French Syndicalists: CNT-AIT, CNT-Vignoles, CSR

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Joined: 15-04-06
Dec 23 2006 01:25

Why wouldn't the goal of anarcho-syndicalists not be to raise the conciousness of their co-workers? How meaningful is the effort to organize and not work towards helping to develop a class consciousness based on a libertarian outlook.

This whole back and forth debate on so many places has become a nightmare to follow.

That said, I think all of you are boh coreect and incorrect. To have a "red & black" union without red and black content is meaningless. The most difficult part is building the road that brings the economically miliatnt worker along in their development of becoming a class conciousness radical. I'm under no illusions that this will happen in a mass way overnight. Time, patience and a willingness to make the effort could go the distance. Afterall, it took the CNT 70 years of effort.

So I would say that between the various strong viewpoints expressed, the reality of what needs to be done falls somewhere in the middle of the two positions.

888's picture
Joined: 30-09-03
Dec 23 2006 18:28
knightrose wrote:
I can't help feeling this all goes to show the fragility of the whole anarcho-syndicalist project. Organising a union means the inevitability of having to confont compromises.

Sorry knightrose but my constant vacillation/inability to commit to either councilism or syndicalism or anything in between leads me to cynically rephrase:

"Organising a union means the inevitability of having to confront reality."

If only there were workplace resistance groups that actually existed and had to do that.

Joined: 23-09-06
Dec 24 2006 02:25
I think everyone here know that Leninists and other leftists practice entrism, but they generally just enter the big social democratic unions, and are usually hostile to the small syndicalist ones. The few Leninists who are members of syndicalist unions, mostly do this despite of their party affiliation and contrary to party policy, so I don't see this as a big problem.

First of all i know alot of examplse of leninists infiltration into small sindacalists or leftists groopes. Leninists use different possibilites then they they want to provide growth of they organisations. And they organisationsare are olso not too big.
But that is not the main point. The main point is way of our thinking. It can be revolutionary-finalist thinking and it can be reformist-compromise thinking.
We are maximalists. That's mean we want to destroy capitalism and to live in the communist-libertarian world.
We use class strugle but for us that is just method, means.
We all live in the capitalist reality and we can not escape from that (here i don't want to explane why). So all strugle agaist capitalism is (in the begining) the strugle in the framework of capitalism. It is strugle for sallery for better conditioms of proletarian life and labor. So it's usless for libertarian communism if it doesn't inqlude elements of new world: assembles, soviets, mutual aid. Olso this strugle can bring us to new sociaty if it is going out of legalism and loo... becouse until we have fear (and we have!) until we respect state institutes we can not live withaut tham and we can not fight for revolution.
It must be (and in generaly it is not!) strugle withaut compromises.
Reality is far from that. This is ideal almoust as libertarian communism. But if we want change the sistem we have no chois... We must do that. Maybe we are not secsesful so what? There is no another way to new world.
As for leninists or laborists- haw can they be in our organisations if they are againste not only libartarian communism but olso againste sovereign assembles?
We must to create resistens groopes of strugle for lebertarian commism. There is no plases there for leninists or laborisrs or fasists or liberals. Then they initiate direct action at the industry and at the territory or try to give direct action dimention and libertarian communist idea to spontaniouse proletarian movements. If we secesfule we also have to explane to proletarianse: there is no plase for political partys in assemles and soviets.
In the end if we build libertarian communist world there will not be the plase for politacal partis too... the same as there will not be plase for capitalists and state. As Durruty Friends say: libertarian communism must be total. Do you think- that was joke?
But if we just care about some chengers of life in capitalism and this is the main point for us so... well we shood not nagate members of political partys. Even if some far rights workers come to our union we shood not push tham away. What for? If they can be useful during some strikes that's o'key.
... German Gesse created a nise fancy. Somebody listens in radio music of Bethoven. Of couse it is not pure music: there are alot of some outside noises, hissing and cracks.
But still it is music of Bethoven.
... Life create alot of "outside noises". But if we realy need to get an ideal we must not create "outside noises" by ourselves.

Joined: 8-11-03
Dec 24 2006 09:39
See I don't have a problem with compromises when they are done by the actual class themselves. I mean I might argue against it and think we can go further but lets face it we don't want to be the SWP and see every strike as the spark for a generalised insurrectional strike and the birth pangs of communism, of course we will have to go back to work for a wage. The issue is when the class gets bound up in contracts, when it recognises capitals right to put limits on the class struggle, when the compromise a renouncment of struggle or future struggle.

A workplace resistance group will have to make compromises to, sure isn't the fact you are sitting in a workplace not a compromise itself?

I agree.
That's why we need to be constantly discussing our industrial strategy. That's also why we need to go beyond the radical cheerleading of the TUC and AFL that passes for an industrial strategy in some parts of this board.
And that's propbably my last post for a couple of days.
Ho Ho Ho.

