D: Contacts At The Factory

Submitted by libcom on December 20, 2005

At the Balard and Nanterre factories, daily meetings took place between the workers and the action committee. The subject of the meetings was a basic political discussion on the nature of the student movement and its relation to the strike. The factory workers became increasingly conscious that the strike had become transformed more and more into a traditional union strike. They deplored the demobilization and the depolitization of the pickets, which had been accompanied by a massive desertion. At the Balard factory, at night, for example, a small number of young people defended the factory. All the young workers' attempts to organize were sabotaged by the union bureaucracy, either in the form of direct opposition or in the form of seeming to forget problems.

The nonunionized young workers attempted to break out of their isolation. They contacted militants of the CFDT ( French Democratic Confederation of Labor ) who seemed to favor student-worker contacts, but the CFDT's intentions were political rather than revolutionary; the minority union tried to enlist new members, and the popularity of the student movement among the workers made it opportune for the minority union to associate with the student movement. Secondly, the young workers sought contacts with militants who wanted to work within the union by organizing the rank and file against the officials. Thirdly, the young workers contacted the Citroën Action Committee at Censier, and after the last week in May they worked increasingly with the action committee. At the end of May, the young workers no longer felt either sure of themselves or supported by their comrades within the factory. Police forces had taken repressive steps against strikers in other sectors, and the young workers felt isolated and looked for outside support.

In order to respond to this need for rank-and-file organization, the Citroën Committee proposed a series of actions. Peasants were sending food from the countryside to Sorbonne and Censier; contacts had been established between peasants, action committees and workers. The Citroën Committee informed the workers about the possibilities to obtain food and to contact the peasants directly. The problem was to find means of transport, namely at least one Citroën truck which would transport workers and students to the countryside. This suggestion was favorably received by the workers, and its organizational potential was profoundly grasped. But the workers did not want to take on themselves the responsibility of taking a truck which belonged to the owners, and so they looked for union support. The union representatives sent the workers to the union's central committee at Balard. The central committee was willing to contact the peasants, but only on condition that the whole action was centralized, that it was all directed by the union's central committee; these conditions would have sabotaged all attempts at rank-and-file organization.

The second form of action proposed by the Citroën Committee was to establish contacts among the workers of different enterprises. However, such contacts could not take place inside the factory since the factory had become an impregnable bastion guarded by the union bureaucracy, which opposed any rank-and-file contacts among the workers. Thus the problem was to fight for free expression and for the possibility of worker exchanges.

The third form of action proposed by the action committee was to contact the foreign workers at their dormitories. There were two aspects to these contacts : they were a means to radicalize the struggle by including foreign comrades in the strike pickets, and the contacts were a means to do away with the exhausting struggle of the strikers against strike-breakers, who were generally foreign workers manipulated by the management of the factory; the foreign workers were manipulable because they were generally unpoliticized, uninformed; on several occasions the management had called them together to vote to return to work.