The Mass Strike in France May-June 1968

Informations et Correspondance Ouvrieres (ICO)

Root and Branch Pamphlet 3


The pamphlet which follows is an analysis of events which happened in France two years ago. What is the point of publishing today yet another work on this subject? The Mass Strike in France is unique among the mass of print devoted to its subject. It is neither a chronology of events, nor a record of the "leadership" role of one or another political sect, nor yet the discovery of some fashionable new dynamic of revolt in "neo-" or even "post-capitalism". Instead, it looks at the activities of the workers and students in May and June 1968 to discover in what way they were a response to the conditions of capitalist life today; what were their strengths and limitations and in what way they point to the possibilities of a new kind of society.

French capitalism is of course different from the American version. The old fashioned nature of the French university system is just one aspect of a general backwardness. Yet the May-June strike holds lessons for us as well as for our comrades in France. Capitalism today, despite national rivalries and unevenness of development, is more of a world system than ever before. This is true not only on the level of economic ties - the dollar-dominated money system, the world market, the multinational corporations - but in the necessity for each national economy to develop the most modern forms and structures of social and economic organization in order to compete with the advanced sectors of the global economy. It is for this reason that the central phenomena discernible in the French "events" are to be found operating in the US, as well as in all other capitalist nations.

The most celebrated of these is the student revolt, which can bespoken of as the politically most developed part of a general opposition of youth. Young people today are subjected to special stress, as their increased number comes up against an economy less able to provide satisfying jobs, in an economy whose basic irrationality and unpleasantness is more and more visible. Young people necessarily have had less time than their elders to habituate themselves to the kind of life capitalism imposes on them. They are therefore quicker to respond to possibilities of change that suggest themselves in a period of social flux or crisis. It is also easier for them to challenge the institutions which seek to control and contain their rebellion, like the trade unions or political sects.

The student movement must be understood within this context. The university is as central a part of modern capitalism as it is due to the fact that students have become for the most part workers-in-training. It is to a great extent against the ideological rather than the technical aspect of their training that students rebel. Their rebellion, however, does not stay on the plane of ideas. It acquires form (occupation of campuses) and content (disruption of the training process) by reference to the university's function as a point of production of labor-power.

One of the serious limitations of the American student movement has been its failure to deal with the source of its radical energies in the oppression of students. Instead, radicalism has meant devotion to redressing the wrongs of others. The result is that student radicals appear as outsiders in other people's struggles, rather than as members of a group whose own interests require joint activity with other groups.

In this regard the French students present a valuable example. The students who wrote the leaflet reprinted in the text consciously rebelled against their utilization by capital in the exploitation of labor, a role in which they themselves were to be exploited. As The Mass Strike shows, students and workers acted together not to meet the demands of a radical political program but because the development of students' and workers' struggles in the schools and in the shops led to a point where "all the productive workers found themselves up against the same problems, with identical perspectives of action." Indeed the active union of workers and students turns out to be a special case - one today of the greatest importance - of that necessity for any important working class movement: class solidarity. Thus the first real student worker conjuncture (soon followed by similar experiences in Italy) was echoed in a hitherto unexperienced degree of solidarity between French workers and the many foreigners working in France who are usually, like American blacks, both super-exploited and denied participation in trade union struggles.

Secondly, the French events only illustrate in a spectacular fashion what is visible as well in every workers' struggle: the reactionary role of the trade unions at the present time. Here the work which follows is correct to point out the uselessness of an analysis of this role in terms of "treason" and "misleadership". It is foolish to imagine that such organs, whose function is the negotiation of the terms at which wage-labor sells itself to capital, can serve as a means to the overthrow of the wages system.

It must not be forgotten, however, that the unions' confinement of workers' activities within the confines of bourgeois class relations depends on the fact that it is through these structures that the workers extract real benefits from the employers. Not only is the "integrative" nature of the trade unions not due to "misleadership". The unions must he analysed not as structures imposed on the working class from outside, but as a form of working class organization in a period in which the class is not yet ready to overthrow bourgeois society.

This puts the accent of analysis and practice alike where it ought to be: on the problems and progress of the self-organisation of the proletariat through organs of struggle deriving directly from the concrete antagonism of capital and labor at the workplace and in the community (strike committees, action committees, workers' councils, neighborhood councils). As long as the economic and social situation is reasonably stable, the workers allow control of their struggles to pass into into hands of permanent organizations with officials to handle the workers' affairs. When they are striking, on the other hand, particularly when their strike goes outside regular channels, there is no one else to do their thinking and their acting for them.

The spread of the wildcat strike as the form of militant struggle in the workplace throughout the capitalist world, indicating the obsolescence of the trade union, is the sign of a period in which capital is less able to make the concessions which sustained the labor unions in the past. The dream of the "militant" trade union is thus, hopefully, an empty one, not just because of the historically determined characteristics of this form of organisation, but because of its growing uselessness for the working class even from the point of view of purely ameliorative demands at the present time.

Similar considerations apply to the mass "left" parties, like the CP, whose behaviour in May 1968 should have surprised no one. The CP has no interest in seriously rocking a boat which gives its officials a place among the major domos of capital; a parliamentary and trade union-oriented organisation is hardly likely to support a movement struggling to break out of all bourgeois channels. But the problem is not one of "revisionism" and lack of revolutionary purity. The May-June strike allows us to funk, along with the "revolutionary trade union", the rubbish about the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist vanguard party. The real question is; why do such groups - unlike the mass parties, which are part of the state apparatus - play no significant roles at all in political events of this magnitude? Organisations - like the Marxist-Leninist sects - who see the whole point of social revolution in terms of their accession to positions of power, obviously fall out of the picture when large numbers of people discover their capacity to run their own affairs.

The error of the sects is made as well by those comrades who, while not Leninists, ascribe the "failure of the revolution" to lack of initiative on the part of the militants, or even their failure to occupy government ministries.[1] The general point is not to deny the importance of decisive and imaginative action by "militant minorities" in the triggering of mass action, but only to recognize that the limits and general character of a social movement are set by the spirit of the masses and not by that of revolutionary groups. From this it follows that such groups can contribute to the deepening and revolutionary definition of an upheaval not by attempting to take control of it but by taking as their main task the fostering of initiative and self-organization by the mass of people involved.

The meaning of events like the 1968 mass strike is to be looked for not in the continuing existence either of permanent leftist parties or of forms of organization based in and tied to a period of active struggle (like the comités d'action). Evidence of the importance of May-June in the development of the French workers' movement appears rather in the rise in the number of wildcats in the last two years, in an increasing militancy and imagination with which students and workers have been confronting the powers that be.

The question of the role of violence - in the sense of street fighting, terrorism, sabotage - in the process of radicalisation has recently come to the fore within the radical movement here as in France. Much has been made of the effect of the barricaded streetfighting against the police in setting off the French mass strike. As the comrades of ICO point out, power lies not in the streets but in the workplaces where workers have, if they wish to exercise it, the power to decide what is to be produced, how, and for whom. The strength of the students' battles with the cops lay not in their violence per se - necessary as that was - but in the exhibition of a determination to fight for control of their workplace, the Sorbonne. It was this character of the fighting which linked the solidarity of students and young workers at the Latin Quarter barricades to the united front of students and workers against the cops for control of the factory at Flins.

The heart of revolutionary violence, indeed, lies not in battling the protectors or symbols of the bourgeois order but in battling that order itself: in the refusal to submit to the definition of man as capitalist or worker through the seizure of control over the points of production - factory, office, school - which are the centers of social power. As long as capitalism exists, this seizure of social decision-making power can in general only consist in the exercise of direct control over the class struggle itself, in opposition to the claims of parties, trade unions, or press-appointed spokesmen.[2] With the social revolution that will grow out of this struggle the problem will be posed at a new level, that of the organization and direction of production by the producers. One of the virtues of this pamphlet is that it makes intelligible the dynamic link between the struggle as it exists and its imaginable extension into revolution. This link is what the authors discovered in the French workers and students as "the will to assume responsibilities", the felt need, imposed upon us by the capitalist system itself, to take control of our existence into our own hands. I believe that the present work is mistaken in placing the idea of social labor-time, as a measure of production and consumption, at the center of communist economic calculation. For one thing, individuals' needs are not directly related to their contribution to production - young children and old people are obvious examples - and indeed the concept of "average social labor-time" may be appropriate only to a society geared to value-production.

For another, the problem may well be obsolete; given the immense productive power of modern technology, the realization of the slogan "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" seems closer to a practical possibility than to a distant goal.

This is, however, a question which can be resolved theoretically only by a wide-ranging and serious discussion which must be carried on; and practically, only in the process of revolution itself.[3] The great virtue of The Mass Strike in France is to show how such a discussion is meaningful by locating through an analysis of the events of 1968 those characteristics of the class struggle at the present time that point to the emerging reality of its revolutionary goal.

L.K.R. July 1970

[1]See D. and G. Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism, The Leftwing Alternative {McGraw Hill, 1970), and F. Perlman and R. Gregoire, Student Worker Action Committees (Black and Red, Detroit).

[2]See P. Mattick, "Workers Control" in P. Long, ed., The New Left (Porter Sargeant, Boston, 1969).

[3]The study of these questions on which the comrades of ICO base their thinking has recently been republished: Grundprinzipien kommunistischer Produktion und Verteilung (Institut fur Praxis und Theorie des Ratekommunismus, Rudiger Blauvertz Verlag, Berlin: 1970)


I Il S'est Passe Quelque Chose

What was the situation in Prance as 1968 began?

At this time, as for a very long time now, the class struggle consisted in more or less short lived and scattered actions. Now and then sudden outbreaks of resistance, tough but quickly broken by order of the union bigshots. made it possible to think that other forms of struggle could appear-then would collapse back again into apathy.

The chiefs and chieflings of the parties and the trade unions loudly deplored this apathy, without permitting anyone to inquire in public whether this apathy was not itself at once the basis of their position as bureaucrats and the consequence of their dirty work - legal, patriotic, electoral, and so forth. And then there were the little political groups, the groupuscules, preaching in the desert conceptions a half-century old and more Their isolation engendered the idea that modern capitalism was able to manipulate the workers, as producers and as consumers, as it pleased. And solemn sociologists went on and on about a working class stupefied with cheap cars and TVs, bourgeoisified, they said, as if they were talking about a sick man. indifferent to revolt and passive before the iniquity of his condition.

In the face of all that, it was necessary first of all to discover other words, other ideas.

If something had to change, it had to be first of all in men's minds. If something changed a little, it was above all among the young. They were blousons noirs, yes-yes, chevoux longs - hoods, rock'n'rollers, long hairs - one didn't really know what, nothing very precise but yet enough to plunge the bourgeois into fear and incomprehension. The young could no longer be completely controlled; they lived differently, had no longer the old feeling for property, work, and the family. People generally tried to reassure themselves with formulas like "Youth will have its fling!" But it didn't turn out like that.

For, in the end, the weakest link of French capitalism is the youth and the problems it raises for itself and for ruling classes incapable even of perceiving them, imprisoned as they are in a style of politics in which promises take the place of acts and immobility and respect for the moneyed powers that be are decked out with dynamic formulas. These classes are caught up almost relentlessly in rigid and sclerotic institutions like the University, a prey to insurmountable contradictions between the interests of the old teachers and administrators (not always a question of physiological age) preserved in obsolete conceptions and out of date relations of domination as well as in pontificating stupidity, and the interests of an industry which needs technicians at the lowest possible cost of production. Contradictions of this type, setting the old against the (at least relatively) new, are to be found in every level of the society of the Fifth Republic.

