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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL Novembre - April 1947: Renault strike ignites France (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]
Wed, 6 Dec 2017 09:47:06 +0200
In April 1947, the Boulogne-Billancourt Renault plant began a historic strike that would
lead to the expulsion of communist ministers from the government. The PCF and the CGT,
then in full patriotic fever, fought this strike until they could not help but accompany
it. The movement started under the impulse of far-left groups active at Renault. ----
Assembly of strikers on the Place Nationale, April 28, 1947. ---- The immediate postwar
period was for France a period at once of immense hopes and disillusioning
disillusionment. From January 1946 to May 1947, the country is run by a government
associating the Popular Republican Movement (MRP, Christian Democrats, distant ancestors
of the UDF), the SFIO (ancestor of the PS) and the PCF.
The latter is then at the peak of its power: 800,000 adherents and adherents claimed at
the end of 1946, and " first party of France " with 28.3% in the legislative.
Politically, he pursues the Stalin-Patriot line that is his since 1935, but now with the
authority of a government party. At a time when the " revival of the fatherland " comes
first, the class struggle must be limited to the parliamentary games of the Party. But it
must be banned from the places of production: " the strike is the weapon of the trusts, "
proclaimed the secretary general of the CPF, Maurice Thorez, and everywhere the communists
must oppose it.
Their recent hegemony in the CGT allows them. At the congress of April 1946, the
Stalinists affirmed their hold on a confederation, which claims 5.5 million union members,
and marginalized the non-communist trade unionists (grouped around the periodical Force
ouvrière ) and the Trotskyist and anarchist minorities. Having become a transmission belt
of the government, the CGT becomes more and more like a yellow union. In large
nationalized companies (Renault, EDF, Charbonnages de France ...), it co-manages
production, pushes rates, ensures wage moderation, prevents strikes.
Revolutionary minorities, however, are not without influence. They meet a not
insignificant echo in certain fringes of the youth and the proletariat disgusted by the
institutionalization of the PCF and the CGT. It is this far left that, despite the
Stalinist lead screed, will succeed, in April 1947, to ignite the powder, and this in one
of the main bastions of the labor movement: the Renault plant in Boulogne-Billancourt.
On this factory of 30,000 employees, where the CGT claims 17,000 cards, the Stalinists
believe that their hold is total. They underestimate the nuisance capacity of
revolutionaries who are agitated in certain recesses. Thus the Communist Union (UC,
Trotskyist) groups about ten active members in the " Collas sector ": the departments 6
and 18 (manufacture of gearboxes, directions, gables) ; the small (about ten people) CNT
anarcho-syndicalist is animated by an activist of the FA, Gil Devillard, in department 49
(assembly engines) ; the PCI also has some activists.
It all started at the end of February 1947. At the initiative of the CU, open meetings
tried to bring together the " discontent " of the stalino-employer regime. These
meetings, in which the PCI, the FA, the CNT and even some Bordigists participate, bring
together up to 60 people. It is soon decided to launch a unifying claim, previously
brandished and abandoned by the CGT: an increase of 10 francs on the base salary. From
mid-April, the claim begins to take in the Collas area. At the end of an improvised AGM, a
strike committee is formed, in which a CU activist, Pierre Bois, begins to make himself
known. . On Friday, April 25, starting at 6:30 am, workers in the Collas sector
disengaged, cut electricity, set up pickets and issued a call for mobilization to the rest
of the plant.
The PCF and the CGT rush to kill the movement in the bud. " This morning, a gang of
Anarcho-Hitler-Trotskyists wanted to blow up the factory, " exclaims Plaisance, secretary
of the CGT, in an improvised speech at the entrance of the factory. Faced with these
various calumnies the strike tramples until Monday 28, then it spreads suddenly. A meeting
is called at the entrance of the factory by the strike committee. When Pierre Bois climbed
onto the newsstand at Place Nationale to speak, the assembly listening to his speech was
spectacular: 3,000 workers answered the call.
While the bonzes of the CGT and the PCF boycott the meeting, the national leaders of some
organizations like the CNT, the tendency Front worker of the CGT (in fact the PCI) and the
CFTC, came to express their support. The micro-car was brought by the Jeunesses
socialistes. The next day, there are more than 10,000 strikers, soon 12,000.
In department 49, the strikers taken by the CNT run to stop the main engine, which
controls the assembly lines. It comes to blows with the Stalinists who want to stop them.
Libertarian Communist Gil Devillard is appointed to represent the department on the strike
Activist FA and CNT leader in department 49, he is a member of the strike committee.
While all the press echoed the strike at Renault, the parade of the 1 st of May is huge.
