated among the 60 wage workers with several basic demands: minimum wage of 1,000 francs, across the board 150 franc wage increase, 40 hour work week without any reduction in pay, and an enterprise committee. This proposal only received 28 votes, but this increased to 38 votes on the following day, and the strike was proclaimed.

We can summarize the thousands of lists of demands that were drafted in accordance with a structural schema that distinguishes between quantitative demands and qualitative demands.21

[Chart could not be reproduced in this format--Translator's Note]

Economic and Social Demands
Wage Increases

Types of Wages

Integrate Bonuses into the Base Wage

Reduction of Working Time
Working Conditions
Pace of Work

Workplace Environment Across the Board (Flat Rate) or as Percentage of Wage?
Rejection of Pay Based on Specific Type of Job Performed

Without Wage Reduction, Lower the Age of Retirement

Trade Union Rights
Official Recognition of the Trade Union Section in the Enterprise, Protection of Delegates

Repeal of the Social Security Reforms Increase in the Number of Hours Allowed for Trade Union Business, Authorization for the Sale of Bonds, Freedom to Distribute the Trade Union Press in the Enterprise….

Demands Related to Issues of Control
Self-Management, Co-Management Involvement of the Trade Unions in Decision Making Process, Trade Union Control over Working Conditions, Pace of Work and Accounts

The difference between quantitative and qualitative demands is not a theoretical construct. It was defined in the heat of the struggle, by way of quite animated polemics, especially between the CGT and the CFDT. It was also evidenced in the battles at the end of the strikes at Flins and Sochaux. The wage demands (which are by definition quantitative) were more or less satisfied (we shall discuss this issue below), but the qualitative demands against the hierarchy of wage rates were not. A demand for an equal flat rate increase across the board for all workers (rather than a percentage increase) is, from this point of view, qualitative. The same was true of the opposition to the principle of payment according to specific work performed.

At the very beginning of the movement (May 16), the confederal secretary of the CFDT raised the issue of self-management, which had been the topic of debate for working committees and previous Congresses of the Federation of Chemical Workers. It is true that he did so in a somewhat abstract way: he called for the replacement of “the industrial and administrative monarchy […] by democratic structures on the basis of self-management”.22 The term covered a mass of ideas that spanned control by the trade unions over the pace of the work process to German-style co-management, proposing, for example, to involve the trade unions in participation at the highest levels of the corporate structure. The CFDT then sought, by means of the strike, to make progress towards certain results that would raise it to a relation of partnership with the employers where, it thought, it could manage affairs more efficiently than the other trade union federations. We must point out that the formula of self-management figured in some lists of demands, such as, for example, the demands put forth at CSF of Brest, where the CFDT (whose members comprised a majority of the workers in the factory) called for, among other things, the “democratization of the enterprise in the framework of self-management” and financial control over the plant and the company.23

It must be recalled that on May 20, George Séguy had summarily rejected any idea of self-management. However, the distinction according to which the CGT=quantitative demands/CFDT=quantitative and qualitative demands, is only approximately true. In some cases, a local trade union followed a course of action that did not necessarily conform to the official position of its confederation. This could be due to factors such as individual inclinations or the sector involved, as we have seen with regard to Rhône-Poulenc, or as the result of trade union rivalries.

Furthermore, quantitative demands in themselves are not all the same. Should wage increases be based on a flat rate, across the board increase? The CFDT generally thought so, while the CGT was opposed to this kind of demand. This was the case at Thomson, for example. Obviously, however, it is with regard to demands concerning control functions where the two confederations were most at loggerheads. In reality, the question did not often arise in the factories with a minutely articulated division of labor, in the sector referred to by the defenders of the theory of the new working class as that of the “traditional worker”. Generally, the CGT enjoyed overwhelming numerical superiority in this kind of enterprise, which is understandable. The specialized workers, as we pointed out above, were hardly interested in managing the strike or the assembly line (there were exceptions—CSF; we shall return to this topic below), and the CGT could thus tranquilly defend its position that, as long as the factories are not nationalized under the control of a popular government, this kind of demand is useless. The CFDT came up against a brick wall in its attempts to agitate in favor of self-management at the Renault plant in Billancourt. At the Cléon plant, it wanted to create workshop committees that would control the pace of the work process and promotions. The strike committee was opposed to this idea. At the Berliet factory in Vénissieux (Rhône), it wanted to dissolve the hierarchy of wage rates in the enterprise. The CGT directly opposed and boycotted this kind of demand.

