E: The Foreign Workers' Dormitories

Submitted by libcom on December 20, 2005

The dormitories for foreign workers enable the owners to exploit the workers twice, namely during the day and again at night. The living quarters are managed by Citroën agents who do not let anyone enter, even members of the workers' families. For example, at the dormitory at Viliers-le-Bel, thirty miles out of Paris, the workers live in forty-eight apartments with fourteen people in each two-or-three-room apartment. The assignment of workers to apartments is done arbitrarily. Thus Yugoslavs are housed together with Spanish and Portuguese workers. The workers are rarely able to communicate with each other. They work in different shifts and in different workshops. The workers pay 150 NF ( $30 ) per month. From this single dormitory, the factory clears 50,000 NF ( $10,000 ) per month.

Members of the Citroën Committee who spoke the languages of the workers established contacts at the dormitories in order to inform the foreign workers about the action committees, and to establish connections between the strikers and foreign workers. The aim of the committee was to enable the workers to organize themselves into action committees in order to cope with their specific problems : transport to the factories, food, the struggle against the repressive conditions inside the factory, and contacts with French comrades. French language courses were organized in several centers after the workers organized themselves into committees and found classrooms in nearby student-occupied universities or in local culture centers. In the slum and ghetto areas, food supplied by peasants and distributed by action committees was taken to poor workers and their families. On all occasions, the foreign workers were informed of the different forms used by the employers to break the strike by using foreign workers as strike-breakers. Numerous foreign workers were put in contact with strikers, and they took an active part in the occupation of the factory.

The aim of all these actions was to enable, and encourage, rank-and-file organization among the workers.

A small number of workers, isolated in the factory, posed the problem of defending the factory against all forms of aggression. The union had given the order to abandon the factory "in a dignified manner" in case anyone attacked; this order was explained in terms of the "relation of forces." The Citroën Action Committee placed numerous "pickets" outside the factory, and on one occasion the "pickets" defended the factory from an attack by strikebreakers and toughs hired by the owners to chase out the occupying strikers.