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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire #223 - 1912: CGT general strike against war (fr) [machine translation]

Date Wed, 30 Jan 2013 13:33:44 +0200


December 16, 1912, when the Balkan conflict threatens to engulf Europe, the CGT mobilizing its forces for preventive action: the war, the working class does not want. For revolutionaries, it is a real test. This will be the last before 1914.
November 24, 1912, when the Balkan War brought Europe on the threshold of a general conflagration, the Socialist International held in Switzerland a memorable congress against war that evoke Louis Aragon in 1934 The Bells of Basel .

But the French CGT, revolutionary syndicalist orientation, did not want to go to Basel pacifist protest vote "platonic". It has higher ambitions. Parallel Event socialist, she holds her own so extraordinary congress against war in Paris.

Organized in record time, it is a success in terms of attendance: 1452 750 delegates representing unions, it is more than ordinary congress Havre, two months earlier. The hall of the cooperative La Bellevilloise is too small to hold them all.

The aim of the conference is to organize a general strike preventive twenty-four hours to demonstrate opposition to the war of the proletariat, and discourage warmongering government PoincarÃ.

Bid anarchist
This is the first time since his dismal failure in May 1909, the CGT attempted a general strike. During the Moroccan crisis in 1911 [ 1 ], union had abandoned, noting that the working class was not ready to lift. So one can imagine the burden that weighs on the shoulders of activists and activists in the late 1912, the idea of grabbing again this formidable weapon but if unwieldy: the general strike.

In this respect, the CGT still stumbles on the same obstacle: the strategic associations to block the country - miners and railway workers - are not more proactive. If it were up to their leaders, reformers, the subject would not even be discussed. This is largely to circumvent this extraordinary congress, which will direct expression of the base, was summoned. And it works.

The right of the CGT opposed the general strike, but with little insurance. His spokesman expressed hostile to a room, and large federations reformists (Minor, Book, Cheminots) does not in any event to their rescue.

At the other end, left the CGT feels good and gives position in the bidding, quickly exceeding the strike issue twenty-four hours to bring the debate on the attitude to have in case of war. Activists of the Communist Anarchist Federation (FCA) and their supporters lead the attack on the theme of unpatriotic [ 2 ]. Estor (Building Montpellier) calls to sabotage railway and postal communication channels in case of mobilization [ 3 ]. The navvy Lepetit strike sees twenty-four hours rehearsal which "is not so much intended to frighten the government to give confidence to the working world" [ 4 ]. The intervention is the most sensational of Gaspard Ingweiller, the Union of metals from the Seine, and Henry Combes, Employee [ 5 ]. The report recommends that they give reading of textbooks sabotage, insurrection strike in case of war, the formation of "secret groups of companions safe" to move to the revolutionary action, requisition or destruction of the rotating bourgeois press [ 6 ]. For Combes, also secretary of the FCA, the labor movement, he wants to scare the bourgeoisie, should be less than demand peace prepare for war: "It should not be thought that we are afraid of war, need to know that we are ready, if the war to revolution, to achieve social transformation. " [ 7 ].

This attitude is somewhat annoying tribunician officials as confederal Jouhaux, Yvetot Griffuelhes, Merrheim and Dumoulin, anxious to get a strike twenty-four hours without the scare delegates more moderate. It is ultimately their interventions that fit the debate and in the end, the general strike was passed by acclamation almost unanimously [ 8 ]. It will be December 16, 1912.

Congress ends as it should be by a mass meeting Salle Wagram: 15,000 listeners applaud speakers come from all over France.

The rumor Arracourt
Soon returned home, activists are stepping up to the task. There are three weeks. And it takes the heat because at the same time, nationalist fervor doubles in the press, which rises pin a symptomatic episode: mobilizing Arracourt, near the German border.

As a result of an error PTT Arracourt nine rural communes of Meurthe-et-Moselle received on 28 November, a military mobilization order. In perfect discipline, without manifest reluctance, the vast majority of peasants illico answered the call. The event reflects the sense of impending war in November 1912, even in the most remote rural areas. The government and the press see it as a slap to the pacifists. The labor press retorted "bluff", "patriotic hype" [ 9 ] and even "legend" [ 10 ].

The militants of the CGT so courageously continue their preparations in a hostile climate, with a government that prohibits meetings, some farm labor exchanges, punish some recalcitrant mayors and threat of revocation workers arsenals. At the same time, the sense of urgency to strike down a notch with international appeasement: December 3rd, indeed, an armistice was signed in the Balkans.

Searches and arrests
In Paris, the State continued repression against the most restless of unpatriotic: FCA and Young trade unionists face raids and arrests. With several of its leaders fleeing abroad or in jail, the FCA is badly shaken, but not bend. Early 1913, a class action lawsuit for "anarchists carried out" under the wicked laws of 1894 will conclude, for 5 militants, for a total of sixteen years in prison and a fine of 6,300 francs. The trial of the "Bonnot gang" at the same time completely overshadow this maneuver choking revolutionaries.

Finally, the D-Day

The general strike of twenty-four hours against the war, December 16, 1912, is a semi-success. To inflate the figures, we chose a Monday, the day of the week off work is higher, due to too wet Sunday [ 11 ].

At the end of the day, the CGT 600,000 strikers. It is not mirobolant. Not ashamed either. The daily Le Matin will see the equivalent of a "slightly amplified May 1" [ 12 ]. In essence, the bourgeois press seeks to deny the event. "Complete failure of the strike" general "twenty-four hours," proclaims L'Echo de Paris , "Failed" also Le Gaulois, La Croix, Le Petit Journal and Intransigeant ; "huge oven" for Le Figaro , "black oven" for the French Action . More forgiving, Le Matin title: "The strike peace was far from being general," while Le Petit Parisien and La Presse suggest his character "partial" . Time, it calls on the government to take action against unpatriotic [ 13 ] .