At Somafor-Couthon, the list of demands was “elaborated with the participation of all the comrades” who put the highest priority on the qualitative demands of the kind that called for the democratization of the enterprise. This enterprise, employing 300 wage workers, is one of the rare cases where it is known that the CGT factory section—which was, however, the only confederation with any representation there—would be overruled by the bureaucrats of the CGT district office, who called the militants of the enterprise leftists and revolutionaries. The demands were presented in the following manner: “Priority to ‘democratizing the enterprise’; major increase in pay for the lowest wage scales, and a lesser increase for the highest wage scales; reduction of working hours; monthly wage; sliding scale; etc.”.24

We must immediately point out that this strike would have exceptional results, both with regard to trade union rights as well as with regard to wages (uniform increase rather than percentage-based increase, reduction of the working week without any reduction in pay, compensation for half the hours consumed by the strike without any penalties, monthly wage on attaining seniority, flexible wage rates).

Finally, just what did the strikers of May ’68 want? A little of everything, as we just saw, but not all of them wanted the same thing. The various demands spanned the entire range of capitalist exploitation, but they were not unified in a single program, even one that was merely a specific list of demands. This is the great delusion of François de Massot25 who would have wanted, with the OCI, to see a national central strike committee formed that would have united the entire working class behind a finally political program. The Group for Liaisons for Workers Action (GLAT) also had the same idea, despite its strident anti-Leninism. If such a committee was not formed, this is not because the OCI did not work to create it or because the CGT had effectively sabotaged the idea, but because there was not enough pressure for it from the rank and file, particularly with regard to the issue of unification. We shall see below that the workers who wanted to break out of the isolation imposed by the trade union control of the occupations comprised a tiny minority. There is no way around it: it must be admitted that, while the workers often pushed their trade unions further than the trade unions would have wanted to go during the first days of the strikes, they placed their fate in the hands of the trade unions once the occupation was approved. In other words, the demands of the rank and file were not so pressing that the strikers felt the need to scrutinize and activate the combativeness of the trade unions. It is true that there was friction when the strike ended, when the strikers saw how meager some of the conquests of the strike actually were (we shall discuss this below), but here as well, generally, the trade unions would impose their points of view without great difficulties—in any event, without any problems that could compare with the situation in Italy that we briefly summarized above.


“I don’t think there was ever so much talk as there was during these strikes. In the factories, at the intersyndical meetings, at the rallies, at the demonstrations, at the assemblies, the practice of dialogue was constant. We went a long way, since dialogue leads automatically to study, to research and to reflection.”26

It was not just in the universities that May ’68 was the occasion for an immense flow of words. And it is quite normal that, when work stops, the separations imposed by its organization, its rhythm and its discipline should be erased and that the workers should enjoy the pleasure of speech. In the factories where the occupation was most active, there was constant discussion and it embraced all possible and imaginable themes. The elaboration of demands, as we have already seen, but also the political situation, the problems of revolution, society in general, everything was addressed.

Most of the factories, however, were almost devoid of occupiers, and in these factories the discussions took a less folkloric turn. In most of the enterprises, the strike committee was in fact an intersyndical committee. Whether the trade union delegates co-opted themselves or were elected to the strike committee, the usual procedure was for them to assume responsibility for the strike, and often for the occupation itself. Discussions, generally, were therefore limited to the periodic general assemblies—frequently held on a daily basis—where the workers listened to the trade unionists present a report on the situation and voted to extend the strike. This was the most common scenario in the traditional working class sector of the factories employing specialized workers. A CFDT militant had this to say of Billancourt: “In the morning we opened the doors; the traditional assembly was held: we shepherded the people towards the Seguin Isle. We made some short speeches to them and that was that; there was no discussion, there was no political dialogue. Then we let them go home. In this way life revolved around the strike pickets, that is, the trade union activists…. There was music almost all day long. There were games of handball; we bowled, and a lot of people played cards in the workshops, and listened to the news reports, obviously, since the strike was spreading day by day”.27

At the Citroën factory in Javel, where the core group of the occupiers was composed of about one hundred trade unionists, the strike committee held general assemblies that were nothing but information sessions that culminated with a vote to extend the strike. There were no debates; there were no commissions. Actually, in this factory there was a second core group of occupiers: about fifty young workers organized by the Maoists of the UJCML. They criticized the CGT but there was no discussion between the two factions, which pursued separate occupations.

At Renault-Sandouville, the strike committee held two assemblies each day. Our witness does not make it clear what he means by “decisions democratically made” except that, as usual, “we were always opposed to people coming from the outside to rile up the masses”, regardless of who they were. The same was true of the discussions! Similarly, at the Lainière facility in Roubaix, where the strike committee had unilaterally appointed its own members on the eve of the strike, the 100 occupiers (out of 5,800 wage workers) had the “constant preoccupation” of keeping the workers informed by means of “pamphlets, posters, speeches and regular meetings”,28 according to the testimony of one member of the CFDT. The reader will note that we are once again confronted by a very biased testimony.