The 100,000 copies of a special edition of Libertaire are sold in full. Eugène Hénaff,
General Secretary of CGT Metallurgy, who came in person to the factory, was booed. The
pressure on the Stalinists is enormous, especially since the base of the CGT participates
in the movement. After a few days, she has no choice but to join in and immediately claims
The strike committee is finally not the weight against the CGT, which gradually takes
control of the plant. On May 8, the government grants 3 francs increase. On May 9, the
Stalinists have two-thirds return to work. Only the most combative ones remain in the
fight. Departments 6, 18, 88, 31, 48 and 49 thus persist in a " cork strike " which
paralyzes the rest of the factory and does not cease completely until May 15, once the
government has granted a bonus of 1,600 francs and an advance of 900 francs for all and
The cold war is launched
However, for the PCF, the damage is done. His ministers were briefly obliged to show
solidarity with the strikers. On May 5, they are expelled from the government.
Detached from their governmental obligations, the Stalinists unleash the bridle to worker
discontent. In June, strikes broke out among railway workers, miners and elsewhere. That's
good, Moscow is just decided to change tactics. The time is no longer for peaceful
coexistence with the West, but for confrontation. The Soviets vilify the French and
Italian Communists who since 1945 have let themselves go to " parliamentary cretinism ".
The PCF feels obliged to prove itself and, wherever it can, launches " Molotov strikes
Whose objectives are often more in keeping with the plans of Soviet diplomacy than with
the workers' demands. What does it matter: the class struggle regains its rights, even if
it is on a new political chessboard: that of the Cold War.
At Renault-Billancourt and elsewhere, the Stalinists redo their yellowed coat of arms. A
few months after the strike, the CNT disappears from the landscape, when its main animator
leaves for training outside. The libertarian communist current will again develop an
activity in the factory between 1949 and 1956, creating the group Makhno. For its part,
the UC drives a union competing with the CGT, the Democratic Union Renault (SDR) which
will have up to 406 members but is quickly marginalized. It disintegrates shortly after
the split of the UC in 1949.
It is that the return of the Stalinists to the social struggles upsets the deal.
Trotskyists and libertarians find themselves deprived of the space they have been able to
occupy during the PCF's governmental parenthesis. For lack of prospects, the extreme left
will gradually crumble and sinking into dissensions on the direction to take to get out of
the doldrums - the PCI split in 1952, the FA in 1953. It will be necessary to wait until
May 68 for that the revolutionaries find a national audience.
William Davranche (AL Montrouge)
THE EXTREME LEFT IN 1947
Internationalist Communist Party (ICP): A Trotskyist organization founded in 1944, the
ancestor of the current Workers Party (PT) and the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR).
Defends at the time the slogan " For a government PS-PC-CGT ".
Communist Union (UC): Led by the Romanian worker Barta, this Trotskyist group born in 1939
is the ancestor of the current Workers' Struggle. He criticizes the PCI's policy as a "
united front with Stalinism " .
Anarchist Federation (FA): Founded in 1945, ancestor of the current Anarchist Federation
and Alternative libertarian. Refuses to choose one of the two camps of the cold war and
practices the so-called " third front " strategy : neither Stalin nor Truman.
National Confederation of Labor (CNT): Anarcho-syndicalist division of the CGT, founded in
December 1946, heir to both the pre-war CGT-SR, and the Spanish CNT in exile.
Bordigists: Militants of the ultra-left Leninist and anti-unionist, claiming the thought
of the Italian Amadeo Bordiga.
8-12 April 1946: Congress of the CGT in Paris: Stalinist hegemony. Split of
13-15 September 1946: II th Congress of the FA in Dijon.
December 7-9, 1946: First Congress of the French CNT.
December 19, 1946: Beginning of the Indochina War.
March 30, 1947: Insurrection of Madagascar. The repression, atrocious, will kill 12,000
people. In France, the Renault strike will eclipse the event.
April 24: The government reduces the daily ration of bread from 300 to 250 grams.
April 25: Start of the strike at Renault.
May 4: The communist deputies refuse to vote the confidence to the president of the
May 5: Communist ministers are excluded from the government.
May 19: End of the strike at Renault.
June 2: Start of the railway workers strike, soon followed by that of EDF-GDF, then by
banks and miners.
September 30-October 5: Summit of nine European Communist parties, under the auspices of
the Soviet PC, in Szlarska-Poreba, Poland. Adoption of the Zhdanov Cold War Doctrine. The
Italian and French PCs are tanced for their " parliamentary cretinism " .
November 9-11: In Angers, III th Congress of the Anarchist Federation.
November 10: Start in Marseille insurrectional strikes that will shake the country for
December 19: The trend Force ouvrière splits of the CGT.
April 12, 1948: Foundation of the CGT-FO.
April: New wave of strikes.
September-November: Wave of violent strikes.
October 4: Miners strike launched by the CGT.
October 16: The government has the wells occupied by the army. Very violent clashes with
the strikers, in Saint-Etienne, Carmaux, Montceau-les-Mines and Alès.
 Gil Devillard, " At Renault, to fight in the Makhno group, it was not easy ! " ,
Gavroche n ° 148, October-December 2006.
 Pierre Bois, " The strike of the Renault factories ", in The proletarian revolution
of May 25, 1947.
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