Joined: 15-04-06
Dec 24 2006 15:16

Magid, sorry, but I'm not sure I understand your viewpoint. I mean, the ultimate goal is liberatian communism as you describe. Your proposed method are FORA-like resistance societies based on direct action and anarchist communist ideology. Ok, so far so good.

The part where I get lost is in the day-to-day struggle. The role of,in essense, the an anarchist "political" organization (which a strict ideological non-syndical organization is, such as the resistance societies)in these struggles. Perhaps you have written this somewhere. I know you like to write alot, but this seems to have gotton lost (on me at least). So help me out.

If you've already explained this, just point me to the right place.

Thanks & solidarity

Below is one general leaflet we use. Main distribution have been at worker rallies and Labor Day marches. As NYC is still a "union town" we are purposefully reach out to union memmbers (as well as non-union). We try to make the point that while the daily struggle is important, we need a broader vision: anarcho-syndicalism.You'll note that we try to stay away from rethoric, yet try and introduce our ideas.

I'd be curious how other comrades try to make links between the daily struggle, the building of a libertarian workers movement and the future society. Suggested links to your leaflets, documents, welcomed by this ole salt.

"What America Needs: A New Labor Movement
Why? Not just because the organized labor movement today is full of self-serving bureaucrats who are out to enrich their pockets or their prestige at our expense. After all, there are many hard-working, sincere people in the ranks of union officials. But no matter how well-meaning they are, there are some fundamental flaws in the way the unions are structured today that makes them at best limited in what they can achieve.

The problem with the unions today starts with the way they function, with so much of the power in the hands of paid officials and not with the workers themselves. We say the alternative to this is direct democracy, with all decision-making flowing from the workplaces and local organizations, with elected delegates acting under direct mandates from those they represent, subject to immediate recall when they fail to carry out their mandates. Take away the concentrations of power and privilege and the careerists in the labor movement will have to find some other way to earn a living.

Another problem we see is the reliance on politicians and the electoral system that typifies so many unions today. Yet most union members know that the politicians in the end only serve the interests of the rich and powerful and that the electoral system in this country is a stacked deck. Real political power lies in our ability to control the system of production of goods and services, in building a movement for social change in our communities, and in fighting against all forms of oppression and domination, be it racial, sexual or whatever.

It is also not nearly enough to talk about things like raising the minimum wage, getting better health care, or equal opportunity. Not that there is anything wrong with those things, but why should workers settle for a little bit bigger slice of the economic pie when we should be fighting to control the whole bakery? In the meantime, the labor movement could be addressing issues like shortening the work week as an alternative to unemployment and downsizing, more control by workers of the workplace itself, and challenging many of those areas of decision-making that have been conceded to the bosses.

To accomplish this, we need more militant and innovative tactics. It's nice that some union leaders are now talking about things like civil disobedience and are willing to employ some more tactics of confrontation than before. But we will need to go much, much further, particularly if we are at all serious about bringing new sectors of unorganized workers into the labor movement. We need to consider new forms of on-the-job action, including occupations and sit-ins, and to begin ignoring the labor laws that were put in place to control workers in the first place.

In the final analysis, the labor movement needs a new vision, one that doesn't accept the current inequality and class divisions in society as inevitable. We need to look toward building a society without power, profit and privilege, in which working people in their workplaces and their communities make the decisions about how our work is done and what we want from it. We need a movement that fights for real gains within the context of this society while using its own organizations as the basis for a new one.

We call this vision anarchist unionism or anarcho-syndicalism. What matters most however, is not what you call it, but the types of hopes and aspirations for working people we believe it embodies. We of the Workers Solidarity Alliance are men and women, like other working people, from different backgrounds, but united in a single vision. It is a vision we hope you will get to know more about.

Workers Solidarity Alliance
339 Lafayette Street -- Room 202
New York, NY 10012
tel.: 212-979-8353
email: "

Joined: 27-11-06
Dec 25 2006 12:03

I love this grim sense of humor: "Libertarian Communism ®"

Joined: 23-09-06
Dec 25 2006 14:44
The part where I get lost is in the day-to-day struggle. The role of,in essense, the an anarchist "political" organization (which a strict ideological non-syndical organization is, such as the resistance societies)in these struggles. Perhaps you have written this somewhere. I know you like to write alot, but this seems to have gotton lost (on me at least). So help me out.

I don't think we need eny spesial anarchist "political" organization if we have resistance societies. Becouse resistance societies are in the same time politacal anarcho-comunist organisations and economicle organisation. They are integrul- both political and economocle.
They initiate proletarian strugle, direct action. If they are in minority they make propoganda of libertarian communism and direct action at the assembly.
We have discussions about organisations on the territory. Anyway we think as an ideal we need sintes of territory and factory organisartions.
For example it can be interprofetional local resistance societie wich unite industrial orcanisations. From another side (as we see in modern world) proletarian strugle sometimes is based on the territory (like "people assembles" in Argentina 2001). So in this case we need ferst of ol local resistance societies.