Even greedier, more limited, and more self-satisfied than the others, the French employers as a class - and their lieutenants in the parties and labor unions made in their own image - yield only to great popular movements, in the colonies as well as at home.

There is no need to dwell here on the sequence of events, on the repression effected by police and by ideology which made the action of the young people - students and workers together - a detonator setting off an immense and spontaneous movement, without an apparent goal but of a breadth not experienced in France since the Commune and, moreover, spreading this time over the whole country. "We did not suspect the importance of the unorganised...There was a climate of apathy in the unions. They had been built in the image of the power of the bosses in the enterprise." This declaration of a CFDT bureaucrat, after fifteen days of general strike, is most significant.[1]

Not a train or a subway on the rails, not a letter or a telegram carried, not a car or a ton of coal moving - and everywhere, from the smallest enterprise to the biggest, occupation, following that of the universities, of the factories, the offices, the schools, all the cells of economic and social life. One even saw (indicating the depth of the movement), soccer footballers occupying the seat of their Federation, managerial staff occupying the headquarters of an employers' federation and schoolteachers that of their union. Only the organs of political life were ignored, as on that day when 40,000 students passed by the National Assembly, where the deputies were in session, without according it even a hostile cry. The unions, the parties, all the frameworks within which the workers we organized were overflowed and emptied of all real power.

On the surface, the only force still at the disposal of the State was that of the police and the army. But, it must be said, at no moment was this force obliged to intervene with all its means. The police were brutal, but they did not shoot. As for the army, it served at the very most as a dissuasive force, an implicit threat. A ruling class which feels the situation getting out of its control doesn't use teargas grenades: in May-June 1968 there was not a truly revolutionary situation in France.

However, just as the strike arose spontaneously, in the wake of the student revolt, without precise demands, new forms of workplace organisation were considered nearly everywhere. Impassioned and utterly novel discussions took place; people asked themselves about forms of society in which it would no longer be necessary to put things off forever. Now it was possible to talk about everything with everyone; in thousands and thousands of production units, for the first time, people started to put their heads together, on the job, about their condition-about the problems of real life. All of this went on, not in opposition to but outside of the old organisations (like the State) and, for the same reason, the latter more or less sat out the game. Consciously or not, they acted as though they were fully aware that the strikers were not able, from one day to the next, to coordinate their action without going through the old network, and they waited for the movement to fall back, putting their shoulders to the wheel and pushing in this direction with all their still considerable strength. And nevertheless the strikers, if they didn't succeed in setting up even the embryonic form of a new organisation of society, thought no longer of joining up again en masse with political organisations just like the old ones. Thus, when the "militants" - trotskyites, maoists, or other - tried to recruit a vanguard within the student movement, it turned out that the overwhelming majority of the unorganised intended to stay that way, without there being in that intent for a single minute a sign of apathy.

Whether It was a matter of the Grenelle agreements or of shop agreements, of "popular government" or of "revolutionary party", the largest number of the producers in struggle tell that this was not the right response, that something else was necessary, even if this something else was indistinct, in appearance and unformulated. Here is how this feeling was expressed in brief by a worker who spoke during a meeting of a strike committee in answer to the union leaders and the managerial staff of his place of work. The latter controlled the committee and were astonished to see that after fifteen days a gulf had opened between the workers on strike, who came each day to get the good word at the general assembly, and the strike committee, who took it upon itself to hand it out to them.

It was not the unions who started the strike. It was people who violently wanted something. The unions afterwards took the strike in hand and proposed the usual demands. They broke a working mechanism, and that explains the chasm which separates the strike committee from the employees on strike.

"Il s'est passe quelque chose" - something real happened, even if one could at no time speak of revolution. Everyone felt that this was not 1936, but something else again. What burst into the concrete universe of the worker, something which was formally at best only literature for groupuscule, or ritual formula, was the explicit will for responsibilities in production, for exercise of control of production, the birth in the struggle of a feeling of lived interdependence, of fraternity even, between the different categories of producers in word, the rough sketch of a response of workers and students to a sudden crisis of society.

Without doubt, there are few real and particularly significant examples - at least so far as we know - of factories started up again by the strikers themselves. But everything depends on this. It is true that in certain cases, for instance, at Nantes, the unions tried to take care of provisioning; elsewhere, students sought to get agricultural products to factories, to establish with the truckers a liaison between peasants and striking workers. In other cases, going by the letter of the CFDT's slogans, workers demanded management of the factories by themselves. Yet elsewhere, there was only discussion, the words - radical at first - becoming more and more timorous as the return to work progressed and the traditional power-relationships were reestablished.

The great mass of the workers entered into struggle under the impulsive desire to somehow change the system exploiting them. But at the same time, the ideas and concepts born of all the attempts to integrate them into the system remained: the great majority of workers did not believe that it was possible for them to run their workplaces and the society themselves. This is why the various attempts which got underway in this direction remained vague and isolated; and this is also why the traditional organisations could get the movement back into their hands. In what follows, we will try to take inventory and discuss these attempts, though they remained isolated and could not succeed in really taking shape and becoming general.

But it is useful also to go beyond this. As soon as a mass strike clears the way for the organisation of production by the producers, the problem of who has power at the level of the enterprise, of the state, of the whole world, is posed. Social power lies in the hands of the workers when they are in control of their own activity on the job; but the survival of organs of political power disposing of an apparatus of repression (police, union marshals, political parties, etc.) sooner or later provokes a conflict. It is not by chance that the directors of the economy and of politics, the CRS, the unions, do the same work, each in his own way. They have the same vocation of dominating and repressing the workers in a State in which they hold political power or which they make their servant. In the same way, on the international scale, no capitalist state (of either the Western or the Eastern branch) can tolerate the development - even in the universities - of workers' control of the enterprises and of society.

These problems are not new. The dictatorship of Capital, leninism, stalinism, and fascisms of all types, the Second World War - all these have succeeded in wiping out even the memory of everything which in the Russia of 1917, the Germany of 1918-1921, the Spain of 1936-37, the Hungary of 1956. could attest to the existence of a continuing movement for emancipation which looked to the organization of production and consumption by the producers themselves. Beyond the problem of power, this new society - which we now know to be wholly other than a comforting myth - will have to resolve economic problems, those of communist production and distribution. We have tried to sketch these problems in the light of this past, and publish as an appendix the "theses" of a council communist thinker on the struggle of the working class against the capitalist system.

II Capitalist Society

Modern capitalist society is characterised by a technical development without precedent. At least in the advanced countries, the means of production have attained a fantastic level. At the same time, the system has become quite complicated and appears almost incomprehensible to all observers. This complexity has brought with it a erection of barriers between men.

All this is not the effect of chance but results rather from the capitalist system's need to continually realise more profits. Pushed by the very dynamic of its development, this system could no longer remain that of laisser-faire which reigned in the 19lh century, with its corresponding organisation of society based on a large number of individual small capitalists fighting each other through the intermediary of the market. Its continued existence necessitated raising the productivity of labor, since it is from labor that its profits are drawn. Every worker, every employee knows perfectly well that his employer tries continually to raise the rate and the output of work, a tendency which, moreover, every worker continually fights. To raise productivity, capitalism has employed machines increasingly complex and increasingly numerous, and has made increasing use of scientific discoveries to improve the system of production.

Capital has concentrated and continues to concentrate. Small businesses disappear, and the formation of great monopolies has been realized in the course of the last decades.

The fundamental reason for this concentration lies in the fact that, to augment productivity, in a given sector it is necessary to utilise larger and larger masses of capital to set up the necessary technology. To obtain these masses of capital, it is necessary to set greater and greater masses of laborers to work to extract from them greater and greater masses of profit.

This development of the system makes necessary organs of coordination more structured than before. Every large enterprise has developed an enormous managerial corps in order to make it work. Of necessity, the State itself has been forced to interfere more massively in the economy. It has taken charge of entire sectors, indispensable to the working of the system, but of which the private capitalists, even at the level of highly concentrated trusts, are no longer able or willing to take charge - no longer willing, because these sectors are no longer directly profitable; no longer able, because running them requires too great masses of capital. The State, through the medium of taxes, can distribute these enormous investments (e.g., in France, electricity, transports) among the population as a whole.

In societies of the Western type a mixed capitalist economy has developed, in which a "private" and a "public" sector coexist, permanently reacting on each other in a state of often unstable equilibrium.

In societies of the Eastern type (USSR, China, Cuba, the Eastern European countries) the State has entirely taken charge of the economy, putting into effect a state capitalism in which a new exploiting class decides for everyone the orientation and the volume of production and extracts benefits from it in the form of high salaries and social advantages.

To maintain a high level of profit for part of capital, the capitalist system does not hesitate to destroy the rest of capital, that is to say, to engage in activities not productive of wealth. This is the role, for example, of advertising, scientific research (which to a great extent is pointless: for instance, space research), armaments production, etc. Here again, the whole population, through the intermediary of taxes or the market, bears the cost of the achievement of objectives not attainable by individual capitalists.

Concurrently with this transformation of capitalism's economic structure, a corresponding transformation of social classes has come about. Far from having ended up as sharply contrasting division between a handful of exploiters and a large mass of exploited, the complexity of the capitalist system has brought about a pyramidal social structure, in principle based on criteria of technical competence, which rises without discontinuity from the worker to the PDG (President Directeur General, or Chairman of the Board). The old bourgeois class has been transformed. Doubtless, in the West, there are some bourgeois who live exclusively on their private means, but the most general case is one of integration into the system of production and managerial control from which they profit by high salaries and all sorts of advantages.

This hierarchical structure presents the advantage of opening up possibilities for integration of all strata of society into the system. In principle, access to different levels of the social system depends on the education and abilities of the individual. Official propaganda doesn't fail to stress this point. It tries to create a real cult of the educated man, of the Nobel prize-winner for example, which ranks with the love affairs of princesses and the infidelities of pop-singers. "Culture" is extolled as the means of moving from the position of controlled to that of controller.

The population as a whole falls for this propaganda. It does not question the idea of a society hierarchized on the basis of knowledge and aptitudes, a hierarchy expressed in terms of wage differentials.

That the social pyramid rises on the criteria - true or false - of education and ability, and that there is a continuity linking the base with the summit doesn't at all change the exploitative character of modern Capital, the existence of a ruling class. There exists in fact such a class, which (individually or collectively) owns the means of production, which determines the orientation and the volume of production, which finally reaps the benefits of the exploitation of lower levels.

Since the end of the last war, western capitalism has known a new era of prosperity. Thanks to this, it has been able to furnish generally higher wages to the population as a whole. It could do this for two main reasons: first, as a result of the rapid growth of productivity; second, because a certain number of unskilled jobs, in which productivity could not be increased, have been left to certain strata like the blacks in the United Slates or the North Africans and foreign workers in Europe, systematically excluded from the process of enrichment.

This rise in the general standard of living is expressed by an increased consumption - cars, refrigerators, television, etc.- which has bound the various strata yet more closely to the status quo. This rise in the standard of living can be seen again in social benefits, like social security, paid vacations, etc., which are further means of integration into the system. Another consequence of this rise is the possibility for larger sections of society of having their children accepted into the educational system which had until then been closed to them. This is especially true of the middle classes which consist of the lower level managers, highly skilled workers, and petty tradesmen of all sorts. For them, sending their children to the University is a luxury which they can now afford, just like the purchase of a color television.

In doing this the middle classes are responding to two attractions. To begin with, they dream that their children may escape the mediocrity of their condition: either disappearing, like the small businessman, or else imprisoned in a cretinising system, without hope of a way out, as subordinate managers and employees, always submitting to the moods of an office head.

