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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL September - history, 1977: Edmond Maire, it was also the witch hunt in the CFDT (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Fri, 13 Oct 2017 10:02:28 +0300

Edmond Maire has just disappeared at the age of 86. He was the secretary-general of the CFDT "of the great era" combative and self-managed. He was also one of his grave-diggers, as the case of the exclusion of CFDT postal workers from Lyon-Gare in 1977 reminds us. ---- The CFDT is now a trade union organization of class collaboration, but this has not always been the case. To achieve this " refocusing ", its confederal leadership, with Edmond Maire (1931-2017) at its head, had to gradually exclude trade unionists from struggle. That is to say, those who had often joined the CFDT in the post-1968 years, attracted by the radical positions of the cede-center, its project of socialist self-management and an internal democracy which 'then offered the CGT. ---- As early as 1976, for example, the departmental union of Gironde was suspended because of its support for the committees of soldiers [1].

This refocusing, which will be effective in 1979, at the time of the failure of the struggle of the Lorraine steelmakers [2], aims to substitute trade unionism for accompanying striking action, negotiation to the balance of power.

Edmond Maire (1931-2017) at the time of the exclusions, in 1978.
At the Lyon-Gare sorting center, it " moves "

Suspensions, we will go to exclusions. Some union sections are considered to be too reticent. Edmond Maire and other confederal and federal officials close to the Socialist Party, are irritated by the " basist " practices , close to revolutionary syndicalism, by certain CFDT unions.

This is the case of the CFDT-PTT section of the Lyon-Gare sorting center. Here is how CFDT trade unionists, future excluded, present this place where they work and militate:

" Lyon-Gare. An old gray building. Two floors. Attached to the station of Perrache by a covered bridge over the street Gilibert. The construction has nearly a century of age. It has been cramped for a long time. Inside, to move around, you have to bypass, sneak, climb the trolleys full of[postal]bags.[...]

Lyon Station. A little more than a thousand employees. For most agents (sorters of bags) or agents (sorters of letters). Without forgetting 300 auxiliaries who fill the gaps, change service and employment, depending on the needs of the administration, do the dirtiest jobs, are the least paid and can be thrown out overnight without notice.[...]

Lyon Station. Strong organizing of staff (60 to 70%). Postmen are the most combative civil servants. The agents of the sorting centers are the most combative postal workers. Lyon-Gare was one of the first companies in Lyon to go on strike in May 68. It was the first office of the Rhone to start during the strike of 74 [3]. She was the last to go back to work. With almost 100% of strikers constantly [4]. "

In this environment and climate, the CFDT section has 185 members and members in 1977. It was animated by Georges Valero, a postman and writer who had previously passed through the CGT and the PC before " buckling " with Mai 68, and was " moving " . That is to say, it easily goes to conflict, promotes general assemblies and does not forbid itself to speak about the workplace of LIP [5], antimilitarism, ecology ... It is this who will be reproached.

The thunderclap of exclusion

On 27 September 1977, the 20 members of the executive committee of the CFDT section of the Lyon-Gare sorting center were excluded by the departmental office of the CFDT-PTT syndicate of the Rhone following an inquiry by its national office [6].

The issue of trade union democracy is at the heart of this collective exclusion. For the departmental office, the Lyon-Gare EC is a de facto " trend " by taking autonomous initiatives that do not respect the " federalism " of the CFDT. He was accused of having acted on behalf of the section " outside any decision of the structures responsible for the CFDT " , whether in the anti-militarist struggle, the " coordination of struggles " around PIL or participation at the anti-nuclear demonstration at Creys-Malville.

For the national and regional authorities of the CFDT-PTT, this is explained by the leftist influence within the EC of Lyon-Gare. Thus the holding of a meeting of the " trade union left " of the CFDT-PTT Rhone at the home of a member of the EC in 1975 or reproduction of a leaflet of the Communist Workers' Organization (OCT small organization of the extreme left of the time) in the newspaper of the section are among the grievances made to the excluded.

For the members of the EC of Lyon-Gare, who argue that there is an interference with the internal democratic rules of their exclusion, there is no " fractionalism " in the sense that they are representative of their base. An " excluded postal worker ", questioned by Libération, testifies to the union practices at Lyon-Gare:

" For each initiative, it was to gather as many members as possible, to be all the time closest to the base. As soon as there was a problem, we said to ourselves - "We go up to the local" and we discussed with the most adherents possible. " [7].

On 3 October 1977 the EC excluded united the members of the Section. One hundred and twenty sign a motion reaffirming their confidence and requesting immediate reinstatement. A few days before, on September 30 the excluded issued a statement to " all the CFDT-PTT union, to all CFDT union, to all structures, associations, UR, UD, Unions, sections, UIB " where they called to a " battle " for their reintegration.

Losing this battle at the CFDT-PTT departemental congress of the Rhone on 23 May 1978 (by 40 warrants against 28 and 5 abstentions), members of the EC will nevertheless hold meetings with other excluded at the doors the 38 th CFDT confederation congress of Brest in 1979.

1978: a "butterfly" of the UTCL denouncing the "witch hunt" internal to the CGT and CFDT.
For trade union democracy

This exclusion does not go unnoticed. On the one hand, because the outsiders have organized themselves so that this is known - and it works because several sections, unions, basic inter-professional unions (UIB, another name given to the UL) and even the CFDT Finance Federation split to take official positions against exclusions and write to the CFDT-PTT federation and the Confederation. On the other hand, because it is an opportunity for all the critical trade unionists to campaign for trade union democracy. This is the case, for example, of the trade unionists of the young Union of Liberal Communist Workers (UTCL), and more particularly of its very active postal sector [8].