Monatte's picture
Joined: 27-12-06
Dec 31 2006 18:27

Salut tout le monde,

I'm from the CSR in France. I'm glad to see people inerested in french Unionist movement.
I would like to share some facts with you to explain what we are (the CSR) and our links with the other revolutionaries.

CSR was created by unionists from CNT-F Vignoles and from SUD. Comrades invvolved in CNT-F where thinking this organisation could be the structure to coordinate Revolutionary-Syndialists in the union movement in France. Some anarcho-syndicalists (the more sectarians and masked leaders obviously) refused this open door and maintained a philosophical line against a solidarity class line in CNT-F. Nowadays CNT-F remains the intellectual shelter of students and workers who are afraid of mass and class unionism, afraid to really fight bosses in enterprises. They prefer being some revolutionaries all together without changing conditions for the majority of the working class.

The founders of CSR decided to leave CNT-F in 1996-1998 but some supporters of CSR are still members of CNT-F.
More and more members of CSR are now in CGT, the main class union in france.
Of course we are not thousand, or Revolution would be done yet.
Since the creation of CSR, we have worked a lot to know our own history. CGT before the first World War was the Revolutionary Union. 2006 is the birtday of the "Charte d'Amiens". This is a text voted with a enormous majority of the CGT in 1906 (100 years ago almost like IWW) that say that union must defend workers now and prepare workers control on society in the same time. These goals are always our goals today.

In ten years we have learnt much more things about union strategy. Revolutionary CGT was built on territorial union solidarity structure called "Bourses du Travail" or Local Unions today.
Our main task is to recreate or reinforce CGT Local Union in France. We have some succes in that experience. We need to make this job to reorganise working class in France who have been defeated since 30 years in France (precarity, unemployement, privatisations, retirement and health assurances attacked...).

The experience of CGT in France is very interesting because theirs militants (some anarchists but mostly members of Social Party not agree with the electoralist line) were able to coordinate their forces to developp a mass and revolutionary in France.

The influence of Revolutionary Unionism remains strong during years. The CSR were created after the first World War to change the direction of CGT. The bureaucrats had collaborated with governement to send workers being killed on the war battlefields.
The CSR were the majority but the bureaucrats and a small conspirationist anarcho-syndicalist group "the Pacte" who took places in the CSR with "boring from within" method organized the split of the CGT union.

The Russian Revolution and his myth make the majority of revolutionary-syndicalists to involved in french Communist Parties like in all over the world. Soon some Revolutionary-Syndicalists understood the error of the involvement in CPs but RSyndicalism was divided. Monatte and others were banned from CP in 1924 and created "Syndicalist Ligue" and his newspaper "Proletarian Revolution". Lots of CP unionist remains R-Syndicalist fighting for union independance.

It the reason why they created the "Cercle Syndicaliste Lutte de Classe" after the general strike with factories occupations in 1936.
The nowadays CSR in France is note directly the child of these RS movements but we are their practical children and we are also interested in the international experiences like IWW and RILU (Red International of Labor Unions).

I hope these little explanations are interesting and we are ok to answer questions as our work give us enough time.

I have one question what is the subject of this internet site. I found it by a google search.

Kaou for the CSR

Jason Cortez
Joined: 14-11-04
Jan 2 2007 12:14

The above seems to misposted as it is already on CSR thread. Perhaps it should be removed as i can't see the relevance.

Joined: 15-04-06
Jan 8 2007 14:18

This comment has been moved here.

David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
Jan 23 2007 18:40
booeyschewy wrote:
Can someone give me the low down on these groups. How did the split in the CNT occur, how did the CNT-V and CSR split occur? What are the ideologies of the CSR and CNT-F? What is the political orientation of their memberships?


To get this back somewhat on point, the iww has a translation, not terribly good, of a CSR document.

Joined: 15-04-06
Jan 29 2007 04:08

Interesting article from the IWW website. I suspect some of the things written might raise some eyebrows.

Source URL:
Created Jan 23 2007 - 4:00pm
Working and surviving on the border of France, I soon enough came into contact with the French CNT. I took part in some of their demonstrations and meetings in Metz, spent a week at their annual summercamp in Gascony on my own initiative. At the ISC's request, I visited their 29th National Congress in Agen and said hello on behalf of the wobblies. Here is how the French CNT presents itself, translated into English.)

