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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #294 - Forty years ago, May 1979: the CFDT releases the class struggle (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]
Sat, 25 May 2019 07:57:36 +0300
The 38 th Confederal Congress of the CFDT is held from 8 to 12 May 1979 in Brest. Between
the policy of "refocusing" and exclusions, it marks a turning point in the history of the
plant. The CFDT will therefore resolutely turn its back on the self-management socialist
orientation that had made its originality and its appeal in the post-68. In defiance of
its most combative union teams. ---- It must always be remembered that the CFDT of the
1970s is light years away from the organization it has become today. In the wake of May
68, the union is in tune with social protest, and, much more than the CGT, largely open to
struggles against all dominations. The whole being articulated to a project of social
transformation clearly affirmed: yes, there was a time where the CFDT wanted the socialism
and the self-management.
For ten years, this ideal will not only serve as a compass for the confederal strategy,
but also incarnate in real trade union practices and struggles: that of LIP in 1973 is
undoubtedly the most emblematic example.
Of course such a protestist tropism does not fall from the sky: after May 68, the central
cedetist opens its doors widely, including welcoming many "activists of May", among others
those of extreme left.
The choice of self-management socialism also allows the CFDT to offer an alternative to
the PC-CGT couple, building on the achievements of May 1968, first and foremost the
recourse to the Sovereign General Assembly.
In a context that is increasingly rising social protest (more than 16 million strike days
between 1969 and 1973, which represents an increase of 70%!), CFDT teams intend to link
self-management struggles and society . All the more so since they have entered trade
unionism at the same time as the CFDT adopted its self-managing socialist orientation.
After 68, the plant increases its workforce by 20%, a gain of more than 100,000 members.
They are the ones who will "do" the self-managing CFDT.
But any organization generates its strategic disagreements and its stakes of powers. In
the mid-1970s, the CFDT evolved and the Confederal leadership became increasingly
concerned about what it called "the rise of basism and leftism" within the plant.
Especially since Edmond Maire, the Secretary General, and his supporters have embarked on
a strategy of "committed autonomy" with the Socialist Party, in the perspective of a
victory for the Union of the Left. the legislative elections of March 1978. In such a
perspective, continue to bet everything on the struggles is not "responsible" .
Take out the "leftist couchos"
The Annecy Congress in May 1976 also brought to his acme the weight of oppositions to the
"line" of Edmond Maire, already considered too "reformist". These oppositions are of two
The first is gathered around Pierre Héritier (secretary of the regional union CFDT
Rhône-Alpes) and Émile Le Beller (leader of the CFDT-PTT). It is close to the Center for
Studies, Research and Socialist Education (Ceres), a current run by Jean-Pierre
Chevenement within the Socialist Party. It can be considered that the second is globally
animated by the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) of which 60 to 65 members are
delegates to the Annecy Congress of 1976.
At this congress, the two "oppositions" separately gather 20% of mandates. When they merge
their voices, they weigh nearly 45% of the vote.
It's too much for the confederal leadership. At the forum of the congress, Edmond Maire
vilifies the "cuckoos" , these birds that make their nest in that of others. On 2 July
1976, in front of the new national office, he now estimates that "it is impossible to
continue working for three years on these vague bases.[...]We must change course and
method, otherwise, at the 1979 Congress, the rejection cartel will constitute a negative
majority and we will be deadlocked. At stake is the future of the CFDT" .
In December 1976, the first warning, the departmental union (UD) of the Gironde is suspended.
At the UD of the Gironde, it is reproached too active support for committees of soldiers
(for many worn by the extreme left, the LCR in particular, but also the Revolutionary
Marxist Alliance, the AMR, Pabloite inspiration, and libertarian communists), despite
confederal warnings " .
After May 68, the CFDT teams intend to link self-management struggles and society. All the
more so since they have entered trade unionism at the same time as the CFDT adopted its
self-managing socialist orientation. Photo: a CFDT procession in 1972.
After the time of the suspensions, comes the one of the exclusions. On 27 September 1977,
the 20 members of the Executive Committee (EC) of the CFDT section of the Lyon-Gare
sorting center are excluded by the county office of the CFDT-PTT trade union of the Rhône,
following an inquiry by the national office.
For the departmental office, the EC Lyon-Gare represents a "trend" in fact by taking its
own initiatives that do not respect the "federalism" of the CFDT. What is criticized for
him is to have acted on behalf of the section "without any decision of the structures
responsible for the CFDT" whether in the context of the anti-militarist struggle, the
"coordination of struggles" around the LIP or participation in the anti-nuclear
demonstration of Creys-Malville. In reality, it is their combativeness and their autonomy
which is reproached to the activists of Lyon-Gare.