Further, these middle classes see possibilities for their children of entering a higher level in society, which as a result of the accelerated development of the system, has need of more and more cadres - decision-making personnel: managerial and technical staff - of every sort.

The influx of young people into the University is thus one of the by-products of the period of post war capitalist prosperity.

For several years, however, the system has shown signs of being out of breath. There is no longer as great a need of managerial staff as before. Even technicians no longer enjoy the same job security. There are often changes in methods of production and accumulated knowledge is no help in adapting to new techniques. Technological unemployment has appeared. It is a matter not only, (as it stilt was yesterday), of shutting down certain non-profitable enterprises and transferring the staff to employment elsewhere, leaving the workers to find new jobs themselves as best they can (thus creating a permanent unemployment which keeps wages down), but of effecting in numerous areas important transformations which require new knowledge, inaccessible to the old staff. The classical openings for students become constricted, on the one hand by the recession in capitalist development, and on the other by the existence of unemployed cadres competing on the market.

In this lies the profound economic reason for the student "malaise" apparent throughout the world. Students question a system which can no longer offer them their traditional opportunities. They discover on this occasion the existence of unemployment and the idiocy of the system of production.

Without a real economic crisis in capitalism, which at present halts its progress at most only temporarily, there exist premonitory symptoms of a social crisis which in favorable cases - that is to say, if it occurs together with possibilities of crises in the world of labor - can provoke an explosion.

In this respect, France in 1968 has furnished a good example. This strongly traditional, chauvinist country has experienced profound and rapid transformations during the last few decades. Formerly - since the revolution of 1789 France was the land of petty property in both the industrial and the agricultural domains. Following the Second World War, the reconstruction of French capital, which permitted it to renter the concert of nations, was effected in a way which led to an ever more accentuated concentration. The Marshall Plan and the resulting importation of American production techniques have turned the conservative capitalism of pre-war France upside down. This did not occur without conflicts and risks. Those bound to the old system have resisted and continue to resist. The struggle was carried on for a long time on the terrain of the colonial Empire, one of the pillars of the earlier regime but one about which the new capitalists cared little, or rather, to which they preferred another type of exploitation. Finally, monopoly capital, "modern" capital, had to prevail and, with this victory, to reduce to impotence the old system's supporters, of which the army is a striking example.

The concentration of capital here as everywhere is accompanied by a transformation of social classes, in particular by a great reduction of the peasantry. Concentration proceeds also in the agricultural domain, because mechanisation is profitable only for sufficiently large properties. The peasant population of France has fallen from 30% to 10% since the end of the war and the decrease continues. The peasants thus "liberated" have gone to enlarge the masses of workers, putting greater strain on the labor market, a tension being all the more serious as France has had to accept, since 1962, 1,500,000 Pieds-Noirs, colonists dispossessed by the Algerian revolution.

At the same time industrial development, while it permitted and required the creation of new types of manpower, had to take place within a society little ready to accommodate it, the French bourgeoisie being one of the most conservative and obtuse in the world. Until the last few years, the training of industrial managers was accomplished through the channel of the grandes ecoles, a sclerotic system, entered through a very difficult competitive exam; little professional skill was taught but one obtained the degree necessary to enter the higher social strata. On the other hand, the University remained a medieval island within the modern world, desiring only to reproduce itself. In contrast to the grandes ecoles, one enters the University upon obtaining the baccalaureat degree which marks the end of secondary school. This system worked smoothly as long as only the most fortunate sections of the bourgeoisie could pay for the studies of their children. With the rise in the standard of living and the demographic pressure of the post-war period, the University has been invaded by a whole younger generation. These young people prefer the mediocrity of student life, which offers a semblance of freedom and which permits them to put off for a while their entrance into the detestable world of production, even if they know that in all probability they will fail their exams and not get the really privileged jobs. With this influx, the University was condemned to death. There has been no lack of well-intentioned men to propose reforms for it. All of these tend towards adaptation to the outside world, that is to say, to the laws of the capitalist market. Their ultimate expression is to be found both in the recommendations of the Caen colloquium and in the Fouchet reform. In both these cases, it was a matter of organising a system of selection among the students to direct them towards a carefully graded hierarchy of channels permitting the formation of more or less specialised technicians.

This policy in the long run was bound to run up against two oppositions. On the one hand, that of the faculty, the majority of whom remained ferocious partisans of the mandarinate; on the other hand, that of the students, who did not wish to enter the selection system, it was almost inevitable that violent cleavages would appear inside the world of the University.

The liquidation of the old French capitalism and its evolution towards a concentrated capitalism necessitated a transformation of methods of government, The bonapartist regime installed by the gaullists fills This need. As in all countries, an almost total effacement of parliament is experienced. Parliament used to serve, in effect, us a place for discussion between different interest groups, as a process of compromise by which the policy of the ruling class was decided. It no longer has this raison d'etre in a more concentrated economy in which the State has a more essential role to play.

Authoritarian decisions have to be made to accelerate the process of concentration and the transformation of the country, especially when they express the necessity of adaptation to a vaster economy on the European scale. The qaullists have not wronged themselves in stressing the authoritarian and arbitrary character of their regime, all the more easily accomplished as the evolution of the system required that entire strata of the middle classes (little enterprises, little businesses, etc.} be transformed, causing the traditional left to lose much of its social power. However, if the gaullist regime answers well to a necessity of "modern" capitalism, it presents a character of rigidity, which it has inherited without doubt from its leader, but which results also from the conditions of the struggle against the Algerian revolution and the O.A.S. For ten years, the gaullist government has ignored those capitalist groups which could not adapt themselves to the evolution in progress, except to shut them up brutally. It has found itself in a delicate position for resolving the university problem because it would have been necessary to attack directly the old University and because it considered other questions more urgent. Its attitude has been to let the situation putrify, hoping that in five years a generation smaller in numbers would furnish an automatic solution to the problem.

However, problems are not solved by denying their existence, or by treating them with scorn. They become aggravated and lead to situations which can be overcome only with brutality. Faced with student movements like the 22 March, the government was caught defenseless. At first the government left it alone, sure of its rapid extinction. After that, it tried to render the Movement's "leaders" harmless, for from the bureaucratic viewpoint of the ruling class all action is necessarily directed by an apparat. The police action at the Sorbonne on May 4th had probably no other aim than the decapitation of the movement by getting the names of and arresting its leaders, unknown till then.

But the Movement was precisely not one of leaders, and the attempt made by the bourgeois press to transform Danny Cohn-Bendit into a leader and an idol failed completely. What characterized the Movement was precisely that a larger number than was believed felt themselves directly implicated both as individuals and as a group, that it first set itself to question the university structures and then, progressively, as a result of the streetfighting against the police, came to question bourgeois society as a whole.

This attitude set a double example, first because it showed that direct action can pay, that it can force opposing power to retreat (only for a moment, doubtless, in this case), but especially because it showed that in action consciousness of the problems posed grows rapidly.

This example was not lost on the masses of workers. They were profoundly struck by it. They saw something completely different from the routine of union struggles for almost automatic amelioration of the standard of living. Without doubt, the latter are not without interest in the Common Market country with the lowest wages except for Italy, but, confusedly, the masses put forward other types of demands which, timidly, called into question the very form of society. Here also the role of the young was particularly important. Not yet caught up in the system of modern life, feeling solidarity with other young people of neighboring social strata, not having known the war or the "victories of 1936", more than most workers threatened by unemployment, they felt themselves less inclined to obey blindly the union's commands, to which their elders have become accustomed, and often joined the students in their combats in the street and in their desires for selfdetermination and for responsibility.

Something new, which quite proves that the movement of May, 1968 went far beyond simple wage demands: the cadres participated and, in certain cases, even set it off, demanding non-hierarchised wages or calling into question the direction of the enterprise by insisting themselves that all social strata must have responsibility. Once can no doubt maintain that the participation of cadres in the movement was in fact only an attempt at its bureaucratic or technocratic recapture. But that is to see only one side of this activity. Every attempt at self-management, every selfdetermined movement which does not end in total overthrow of the bourgeois order of things is always recapturable by bureaucrats or technocrats. But attempts at self-management - and it is these which we are trying to distinguish, analyse, and criticise in this pamphlet - contain something else: the promise of a society in which, finally, the exploitation of man by man will come to an end.

III The Student Movement

One cannot overemphasize the role of crucible played, with respect to the general action, by the student demonstrations which the young workers came to join in ever increasing numbers; and with respect to thought, by that extraordinary marketplace of ideas, experiences, and contacts that was the Sorbonne, become the symbol itself of the movement, and after it the other faculties. This was so because all productive workers found themselves up against the same problems, with identical perspectives of action. Similarly, it was in the faculties that the idea of self-management, which flowed naturally from the occupation of the university centers, necessarily came into general circulation, though its significance there was not the same as in the factories or offices.

Starting from the Nanterre campus, the student movement very quickly won the other centers. It is evidently impossible to examine here everything that was done and said. We give only four examples: the Nanterre movement and its extensions on the ground of political organization, the Faculty of Sciences, the establishment of liaisons with the workers and with the peasants.

1 The Movement at Nanterre

In the first trimester a strike launched outside of traditional political or union organizations united 10,000 of the 12,000 students on the campus around problems of improving working conditions. The result: the establishment of commissions drawing members equally from each department, which very quickly showed their sterility.

This was followed in the second trimester by a series of sporadic incidents, expressing a diffused malaise: a demonstration of solidarity with a student threatened with expulsion ended in a scuffle with the cops called by the Dean; some courses were disrupted, and so on. Incidentally, the activity of Cite Universitaire (University housing) residents in February provided the University with an excuse for the abrogation of internally set rules.

At the end of March a new phase took shape:

- psychology students boycotted their ppreliminary exams;
- four students distributed a paper queestioning the teaching and uses of sociology ("Why sociologists?");
- On Friday, March 22, following the arrrest of six anti-imperialist militants, a protest meeting was organized which ended by voting for the occupation of the administration building that very evening. 150 students, gathered in the faculty-council room, debated numerous political problems until 2 A.M. A day
of unrestricted political debates on various themes was set for Friday, March 29.

The university authorities were upset by this turn of events (intensive preparation for the 29th: leaflets, speeches, inscriptions on the campus walls, and a poster campaign) and drew up the personnel to oppose the students with closure of the library and a strike of classroom attendants. On Thursday the 28th, Dean Grappin ordered the suspension of classes and lab sessions until the following Monday. A meeting of 300 students decided to continue the previous day's action but as a day of preparation for the political discussions, which were postponed until April 2.

On Friday The 29th, while a large force of police surrounded the campus, 500 students participated in an opening meeting held in a commonroom of the Cite, and constituted themselves as a commission to discuss the themes set for debate.

Monday, April 1, a majority of second year sociology students decided to boycott their exams. They then voted to endorse a text denouncing sociology as ideology. Meanwhile, among the professors, dissensions appeared between the liberal departments (human sciences and letters), favorable to granting premises for the next day's meeting, and the reactionaries (history), who demanded the arrest of the "ringleaders."

Tuesday, April 2, was a success: the administration did not succeed in preventing the occupation of a lecture hall by 1,500 people for a preliminary meeting, nor were the corporatists (adherents of a "pure", "nonpolitical" university) and fascists able to stop commissions from meeting in another building. The final plenary assembly, attended by 800 students and some lecturers, decided to continue the movement.

The Nature of the Movement

The Nanterre movement was clearly political. Unlike the November strike, which was "corporatist" in spirit, it stressed non-union issues such as "Down with police repression", "Critical university", 'The right of political expression and action on campus." At the same time it revealed its minority character and its consciousness of this fact: several orators denounced the illusion of the slogan, "Defence of the common interests of all students." At Nanterre it is clear that many students accepted higher education as an initiation into the management of bourgeois business. One thus saw the disengagement of a core of 300 "extremists" capable of mobilizing 1,000 of the Faculty's 12,000 students.