Introducing the CNT
Introduction. 3 [1]
So what is the CNT?. 3 [2]
I. Historic References. 3 [3]
1) Revolutionary Unionism.. 3 [4]
2) Anarcho-syndicalism.. 4 [5]
II Ideological References. 4 [6]
1) Is the CNT libertarian?. 5 [7]
2) Action as Ideology. 5 [8]
3) Direct Action. 6 [9]
III. The CNT from 1946 to its split with the AIT. 6 [10]
The Schisms. 7 [11]
IV. From 1995 to the Present 8 [12]
1) November-December 1995 and the FAU.. 8 [13]
2) Public Mass Appearances. 8 [14]
3) The Question of Staff Elections. 9 [15]
4) Spring 2003: the CNT takes Root 10 [16]
V. The CNT’s Organisation. 11 [17]
1) The Local; Our Foundation. 11 [18]
2) Co-ordination. 11 [19]
3) International Solidarity; a High Priority. 12 [20]
4) The Commissions. 13 [21]
Bibliography. 14 [22]

Bubbles's picture
Joined: 4-12-06
Jan 29 2007 10:12

the CSR one is good too.

Joined: 15-04-06
Jan 29 2007 13:57
x357997 wrote:
the CSR one is good too.

Interesting, yes. Good, not so sure.

EdmontonWobbly's picture
Joined: 25-03-06
Jan 30 2007 00:49

Don't be coy syndicalist, out with it what are your problems? I actually kind of like those two documents.

Bubbles's picture
Joined: 4-12-06
Jan 30 2007 01:17
syndicalist wrote:
x357997 wrote:
the CSR one is good too.

Interesting, yes. Good, not so sure.

Lets hear it.

Joined: 15-04-06
Jan 30 2007 04:14

Hey, I'm tired, got home a bit ago from work, it's a bit past 11PM, I'll try and get to this tommorow.

Suffice it to say that the attempts to distance themselves from A/S and/or to make A/S as idolgues is somewhat disingenous. Particularly in a country where idelogical unions ahev ahd a historical role. Rather, unions with an ideology are not "foriegn" as they are here in the US and to an extent in Canada.


Joined: 15-04-06
Jan 30 2007 13:46

Revol, just scroll down and I see that the text appears.

CNT-AIT (France)
Joined: 13-04-06
Sep 3 2007 18:59

Salut tout le monde,

Just to add the point of view of a CNT-AIT militant to the debate :

The split in CNT occured formaly in november 1992 and has been confirmed in february 1993.

But the roots of the problems starts in the late 80's. At that time the french CNT was almost dying. In the same time many leftists (and especially maoists) were left out of the main stream union CFDT. This union, a split from the catholic union CFDT in 1964, gained a big audience after may 1968 by opening its doors to all the post 68 leftists. It was their way to concur with their main opponnent in the union field, communist CGT. The offical CFDT policiy line was the the self-management, and the chaimlan of CFDT claim alomst to be anarchosyndicalist. At that time all the leftist were moquing the ridiculous small CNT without any membership.

With the election of Mitterand in 1981, CFDT leaders thought it was time to normalize and to re-center the union. Many of the CFDT militants became part of the new governement staff or administration. And the last leftists that didn't resigned their opinions (the so called "black sheeps") have been expelled from CFDT.

Some o f them, few in fact mainly from the former (?) Maoists background, joined the CNT in Paris. The CNT members were very happy to welcome newmembership, with union experience and welcome them with open arms. They have been regardless to what may be their ideological background. Those new people, as they were very active, quicly took over the power of the CNT tools (national and local administration, magazine, ...). They began to introduce into the CNT some of their tactics they had into CFDT. Their aim was not to "convert" themself to anarchosyndcialism (something they never have been) but to convert CNT into "radical unionism" or "rank and file unionsim", without any political background.

The idea then was that the insitutional unions would collapse soon or later. CFDT was yet on the way to divide, the CGT would also fataly crash down with the collapse of the Communist Party (idea amplified after the fall of the berlin wall). A new radical union would certainly emerge from this, and in the "parting of the pie" bargaining, some ones would like to arrive to the talks with some "ammunitions" (i.e. a strong union) to put in the balance ... (and alsotghefcat that at that time, inthe spectrum of alternative unions CNT wasthe only that can prevail of being a confederation ...while other unions were only isolated industry federation ...)

So, some of the leftists,mainly maoists, as i said choosed CNT. The trots, by their side, chosed to create a new union, SUD. (the so called plateformis of at that time UTCL and now AL chosed to follow their mastermind in SUD).

Before those new people joined CNT, the only active CNT unions were mainly in the south west (Bordeaux, Toulouse). At the end of 80's, the militant tehre amde a balance of their union activity in enterprises : after years of participating to professional election, it was clear that those elections weren't usefull to promote and develop anarchosyndicalism. In other words, to the quesiton of Laura " is the organization really democratic and effective at activating people, is it participated in by its members, or is it full of passive members and leaders?" teh experience of those comrades demonstrated : No,the organization is not effective at activatingpeople. By the electon process, you can attract number of voters, because of your radical statements, but after they have voting people didn't engage in the union. On the contrary, the fact that you use elections process encourage them into passivity.