Minors create surprise
In fact, public opinion was hardly "ÃmotionnÃe" by the day, in the words of Emile Pouget [ 14 ]. Daily life was not disturbed: trains and trams rolled newspapers were placed on newsstands, mail has been sent.

The movement has largely relied on the traditional regions and corporations. Very strong in the RhÃne with the trams and bus stop - 50,000 strikers marched in Lyon, which had never been seen. Honourable Paris region - unsurprisingly, it is the building, metals and furniture that have worked best. In contrast, gas, electrical and book have not changed. No more than state workers, except allumettiers d'Aubervilliers.

The two surprises, it is the Ardennes and the coalfields. The Federation of Miners is reformist, but it has mobilized its troops loyally, with an encouraging result: 50% of strikers in the Nord and Pas-de-Calais, 66% Montceau-les-Mines, 25% in the Loire more than 90% in the Aveyron, the Allier and the Gard. "But do not forget: no coal, no war possible! " enthuses Pouget. As the Ardennes, industrial department and it is much more sensitive border with Germany, the movement was massive, with 50,000 strikers.

In other regions, are strongholds local workers who made ââthe motion. Shoe factories and mills were busy in Ferns, Saint-Quentin, Roanne, Valenciennes, Vienna, Amiens ... ports and docks were blocked in Nantes and Le Havre, especially mobilized. In contrast, workers in the arsenals of Brest, Toulon and Rochefort apparently feared the threat of dismissal. At Brest, for example, we counted only 57 missing, 250 on average against the rest of the year [ 15 ]. In Cher, the movement was general, and even followed by farmers ... only the munitions factories of Bourges are sidelined. In the Gard, HÃrault and PyrÃnÃes-Orientales, are the laborers who made ââthe motion.

Everywhere, the movement is accompanied by peace meetings, with an influx uneven. Clashes with the police took place in Puteaux, Billancourt, Levallois-Perret and Lyon. In the Paris region, police raided union halls.

On the eve of hardship
At the balance sheet, the CGT breathes in terms of its own criteria, it has passed the test without ridicule. The demonstration was certainly not up to the challenge, but it will weigh considerably heavier than the Socialist Congress in Basel. CGT is the only force in the country to initiate such a mobilization, and the only one in Europe to have done. Voice of the People, body confederation, not crying but victory salute "a beautiful demonstration against war [...] really significant for the rulers. [...] We know, above all, that the working class is composed of a dangerous revolutionary minority. Now we know it can, this minority, lead the masses to a social revolution day or the day after a declaration of war. " [ 16 ]

This is the Libertarian shows that by far the most enthusiastic titrating "The war impossible" the one. "We will not have war. The people do not want it, here are our rulers warned, " writes Eugene Jacquemin, who continues: "Never until now, a protest strike has met many strikers [...] for now, c is sufficient. No government is likely to face the hazards of war in such conditions. " [ 17 ].

For Emile Pouget is the main lesson to remember: "The mobilization for peace was not general ... yes! It is an undeniable fact! But [...] if the government committed the criminal folly to declare mobilization for war ... this mobilization would be much less than the general strike was Monday. " [ 18 ]

Officially, the labor movement shows its confidence. In reality, it is on the verge of serious difficulties in 1913, rising to the war will accelerate. Within the CGT, while the reformists will prioritize action and corporate traditional consolidate their forces, revolutionaries, prioritizing the fight against war, will collect all the repression, exhaust their strengths and see their base shrink. From the summer of 1913, the CGT will be shaken by a moral crisis which, a year later, when blowing the decisive hour, it will not be output.

William Davranche (AL Montreuil)

Saber-rattling
October 8, 1912: War breaks out in the Balkans against the Ottoman Empire (supported by Vienna and Berlin) in Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro (supported by Paris, London and St. Petersburg).

October 27: Speech Nantes Chair, Raymond PoincarÃ: " France does not want war, but it does not fear "

November 12: Grand meeting of the FCA promising "sabotage mobilization" if it should happen. In the days following the crackdown on anarchists.

November 17: The Ottoman Empire is on its knees, Russia and Austria-Hungary are on the warpath. Great war rally in PrÃ-Saint-Gervais with PS and FCA.

November 24: International Socialist Congress against the war in Basel. The extraordinary congress of the CGT Paris preventive vote a general strike.

December 3: Armistice in the Balkans.

December 16: In France, 600,000 strikers against the war.

16 February 1913: Failed negotiations and resumption of hostilities in the Balkans.

[ 1 ] Read " 1911: Agadir, the war is already here , " Alternative libertarian February 2011.

[ 2 ] This term prevailing at the time of the internationalism.

[ 3 ] The Hansard of 25 November 1912.

[ 4 ] Report of the congress, page 44.

[ 5 ] The Hansard of 25 November 1912.

[ 6 ] The Gauls of 25 November 1912.

[ 7 ] Proceedings of the conference on page 41.

[ 8 ] Report of the congress, page 61.

[ 9 ] Gustave HervÃ, La Guerre Sociale December 4, 1912.

[ 10 ] Pierre Monatte on Labour December 20, 1912.

[ 11 ] This was called "make-Saint Monday."

[ 12 ] The Morning of December 17, 1912.

[ 13 ] The Times , 18 December 1912.

[ 14 ] Ãmile Pouget, The Social War of 18 December 1912.

[ 15 ] The Gauls of 17 December 1912.

[ 16 ] The Voice of the People December 22, 1912.

[ 17 ] The Libertarian December 21, 1912.

[ 18 ] The Social War of 18 December 1912.
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