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(en) Alternative libertaire #221 - 1942: The workers' resistance against Vichy (fr) [machine translation]
Fri, 07 Dec 2012 16:18:16 +0200
Tuesday, October 13, 1942 at 11 am 3000 working men and women gather in the aisle
workshops SNCF Oullins, south of Lyon. In the midst of World War II, the railroad decided
to strike against the requisition of 30 of their designated to work in Germany. The
strike, which extends throughout the south, still occupied by the Germans, is a very
special example of worker resistance against Vichy, draconian regime capable of carrying
out violent repression. ---- Vichy and workers ---- When the list is displayed
requisitioned Oullins, 8 hours, trade unionists, many communists gather in the corners of
the plant throughout the morning to discuss the reaction to have. At 10:20, Jean Enjolvy,
communist activist active in hiding since 1940, took the risk of discovering and triggers
the siren call of the strike, not without shoving two foremen who wanted to prevent it.
Union action is severely limited by the laws of Vichy. The coming to power of Marshal
Petain in June 1940 marked the beginning of a rematch of the propertied classes,
traumatized by 1936, which broadcast a speech explaining the massive defeat by social
tensions generated by the unions and the taste of leisure developed by Popular Front. The
law of 16 August 1940 provides for the dissolution of any structure inter-union
(confederations, departmental and local unions ...), even if the decree of November 1940
requires a tolerance for the maintenance of UD. The law of 4 October 1941 prohibits
concerted cessation of work. The base unions are allowed in the project corporatist
This project aims to replace the class opposition by a harmonious communion in the trades
on behalf of the value of labor. To promote this harmony, Vichy put in place systems to
protect workers (quotas of migrant workers, creating a retreat in March 1941, the creation
of social and medical services companies in July 42 ...) but not workers, encouraged to
Unionism weakened and divided
Even before the political union of Vichy, unionism was already weakened. In rail, we had
not experienced since the failed strike of the 1920 [ 1 ], even in 1936. Workers and
workers Oullins did not experience this struggle.
In addition, after the failure of the general strike of November 1938, the CGT has more
than 750,000 members in 1940 against 4,000,000 in 1937. It is also divided following the
German Soviet Pact. It excludes all those who do not declare themselves against the pact,
that is to say, most of the Communists. On 29 September 1939, 620 unions were disbanded in
France because they are run by communists, along with the PCF. If DU Rhône, especially the
railway Oullins, are then noted in refusing to exclude the communists, it does not
constitute a harbinger of the 1942 strike: Hospitals of Lyon, the same refusal is
displayed, Yet the union hospital is one of the most engaged in collaboration with Vichy.
But the division is primarily ideological. Communists loyal to the Soviet Union refused to
choose sides between Germany on one side and Britain on the other, the imperialists are
considered equivalent. The fascist danger is not considered sufficient to support the call
to Franco-British camp. Many revolutionary syndicalists and anarchists particularly marked
by the defeat of the Spanish, adopt the same position. CGT-SR (syndicalist), founded in
1926 by libertarians who left the CGT-U after its takeover by the PCF [ 2 ] does not
survive its ban in 1939, along with the PCF. This does not preclude some libertarians to
choose sides: Loreal Vichy Louis who spends Libertarian in antisemitic newspaper La Gerbe
De Gaulle Albert Guigui, former head of the union section of the Libertarian , become
resistant under the pseudonym "Varlin" and in 1943, the CGT representative in London.
Between collaboration and activism wait
In July 1940, the remains of the CGT is the subject of a takeover by René Belin and
anti-trend "Unions" (the name of his journal). Belin, became Secretary of State for Labour
in Vichy, is transforming the CGT "French community of work" and delete that Article 1 of
the Statute, which refers to the class struggle. From August, reformists led by Jouhaux,
met and decided to maintain a CGT while entering illegal unions and legal institutions
established by Vichy. In this context, the replenishment of underground unions can be done
fairly quickly, including in the northern zone occupied by the Germans. The issue is
mostly how far one can go in union action. The miners' strike of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais
May 27 to June 9, 1941, which was attended by nearly 100,000 miners ended in the
deportation of 270 of them and the execution of Communist leaders.
After the attack on the USSR in June 1941, the PCF selects a secret political alliance
patriotic. The introduction of the Changing Policy to help the German economic effort in
June 1942, the incentive to invest unionism illegal. Conditions are then combined for a
reconciliation between the CGT and the Communists. A meeting was held in September 1942.
But a discrepancy remains. CGT meant primarily to strengthen the organization until the
right moment to take action. She is described as "wait" by the Communists who believe that
we must act immediately and mobilize the workers, which is described as "activism".