Of course, the new CNT members didn't share this opinion. Because their aim wasn't to promote anarchosyndicalism, but to have an union as big as possible, in order to have a good position in the talks reorganization of the french union system. So the conflict was inevitable. It cristalized on the question of profesional elections : pro or against.

"revolutionnary unionist" organized themselfs in a kind of fraction called "Alternative syndicaliste" (the name of their paper). Inside CNT, they began to launch a campaign to attack everybody that say that CNT is anarchist. They claim everywere that CNT is NOT anarchist, but revolutionnary, that anarchist are only a trend inside CNT, but too state that CNT is anarchit is a kind of "reductionnism". They started a polemic agianst unions that used the circled A in their publications or to sign their internal letters and so on ...

The two parts were mor or less equal in the CNT then.

So, a third fraction - that was quiet until now - entered the dispute. It has the real power to allow the balance to go in one side or another. This third fraction is a small group of sons and daughters Exile spanish CNT veterans. They were the owner (and even the boss ...) of the print office that publish the exile newpaper (Cénit), the french CNT newpaper (le combat syndiclaiste) and so on. The print office was a private property of one spanish family, very influential in the spanish and french anarchist milieu because of the means they can proportionate to groups or individuals ... At the same time of the internal dispute in France, tehre were some dispute in the Exile. Some people in the Exile, mainly in Perpignan, started to ask for the results of the print office. They remnd that even if it was officialy the property of a famly, in fact it has been bught with the money of the exile, and that the familiy should have to accunt to the organization on how much money they gain from the entreprise, and so on ... This group of exiled was close - geographiclaly and politicaly - from the groups on the anarchosyndicalist position of Bordeaux and Toulouse.

So, the family, for personnal interest, choosed the alliance with the revolutionnary unionist : at last they were sure they won't ask them anything ...

Then the paris people had a "divine surprise" : the Comatec strike in1988. Comatec was a janitor service society, that cleans the paris underground. In 1988, a CNT member (that was in CNT-AIT after, ironically) launched a strike with immigrants workers for basic demands. The strike surprized the boss, and was successfull. It wa a big success. Immediately, dozen of workers asked to join the union. The revolutonnary unionist immediately understood the benefit (in term of image and communication) they can take from this situation. And they sold membership cards to all those people. Of course none of them was even revolutionnary. But it wasn't important for the Paris leaders : only count the figures, and the image in the medias.

The success story of the Comatec strike attracted many new people to CNT. At least, there was something new in the union spectrum ! Some people inside FA (those connected to the Toublet Allaince syndicaliste) began to look differently to CNT : at last it was not anymore a rival anarchist group, but it started to be a real union, on the way to make real unionism. The only last thing that empeach them (and other “radical unionist”) to join CNT was that it still refuse officially to participate to profesional elections. So to refusal of participating should be erased from the statutes … The process to achieve this goal was first to create contradictional situations : Comatec section presented people to some elections (Délégués du personnel), without telling anybody. And won the elections. There was an internal dilemna : to dismiss the section would lead to the end of the renewal of the CNT’s image. So many people preferred to close their eyes and forget about what they really think, because they were so happy to have the feeling to be in a growing organisation, that attracts workers, that the other militants are jealous and so on … The Aternative syndicalist played a great role in that, organizing the fraction, publicizing a lot the Comatec story. On their side, the Spanish exile children used their net into the Spanish exile community to collect large amounts of money and use of their influence.

In south west, may be because we were far from Paris and so far from any kind of pression (we never have been in good relation ship with the official exile in fact !), and may be also because we had some experienced militants from the CGT-SR and early CNT (and Spanish CNT not linked with bureaucratic exile …), we were quite sceptical about the Comatec success story. We thought it was very doubtful that people that don’t speak French (what was the case of the majority of Comatec workers) exactly understand in which kind of union they were standing, and what role some ones played for them. We believed that they were quite manipulated. So we asked to meet directly with them, to address them some questions about the functioning of their section. The Paris staff always find any excuse to say that it wasn’t possible to meet even one member of the section (that counted hundreds of people as they said …) But when it was obvious they had used any excuse possible and that we shall meet with Comatec members, then the split occurred.