The actions carried out accelerated the emergence of consciousness in some people: it was a matter not so much of "provocations" as of obliging latent authoritarianism to manifest itself (such as the truckloads of CRS ready to interfere) by showing the true face of the proposed "dialogues" between students and administration. As soon as certain problems appeared, dialogue gave place to clubbing. The result was political consciousness, but also active participation on the part of all those who had until then been paralyzed by the inefficacy of the groupuscules and the routine of traditional demands by means of petitions and silent marches. Finally, students and professors had to drop their traditional political labels when the apparatus of repression got going. With interest we saw the UEC call for the proper functioning of a bourgeois university or certain "leftist" or even "Marxist" professors terrified to see their status questioned.

We must insist on the novelty of the movement set in motion, novelty at least in the French context. First of all, work had been done in common transcending the oppositions between groupuscules: it's a matter not of decreeing the inanity of these groups because we feel like it, but of a process in the course of which divergences rose out of theoretic and practical confrontation with reality rather than out of verbal quarrels between sects. Terminological peculiarities were questioned as rigid and unchanged perceptions of reality which groupuscules use to distinguish themselves from each other and not as instruments of scientific analysis. On the other hand, we resolved not to fall under the control of particular political groups or of the administration and the liberal teachers, adepts of "dialogue" and of confrontation in closed rooms.

New problems arose, in particular those of more direct and effective rejection of the class university, of a denunciation of the concept of neutral and objective knowledge as well as of its specialization, of an inquiry on the place which we are destined to occupy in the current division of labor, of joining the workers in struggle, etc.

Simultaneously, original forms of action were developed: meetings improvised on campus, occupation of classrooms to hold our debates, interruptions of lectures, boycotts of exams, posting of bulletins and posters in the halls, taking possession of the microphone monopolized by the administration, etc.

The Problems of the University

It appeared to the March 22 Movement (M22M) that the problems of the university had to be settled rapidly in order that the students might devote themselves to studying the basic problems.

With respect to exams, the Movement wished to see to it, on the one hand, that the student revolt and the many problems which it raised would not be stifled by the mass of good boys and girls looking out for their immediate personal interests: to pass their exams (which excluded simply postponing them); on the other hand, that the most disadvantaged students would not suffer from the decisions taken (which excluded a pure and simple boycott). This is why we proposed a transitional solution, pending the elaboration of a new mode of control of knowledge, which must lead to a practice of teaching renovated in its content as much as in its methods. This examination of a particular type would be given three weeks after the acceptance of the movement's conditions, the granting of amnesty for all the demonstrators and the obtaining of information on those students who had "disappeared".[2]

All those wounded in demonstrations, wage-earning students, scholarship students, and those on term leave were to be automatically passed.

All the students whose university records for 1967-1968 were satisfactory were to be passed. The others were to go before a commission representing both students and faculty which would judge them on a subject freely chosen by themselves. The exam would be written or oral, given individually or to a group.

Profiting from the current situation and from our position of power we will use whatever structure is set up to impose: o the opening of the dormitories and university restaurants to young apprentices, unemployed, and workers. o the opening of the campus to workers of Hauts-de-Seine, the area northwest of Paris within which lies Nanterre.

Regarding the autonomy of the Faculties and the universities, the M22M is conscious that an island of socialism cannot exist in a society which continues the capitalist profit system. When the State controls the funds and the bosses corral the students as they leave the campus, simple university autonomy is a Utopian notion and a reformist illusion. The M22M, opposed anyway to the university authorities' attempts to coopt the student movement, would therefore come out against this idea, if we did not see in it a means of achieving our ultimate objectives. In fact, if the realization of autonomy was accompanied by the institution of student power in the university, with right of veto over every decision taken and if the students utilized this power not to do the work of management that we don't accept but to continue to act in confrontation, then autonomy would appear desirable to us.

All these rearrangements of the established order within the university structure are not justified in the eyes of M22M unless they are elements of a revolutionary process seeking to transform capitalist society into a classless society. This transformation of society cannot be realized by the students alone, who find natural allies in the workers: we refuse to be the watchdogs, they, to be the servants of the bourgeoisie. Alliance with the working class has always been one of our objectives.

Joining with the Working Class

We occupy the Faculties, you occupy the factories. Are we fighting for the same thing?

Workers' sons make up only 10% of the students in higher education. Are we fighting for there to be more, for a democratic reform of the university? That would be an improvement, but it isn't what is most important. These workers' sons will become students like the others. That a worker's son can become a Director is not our program. We want to suppress the separation between workers and directors.

There are students who on leaving the university cannot find work. Are we fighting for there to be work for them to find? For a just employment policy for graduates? That would be an improvement but it isn't the essential point. These graduates in psychology or sociology will become career planners, personnel directors, psycho-technicians who will try to arrange your working conditions; graduates in mathematics will become the engineers who put into operation machines more productive and more unsupportable for you. Why do we, students deriving from the bourgeoisie, criticize capitalist society? For a worker's son to become a student is to leave his class. For a bourgeois' son it can be the occasion of his getting to know the true nature of his class, of questioning himself on the social function for which he is destined, on the organization of society, on the place you occupy in it.

We refuse to be scholars cut off from social reality.

We refuse to be used for the profit of the ruling class.

We wish to abolish the distinction between the labor of production and the labor of thinking and organization. We wish to construct a classless society; we struggle in the same direction.

You demand a minimum wage of 1,000 F. in the Parisian region, retirement at sixty, a 40 hour week with 48 hours pay. These are honorable and venerable demands. They appear, however, to be unrelated to our objectives, but in fact you occupy the factories, you take the bosses as hostages, you are striking without warning. These forms of struggle have been made possible by long actions carried out with perseverance in the enterprises and also thanks to the recent fight of the students.

These struggles are more radical than our legitimate demands, because they not only seek an improvement of the workers' condition in the capitalist system, but imply the destruction of that system. They are political in the true sense of the word; you fight not for a new prime minister but for an end to the boss's power in the shop and in society. The form of your struggle offers to us, students, the model of a truly socialist activity; the appropriation of the means of production and of decision-making power by the workers.

Your struggle and ours converge. We must destroy everything which isolates us from each other (habits, newspapers, etc.). There must be a joining together of the occupied shops and Faculties.

The Organization of the March 22 Movement

The Movement is composed of base groups of ten people:

- who discuss all the political problemms with which we are confronted.
- who delegate someone to report their discussions to each of the special commissions dealing with various political problems: autonomy, exams and action on campus, action towards the working class, anti-imperialist struggle, self-defense, etc.
- who delegate one person to report theeir discussions, participate in emergency meetings of the coordinating committee which will also contain a delegate from each special commission.
- who take charge of the distribution oof leaflets, discussions, and, in general, of dealings with several factories and with a specific geographic sector.
- who take charge of their own securityy in propaganda work and their self-defence in general.
who take charge of their transportation: each group is supposed to have at least one car available to them.
It is not necessary that a group's delegates to the different commissions be fixed from the time the group delegates someone to a given meeting.

On the other hand, to the extent that we are joined by new militants, new groups will be formed so that each group has no more than 12 members.

The special commissions serve to make syntheses of the group discussions on various themes. One is created each time a new political problem appears, they coordinate the actions and the activity of the neighborhood committees and each delegate someone to the coordinating committee. They take charge of the concrete application of political decisions and make sure to be close to the technical applications committee.

The Coordinating Committee includes the delegates from base groups and committee delegates, It is the structure responsible for decisions and the organization of movement activity in normal times. However, in case of conflict between delegates from a base group and a commission on some problem, a general assembly will be called to settle it.

A certain number of executive commissions depend directly on the coordinating committee:

- collection of money from personalitiees and synthesis of various purchases,
- relations with the outside: sending mmilitants to explain our activity wherever we are asked - answering journalists' interviews, etc.
- coordination with the rest of the movvement (other then M22M) that is to say, CAL, May 3rd Action Committee, student-worker committees at Censier, Halte-aux-Vins. UNEF, and SNESup, the union central bureaus, and eventually other structures.
- editorial committees; coordination off work on pamphlets and stuff people want to write about (like Action, etc.) - press review
- propaganda, printing tracts, posters,, etc.
- health: medicine, advice, etc.
- legal counsel in case of arrest, legaal defence, etc.
- foreigners, because of special legal problems; and everything else subsequently thought useful.
A newsletter for information and discussion is written by the militants. All write in it under any form at all: three lines of information, ten lines of political poetry, theoretical sketch, analysis, etc. In it the commissions circulate their reports, and the communiques of the movement are published. When a piece of work is carried out somewhere, when information arrives from the provinces, a text is written.

Principles of Action

A certain number of principles inspire our actions:

- the recognition of the plurality and diversity of tendencies in the revolutionary movement.
- the revocability of representatives aand the effective power of the collectives.
- the permanent circulation of ideas annd the struggle against the monopolizing of information and understanding.
- the struggle against hierarchization..
- the abolition in practice of the diviision of labor (to fight the barriers between manual and intellectual work).
- the rejection of the mystifications the motions for censure, referendum, electoral coalitions, round tables delegated power.
- refusal of dialogue with the bosses.<
- destruction of the myth of the State as arbiter, in the service of the general interest.
- the direction by the workers themselvves of their shops, a form of action which can for the moment only be spontaneous but which we must advocate as one of the revolutionary possibilities.

Activities - Four axes:

- information
- provisioning
- self defense
organization of demonstrations

Information has a double aim:

-to fight against the poison campaign oof the bosses and the government which gives false information on the work places.
-to institute direct links between the different strike committees and between the inhabitants of a neighborhood. Neighborhood meetings, attended by workers in various enterprises have, in fact, taken place.

For that, daily bulletins are put out using information given by the strikers (on the Parisian level and for certain neighborhoods). These bulletins are put together in liaison with the different action committees.

On The other hand, leaflets produced by the strikers are mimeographed and distributed. In the neighborhoods, meetings for political agitation and information are held in the street.

Provisioning: Collections of money and food are organized every day. Contacts are established between striking workers and peasants. Workers make their trucks available for looking for supplies in the provinces. Stocks of food are centralized in the workplaces which offer their space. It is in this way possible to distribute tons of food.

Self-defence: groups of militants are at the disposition of the workers for reinforcement of strike pickets, and resistance to the attacks of UNR commandos, fascists, the cops.

Demonstrations: Demonstrations of support - physical and political - for the workers are organized in the neighborhoods of Paris, in the suburbs, at Flins. After May 10, numerous demonstrations were proposed to the UNEF and the SNESup, notably that of Friday the 10th, first night of the barricades.

2 Faculty of Sciences, University of Paris at Halle-aux-Vins

Unlike Nanterre, the Faculty of Sciences had not experienced important protest movements before the disorders in the Latin Quarter. But, there was here as everywhere a latent uneasiness among the students (35,000 enrolled) about Dean Zamansky's projects of setting up a selective system and the Fouchet reform whose realization must involve an increase in the students' problems. The Students' reactions were at that time limited to purely reformist demands: accelerated construction of the new campus at Villetaneuse and creation of new teaching jobs. These demands were taken up by the lecturers who saw there a means of penetrating the professorial ranks. In return, no criticism was directed against the teaching methods, except in respect to the desire of the university authority to raise the productivity of studies and to increase the selection procedure.