At Dassault Saint-Cloud, there was a constant series of meetings every morning. A communist leader spoke first, then someone from the CGT, then the CGT-SNCIM (the trade union of executives and middle managers) and then someone from the CFDT, and finally a representative of the CGC.29 It does not appear that there were many debates, and there were no more than four votes held. It is true that students sometimes were granted the right to come and hold debates in the cafeteria.

Another typical feature of what was commonly understood to be a democratic debate: no confrontation. The CFDT enthusiast we quoted above recounts that the meetings of the intersyndical strike committee were the scenes of heated debates between the CGT and the CFDT, “but at all times there was a solid willingness to avoid public confrontations”.30 You do not fight in front of the children. This was also the case at an SNCF facility in the south of France (with 1,050 workers). And there were two general assemblies each day! Dialogue was focused above all on information and propaganda. The same situation prevailed at an Air France maintenance complex, where “the strike committee submitted information updates to the entire personnel every day in a general assembly where the officials of each organization, one after the other, spoke”.

Of course, this unique kind of dialogue did not prevent the workers from having discussions among themselves. But this was true only when they had the opportunity, the free time to do so. But this is not the same thing as a strike that is conducted by a permanent institution for debate characterized by real interactive relations. This took place sometimes. There were enterprises in which the occupations were controlled by the mass of the workers, and not just by the trade unionists, where the organization of the strike was based on elected bodies, responsible to a general assembly that held real debates. These enterprises almost always belonged to the “advanced sector” of the economy, the one that employed Serge Mallet’s “new working class”. Alain Touraine writes that, “most of the enterprises whose workers were most involved in the strike were technically advanced enterprises. It is in these enterprises where the workers not only stopped working or even just occupied the buildings as in June 1936, but who also asserted their willingness to engage in self-management and set up autonomous strike committees or rank and file committees that escaped the control of the existing trade union organization”.31 And he cites the following enterprises, businesses or subsidiaries: Sud-Aviation in Bouguenais; EDF in Cheviré; Antar in Donges; Hispano-Suiza in Colombes; Thomson in Bagneux; Rhône-Poulenc in Vitry; Massey-Ferguson; Pechiney; CSF in Brest.

An examination of the relation between the “technically advanced” situation of these enterprises and the tendency of their workers to support self-management would take us too far afield. We shall content ourselves with an attempt to elucidate what Touraine means when he says that the workers “went a long way in the strike” or “evolved towards self-management”. We possess information about some of the enterprises he mentions. Touraine himself provides no details and proposes that we take him at his word.

Sud-Aviation-Bouguenais: it is true that the workers “went a long way” but not in the direction of self-management; the strike was run from the beginning to the end by the trade unions. The workers went a long way because they did not hesitate to use violence (holding the boss hostage), but, except for occasional outbursts, they did not break free of the control of the trade unions. In the eleven pages that Le Madec devotes to the occupation of the factory, nowhere does he mention the issue of self-management, not even studies on self-management. To the contrary, he tells us that in one case an entire intersyndical meeting was focused on the question of whether or not to celebrate Mass in the factory on the first Sunday of the occupation. This was the CFDT’s proposal. The CGT was not opposed, but the FO-hourly workers were against it. They went a long way indeed in that debate!

EDF-Cheviré: this electric power plant owned by Loire-Atlantique, near Nantes, generates electricity by burning natural gas from Lacq. It must first be pointed out, that in every sector of EDF, the CGT exercised great care to make sure that electricity was available to the population throughout the strike, even if it was severely restricted. As Dansette says, “the central strike committee [of EDF] is all the more determined to proclaim its power insofar as it is incapable of carrying out the purpose implied by its own title”.32 The trade unions imposed their will by impeding but not preventing the operation of the installations, without any orders from the managerial chain of command, but with its technical cooperation when necessary. According to the testimony quoted by ICO, it was no different at Cheviré, where the CGT asked the workers to “be responsible”—that is, work under the authority of the CGT.

Hispano-Suiza (Colombes): the dissident young communists, who are our sources for information on this enterprise, bitterly relate how they let themselves be fooled, from the very start, by the old Stalinists. The latter easily manipulated the situation and got themselves elected to the strike committee. By the end of the week, the CGT apparatus was in total control of the strike committee. The occupation, however, was punctuated by debates. On the one hand, the middle managers and foremen held various meetings to criticize the breakdowns in the chain of command. This led to the formation of a trade union section of the CGC, which would be briefly tempted to take a leftist position rather than follow the corporatist line of the confederation. On the other hand, at least there was a debate in the factory about the role of the action committees. Some of those who participated in this debate wanted to attribute the action committees with a managerial role at the level of the workshop. But this took place on May 30. That night, DeGaulle called for elections and the whole party machine answered the call: “Present”. The very fact that they could do so is more than enough proof that they did not go “a long way”.