Four years after the split, we learned the reason why the split occurred at that time : in fact, the Comatec section not only participated to Delegué du personnel elections, but also to Comité d’Entreprise, something that even Vignoles reject as class-collaborationism. Abd furthermore, the two elected “delegués du personnel” in fact resigned from CNT soon after they have been elected to join … a “yellow” (scab) union, close to far-right, called CSL !!! In fact, the delegates have been traped by the boss : they were immigrants, with housing problems and so on. The boss put a deal in their hand : or they quit CNT, and join his union, and he will give them a better job and a good housing, or the stay delegate of CNT, and then I would make hell of their life, since they would make a fault that would give him the opportunity to fire them. Those workers, because their involvement in CNT didn’t rely on political basis, choosed the better situation for them. They kept the mandates they won by the elections (this is one of the reasons why we oppose those elections : after they have been elected, those delegates can’t be dismissed, theu do not account to anybody, you ca not control them …). If this information have been made public in his time, all the vignoles bluff would pop up. So it was important to keep it unknown. This important story has been made public later, may be in an awkaward way. But the French anarchist movement didn’t want to hear the truth : what was important was the image the movement has of itself :a growing movement, attracting “normal” people. People in the movement dind’t want to hear bad news, just good news. So the CNT-AIT has been declared “sectarian” and “dogmatic”.

The Comatec section, since the beginning, never has been autonomous. As I said, people don’t speak French. And the Revolutionnary unionist used them as their proof that their tactic can work. What was their tactic : using all the resource that the legal “workers right” can provide. Going to the court everytime it is possible. This work is not possible if you can’t read French. (the French workers right regulation is more than 1000 pages …). So, the Comatec section was supported by a staff of people working outside the section, making in fact all the staff for the union and finaly decide for them of their tactic. It explains why in 1996, their section made a common action with the CSL section … The conscientious objector (people that don’t want to make his military service) who was attached to the Comatec has decided that, in the name of the unity, it was good to ally with CSL, a union that was criticized on other side by Vignoles to be a fascist union … As far as I know this guy was one of the main animator of the Alternative syndicalist group …

(if you want to know more about the early Vignoles years and the Comatec story, you can read in French the point of view of Fernando, former Vignoles member and now free of any organisational bind : This guy, which is not sympathetic to us, validate after hand all our "intuitions"...)

During the large strike movement of 1995, all the CNT began to attract new people. But the Vignoles in Paris played great “medicatic coup”. They participated to a front with other leftist student unions (mainly trotskists) (1), and the Vignoles leader refuse to shake the hand of the Ministry of education. They gained a great mediatic notoriety. So the Vingoles had a boost of their membership, especially amongst students and public sector workers (post, education). The revolutionary unionist, that were not embrassed any more by the “anarco-anarchist” of the south west, thought their time has come. The began to publish a pamphlet strongly critical against the Spanish CNT role in 1936, celebrating the role of POUM. They began to spread political analysis influenced by Marxism, and even Marxism-Leninism in a way.

It was too much for the sons of the spanishs clan, and for the FA members that suddenly joined in force the Vignoles after the 1995 strikes (attracted by the image of a growing organization they imagine they could influence then … You have also consider that at that time the newspaper were talking about a 10 000 members CNT… The Vignoles always lied on their figures, because they knew that “masses” won’t join a loose union of few hundreds, even if they are militants). But I think it was also too much for the people making entrism and that the alternative syndicalist activism could fragilize : it was so obvious that the people from Alternative Syndicaliste were in fact good old Marxists that the other fractions can support them anymore and in 1997 they expelled the most active union influenced by them, the 93 Educational union.

(So you understand that when Kaou in his message talk about “the more sectarians and masked leaders obviously” of the anarchosyndicalist, he doesn’t talk about the CNT-AIT but about Vignoles ! (it verify the universal law that states that you are always the sectarian dogmatic of someone smile )

Alternative syndicaliste transformed his name into “Syndicaliste”, and they created an association named CSR (Comité Syndicaliste révolutionnaires). Officialy their political line is for a pure union, not bind by any ideological statement (while we think that in fact they play for some Marxist groups : if the union is empty of ideology, it is easier to a politicial group to fill the empty space”) . They want to go back to 1906 CGT. They are now something about 12 to 30 members, essentially in CGT, where they try to play a fraction role. But they have a lot of competitors in this game, as each Marxist sects has the same idea … Their disillusion about Vignoles is complete : while before to be expelled they claim that Vignoles where almost the last chance for the rebirth of a real union movement, they now definitely state that they are only small groups of students or declassed workers, without any reality in the social life, that only exist to help their members to nourish the self-illusion they have about their image. (things we told in the early 90 and CSR of that time denied strongly …) Another thing very funny : one of the strongest debate during the split was about the organization : future Vignoles (including future CSR) advocated for an industry based organization, by creating workplace unions and so on, while CNT AIT advocate for organizing on a territorial basis, in all-profession unions (that correpond more to our reality and also to the increasing flexibility of the workforce). We were accused of being anti-unionist at that time because of this position. Today CSR promote territorial union solidarity structure , and claim that their main task is to recreate or reinforce Local Union in France ! They are now in the same position we had ten years ago. We have good hope that in the next 10 years, if they continue to evolve like that, they would become anarchosyndicalist smile

But not all the revolutionary unionist are organized into the CSR. CSR new some split few years ago, and another group apparead, that publish “Tribune syndicalist revolutionnaire (TSR)”. This group is yet working inside Vignoles, mainly into the Post workers unions.