However, from May 3 on, courses were stopped in certain advanced sections, under the direction of professors with "advanced ideas" like Monod. These stoppages were only a visceral reaction to the police brutalities, but the situation rapidly evolved towards calling into question the situation of the students within the University. For the first time, direct discussions between teachers and students took place in each department, often in the crowded lecture halls (500 to 600 people). Of course, the discussions bore at first on the examinations which were to begin May 15, but they opened up quickly enough to general political questions.

In other sections, where the professors are particularly reactionary, courses continued to meet. The students already mobilized, organized themselves spontaneously to go to these courses, to interrupt them, and to describe the discussions which were going on elsewhere. Whereas during the year it was impossible to get a whole lecture hall to participate in whatever discussions there were, whereas before people would whistle whenever someone talked about politics, about capitalism, now the majority of the students listened and took part, even if it was to express their opposition to the movement. In everyone appeared the desire to take an active part in running things but, on the whole, these sentiments were hardly expressed outside the halls and the department.

On the other hand, a student strike committee of about ten people wished to pose more general problems. This committee set itself up on May 10. It charged itself with organizing life in the occupied buildings, with having everything under its control, with preventing courses still being given from meeting. This committee was formed spontaneously, of its own freewill; in no way elected by students, it also didn't derive in any direct way from the UNEF (not very strong here, and controlled by the stalinist UEC), which had been left behind by the movement, together with all the political groups who stood apart or obstructed (with the exception of the trotskyite FER). The mass of students thus found themselves faced with the fait accompli of a strike committee which existed, functioned, made decisions, created organizations.

After the night of the barricades, a faculty strike committee was formed, uniting members of the SNESup and. almost exclusively, junior faculty (lecturers). (It contained only four professors and junior professors.) It also was not elected.

The two strike committees at first met separately but soon merged. From the beginning, the two committees pushed for the creation of rank-and-file committees in the students' lecture halls, and for laboratory councils in the research units attached to the Faculty. While the laboratory councils constituted themselves very rapidly, the strike committee was opposed to immediate elections of student rank-and-file committees because the Dean had organized the students who had been absent from the Faculty and had not participated in the movement. Ten days later, after many political discussions, the rank-and-file committees were set up. To the great annoyance of the Dean and the professors who wanted to play the mass of the strikers against the committee, the rank-and-file committees supported the action of the strike committee, though it was first strongly criticized for not having been an elected body.

More than the students in the strike committee, the teachers tried to set up representative structures to replace the old government of the Faculty, (the Faculty assembly which consisted only of professors and lecturers and the Dean it elects), a desire shared by the laboratory researchers and technicians. A provisional representative commission, consisting of 18 students, 9 professors, 9 lecturers or master-lecturers, and delegates from the technicians, research scientists, and administrators, was created, which settled the question of examinations by postponing them to October, and which was to prepare for the establishment of a representative central committee to replace the old university power structure.

Thus there was within the Faculty a tangle of parallel authorities: (1) the laboratory councils, revocable by the lab personnel, and leading a life separate from the rest of the Faculty; (2) the rank-and-file committees of the students, revocable at any time by the lecture halls and meeting in general assembly to make their decisions; (3) the General Assembly of the instructors, containing master-lecturers and lecturers as well as those professors who wished to participate; (4) the strike committee; (5) the provisional representative commission composed of student delegates chosen by the strike committee and revocable at any time by the committee and by the general assembly of the rank-and-file committees, and of teacher delegates, revocable at any time by the teachers' general assembly, (the Dean himself picked the professors sitting on this committee); (6) finally, the old Faculty government. All these centers of power coexisted more or less well during the ascending period of the movement, in the course of which the ranks of professors and the Dean were in no position to oppose the decisions of the strike committee. The decision to put off the exams until October led a large number of students to leave for their vacation - and after de Gaulle's speech on May 30, the professors hardened and refused to sit on the representative commission.

This decision contributed to reinforcing the unity between students, researchers, and master-lecturers, who then organized elections to the representative central committee. This move put the professors and the Dean in an awkward position, and serious cracks appeared within the professors' ranks; the reformists, sensing that the hour had come to attempt to coopt the movement, asked the Dean to have the elections of the professors' delegates proceed. The entry of the police into the Faculty was perhaps not unrelated to this situation.

The strike committee for its part came out for the creation of a Summer University, as the other Faculties were planning; the more radical of its members wanted in effect to establish contact with the workers and to open the Faculty up to the outside. A central bureau for the Summer University was elected by the assembly of the student rank-and-file committees. This office centralized the different initiatives which were making themselves seen: (a) in the various departments, experiments in new teaching methods were made with the cooperation of the most dynamic part of the professoral corps; (b) political activities; seminars enlivened by a certain number of mandarins (from the Faculties of Letters and of Law) and also, and above all, working groups in which students and workers rubbed shoulders and in which very fruitful discussions took place; (c) artistic activities (cinema, sale of books, etc.), which had the advantage of attracting many people.

The experiment of the Summer University, difficult to realize and assuredly with many faults, was without doubt one of the most attractive projects of the Faculty of Sciences, and the strike committee devoted a large part of its efforts to maintaining the occupation of the classrooms so that it could go on.[5] It goes without saying that the gaullist government could not allow it to develop, and the first cops who invaded the campus, in the early morning of July 5, admitted that they came to stop it.

3 Flins: Student-Worker Solidarity

One of the slogans the students stressed in their demonstrations was: "Power is in the street" This phenomenon is not without a touch of the 19th century (not by far the only one one might have observed), in reality the power of the future is to be found in that place where the producers are concentrated, where they work. But the street remains no less an unavoidable preliminary to the emergence of consciousness and, besides, an inevitable experience. It was at Flins that workers of the Sorbonne shop and workers of the Renault shop united in practical action, and it was there also (unlike at Billancourt or Cleon, for example) that in fact more than half of the personnel was to come out, despite all the pressures, against the return to work.

At Flins, the workforce is composed largely of young people, not yet very well habituated to the ways of the unions; the strike was spontaneous (breaking out here before at Billancourt) and the rank-and-file had rather tight control over the strike committee; likewise, participation in the picket line was higher

than elsewhere. On the night between Thursday and Friday, June 7,[6] half-tracks broke through the factory gates, allowing the CRS (there were about 4.000 of them in this sector) to enter, which forced the strike pickets to evacuate the plant. In the morning, under police protection, scabs came to take the strikers' places at work (or at least were supposed to do this) so that the management could announce an "effective resumption of work." However, despite an enormous deployment of police, young workers and those students who succeeded in escaping the roadblocks set up by the police met together before the factory gates and explained to the workers, deceived with false information (which the CGT made no attempt to refute), that no decision to resume work had been made. Thenceforth the workers refrained from reentering the factory. During this time, the CGT and the CFDT organized a meeting 4 miles away from the plant, which was attended by at most fifty or so union officials. These then returned to the factory gates where 2,000 to 3,000 demonstrators were assembled. The union delegates issued their slogans: "No provocations! Disperse! Do not reenter the factory!" But the workers insisted that the students speak. A union bigshot seized the mike again: "Disperse!" But the pressure of the ranks forced the mike to be given to Geismar (leader of the SNESup). He reported that at Paris the students had met the CRS head on and that students and workers united could reoccupy the factory. At this moment the police attacked. The students showed the workers how to fight - it didn't take too long! And the free-for-all went on for several days, through the fields, over a pretty wide area.

An attempt of several thousand demonstrators, assembled before the Saint-Lazare station, to go to Flins by train ran up against the obstruction of the of the CGT and the lack of solidarity on the part of the railwaymen. At Billancourt, about 30,000 workers of Renault did not for an instant try to break the union vise and make contact with Flins. Under these conditions, the struggle at Flins, after hard skirmishes, was bound to meet defeat. It remained the only one of its type, at least in the seriousness which it took on at certain moments, a seriousness however quite modest in the context of the apparently gigantic dimensions of ,the strike, even taking into account the fact that the most active elements were held up in the shops by urgent tasks. And yet, with all the limitations one can think of. a struggle of this type, such a witness to lived solidarity, remains a rare fact in the whole history of the workers' movement. On the spot, it developed the fighting spirit of the workers, sowing a seed which must some day bare fruit.[7]

4 Other Forms of Solidarity

Another aspect of worker-student solidarity, less spectacular than the preceding but perhaps even more important, was the creation of Action Committees (CA), based either on the neighborhood or on the workplace, with the active cooperation of students most of whom belonged to no organized group. These committees directed at the workers a simply enormous quantity of leaflets. By their actions of various sorts they contributed to laying the foundations of a new form of consciousness. With the reflux of the movement, these committees receded, but nothing is more natural since they are the expression of the movement, in its highest and its lowest levels. An outstanding fact nonetheless, the CA's as a whole took on the task of "transcending union and political structures" through the creation of a "multitude of political cells" which must someday unite but "without organizational pushing", as a function of the real struggle and not of abstract demands.[8]

The CLEOP (Comites de liaison etudiants-ouvriers-paysans) performed an activity no less important: they assured the provisioning of the strikers, especially in the small enterprises, which, not being supported by workplace organizations (like canteens), had need of aid. Some arose in the agricultural schools, others had a less definite origin. They established relations between themselves and cooperatives or certain unions of agricultural workers (CNJA, FNJA). They went particularly to Brittany (because of its proximity), where they were most welcome (for reasons stemming from the surplus of produce due to the lack of transports and from the open hostility to the existing circuits of transportation; in effect, transactions were made directly).

Likewise, students and peasants carried on discussions, which made up for the purposeful deficiencies of the official system of information. In this area, the CLEOP effectively fulfilled a task analogous to that of the Action Committees. The important thing was that meeting places appeared, in the Faculties, that a network of information and clarification of ideas was set up, with the CA's, that the solidarity between the various categories of producers in struggle did not always remain at the level of declarations of intention but took a tangible form, in the battles with the police in the streets or at Flins, and in the matter of provisioning.

IV The Workers' Movement

For reasons of space, we will be able to examine only a limited number of events, choosing then from among those which are in our opinion most significant. In any case, it would be pointless to retell here the history of the general strike. Among the mass of works dedicated to it, the reader will be able to find documents and a useful chronology.[9]

In the beginning, then, the student movement. It brought to tight the virtues of direct and spontaneous mass action. The students came down into the streets; they dared, and in so doing brought many people together to hold their own, united, against the power that faced them. Faced with that other unity which is that of the bourgeois class and its police, in coalition with the parties and the unions, they showed their strength. More than this, they proved that it was possible to occupy the workplaces; and while people might have known that, no one yet risked doing it.

However, the day after the night of the barricades (May 10 to 11) there was no spontaneous reaction on the part of the workers; everything appeared destined to be canalized by the national day of strike, controlled by the unions. But on Tuesday the 14th, late in the evening, it was learned that the Sud-Aviation factory at Nantes was occupied, that the workers had welded shut the factory gates and imprisoned the directors in an office. Then, from May 14 to 17, other strikes broke out, all with occupation of the premises: at the Messageries de Presse, the newspaper-distribution monopoly, at Paris; at the Renault plant at Cleon; and the movement, always spontaneous, spread everywhere. Friday, May 17, the SNCF (Societe Nationale de Chemins de Fer Français, the nationalized railroad company) began to shut down, and in several hours everything stopped in the pretty train stations of France. The union leaderships profited by the weekend of May 18-19 to "recapture" the movement: without issuing the call for a general strike, interunion strike committees were set up almost everywhere, charged with directing the strike as soon as it broke out.