The reading grid is that of a subordination of the interests of the union to those of the PS (several CFDT-PTT leaders are members of the Ceres, a PS current):

" The militants of the Socialist Party have been trying for some time to make the CFDT the belt of transmission of a party that does not enjoy a good image in the working class. For that everything is good. We forget the reference to the principle of federalism and the power of the adherents, we erase everything that had allowed the development of the CFDT after 1968 on ideas of self-management democracy, etc. Political power, the place of decisions tends to move more and more. The sections are increasingly fragmented, the leading role of regional unions is developing.[...]In this case, what the libertarian communist militants defend is not this or that political group, it is the necessity for a democratic functioning of the trade union organization: trade union democracy. " [9]

Added to this is the context of the parliamentary elections of March 1978: " Our bureaucrats have no scruples. Their aim is clear: by preventing the protest in the trade union organization they think they can prevent the workers from continuing the struggle if the left comes to the government in 78. "

At the time the union of the left, combining PCF and PS, is indeed tipped to win and this perspective is seen as an inevitable " political outlet " to the struggles of the past decade [10]. For combative syndicalists and the far left, it is clear that such a victory (which will not take place) can not hinder struggles so as not to disturb the " comrades ministers ".

In both analyzes, there is a strong demand for self-management democracy: in the union, with the emphasis on " power to the members " against the control of the Ceres / PS and political tendencies ; and, more broadly, of workers' autonomy vis-a-vis the government, the State and the parties.

From self-managed CFDT to alternative syndicalism

But to lead this campaign is also an opportunity to point out that in the CFDT " democratic ", there can be exclusions, as at the " Stalinist " CGT . Of course, for the confederation CFDT, this is only one more leftist agitation. And the CFDT News, of October 14, 1977, did not refrain from igniting counter-fires in this sense: " As regards an issue internal to the PTT syndicates of the Rhone and the federation, the other structures did not not to intervene under the pressure of other sections CFDT, with the support of militants OCT and the LCLU in particular, groups to which several excluded. " (In fact, the UTCL has no active activist in Lyon at this time).

The section of Lyon-Gare is presented as " divided into autonomous sub-sections ", living " on the sidelines of the union " and whose militants seek to " permanently thwart democratic union practice ". On the contrary, the discourse of those who reject these exclusions is based on the democratic legitimacy of the members.

Other sections, probably also too overly restless, will pay the price for what has become a veritable wave of exclusion even before the " refocusing " of 1979. In January 1978, the BNP section of the Parisian syndicate of banks, with more than 1,000 members, was suspended. In March 1979, the trade union council of the CFDT section of Usinor-Dunkerque, with its 800 members, was suspended.

In June 1981, the UTCL newspaper reported that, despite the compromise of Edmond Maire (CFDT) with the new socialist government, "the fight continues".
The question arises of the maintenance of trade union collectives which have been built under the CFDT label for several years. First of all, it must be remembered that for many, disoriented and disgusted, this signals the end of their commitment. But others continue. Joining the CGT is then not an option, as this power plant is the opposite of the trade unionism they practice.

In order to preserve the collective tool built over several years, " the human and living activity of trade unionism " [11], the first alternative and independent trade unions were created: the Democratic Union of Banks (SDB) (SLT) of Usinor-Dunkerque and, concerning the postal workers of Lyon-Gare, the Self-Managing Workers' Union, the SAT.

A few years later, in June 1984, it was again excluded from the CFDT, at Air Inter, who created the National Union of Inter-Transport Personnel (SNPIT). Then it was the creation in 1989 of the first union Solidaires, Unitaires, Démocratiques (SUD), to the PTT precisely [12], before their multiplication after the strikes of November-December 1995. It will then be seen that this trade union left forged in the fights of the post-68 years, profoundly marked by the dynamic self-management and resolutely anti-capitalist managed to give itself a future.

Theo Rival (AL Orléans)

[1] See " 1975: they live, committees of soldiers ", Alternative libertarian , January 2015, and " Contest in the army. Soldiers' Committees, Antimilitarism and Syndicalism in the Seventies ", The Utopics of June 2017.

[2] See " 1979: The" People's Republic of Longwy " , Alternative Libertarian, March 2009.

[3] See " 1974: the great strike of the PTT " , Alternative libertarian, November 2014.

[4] Excerpts from the introduction of the dossier presented by the twenty members of the executive committee of Lyon Station sorting center on their exclusion from the CFDT-PTT union the Rhone, 32-page booklet published in 1977. Archive confederal CFDT Organization Sector, 8H2226.

[5] See " 1973: Lip, Lip, Lip, Hooray ! " , Alternative Libertaire, June 2013.

[6] See Jorge Valero, Neither God nor Mayor. From Charléty to Black Sheep, La Digitale, 1989 and Christian Chevandier, La Fabrique d'une génération. Georges Valero postman, activist and writer, Les Belles Lettres, 2009.

[7] " " We were on all ", interview of a postman excluded from the CFDT ", remarks collected by Chantal Desprez, Libération, October 21, 1977.

[8] Theo Rival, Trade Unionists and Libertarians. A History of the Union of Libertarian Communist Workers (1974-1991) , Alternative Libertarian editions, 2013.

[9] " CFDT-PTT-Lyon, union democracy ", signed by the sector PTT UTCL, All power to the workers of 15 November 1977.

[10] This will not happen, and it will not be until 1981 for the PS to take power ... with the success that is known in terms of " political outlet " to the struggles. See " 1982: the left in power is converted to" rigor " , Alternative libertarian of June 2012.

[11] Patrice Spadoni, " About Independent Unions ," Fight ! (monthly of the UTCL) of February 1986.

[12] Éric Sionneau, " 1988: of the" black sheep "found SUD-PTT " , Alternative libertarian, October 2008.

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