The paper maoist play in Vingoles actually is not clear : while the people of TSR are known as former maoists, the official ones seems to stop to be interested by Vingoles after the 93 educaton union has been expeled in 1997.

Regarding Vignoles today, their ideological commitment is quite unclear. What is sure is that they are not anarchist ! Each time a media talk about “anarchist from CNT” they send a “reply right” to the paper tomake clear they are NOT anarchist. They are not anymore in the same growing scheme that in the 1995-2000 period. Most of the most visible departures occurred in 2004, where some of the historical militants of Paris close to the revolutionnary unionist point of view have been expelled for questions of internal power (the new generation appeared after the student strikes 1995 wanted to have the control of the organization and suddenly “discovered” that one of the historical leader of Paris was in fact shareholder and boss of a 12 employees publishing house … something everybody knew since a while and didn’t make any trouble to Vignoles then). Even if internationally, to confuse people, they still clail to be anarchosyndicalist, in France they less and less use this word to define themselves. They prefer to talk about them as revolutionary unionist. (Just see the interview of some of their main leaders gave in april 2005 in the Politis newspaper (radical left paper) : they still dream of the recombination of the union movement in which they would play a role (
"In the ten years to come, there will be a rebirth of class struggle unionism of which the CNT-F could play a part", predicted Emmanuel Coral, 46, ex- CFDT.(3)). They accept people from poltiical parties without any question (“Éric Derennes has been with the CNT-F since January 2002. Political militant for a long time, he was close for a while to the CFTC. [catholic workers … what a confusion !]). And stilla dvocatefor not being anarchists (The Anarchist Federation tries hard to gather up members from time to time, but the CNT-F is not defined as anarchist. Only revolutionary, but welcome to the libertarians. "They do not constitute a majority", specifies Jean-François Grez, to counter this stereotype of anarchistic trade union which has stuck to the CNT-F for years.)

The definition they gave of what is CNT on their website is quite evolving in the time. ( I regret I didn’t saved the previous version of this text, because the “kinetic” of evolution of the wording is quite interesting. About their references, they say “historically CNT has two references : first revolutionary unionist, and secondly anarchosyndicalism”. Few years ago, it was right the opposite : first they claim to have AS as first reference and then SR as second … It is clearer in the next paragraph :

" Les anarchistes de la CNT ", étaient jusqu’à la fin des années 90 la dénomination la plus courante qui servait aux médias pour nous désigner. On est passé ensuite à " Le syndicat anarchiste CNT ". C’est bien, ça progresse, mais c’est pas encore ça ! Certains commencent à nous appeler " anarchosyndicaliste ". On se rapproche... »

" Anarchists of the CNT ", were until the end of the Nineties the most current denomination which was used for the media to designate us. One passed then to " Anarchistic trade union CNT ". It is well, that progresses, but it is not yet that! Some start to call us " anarchosyndicalist ". One approaches...”
“one approaches” : one refers to “the media … they feel very concerned by what the medias sayon them … Much more than what the workers do … And approaches to what : to the progressive disapperance of the word “anarchist” or “anarcho” and the use of the sole word “syndicalist” …

In fact Vignoles are not an homogenous group. There are never ending battles of trends and fraction inside. As they say in the same presentation text “the CNT [vignoles] today oscillates between the recognition of a libertarian communist project and the refusal of any specifically ideological label: no the political organization, of some obedience that it is, like tutor of the trade-union organization [to devrypt : this is a statement against anarchist federation …]. A logic of adhesion which is based on the membership of class, and not ideological references.”

On our side in CNT AIT, we are on the opposite side :we advocate for creating s strong anarchosyndicalist union. It means that people who joined are aware that they are in an organization whose aim is an anarchist revolution and day-to-day job rely on anarco-communist principles. No matter is people claim tobe or not anarchist, objectively there are in an organisation that is. We also refuse any political organization to tutor our union, because we are globalist : we think that the revolution shall be political and economical and cultural in the same time. We need a global organization for the complete change of paradigme called revolution, and not separated groups (one for the economomical, one for the political, one for the cultural.). If you prefer we are in the same time the economical organization, the political one and the cultural one. But also we do not think that the revolution will be realised by the unions : it will be realized by the workers themselves, or it will be a new dictature. That is why we also oppose to the Vignoles conception of “a battling union”. What we need is not “a battling union” but “a battling class”. Also, the task of the union will not be to reorganized the society after the revolution. This would be done by structures that people in that time would consider as the best appropriate to this task. It is another strong ideological difference we have with Vignoles.