Rhône-Poulenc-Vitry: we recall that, at the initiative of the CGT, the occupation was implemented here with a structure of 39 rank and file committees, a central strike committee and an executive committee. During the first two weeks of the strike, there was “an extraordinary enthusiasm for these rank and file committees [….] The workers who participated in them saw this form [of organization] as totally natural”, we are told by the Cohn-Bendit brothers.33 They also tell us that, at first, “all proposals were given a hearing, discussed, and the best were voted on…. The principle topics for discussion concerned the reform of the factory’s design (exploratory discussions for ways to apply self-management…) and the structures of the rank and file committees. Discussions in the cliques or caucuses were focused more on political topics (on the strategy of the PCF, for example), the question of strike demands (elaborating a list of demands) or the role of the trade unions”. After the weekend of Pentecost, however, the occupation became more passive, and came to more closely resemble the card game-bowling model of occupation.

CSF-Brest: in most writings about May ’68, the CSF plant in Brest is cited as an example of a case of almost totally realized self-management. “The strike evolved towards self-management”, writes Alain Touraine with regard to CSF-Brest. But we shall see that, in fact, although self-management was much discussed in this enterprise, it was a myth, even as a tendency. The various work groups that formed at the beginning of the occupation were, according to Vincent Porhel, study groups devoted to topics such as factory operations, the history of the workers movement, the Social Security reforms or the issue of pensions. On May 24, these groups assumed the name of workers commissions, and proclaimed their purpose to be “putting an end to the hierarchical structures of power in their current forms”.34 According to ICO, the workers commissions were first created to serve as tribunals to pass judgment on the upper and mid-level executives. This is not compatible with Porhel’s version, which indicates that the trade unions thought that a confrontational attitude towards the middle level managers creates “a climate of distrust that leads to a lower level of profits which, ultimately, is a threat to the employees”. Rapidly, the “tendency towards self-management” is revealed in all its glory: the trade unions wanted co-management because they thought that the managers and executives sent from Paris were not running the factory efficiently enough to ensure its survival. Throughout the conflict, self-management was the perspective of the most politicized CGT cadres, but for the rest of the trade union members the term merely served as a synonym for co-management. For most of the workers there, the report that the Brest CSF plant was under self-management would have been news to them. This myth was concocted on the basis of information published in Le Monde on May 30, 1968, which was then amplified and confirmed by different persons, but never by anyone from Brest. The myth was so effective that some students came to the plant during the strike to ask the self-managed strikers for some walkie-talkies. Ernest Mandel made the self-management of Brest official by writing in the New Left Review that the workers produced walkie-talkies to facilitate the defense of their position.35

CEA-Saclay: Touraine should have added the case of the CEA, another hotbed of the new working class of Mallet and company. “At the Center for Nuclear Research [CEN] at Saclay [one of the research centers of the CEA], they did not talk about self-management, they practiced it”, we are told by Jacques Pesquet.36 Let us take a closer look:

We got hold of a truck, some money and gasoline and went to the farm cooperatives to look for the chickens and the potatoes we needed to feed the immigrants in a nearby slum.

The hospitals needed radioactive materials: the part of the plant that produces these materials was put back to work.

What we really needed was gasoline. The strike picket at Finac, in Nanterre, sent us 30,000 liters.

When the students took casualties, we raided the local stocks: surgical gloves, oxygen tanks, hospital garments, alcohol, bicarbonate, everything was sent to the mini-hospital at the Sorbonne.


And that is all! Instead of self-management, it would be more appropriate to speak of an active strike, solidarity in the heat of the struggle, but there was not the least evidence of the practice of self-management during the strike at Saclay. It is true that the personnel of CEN called for self-management. They even got it, more or less, in the form of elected unitary councils, allegedly responsible for the facility’s operations. But by the middle of July, the Saclay “soviets” were engaged in a hopeless struggle against internal bureaucratization and the intrigues of the mandarins.

What can we conclude from these few examples? That the strike was, in effect, clearly more participative in some enterprises than in others. The occupiers, who were numerous and capable of intervening in the assemblies, were not, however, fanatical proponents of self-management. It is the post-68 ideology that bestows upon them a role that they did not exemplify, even in the best cases, except verbally.

This was also true with respect to Claude Durand’s “advanced” enterprises.38 Durand emphasizes two points: first, that discussions were much more interactive in the advanced enterprises (as opposed to the traditional working class sector with its assembly lines); and second, that the practice of opening up the floor to speakers, the structuring of the occupation by general assemblies and work commissions, were for the most part the “ideas” of the mid-level executives and managers, even in the traditional sector. At Flins and Cléon (Renault), there were no work commissions. At Berliet, in Vénissieux, the only work commissions were in the research department. Durand thought he found an exception in the Peugeot plant at Sochaux, where the daily meeting was gradually transformed into a general assembly. But it was not really an assembly. Nicolas Hatzfeld relates that this general assembly characteristic was due to the fact that some leftists had disrupted the daily trade union Mass which, in any case, did not attract more than a hundred people (out of 25,000 wage workers). He also tells us—and this, too, contradicts Durand’s classification scheme—about some mid-level managers who were members of the CFDT of Sochaux who had a plan to run the factory themselves.39

Go Home or Barricade Ourselves Inside?