Other CFDT structures will bear the brunt of this wave of exclusions on the eve of the
1979 Congress. In January 1978, the BNP section of the Paris Union of Banks, with more
than 1,000 members, is suspended. In March 1979 it is the turn of the union council of the
CFDT section of Usinor-Dunkerque, which includes 800 members.
It is therefore in the interval 1976-1979 that everything is accelerating. It was also in
those years that the Confederation adapted its analysis to the political and economic context.
The rupture of the Union of the Left in September 1977 suggests a possible defeat, ruining
the strategic edifice of "committed autonomy".
Farewell to the strike
At the same time, partly related to the 1973 Oil Shock and the intransigence of the
capitalists in defending their interests, the economic crisis is worsening. Faced with
this, the first attitude of the CFDT is the denial of sacrifices for workers.
But the crisis is synonymous with deindustrialisation and increasingly massive layoffs.
Combativeness is in decline, the year 1978 counts only 2.2 million days of strike.
De-unionization affects all organizations. Unemployment rose by 11% in August 1978 to
almost 2 million private jobs.
The confederal leadership will "slip" on an increasingly "realistic" analysis . Jacques
Moreau, from the CFDT Cadet Union and close to Edmond Maire, presents a report to the
Confederation National Council of January 1978, which bears witness to this evolution: if
concrete results are needed to restore confidence in trade unionism, and as the strike "It
does not work anymore", we have to put negotiation at the heart of the CFDT's strategy.
If it is first rejected, the Moreau report will continue to inspire the confederal clan.
In the spring of 1978, after the electoral defeat of the left in the March legislative
elections, Edmond Maire went to Matignon to converse with the Prime Minister Raymond
Barre, yet the architect of government austerity plans. It is in "social partner" that the
CFDT now arises.
And the Moreau report, presented as a necessary "refocusing" on "pure" trade unionism
against "political" trade unionism in previous years, will serve as a basis for the
Confederation's May 1979 discussions.
Another consequence of the "refocusing", the unit of action with the CGT flounders.
Whatever one may think of the particular interests of the two confederal branches to
unity, it is clear that this unity had been in the preceding years one of the factors of
the rise of the struggles.
Such a strategic aggiornamento will make dizzy to the numerous teams CFDT who educated
unions in the post-68, solidly tied to the hope socialist self-management.
Birth of a union left
Some do not immediately perceive the danger of "refocusing", say that after all it is a
way out of the orbit of the Socialist Party and it is not so bad.
But of course it is not the opinion of the excluded of Lyon-Gare, BNP Paris, Usinor
Dunkerque who seek first at once to get their reinstatement in the CFDT and unveil the
springs . Because they and they perceive that in the "new course" that wants to impulse
the confederal leadership, it is their syndicalism of struggle and class that disturbs.
They are present at the door of the Brest congress, distributing brochures documenting
their exclusions. At the congress forum, delegates asked that the excluded be able to
express themselves and defend their point of view in the name of trade union democracy,
without success. A motion to this effect is signed by 150 unions ... or 10% of those
represented at the Brest Congress.
For some, the 1979 congress will be significant "what revolutionary trade unionists can
expect today from their action within the CFDT: a different practice with the workers
within the sections, in some special cases at the a union; but, in the end, misadventures
with the bureaucracy ..."
In the CFDT, 1979 marks in any case very clearly the tilting of opposition to dissidence.
To continue to support a class struggle socialist and self-management syndicalism, it will
now be necessary to organize. Inside the plant, or outside. It is the choice that will
make the excluded by creating the first "alternative unions": Syndicat autogestionnaire
des travailleurs (SAT) at Lyon-Gare, Democratic Union of Banks (SDB) in Paris, Union of
struggle of the workers (SLT) of Usinor-Dunkerque.
Despite this, opponents will still be heard in the CFDT for more than ten years. They and
they will put their union tool at the service of strikes and the self-management of
struggles. And it will be the ferment of the creation of SOUTH unions in the 1990s.
 "When the CFDT wanted socialism and self-management", Les Utopiques n ° 10, spring 2019
 "1973: Lip, Lip, Lip, Hurray ! », Libertarian Alternative , June 2013
 Challenging in the Army. Soldiers' Committees, Anti-militarism and Syndicalism in the
1970s", Les Utopiques n ° 5, June 2017
 "1977: Hunting witches in the CFDT", Libertarian Alternative , September 2017
 Frank Georgi, "The world changes, change our unionism: the crisis seen by the CFDT
(1973-1988)", in Twentieth century, history review n ° 84, 2004
 "CGT-CFDT, the unfortunate times and woes of the 68s", Les Utopiques n ° 4, February 2017
 Workers Solidarity No. 86/87/88, September 1979
 It should be noted, however, that some of the excluded members choose to join the CGT
 Trade unionists and libertarians. A history of the Union of Libertarian Communist
Workers (1974-1991) , editions of Libertarian Alternative, 2013
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