B: The May 20th Strike and the Occupation

Submitted by libcom on December 20, 2005

Worker-student action committees had been functioning at the Censier Center since May 13. After the first exchange between the Citroën workers and the students, a new committee was formed. The Citroën Action Committee prepared two leaflets for May 20, one addressed to all the workers, the other to the foreign workers at the Citroën factories. The committee's aim was to inform the workers of the student movement which had challenged the capitalist system and all forms of hierarchy. The leaflets did not challenge the union nor the union demands. On the contrary, the leaflets suggested that the union demands challenged the capitalist system the same way the students had challenged it. The leaflets expressed an awareness of the common enemy of the workers and the students, an enemy who could not be destroyed unless the workers controlled the productive forces. The occupation of the factories was seen as the first step towards workers' power.

The first leaflet said :

Millions of workers are on strike.

They are occupying their workshops. This massive, growing movement goes beyond the established Power's ability to react.

In order to destroy the police system which oppresses all of us, we must fight together.

Workers-Students Action Committees have been constituted for this purpose. These committees bring to light all the demands and all the challenges of the ranks of the entire working class. The capitalist regime cannot satisfy these demands.

The second leaflet, printed in four languages, was addressed to foreign workers :

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers are imported like any other commodity useful to the capitalists, and the government even organises clandestine immigration from Portugal, thus showing itself as a slave driver.

These workers are ferociously exploited by the capitalists. They live in terrible conditions in the slums which surround Paris. Since they are underqualified, they are underpaid. Since they only speak their own language, they remain isolated from the rest of the working population and are not understood. Thus isolated, they accept the most inhuman work in the worst workshops.


They left their countries because they were starving, because their countries are also under the yoke of capital. Victims in their own countries, they are victims here too.

All that has to end.

Because they are not ENEMIES OF THE FRENCH PROLETARIAT : ON THE CONTRARY, THEY ARE THE SUREST ALLIES. If they are not moving yet, it is because they are aware of the precariousness of their situation. Since they have no rights, the smallest act can lead to their expulsion, which means a return to hunger ( and to jail ).

Through their labor, the foreign workers participate in the creation of the wealth of French society. They must have the same rights as all others.

Thus it is up to revolutionary workers and students to see to it that the foreign workers ENJOY THE TOTALITY OF THEIR POLITICAL AND UNION RIGHTS.

This is the concrete beginning of internationalism.

The foreign workers, who make up an integral part of the working class in France, together with their French comrades, will massively join the radical struggle to destroy capitalism and to create a CLASSLESS SOCIETY such as has NEVER yet been seen.

On May 20, students and workers of the Citroën Committee distributed leaflets and talked to workers at all the entrances to the Citroën factories. The first contacts with delegates of the CGT were negative. The delegates tried to prevent the distribution of the leaflets. The pretext was that the variety of leaflets would destroy the unity of the workers and would create confusion. "It would be better," the delegates said, "if the elements external to the factory went away : they give a provocative pretext to the management."

However, a significant number of the Communist Party and CGT functionaries who had come to give a strong hand to the CGT were external to the factory, namely they did not work in any of the Citroën plants. The CGT officials gave out leaflets which demanded, among other things, a minimum wage of 1,000 NF ( $200 ), namely nearly twice as much as they had sought two days earlier.

In the street, the union delegates communicated with workers through loudspeakers. The students of the Citroën committee, on the other hand, mixed freely with the French and foreign workers. Since the foreign workers were not obeying the CGT calls to occupy the factory, the union officials decided to use the students. Instead of trying to chase away the young "agitators," the officials encouraged the action committee militants to continue to make personal contact with the foreign workers. The result of two hours of direct communication was that the majority of the foreign workers were inside the factory, actively participating in its occupation.