Up to this point, we have examined a dual movement of advance and retreat. On the one hand, we have seen workers, especially young workers, take advantage of the initiative of the students in order to shatter the daily grind and the routine of work, in order, at best, to go to the universities, to display their lack of discipline to the party and the employer in the workplaces, and to pull the rug out from under the feet of the trade union leaders. The latter, on the other hand, had perceived the power of the strike. It must be acknowledged that they had no problems putting themselves at the head of the movement in order to channel it into the dead end of separation and isolation. All of the commentaries insist on the separation of the workers from the students. In fact, however, it was above all the separation of the workers from each other that was most important and upon which the power of the trade unions was based.

The factory occupations, whether characterized by lots of talk or by silence, resemble a process of self-confinement. When the movement attained a certain degree of generalization, the fear of an employer’s lockout became completely implausible. And the factory occupation, which at first was nothing but an ad hoc measure imposed on the trade unions in order to fight against the employer in particular well-defined circumstances, rapidly became a basic trade union slogan: “The workers in the factories, the students in the universities!”; that was the slogan of the CGT. There were, of course, workers who went from one factory that was on strike to another that was not yet on strike. When the biggest local factory went on strike in a city, the workers from that factory went to the other, smaller enterprises in order to encourage their workers to go on strike, too. But “solidarity” did not extend beyond this gesture, which, starting at the end of the first week, responded to the tactic of the trade unions that sought to drive the situation towards a generalization of the strike in order to put themselves at the head of the movement. And when the strike was on firm ground, the CGT engaged in systematic efforts to erect an iron curtain around every occupied factory. We have already referred to examples of CGT efforts to prevent contacts between workers and students. We shall once again refer to the case of Somafor-Couthon, where certain strikers wanted to join the students and encountered a formal prohibition from communist militants. They ignored the ban and formed an action committee with students and professors from the Sorbonne. But the wall built by the CGT and the PC would also separate one factory from another. Massot cites the case of the Renault-Billancourt plant, where strikers from the Renault-Flins plant were denied entrance until June 6 on the pretext that they did not belong to the same enterprise!40 Also at Billancourt: a member of the CGT named Tomasi received a visit from the delegate of a Swedish solidarity committee who brought a monetary contribution. Tomasi told the Swedish delegate that the strike was a French affair that did not involve other countries. Tomasi thought that the French workers had made great progress and that they had enough money. He said it was much harder for the immigrants, but at this time no contact can be made with them due to the strike.41

It was not just the immigrants who did not actively participate in the occupations; most wage workers did not occupy their factories or offices and were content with periodic visits to the workplace. In this respect as well, as we have just seen, their isolation and separation served as a guarantee of the trade unions’ power. A large number of strikers peacefully stayed home, mobilizing only for an occasional demonstration. The workers in the factories, the students in the universities and most of them isolated in their cubicles. The occupation of the factories was characterized by the tactic of divide and conquer—and this tactic would prove to be very effective when the time came to return to work, as well.

In the movement as a whole, this tendency was undoubtedly predominant. Efforts were made, however, by both students and workers, to break through this CGT wall. When these efforts were successful, they were almost always accomplished with the help of the CFDT.

On May 13 a worker-student action committee (CATE) was formed at Censier. At first, it only had about ten members, five of whom were workers. This committee grew rapidly from its very first day of existence. On the one hand, it became an outlet for student militants who rejected both the university reform proposed by UNEF as well as the rebuilding of the great workers party advocated by the various leftist currents. On the other hand, the committee was supported by workers who “came to take a look” and were looking for help. We have already cited various examples of this kind of committee.42 Some members of the Censier CATE were very interested when they discovered that Cléon had gone on strike. On the morning of the 16th, they distributed flyers at the gates of the Billancourt plant. At that hour, Baynac tells us, “the CGT leaders were still in bed”43 and they made contact with the workers easily, so easily that they managed to set an appointment for a meeting later at the Place Nationale. At one in the afternoon, a meeting took place, organized by the trade unions, but which was also attended by numerous leftist workers and CATE militants. At the conclusion of the (tumultuous) meeting, there were indications of the beginnings of discussions between workers and students, leftists and trade unionists, but the CGT was still in control of the situation. This would be demonstrated that night, when a group of students brought by the UJCML came to the factory around 11:00 p.m. They brandished ornate placards reflecting their cultural revolution and announcing, “the workers will take from the fragile hands of the students the flag of struggle against the unpopular regime”. According to Hamon and Rotman, it was a quote from Stalin! But the factory was hermetically sealed, and the group had to be content with marching around the plant singing The Internationale. The trade unionists thanked them, via the factory public address system, for their support and explained that it was not possible to open the gates because the management would use the presence of outsiders as an excuse to call the police. The students returned to the Sorbonne.