Well, that is my contribution to your question. I hope it helped to see clearer about who is who.


(1) this front was planed before the movement. I was a student at that time, in south west. Even before the split, the Vignoles students of Paris were organizing such a front “in case of a movement would spring we would be ready to take the leadership”, something we opposed strongly before the split …

Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
Sep 4 2007 11:03

Thanks - a very interesting post!

CNT-AIT (France)
Joined: 13-04-06
Nov 14 2007 13:03

A long time reply to felix Frost :

I'm not sure if getting people to become anarchists should be the main goal of syndicalist unions.

Syndicalist union, certainly not.

Anarchosyndicalist union, obviously yes !

Joined: 18-10-06
Nov 14 2007 15:59

i've heard the cnt-ait has some sexy theory about the nature of unions, and the role of anarchosyndicalist organizations in revolutionary struggle. i'd be interested to hear more...

robot's picture
Joined: 27-09-06
Dec 3 2012 05:22

6 years after this article initially appeared, the number of French organisations with CNT as a prefix has at least doubled compared to 2006. Earlier this year the CNT-F/AIT –the faction from the 1993 split that was later recognized by the IWA– split into 2 organizations. And in late 2012 CNT-F's Paris cleaning syndicate left the federation. This syndicate, claiming to have 700 to 800 members had been by far the biggest one in the federation and had historically been one of the mayor reasons for the 1993 split. In november it was (the only) founding member of the so-called CNT Solidarité Ouvrière (CNT-SO), by now there is only one more syndicate (from Perpignan) that anounced to federate with the CNT-SO.

Joined: 11-02-07
Dec 3 2012 12:12

alasbarricadas thread on the CNT-SO split:

Joined: 27-02-06
Dec 3 2012 14:52

So there now appear to be four groups with CNT in their name

CNT-F ( often called CNT Vignolles after the street where their HQ is)
CNT-AIT. fr.
Above two representing split in CNT-AIT
And the most recent -CNT-SO

Joined: 15-04-06
Dec 3 2012 15:19

On the CNT-SO website ( ), there's an "Adresse aux militants et aux sympathisants de la CNT" laying out their reasons for existence. Scroll down and there are 2 Pdf's of this (1-english, 1-spanish).

Apparently the those who left did so because:

"The same problems that had undermined the CNT after 1946, reducing it to an insignificant sect, soon arose again. Extremist groupsucule, activities, personal hatreds and rigid ideological viewpoints submereged the dream of the 1990s." In which "[t]he CNT should never have ceased ....the desire to build.... an anti-authoritarian, revolutionary alternative".

Having been in the IWA at the time of the initial 1990s CNT-F split, this sound pretty much the same reason given for the initial split in the first place. So it would be interesting to learn more about this split, the specifics of the non-personal related tactical and ideological splits.

Aside from these, apparently the SOers accuse CNT-F of being centralist in orientation as well. Something which I've heard a number of times before. I also find it curious that the SO is using an emblem generally associated with the Spanish CGT. Of which they prolly have some affection for.

Joined: 27-02-06
Dec 3 2012 16:52
(10) :
Bayonne, Bordeaux, Pau, Le Mans, Amiens, Essonne, Paris, Chambéry, Gap, Isère
(11) :
Paris, Yonne, Saône-et-Loire, Toulouse, Montauban, Quercy-Rouergue/Tarn, Clermont-Ferrand, Caen, Perpignan, Gers, Landes

Outside of Paris, no city or town with both groups represented.

Joined: 27-02-06
Dec 3 2012 17:36

CNT-SO is on right of syndicalism. Is a struggle union but not anarcho-syndicalist and believes in standing for ALL workplace elections and in paid full timers. Little difference between it and the SUD. Prediction. Won't last long. Probably to be gobbled up by SUD
CNT-AIT. info Not very large, very little implantation, behaves more like leftist group than organisation organising workers. Probably will go same way as the GARAS (rip 2008)
Which leaves CNT-F and CNT_AIT . fr

Joined: 29-09-06
Dec 4 2012 20:47

I just have to say that Battlescared is misinforming the world about the CNT-AIT. It is an open issue, which I cannot discuss here, but just to say it is not reliable info.

About CNT-SO, the information given is correct and the main issue for them was getting paid. Other members of CNTF were in favour of union elections but not getting paid.

Thread on ALB also is not very reliable in terms of info. Just a warning.

Joined: 27-02-06
Dec 5 2012 11:49

"Misinforming the world, " eh?. What a charge, as if many people gave a tuppenny fuck about the goings on in ANY of the microscopic groups/organisations of the libertarian left!