Among the rank-and-file, there is in fact no precise demand. Everyone, obviously, is for a wage increase, a shorter work week, and so on. But the strikers, or at least the majority of them, are not unaware that these are precarious advantages. The best proof of this is that they have never resolved on an action like this one (though this was also, it is true, because they did not know that they would be so numerous). The real reason, a very simple one, is given clearly by the signs hung from the doors of the little factories of the Parisian suburbs: "We have had enough!" Enough of low wages, yes, but above all enough, enough of this colorless life in which the annoyances themselves are so shabby that one doesn't even dream of complaining about them, and less yet of fighting them. As for the young, they have had enough, enough in advance of this life which is going to make of you, as of everyone, a poor bastard, the spitting image of your father, of his father before him, and so on, in a somewhat more comfortable frame.

And this wild feeling, which no one teaches you at school, is so strong, so deeply rooted, that it is going to resist for days and days, holding out against the masters of the State, the threats of the bosses, the coaxings of the union bigshots. These last don't at all, in general, hide their objectives, and it is exactly these objectives which the working masses would scorn for two, three weeks and in some cases much more.

As early as Friday, May 17, the CGT distributed everywhere a leaflet which stated precisely the limits it wished to put on its action. To accuse it afterwards of treason makes hardly any sense; it put its cards on the table at the start: on the one hand, traditional demands coupled with the conclusion of agreements like the Matignon accords*, guaranteeing the existence of union locals in the shops; on the other hand, a change of government, that is to say, elections. This leaflet contained not one proposal outside this framework, and, significantly, it didn't in six pages once mention the word strike (let it be said once more: the CGT, no more than the FO or the CFDT, will declare neither a general strike nor a strike in some particular branch of activity). From then on, the policy of the CGT (and, with variation, of the other unions) was clear and simple: the Grenelle agreements {made by the unions and Pompidou on May 15, but rejected by the workers) give satisfaction to the need for reforms; the strikers must therefore go back to work.

It was the policy of loyal opposition, which has been for a long time the politics of the unions in France as throughout the western branch of capitalism, and it was this that the workers were going to reject with a determination never seen in history, but nevertheless without going on to the very end: the definite leap beyond legality, the starting up again of the great majority of production units (occupied to extremely varying degrees, in general rather low). Also, since the strikers, at that stage, had not succeeded in solidly taking the offensive, the State and the bosses, uniting in a perfectly natural way with the country's various political and union forces, would themselves take the offensive, and finish by carrying the day.

It remains no less evident that a phenomenon of an extraordinary breadth occurred an immense movement, a level of consciousness which was uneven but often high, and sometimes exemplary, and everywhere the discussion that went on, everywhere. Only on the basis of some abstract schema could one imagine that consciousness can develop without a confusion of ideas, mixed-up in the beginning, without groping, without visible incapacities and returns to old ways of looking at things. But what was happening, was the consciousness that one was doing something, and, for the moment, the projects (rarely thought up by the rank-and-file itself) into which all that was translated mattered little. Such a phenomenon, in some way one of men's minds, is hard to encompass by an analysis. However, it is useful to report certain practical experiences in order to try to distinguish in them features pregnant with the future, the far-reaching tendencies.

1 Assurances Générales de France

The Assurances Générales de France, second largest insurance company in France, is a nationalized enterprise which in four years has experienced a double concentration: first, the merger of seven companies in one group and then of this new group with three others, and on the other hand an accelerated automation and centralization. Neither the unions nor the cadres ever talked about workers' control but confined themselves to denouncing the arbitrary character of the management, which left them out of every decision (and which, in addition, had been taken over by a gaullist clique).

It was a tiny minority of employees who on Friday, May 17 (before the strike which was to go into effect May 20) raised the question of control in clear and brutal terms in a leaflet distributed by students of the March 22 Movement in all the companies of the group, and of which this is the essential part:

Like the students: Proposals for discussion in a general assembly of all the employees and cadres of the Groupe des Assurances Générales de France.

1. The Assurances Générales de France continue to function normally, managed under the autonomous control of all those working here at the present time.
2. All the directors, cadres, and AM are deprived of their former functions. Each department will designate one or several representatives chosen solely for their human qualities and their competence.
3. The department representative will have a double role:
-to coordinate the operation of the deppartment under the control of the employees; -to organize with the other department representatives a Management Council which, under the control of the employees, will assure the functioning of the enterprise.
4. The department representatives must be able to explain their conduct at any time before the employees and will be revocable at any time by those who have chosen them.
5. The hierarchy of wages is abolished. Every employee, cadre, or director, will receive provisionally a uniform salary equal to the average May wage (total wages divided by the number of employees present).
6. The personal dossiers of the employees will be returned to them; they will be able to remove everything not a purely administrative document.
7. All the property and materials of the Assurances Générales de France becoming the goods of all, administered by all, each person engages himself to ensure its protection in every circumstance.
8. To meet every threat, a volunteer protection squad under the control of the Management Council assures the protection of the enterprise day and night alike.

Monday, May 20, a new leaflet was distributed, stressing the following points:

-how social conquests had been rapidly won back in the past; - let us be suspicious of our friends aand have confidence only in ourselves;
- election of strike committees;
- control of the management of the enteerprise, recalling the preceding leaflet;
- finally, going beyond the strike itseelf:

We are beyond the strike; we must get everything going again by and for ourselves, without waiting for others to give us the order, but with Management Councils elected by all. Where then will the disorder be: it will be those who defend their property, their interests as rulers and as enjoyers of privilege by oppression, violence, poverty, and war. ... it is at the place where you work that everything can be decided. And there, with all the workers together, there can be the collapse of a whole world in which you are nothing and at the same time the construction of a whole world in which you are everything.

In the beginning, at the central office, the strike involved only a minority of the employees (500 out of 3,000, because of the transport strikes); it was the deed of a minority of young workers, union and non-union; the unions followed, controlling but not urging on. From the start the militants affirmed the desire that what would be obtained be irreversible. The list of demands is impressive; it is preceded by four preconditions (notably, payment for hours on strike) that the management was to accept without discussion; one of the preconditions concerned the maintenance of a commission of the strike committee supposed to take care of structural reforms and participation in decision-making. The entrance of cadres into the strike of May 22, (130 for the strike out of 250 voting and 500 Total), a majority of them young technocrats, modified the style of the strike: cadres and union leaders came together again to dominate all the bodies of the strike committee and, notable in the case of the CFDT, to talk about control, each from its own point of view. Several divisions appeared in the discussions which cut into everything that could be said on these questions:

- There was a violent altercation with the CFDT after a critique of this union's idea, managerial control "by the union", made before the General Assembly of the employees, with repercussions in the strike committee.

- There was a split in the commission ddealing with structures, a subcommission of the strike committee supposed to deal with control. Members of one of these subcommissions, young technocrats, principally CGC members, saw in the strike a chance to put forth their ideas about how the enterprise should be organized in opposition to those of the management; the plan of operation they proposed leaves intact the powers of the head of the enterprise and the hierarchy and is only an application of certain modern theories of management in an attempt to restructure fobs so as to integrate the employee into his work and to obtain his active "participation." The other sub-commission, on the contrary, tended to put forth the principle of a participation in decisions that is to say a system of co-management or Joint control (on the Yugoslav model, for example).

- These latter discussions were interessting because they afforded an opportunity to develop a concrete and very strong critique of all forms of participation and to raise the most theoretical questions in a manner accessible to all. It is not only that this critique was listened to and understood, notably by the young (at the very least those whom such discussions didn't alienate) who realized, on the basis of their experience, that since the power of decision was still out of the hands of the employees, they were dealing only with half-measures which lead in the end to the system's having a firmer hold on them through the intermediary of the cadres and managerial apparatus. But also, those who discussed were brought to admit that even co-management, if one wanted it to be genuine, leads to the calling into question of established structures like the hierarchy of functions and of wages, authority, the system of grading and advancement, access to information, etc. and that in the measure to which these structures are maintained or only modified, the whole system set up will be rapidly corrupted and will lose all meaning. Conflicts with the directors, if they are resolved by the directors, will be resolved in their interest - that is to say, in that of capitalism - and it will be, as it is now, the criteria of profitability and profit which finally determine everything. This is why the debate on the participation of the employees in decisions rapidly became constricted when things became more concrete: in discussing on what level the rank-and-file's power of decision must stop and where could the decision-making power of the heads impose a decision, with due respect for form, of course.

Even this formula of co-management is at any rate thought of by the unions (including the CFDT) and the cadres as utopian at the present stage. The real world doesn't work that way: in the terms in which the issue is raised, co-management leads to the elimination of an important part of the power of the unions and the cadres; it tends to promote a direct representation of the workers or even a direct decision-making power. To understand this, observe what this commission envisaged:

- Every decision without exception willl be made collectively by the rank and file unit (12 employees) and the person in charge (subchief).

- In case of agreement, the decision iss to be put in force. In case of conflict, the matter is carried before a representative commission presided over by the department chief and formed of equal numbers of representatives of the cadres and of the employees, at the rate of one per rank-and-file cell. These delegates are non-permanent, revocable, and chosen by the base specifically for the problem to be discussed. This commission has no power of decision; it reexamines the whole problem, suggests solutions, and passes it back for a decision to the rank-and-file unit where the conflict arose.

- If the conflict remains, everything ggoes before a permanent commission at the department level, equally representative, formed of permanent delegates elected by two colleges in the framework of the department (one year terms; the possibility of their revocability was suggested) which decides by majority vote, the department head having a deciding voice. The decision must be accepted without appeal.

- Two things are evident; the cadres arre reduced to their technical function, and the union delegates are eliminated up to the level of the department. This explains the position of the cadres and unions formulated thus: "It is necessary to know exactly what this signifies concretely for us. We are not yet ready for that, but the trail has been blazed."[10]

The most striking fact is, in addition, that the unions and the cadres decided in no way to impose a mode of operations on these bases, but to have it granted them in negotiations with the management once the strike was over. This was to recognize that all power of decision lies with the management. It is important to state also that the principle of co-management or of participation did not even figure in the preconditions for discussion, but only the creation of a commission concerned with "structures", a term which we have seen to have very different meanings for different interested parties. It is evident that all this will result at best in consultative bodies in which unions and cadres will divide the positions, and which will have no real power.

The principle by which the commission on structures was to be maintained also ran into opposition from the unions. Autonomous or under the aegis of the workplace committees? It was this latter solution which prevailed, showing clearly that everything, even if it is laughable, which would escape the power of the unions in the enterprise is opposed by the unions' desire to block any direct representation of the workers.

All these facts were perceived by the young people, who thought of the strike a little as theirs, not in an abstract way but as a function of one or another of the discussions which they brought back immediately to their particular situation in the enterprise. So that they rapidly discovered what was wrong with all those speeches whose language repelled them more than it attracted them.

The persistence of this language represented besides in their eyes a rupture with everything that the strike offered them as a starting point for communication and the breaking down of barriers. If the operation of the strike committee could appear a model-work done on the basis of equal participation by 150 members, without a permanent office and with commissions dividing up the tasks, in a coordinated way - in reality the unions and cadres took such an important part in it that one could see in it the possibility of a new bureaucracy, within an enterprise placed under the system of co-management. Without a doubt, the strike committee was forced to allow the presence of non-union men in the negotiations with the management, in discussions with the students after long refusing them, and in discussions with the striking employees as a whole after recognizing that the daily meeting was becoming a pure formality. But that hardly breached the bureaucrats' hold on the strike committee, all the more as the young, wearied by so many efforts always opposed, so much incomprehension, participated less in the discussions so as to devote themselves to the practical tasks of the strike, and shut themselves up in their own world of young people. If the unions did not succeed in breaking the spirit of which we spoke above, they succeeded nonetheless in preventing it from expressing itself openly. Thus the strike rapidly led back - a clear sign that it didn't open up the way to a revolutionary transformation - to a modified reproduction of the hierarchized structures of capitalist society, put to use by the same people who deem that they have a vocation to run this society, from the position that they presently occupy in it.