On the next day, another demonstration was organized. This time, it was led by Geismar (SNESup) and Sauvageot (UNEF). Krivine44 and the JCR were also involved. The demonstration had been announced long enough in advance for the CGT to have enough time to publish a communiqué sincerely “urging the sponsors of this march to call it off”.45 In a pamphlet distributed that day, the CGT expressed its refusal to “accept any external interference”. The CGT also had posters put up all around the vicinity of the factory. The workers were warned against those who wanted “to discredit the working class” with their “dirty tricks” and who “have earned a good paycheck for their services to the employers”.46 Despite, or perhaps because of this violent attempt to make them keep their distance, there were some workers waiting for the march outside the factory. A delegate of the CFDT joined Krivine in expressing his outrage at the CGT pamphlet. There were discussions and a few beers. Essentially, however, the UNEF-SNESup march met with the same reception as the one of the previous night: locked doors and gratitude expressed via the public address system. A few conversations were pursued over the walls or through the chain link fences. But nothing took place that would lead one to believe there was any threat to the domination of the CGT over this particularly peaceful and disciplined occupation. It is obvious that some people inside the factory were in favor of opening the plant to the outside. From the beginning it was necessary to keep them in a minority position and by all means to keep them restricted to Billancourt—but this did not turn out to be very difficult.

Later, during the course of the strike, opposition to opening the gates of the occupied factories to the outside would be a standard policy of the CGT. Where the CFDT was capable of counteracting the influence of the CGT, there were discussions and clandestine debates with people who were not members of the factory personnel. But this did not happen often. Dassault-Saint-Cloud was an exception, since the PC and the CGT exercised total control over the occupation, although they displayed their openness to the militants of the Censier CATE. And Ronan Capitaine points out that the students were admitted to the debates in the cafeteria of the factory.47 This exception to the usual attitude of the CGT is similar to that we have already observed at Rhône-Poulenc-Vitry. But the CGT’s liberalism in the latter enterprise came to an end before the end of the strike. On May 28, workers from Rhône-Poulenc went to Censier to ask for help and to oppose a bureaucratic reconquest by the CGT. The trade union hierarchy of the chemical workers federation of the CGT went to the factory to reestablish order among the rank and file CGT members. The strike committee finally allowed two militants from the Group for Workers Liaisons and Action (GLAT) to attend the general assembly, but only on the condition that they not speak! In the end they spoke, because the workers who were present, most of whom were CGT rank and file, asked questions which the bureaucrats of the speakers platform did not want or were unable to answer: and they opened the floor to the militants from Censier!

We see, then, that, while the students tried in vain to enter the occupied factories, there were workers who left the factories and went to the universities, often on their own individual initiative, in order to see if it was possible to get help to escape from the straightjacket of the dignified worker-occupier. In the Paris region, these individuals usually went to Censier, with regard to which Baynac’s testimony is most useful. But they also went to other universities. At the Sorbonne, Viénet points out that some workers from NMPP came on the morning of May 17 to ask for reinforcements for their strike pickets. There were also some workers from Renault who came to establish the contacts that the trade unions had prevented the night before.48

On May 22, three workers from RATP came to Censier to ask for help in forming an action committee.49 On the 23rd, this action committee was created and began to seek contacts in RATP by way of the distribution of leaflets that were, for the most part, confiscated and destroyed by the CGT immediately after their distribution. In the Appendix we have included the testimony of these militants whose activities had hardly any effect on the return to work decreed by the trade unions. Censier gradually became the convergence point of various worker-student action committees. Baynac points out that during the first few days of June, the galaxy of action committees at Censier included the following groups:

• Inter-enterprise Committees: Rhône-Poulenc; Sud-Aviation; Nord-Aviation; Thompson Houston, CSF; Schlumberger; PTT;
• Worker-Student Action Committees: RATP; Simca; BTP; Citroën; NMPP; Renault; Saint-Ouen; provincial committees;
• Coordination Committee;
• Action Committees for Contacts between City and Countryside;
• Writer-Student Action Committee.

The Inter-enterprise Committee was founded by GLAT after the dismal reception its orientation report garnered at the Censier general assembly of May 21. Not at all triumphalist, this report concluded that although “it is unfortunately likely that the strike will stagnate and decompose, it is quite possible that there will be disturbances when the trade union leaders want to try to make the workers go back to work and a more or less significant part of the strikers may prolong the strike and make it more combative. The fact that the situation is not totally lost demands our intervention”.50 After this attempt to get its point of view accepted, GLAT formed the Inter-enterprise Committee to popularize the Rhône-Poulenc-Vitry model of occupation.51 There was an action committee in that factory, founded by technicians and members of the CFDT, which presented the occupation model followed at their enterprise to the general assembly at Censier on May 20.