The same positions are found in Oullins the morning of October 13, including some
communists, some fear that repression is fatal to the CGT being rebuilt, and the armed
group FTPF (Mavericks and French supporters ) formed in the factory. It is ultimately the
"activist" is chosen.
A spontaneous strike but cautious
October 13 to 11, 3000 while working men and women gathered in front Oullins offices, some
trade unionists start to disengage deposits Vaise, The Fly (Lyon) and Grenoble. Other
broadcast instructions caution to preserve the repression does not stop the merger of the
foundry (which could be considered as sabotage), not too upset the chief engineer who
invective ... At noon, the gathering dispersed, workers and workers returning home or in
their studios to eat. But at 13:30, they are new to the 3000 offices and other plant
railway town Oullins-Car, informed during lunch, following the movement. Police and GMR [
3 ] invade the area during the afternoon.
The residents then rush around the plant. While the chief engineer and union legal
discourses attempt conciliation, the union underground, by phone, and are disengage
Perrache Vénissieux. The early hours, the active solidarity of families in the
neighborhood and other sites in the region SNCF became necessary to guard against repression.
While the occupation of the workshops is determined to 18h, it is the presence of a crowd
around the factory prompting police to delay the planned evacuation. Finally, feeling the
tension mount, strikers prefer to lift the occupation, to reach out to 20h and from the
crowd in protest to the mayor. If the day was a success, the backlash was not long: in the
night, 27 railwaymen were arrested. Some, who chose not to return home, then go into
hiding. At 6:30 am, the workers are a barrier filter at the entrance of workshops,
including the director of the South East of the station, arrived from Paris at night,
which questions the working men and women to know the names of leaders. Time to bring
everyone the work can not resume until the afternoon.
The resurgence of the working class
Wednesday 14 October, workers and workers of metallurgy and other sites SNCF took over:
SIGMA, Berliet, Calor, Cables de Lyon, etc.. Background identify the 12,000 strikers in 22
factories while the DU CGT clandestine account 30000 in 30 factories. At the station, the
movement spread including Saint Etienne, Chambéry, Roanne, Clermont Ferrand, Marseille,
... where the railroad tracts lead Lyon.
Thursday, October 15, while workshops Oullins work under close supervision, a women's
demonstration for " butter and food "is harshly dispersed by police. The Secretary of
State for Communications, Robert Gibrat, arrived in Vichy day promises the release of 27
arrested workers. However, 146 other strikers of the city, including 94 railway workers
were arrested in the night from Friday 16 to Saturday 17. On October 20, there are still
343 arrests while all strikes are over since 17. A majority of the workers affected by the
requisition of labor in the department have had time to hide, to find an excuse to evade
the requisition, and for some, into hiding.
If differences exist between CGT and Communist enthusiastic participation of non-communist
trade union strikes promotes unity by the base and celebrates the triumph of the line
"activist". Communists get a large audience in the CGT rebuilds. The UD CGT du Rhône,
still illegal, from 20 000 members in 1940 to 50,000 in late 1943. In addition, the
outbreak of strikes often requires union members to go underground, which strengthens the
resistance movements, especially those linked to the PCF, which makes its clandestine
structures honed since 1939 to serve the thousands of new recruits.
Fear has changed sides
Despite the repression, the movement has especially helped reverse the balance of power in
some areas. Oullins remains a mecca fight until the end of the war there are many sabotage
(FTPF group is active within the same plant from May 1943) and also strikes the point that
the union Marius Bonazi later said " we have never been on strike so often "[ 4 ].
Direction is reduced to negotiate with the CGT, which is not supposed to exist.
The repression was hard but also demonstrates the preparation and not surprise the
authorities. Can not do without a valuable workforce, they must focus on a few "leaders"
and exert repression wants deterrent. Workers arrested on the night of October 13 to 14
are mostly pre-war activists already be on file by the police, who had not played a
significant role in the strike. The wave of arrests following target more effectively
illegal trade unionists and durable. Most are released after a few days, only a few remain
imprisoned and 3 are deported to Buchenwald. Moreover, it must be an intervention by
Pierre Laval, anxious productivity for the prefect of the Rhone finally agrees to free the
workers that the direction of the station and the Secretary of State Gibrat demanded for
The war, a time of high social conflict?
While one might think that the strikes are impossible in wartime, they exist and multiply
from the fall of 1942. They are usually very short, rarely more than a day, and other
actions succeed them (sabotage, strikes zeal ...). The claims are limited to the physical
aspects, which are not lacking: supply, wages, working time [ 5 ], authoritarianism
employers, etc.. The requirement productivity allows employers to justify the resurgence
of Taylorism, the multiplication of offices method and timing of return in areas where it
had been banned by collective agreements in 1936.