2 Compagnie Generale de Telegraphic sans Fil (CSF), Brest

Several years ago the CSF (General Radio Co., a great electronics trust) set up a factory at Brest, in the framework of the plan for the industrialization of Brittany, and in this way benefiting from the government subsidies granted to enterprises which decentralize. Cadres were imported from Paris and 1,100 workers recruited on the spot, the majority of them unskilled laborers. The management - doubtless in order to continue to collect the subsidy - offered at Brest only the least interesting jobs, which permitted it to counter every wage demand with the fact - real, but deliberately brought about - that the factory was not profitable and always operated at a deficit. This didn't go on without causing a certain frustration among the personnel, notably the cadres, who feared to find themselves one day out of work again, with a reduced level of qualification.

There has been only one union m the Brest plant, the CFDT, every member of the CGT being rapidly fired, At the time of the CSF-Thomson merger, the difficulties of the factory at Brest increased even more. "We had used that," said a CFDT delegate,[11] "to explain to the personnel the workings of the economy, of capitalist society, of the banks, etc. Our union activity has had an important influence on the minds not only of the workers but also of the engineers and the cadres."

On May 20, the groups which made up work-units (shops, offices, laboratories) first elected a strike committee, then made a study of reform of the hierarchy in the enterprise. 70 engineers participated in this work. The personnel also set up "workers' tribunals" to judge cadres for incompetence in their work and their relations with their subordinates; dossiers were assembled and transmitted to the management by the delegates. Summing up these proceedings, the CFDT representatives declared:[12] "We think that the workers' commissions and the factory committee that we have set up constitute irreversible choices. The strike committee has all powers of decision in a democratic enterprise. Workers' commissions will be set up in each production-unit. They are to deal with everything that directly affects the wage-earners in their work (methods of work, definition of jobs, hiring, promotion, etc.)." A leaflet, put out and distributed right at the plant, demanded the "democratization of the enterprise with a view towards self-management" in requiring, notably: "workers' control of professional training, with a budget equivalent at least to 2% of the annual rise in the total amount of wages; contractual policy for promotions; definition of each job and its sphere of competence; a plan for development of the numbers and qualification of the personnel; control of hiring; financial control of the factory and of the business."

On June 18, after six days of fruitless discussions with the management, the personnel decided to continue the strike, by a vote of 607 to 357. The negotiations stumbled against the problems of control, among others the setting up of representative commissions. The management invoked the illegal character of these structures to justify its refusal of them; the CFDT delegates then presented, without any more success, a plan for a commission integrated into the workplace committee, which could have played the same role as the bodies projected in the first place.

Finally, work resumed on Friday, May 21 (551 votes for resumption, 152 against). The conversations of the CFDT delegates from the Brest factory with the central office in Paris have led to the creation of a commission within the factory committee, consisting of five representatives of the management and twelve of the personnel, it will be charged with studying the renovation of the structures of the enterprise and will take an interest more particularly in the planning of work, in the "production time", and in the conditions of work. This measure concerns only the factory at Brest. The commission is only qualified to set down its "conclusions", before the end of the year.

A significant feature, this progressive whittling down of demands: in the beginning it was a matter of creating rank-and-file committees assuring the workers' control of important aspects of the life of the enterprise; then, it changed to representative commissions, chosen from out of the workplace committee; and it finished by being content with a simple study commission which will put forth "conclusions", of which the management will or will not, take account, depending on its interest or even its whim.

One saw such a process at work, though generally in less clear a form. in many medium-sized (and even large) enterprises on strike. It must be stressed, however, that in case of the movement's revival, institutions of this type however ridiculous their authority may be, would be able to set up - at least as a Beginning - as spokesmen for the will of the workers against the management; in the opposite case, of the definitive "return to normalcy", they must be reduced at best to functioning as auxiliaries to the management, sharing with it certain not very popular administrative tasks, or-most likely - to nothing at all.

3 Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA), Saclay

The CEA (Atomic Energy Commission) employs a total of 6,000 to 7,000 people at Saclay. Of this number about 4,500, of which a quarter are engineers, work under a "collective agreement"; the rest work for "outside enterprises" (cleaning women, secretaries, draughtsmen, skilled workers, technicians, building workers, etc.); in addition, there are graduate students on fellowships and foreigners working there for a term. The CGT has 625 members, with a nucleus formed by the oldest agents of the CEA, hired between 1946 and 1950, under the reign of the stalinist Joliot-Curie. The CFDT, which at Saclay has made a specialty of leftist one-upmanship, has 300 members and the FO the same. The house union is supposed to have about a hundred members. The CGC, very recently set up, has "made a killing" in the last elections of cadre delegates.

The strike was carried out with effective occupation of the work sites. (83% of the personnel remained at the sites throughout the strike; even on holidays (Ascension, Pentecost, weekends) there were at least 500 people at the center).

The time was entirely occupied by discussion - general or in committee-bearing either on fundamental problems or on the reorganization of the CEA, a question which interested many of the personnel, since the future of the Commission appeared to be in jeopardy. The strike itself started with a small nucleus of people doing experimental and theoretical research in pure physics; particularly well-payed agents, unconnected with production, often young and always tied professionally to the Universities; these personnel, union and non-union, acted outside of and, when necessary, against the union controls. For the first time one could observe a real solidarity with the workers employed by the outside enterprises.

The strike was of short duration. 15 days, officially. In fact, the general discussions, with an almost total stoppage of work, had proceeded the actual strike vote by almost a week. The return to work took place under pressure from the administration, which promised full payment for hours missed if work began again before June 4. Nonetheless, the discussions within the enterprise had been carried far enough for a certain number of structural demands to be presented to, and, after being emasculated, accepted by the administration.

In this way, a whole "pyramid" of representative commissions was set up. At each echelon (division, department, management) a unit council was constituted, presided over by the head of the unit and playing a consultative role. The unit council is elected outside of any union routine, on the ratio of one delegate to 10 people, and with representation of all the professional categories in the division, but the election is made by a single college; the delegates are in principle revocable at all times. At first it had been required that the head of the division (or of the unit) be open to challenge by the unit. Of course this demand was not satisfied. Nevertheless, certain units went on to vote for or against their division head. Certain unanimous "confrontations" made a stir for the moment. Then, it appeared that the "confronted" continued to go on as before...

In addition, a national committee has been created representing both employees and management, but it is presided over by an administrator general delegated by the government, who has a decisive voice. This committee discusses programs, the budget, and the general organization of the Commission. It is informed of nominations to the staff of the CEA. The same device is found in all the centers depending on the CEA, including the DAM (Direction des Applications Militaires - Office of Military Applications). Contrary to the unit councils, this committee is exclusively composed, on the personnel side, of union delegates. (At the DAM, where the union representation came up against an in principle prohibition, the latter requirement was lifted).

One sees thus that as far as effective control goes, the famous "pyramid of committees" has in the end no power. Its only utility could have been to keep the personnel informed; but even in this sphere, its possibilities are narrowly limited. The old strike committee, formed spontaneously, has been re-elected almost as a whole, under the name of "coordinating committee", with the mission of facilitating the circulation of information horizontally, that is to say, between unit councils. Although the majority of its members are union men (but not union delegates) this committee is just barely tolerated (and this thanks only to the pressures exerted by the rank-and-file), by the administration of the Center and by the unions. A number of division heads have already succeeded in injecting into the unit council a bureaucratic mentality, by making it a "privileged interlocutor"; that is to say, in blocking in fact the diffusion of information among the rank-and-fife, the coordinating committee is beginning to chase its own tail. Its last notice posted (at the beginning of July) proposes that the meetings of the unit councils be public, like the municipal councils. But in the current context of discouragement, it doesn't look as though this suggestion will meet with many echoes.

4 Sud-Aviation, Nantes

For a month, half-hour work stoppages followed one after another. On May 7, two days before a full day of strike, the director, one Duvochel, was chased by 35 workers; he succeeded in saving himself. During the night of May 13, at the instigation of militants of a trotskyite group (OCI)[13], 300 to 400 workers stopped work again; in the morning of the next day there were three half-hour stoppages, while the union delegates were received by the said Duvochel. But in the afternoon, according to an inquiry carried out on the spot by three students from Nanterre:[14]

Three union delegates decided to throw people on monthly salary out of their offices and to shut the boss up in his office. Several cadres joined the imprisoned director. A guard post was installed before his door. So that the boss wouldn't get bored, a loud-speaker was installed before the door and bellowed revolutionary songs at an earsplitting level, a device which permits a boss to learn the International by heart without any ideological effort...

At Flins and in certain factories of Elbeuf, directors found themselves imprisoned in the same way. This action, perfectly illegal (as was not the case with the strike, at least in itself), was of course condemned by the unions with all their strength. It thus bore witness to the autonomous character of the struggle carried on by the workers; an index of their combativity, it helped to further heighten it.

Here as everywhere, it was the young people from 25 to 30 who showed themselves the most determined to continue the struggle, and the return to 'work, as a comrade said to us, came "with discouragement and disgust."

5 Electricite de France (EDF) - Central Plant at Cheviré

The EDF-GDF (nationalized electric and gas company) on strike continued to furnish current and gas under the direction of the strike committees (CGT members greatly predominating). Decreasing the flow of current had the effect of stopping a great number of machines that were still running; thus, at the Faculty of Sciences at Orsay the computer had to stop and the technicians, thenceforth, joined the strike. However, the conditions under which the activity was carried out at the EDF (just as in the hospitals, for example) are not well known to us. Here is what the enquiry of the three from Nanterre said about the Cheviré center, near Nantes:

When the 293 workers had occupied the plant, on Saturday, May 18, they chose a strike committee composed of delegates from each union (90% at the EDF were unionized). But it was necessary, even while diminishing the current flow (which helped to paralyze the local industries), to maintain a minimum of electricity to assure safety services: hospitals, etc. The strike committee thus asked the strikers to "take on their responsibilities" in this matter. Actually, the elected Committee held, for 15 days, ... all authority in the plant. It made sure that uninterrupted operation was assured by the workers. It organized the search for supplies of combustibles (natural gas). For the provisioning of the strikers, it had arranged an active, but somewhat confused, solidarity with the surrounding population, The militants with which I spoke were very conscious (even the CGT delegate!) of the political meaning of this experience, and one of them explained: "We wished to show our capacity, and thus our right, as producers, to manage the means of production which we us. We proved it."

On the radio, a union delegate from the Savings Bank (nationalized) expressed himself in analogous terms at the time of the limited reopening of the bank windows. It is beyond doubt, for anyone who sticks his head out the window, that this was one of the most widespread feelings, and that it remains. If but lately it was latent among a large part of the workers, when they came to have a "confrontation" with some cadre, it is today readily expressed. And yet (we will return to this) this remains a sentiment, not an objective fact from which the consequences need only be drawn.

6 The Situation at Nantes, at the End of May

Nantes is of all the cities of France that in which the union seems to have had the greatest control at the local level. According to the inquiry which we have already cited twice,[15] a central Strike Committee took (or intended to take) a certain number of initiatives, especially as regards provisioning - such as distribution of permits and vouchers for gasoline, which does not in any case appear to have been very seriously carried out; organization of transports with the co-operation of the FO truckers, the municipality then putting cars at the disposition of the Committee:

To the families of strikers, who found themselves in the worst financial situation, the union organisations distributed vouchers for foodstuffs. These vouchers are equivalent to a certain quantity of food. For each child under three years: one voucher for 1 F. of milk. and for each person over three, a voucher for 500 grams of bread and one voucher for 1 F.