The action committees at Censier were not eager to join an attempt at a general regroupment of the action committees of the Paris region. By the term ‘action committee’, we mean any organization of workers and/or students that did not belong to any of the major trade union federations or to any of the major parties. In principle, it was a rank and file group that sought to regroup militants, regardless of their political views, for concrete action. In reality, the name often was used to describe the “rank and file” apparatus of the Leninist splinter groups, and it was for the purpose of demarcating itself from the latter that the action committee of Censier rejected the proposal for a general regroupment. The ultra-left attitude of the action committees at Censier was in fact incompatible with the Maoist hysteria which, at the end of May and the beginning of June, sought an outlet in the neighborhood committees, for the most part. However, as we have seen in the cases of Citroën and Rhône-Poulenc, the action committees of Censier were actually incapable of doing any better than the others: which amounted to playing the role of gadfly to the “great tranquil power” of the CGT. Whether composed of workers or students, the action committees never had a chance to directly participate with full rights in the factory occupations. Their goal was to facilitate the passage from a passive strike to an active strike, but they could only pursue this goal by means of propaganda and a smattering of noteworthy but infrequent actions, such as the ephemeral attempt to establish distribution networks for food products brought from the countryside. The action committees also tried to make contact with the workers of different subsidiaries or branches of the same enterprise. The trade union occupations essentially left the occupiers in the dark with regard to what was happening elsewhere. At the general assemblies that were conducted like solemn church services, the bureaucrats told the workers only what served their interests, and the isolation in which the workers were maintained allowed the bureaucrats to lie shamelessly. This would become apparent when the workers returned to work.

Even at the beginning of the movement52 GLAT distributed an appeal for the formation of a general committee for the strike, from which we excerpt the following statements concerning its purposes:

The strikers themselves should make the decisions; but to do this they require an organization of their own.

This organization is the gathering of all the strikers, whether or not they are members of trade unions, in a permanent general assembly. The assembly can elect delegates, but only for the purpose of carrying out a particular task: to organize pickets, to assure supplies, to prepare demonstrations.

Such organizations can and must be formed at the enterprise level. But since the movement has become generalized, it is at the national level that the decisions concerning how to conduct the strike must be made. The factory assemblies must therefore elect delegates who will meet at a regional level or according to industrial sectors, and these must in turn elect delegates to a strike general committee.

Only such a central strike committee, composed of both trade union members and unorganized workers, elected with a specific mandate, can lead the strike in defense of the interests of the strikers.

Group for Workers Liaisons and Action.
Worker-Student Action Committee of the Sorbonne.

Likewise, the Trotskyists of the OCI agitated for the formation of a national strike committee, and on May 24, in a general assembly, the workers of FNAC called for the formation of “complete delegations elected by all the strikers of each enterprise [who] must meet in a general assembly of workers and students to debate the future of the country”.53

All of these attempts would demonstrate their real power when the action committees tried to oppose the return to work, concretely, by trying to publicize the reality of the resistance movement against the return to work. In actuality, the national strike organization, the coordination between regions and industrial sectors, did indeed exist, but it existed within the trade union bureaucracies. The attempt to cancel their influence by other organizations of the same type but less bureaucratic did not go much farther, unlike what happened in the case of Italy, for example.