But behind the material demands, which can sometimes get real improvements, hiding as
political actions. Resistance movements calling for strikes symbolic dates: 14 July, 11
November, September 21 (the anniversary of Valmy) ... including the call of PCF plays the
patriotic card, but on August 1st (anniversary of Jaures ) and even April 28 (anniversary
of Maurice Thorez)! Through many adaptations to union traditions (no stakes, hunting
yellow ...) strikes and other forms of worker resistance, were much used against the
fascist Vichy regime than is often believed.
Renaud (AL Alsace)
The fiasco of 1938 the insurgency of 1944
November 30, 1938: failure of the general strike called by the CGT against the decrees of
14 November 1938 to increase the working time and suppress workers protests pretext of
September 29, 1939: prohibition of the Communist Party and unions "communists or anarchists."
June 16, 1940: Marshal Philippe Pétain was appointed chairman by President Albert Lebrun.
He will get full power on July 10.
July 14, 1940: René Belin, number 2 of the CGT, became Secretary of State for Labour
government of Pierre Laval.
August 16, 1940: Law of the dissolution of all inter-union structure.
November 15, 1940: 12 manifesto against Vichy and charter work Belin. There are 3 main
leaders of the CFTC, CGT 9, 4 the trend "Unions" Belin (including Christian Pineau, a
veteran of the CGT-SR).
June 22, 1941: Beginning of the German attack against the Soviet Union, forcing the
Communists to choose sides.
16 June 1942: Agreement between Pierre Laval and Fritz Sauckel to institute Relief: a
French prisoner will be released for three French volunteers went to work in Germany.
September 4, 1942: The law on the orientation of the workforce can requisition workers to
France for the lack of volunteers.
October 13, 1942: beginning of the strike Oullins.
November 1942: Jouhaux was arrested and deported to Buchenwald, then, in 1943, the castle
of Itter in Austria.
February 16, 1943: Law on compulsory labor service for young people born between 1920 and
April 17, 1943: Verbal agreements for the reintegration of Perreux the CGT excluded
communists in 1939.
July 30, 1944: A bomb group FTPF workshops Oullins destroyed the last crane of 50 tons
Network South East (used to meet the derailed locomotives). 13 workers and their
supervisor will be arrested and severely tortured.
August 10, 1944: insurrectionary general strike launched by the railway from Paris.
Resistance and unions
October 16, 1942, a tract unit of resistance movements is published to support the strikes
in the Lyon region. This leaflet entitled " Not a man in Germany ", is signed by the
Combat movement (especially consisting of Christian Trade Unions), Franc Shooter [ 6 ]
National Front (organization unit created by the Communist Party in 1941), Liberation
(where 'there are many CGT) and the Communist Party. This is the first tract unit of
resistance, was also the first where the PC is. These resistance movements, surprised by
the strike, have known the same discussions "sitters" and "activist" before finally
deciding to support the strike.
Relations between workers and union resistance movements are marked by mutual distrust.
Many resistant aspire to national unity that sits uncomfortably with class antagonisms.
According to Yvon Morandat sent in Lyon in November 1941 by De Gaulle to establish contact
with unions, union Christians have difficulty taking a stand against the political power,
while the Confederates are too marked by anti-militarism and too undisciplined [ 7 ].
Unionists on their side do not want to be chapotés movements by "military".
From the summer of 1942 with the Changing the resistance becomes interesting working for
London: multiple funding proposals tributary to the CGT and CFTC. Jouhaux wary of
Anglo-American and prefer to be financed by the unions Anglo-Saxon. Paul Joseph Botton
Vignaux and the CFTC, refugees in New York, invite unionists Christians to beware of
General De Gaulle, which represents " a tradition of politico-military authoritarian
nationalism socially paternalistic speaks the language of the French Revolution . " But
ultimately millions of francs tributary November 1942 and unions Anglo-Saxon (transport,
minors, metallurgy, railway ...) are only rarely the cause.
Renaud (AL Alsace)
[ 1 ] see February 1920: The great rail strike undermines the CGT in AL No. 192, February
[ 2 ] see 90 years ago: The "anarcho-syndicalist" lose CGTU in AL No. 219, Summer 2012.
[ 3 ] Groups mobile reserve font created in 1941 for the maintenance of order, on the
model of the mobile gendarmerie.
[ 4 ] Quoted by Christian Chevandier, Railway strike or identity construction (1848-2001),
[ 5 ] In March 1941, Vichy passed the legal workweek to 48 hours per week, but maintains
exceptional cases decided in 1939 to go up to 60h.
[ 6 ] Journal of motion France freedom, not to be confused with FTPF.
[ 7 ] Report of May 30, 1942, quoted by Alya Aglan "Trade unionists in the resistance," in
Twentieth Century No. 67, July-September 2000.
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