  • 1. Quoted by N. Hatzfeld, in Mouriaux et al., p. 53.
  • 2. J.-M. Leuwers, op. cit., p. 116.
  • 3. In Grèves revendicatives ou grèves politiques?, op. cit. The distinction refers to the analyses of Serge Mallet and Alain Touraine, who distinguished an advanced sector, called the technical sector, where work was more highly skilled and the workers more sympathetic to the idea of self-management; and a sector of traditional labor, where the specialized workers were concentrated and where quantitative demands were of paramount importance.
  • 4. Compagnies républicaines de sécurité, CRS, Security Squads of the Republic, is a corps of the French national police that performs a role similar to that of the Unidades de Intervención Policial in Spain; it is commonly viewed as an anti-riot force.
  • 5. Quoted by J.-Ph. Talbo, La Grève à Flins, p. 31.
  • 6. Notre arme, c’est la grève, op. cit., p. 35.
  • 7. Testimony quoted by L. Géhin and J.-C. Poitou, Des voitures et des homes, Paris, 1984, p. 167.
  • 8. Ibid., p. 169.
  • 9. Ibid., p. 162.
  • 10. Ouvriers face aux appareils…., p. 179.
  • 11. Frémontier, op. cit., p. 359.
  • 12. Massot, op. cit., p. 119.
  • 13. Testimony of a Christian militant of the CGT, quoted in Leuwers, op. cit., p. 89.
  • 14. Ibid., p. 75.
  • 15. Laurent Salini, Le Mai des proletaires, p. 47.
  • 16. Charrière, op. cit., p. 303.
  • 17. Notre arme, c’est la grève, op. cit., pp. 34-36.
  • 18. Leuwers, op. cit., p. 149.
  • 19. Histoires d’une usine en grève, op. cit., p. 74.
  • 20. In Géhin and Poitou, op. cit., p. 206.
  • 21. According to Claude Durand, “Ouvriers et téchniciens en mai 1968”, in Grèves revendicatives ou grèves politiques?, op. cit., p. 61 et seq.
  • 22. Ibid., p. 54.
  • 23. Vincent Porhel, “L’autogestión en la CSF de Brest”, in Les Années 68, le temps de la contestation, Brussels, 2000, p. 385.
  • 24. Leuwers, op. cit., pp. 92-93.
  • 25. Massot, op. cit., p. 113 et seq.
  • 26. A trade unionist of the CFDT, quoted by Leuwers, op. cit., p. 74.
  • 27. Quoted by Durand, op. cit., p. 46.
  • 28. In Géhin and Poitou, op. cit., p. 168.
  • 29. General Confederation of Managers.
  • 30. Op. cit., p. 79.
  • 31. Alain Touraine, Le Mouvement de mai ou le Comunisme utopique, Paris, 1968, p. 167.
  • 32. Dansette, op. cit., p. 181.
  • 33. Cohn-Bendit, op. cit., p. 111.
  • 34. “Notre combat, journal de la grève de la CSF, 24 de mai 1968”, quoted by Porhel, op. cit., p. 391.
  • 35. Porhel, op. cit., p. 391 et seq.
  • 36. Jacques Pesquet, Des soviets à Saclay?, Paris, 1968, p. 28.
  • 37. Ibid., p. 29.
  • 38. Durand’s examples include four “advanced” enterprises (Thomson, CEA, CNRS, ORTF) and four “traditional” enterprises (Renault, Peugeot, Berliet, Chausson).
  • 39. Hatzfeld, op. cit., pp. 57 and 58.
  • 40. Massot, op. cit., p. 119.
  • 41. Testimony of the Swedish delegate published in the form of a pamphlet, dated June 8, 1968, quoted by M. Lippolis, Ben venga Maggio…, p. 274.
  • 42. Concerning the Censier CATE, see the interesting testimony of Jacques Baynac in Mai retrouvé. This is the only work in which I have found a presentation of the activity of the militants of the ultra-left during May and June. René Viénet’s book (Enragés et situationnistes…) is much less instructive with respect to activity in the factories.
  • 43. Baynac, op. cit., p. 133.
  • 44. Alan Krivine, born in 1941, joined the Young Communists of the PCF in 1955. From 1958 to 1965, he was a member of the National Committee of the Union of Communist Students of France and the secretary of that group for the Sorbonne. In 1966 he was excluded from the PCF for having refused to support the candidacy of François Mitterand, and for his Trotskyist positions. In 1965, he participated in the formation of the Revolutionary Communist Youth, dissolved by the government in 1968. One year later, when he was called up for military service, he ran as a candidate in the presidential elections—he obtained 239,106 votes (1.06% of the total, the lowest of seven candidates). He participated in the formation of the Communist League—which the government would dissolve in 1973—for which he would be a spokesman. In 1974 he became a member of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Communist League and of the executive committee of the Fourth International. As a candidate in the presidential elections, for which purpose he had founded the Revolutionary Communist Front, he obtained 93,990 votes (0.37% of the total, ranking 9th out of 12 candidates).
  • 45. Charrière, op. cit., p. 222.
  • 46. Quoted by Hamon and Rotman, Génération, Paris, 1989, Vol. I, p. 520.
  • 47. Ronan Capitaine, in Moriaux et al., op. cit., p. 78.
  • 48. René Viénet, Enragés et situationnistes dans le mouvément des occupations, Paris, 1968, p. 98.
  • 49. Baynac, op. cit., p. 228.
  • 50. Quoted by Baynac, op. cit., p. 163. Baynac provides an extract of several pages that allows us to judge the foresight of the authors of this report—foresight that was ill received during those days when the strike wave had reached its zenith. The Appendix contains the entire text provided by Baynac, as well as an assessment of the achievements of the CATEs and the Inter-enterprise Committees elaborated by GLAT one year after the strike.
  • 51. Since it was the CGT section of the enterprise that had proposed this model, the workers of RP-Vitry thought that all the factory occupations were implemented the same way. They were surprised when they went to Censier and found out that this was not at all the case.
  • 52. Prior to May 18, since it was on this date, according to Baynac (op. cit., p. 161), that GLAT left the Sorbonne for Censier. The GLAT appeal would be published in Lutte de clase, June-July 1968.
  • 53. Quoted by M. Lippolis, op. cit., p. 168.