On the roads, the FO truckers set up roadblocks (there were also roadblocks around Caen, but only for one day). In the neighborhoods:

The three workers' familial organizations (AS, APF, UPF) made contact with the peasant unions of the nearest village, La Chapelle-sur-Erdre. A meeting attended by 15 unionized peasants and a delegation of workers and students decided to assure a permanent liaison to organize a network for distribution without middlemen.... Every morning, the union men came to check the prices at the markets.... Notices are put up in the stores authorized to open, with the following words: "Taking care of the provisioning of the population, the unions authorize this little store [the big ones were forced to close] to open its doors on condition that it respect the standard prices."

The correspondent for Figaro expressed himself in analogous terms:

As the prefecture could not take care of the most urgent problems, an "Interunion Strike Committee" installed itself in the city hall. Little by little, it substituted itself for the administration. It is thus that it issued the traffic vouchers, permits to ambulances and to the trucks of the bakers and the market-gardeners; it is thus that the shopkeepers had to paste on their shop-fronts these notices: "This store is authorized to open. Its prices are controlled permanently under the responsibility of the unions. Signed: CGT, CFDT, FO"

How much of this, exactly, is fact? According to another student traveler, the inquiry of the Nanterre three was "partial in both senses." Thus, they wrote that two delegates from the UNEF appeared in the Central Strike Committee; in fact, the trotskyite and FO members of the Committee, having demanded their admission, would have been in the position of opposing a categorical refusal by the delegates from the other unions, of workers as well as of peasants, who always accepted - but only for a short time - the presence of student delegates in the capacity of observers. On the other hand it is possible that the following lines had, at one time, described something actually going on:

The Central Strike Committee is suspicious of the neighborhood committees and reproaches them for not having worked through it at the beginning. In fact, the neighborhood committees will turn out to be much more effective in the organizing of provisioning, and their action will be of much greater import than that of the unions. Starting from the creation of a direct market for produce, they are going to become the cells of the politization of the working class neighborhoods.[16]

But, with the general reflux of the movement, and thus the shift in the balance of power in favor of the unions, the situation was obviously modified. Here is what Action, the newspaper of the "leftist" students, said about it:[17]

As for the strike and neighborhood committees of Nantes, they have been the object of a recapture operation that they are not about to forget.

Be that as it may, we see clearly here how, given the bankruptcy of the old authorities (prefecture, municipality), but also with their active support, the united unions use their respective organizations and related associations to set up a new structure of authority. Far from forcing the great modern shopping centers, whose personnel were on strike, to reopen - which would have been to attack the rule of private property and take "risks" - they relied on the shopowners and small peasants. Wedged between this "base" and the old administrative (and police) apparatus, the interunion Committee was to be obliged to manoeuvre shabbily until the day of the "return to normalcy".

When in its course it encounters organs arising directly from the people, which tries in this way to meet its immediate needs, it is suspicious and invokes, in a typically bureaucratic way, its self-styled representative character, which gives it the right to run the life of society. At a new stage, if there is one, there will be two possibilities: either the masses will submit to this transitional union power just as they submit to the power of Capital; or else they will enter into conflict with it through the intermediary of their own organs of struggle and control (rank-and-file, neighborhood, and other committees). Thus one sees concretely that to support the Action and Neighborhood Committees in a period of social crisis is not a question of rhetoric, or even of simple "politicization". This is what matters, more than the point of knowing to what extent the Central Strike Committee at Nantes exercized the functions which it arrogated with the blessing of the old class society.[18]

7 Rank-and-File Committees, Direct Action

With a number of exceptions, the strike committees were in general controlled by the union centrals (as was, nearly as often, the composition of the picket lines). In a certain number of factories, however, especially in the Parisian region, rank-and-file (or action) committees were created. Thus, at the Rhone-Poulenc factory at Vitry, rank-and-file committees existed in each sector; the rate of effective participation in the occupation of the work sites was particularly high: 1,500 took part out of a personnel totaling 3,500 workers. Elsewhere, in a large printing works:

A Strike Committee got set up which succeeded, for awhile, in going beyond, outflanking, and finally neutralizing the powerful college of union delegates. The members of this committee were union men (of necessity, since at our plant the union is in control of hiring). But there was here no question of infiltration: the men deliberately and openly set up in their factory a "parallel power", parallel to that of the CGT ... In the electronics section, a rank-and-file committee was created on a proposal of the CGT, which hoped in this way to "sink" the two rival unions.[19] Result: the CGT was "sunk" itself, and from the union rank-and-file committee a true revolutionary organization emerged, which included more than 50% of the workers as active members and considered itself perfectly capable of running the factory .[20]

At the Assurances Générales de France, following the denunciation of a part of the agreement relating to the payment for strike hours, it was proposed to the strike committee that an action committee elected on the ratio of one delegate per section be set up and that modes of action be envisaged which would be acceptable to all, consisting in making decisions in the areas reserved for the management on certain points (clocking in and out, making up for hours lost, determination of pay, etc.). Although it met with a favorable response, this project fell through essentially because of the formal veto of the CGT and the falling into line of the CFDT, which would not admit the existence of a committee which could constantly and directly translate the will of the rank-and-file and make the control of the factory a matter for struggle - to be exercised and imposed - and not a demand for which one awaits satisfaction from the management or the State.

Of course, the fate of these committees was strictly determined by the general course of events and, likewise, their attitude towards the unions varied as a function of conditions specific to each shop; some went so far as to consider themselves potential little unions, only, it goes without saying, to be blown away by the wind. These instruments had, in fact, meaning only for the struggle; that ended, their active role has ended also, or, more exactly, they can continue to exist (sometimes good, sometimes bad) only thanks to a new form of activity: discussion, the comparison of experiences. To with to act differently, to wish to substitute themselves in isolation for the old organizations, while maintaining their modes of action, is to move in the direction of certain and complete dissolution. There have been enough attempts of this type in the history of the international labor movement, for one to be categorical on this subject.

In the newspaper presses, at the Aurore the linotypists threw out certain headlines; at the Parisien libéré the personnel unanimously refused on one occasion to put out the paper because of an outrageously lying headline on the front page; at the Nation the printers refused to put out this gaullist rag. But there was no coordination of action and no attempt to establish this on the part of the rank-and-file: they were content to swallow the tall tales of the obligatory union CGT which wished L'Humanite (but not the weeklies or the leaflets) to appear at any cost.

In a host of enterprises, the strike committee took care of the payment of wages, or of money paid on account (to be regularized after the strike), or even (as at the SNECMA) cashed checks with petty cash taken from the company cash-desk; sometimes, the canteen continued to function, where canned goods were distributed, etc. These things occur in every strike of such extent, but it must be stressed that the initiative came from the workers themselves, these tasks being often carried out outside of the usual rules, and that the orders came from the strike committee, acting to meet immediate necessities and not on instructions from the management.

Finally, at the moment of the return to work, wildcat demonstrations took place, the initiative for which often came from activist minorities. This was the case among the bookprinters of the Boulevard Blanqui; at the labor exchange for the employees of the RATP, the demonstrators came to the headquarters of certain union organizations to get some explanations and to protest just as if they were up against heads of personnel, and were thrown out by the union marshalls. Several hundred school teachers briefly occupied the office of the SNI, with an analogous result.

V Participation and Structural Reforms

If one demand appeared clearly in the course of the general strike, especially among the tens of thousands of young people, students and workers alike, it was the desire to take responsibilities. In one sense, that is related to the fact that the mentality of the heads of French business still considerably retards the scope of the productive forces (technology, equipment, level of qualification, attitudes of the producers, etc.); this backwardness - incompetence, really - is recognized by certain theoreticians friendly to the bosses. Why does this advanced section of the ruling class love to talk about "participation"?

Given the level reached by the concentration of capital, its degree of rationalization and of automation, the exploitative society has trouble functioning without some participation by the workers. Decisions are made at such a high level, tasks are so highly divided, that the immediate producer cannot catch the sense of directives which are worked out without his participation and which fail to take account of the methods of practical application; in short, he no longer understands the direction of his work. So he tends to be completely detached from it; whereas the very structure of the enterprise (this distance separating directors and directed) requires that the producer "participate" for the directors plan to work properly. Therefore, those who speak of participation are the very ones who don't want and can't create a worker-controlled management because that would destroy all meaning both of the apparatus of domination which they represent and the functions they exercise within it. On the other hand, those who through their autonomous struggles spontaneously create, even if on an embryonic level, new forms and organizations of management and of struggle, realize in deeds a participation of all; but they not only do not talk about it but even often doubt that it can be realized.

The Power of the State and the Bosses:
Participation as Slogan and Scale Model of Society

That "participation" is only a matter of "rendering social structures flexible" in the words of one high functionary (C. Gruson), is shown clearly by the June 7, 1968 declaration of the President of the Republic:

That implies that the law assign to each person a part of what the business earns and of what n reinvests in itself. That implies also that everyone be adequately informed how the enterprise is going and can, through Their freely chosen representatives, participate in the company and in its deliberations so that their interests, their points of view, and their proposals may be honored therein.... In a participative society, where everyone has an interest in its continuing to function, there is no reason at all for anyone not to wish the management to exert itself with vigor. Deliberation is the work of many and taking action is the work of one alone.

In fact, it is nearly a quarter century since "the law" created workplace committees designed "to honor the interests" of the rank and file, which, in reality, have at best served to save the bosses the trouble of managing certain branches of social security and to take his place in communicating disagreeable news to the personnel.[21] As for "profit sharing", another worn out joke, it has long been notorious bunk, and the fate of the "Vallon Amendment",[22] latest of these pleasantries, has just confirmed it last year.

Frivolous as they may be, even these proposals are rejected by the bosses of the medium-sized and small businesses, who feel no need to "associate the workers with the management," under any form at all despite the legal text in many cases. The big employers find that participation has already been realized:

The French structures permit the development of a true participation on the level of the national economy, in particular in the planning commissions and in the Economic Council, where the viewpoints of all partners in society are expressed confront each other, and most often harmonize.... Participation in the enterprise can be a factor of efficiency only if it is founded on the enforcement of the structures and the managerial hierarchy, which it must help to assume all its responsibilities but whose authority it must not undermine.... It is essential that the representatives of the personnel and the unions take up their responsibilities in this regard, that is to say, agree to take account of the economic data which demand attention from the enterprise.[23]

Perhaps the big employers will consent, under the circumstances, to cease their habitual bullying and come to see a "valuable go-between" in the unions if the latter admit to pushing for the interests of the business as such before those of its constituents, the rank-and-file (something impossible in the long run, as we just saw in May-June). In fact, if some decisions are effectively made, they will lead without doubt in the direction of the creation of a system of collective bargaining at fixed times, the State reserving a power of arbitration, as is the practice in most of the great industrialized countries. The gaullist "participation" would then remain one of those magic words that the eminent men of France like to wave around, like the "resistance", the "familial virtues", and, now, "alienation" and "revolution". And distinguished professors, high functionaries in retirement, young Christian bosses and modernists of the CFDT will continue to expound virtuously on this theme....

The CGT: a Man Who Lives by Bread Alone

The French bosses declare themselves in favor of "a constructive social dialogue, sheltered from destructive demagoguery, rooted in the realities of work and life, not in fantasy."[24]

This is as well-they have declared it a thousand times-the essential aim of the CGT. On both sides, it is a matter of showing that they are realists, that is to say, of limiting themselves to discussing purely bread-and-butter demands, of not going beyond existing laws, at least when one cannot avoid them; and, for the unions, of placing confidence in dialogue, particularly in the parliamentary system. Both sides' vision of the world has the same foundations; the enterprise can be governed only by a hierarchy of competent men, just as is society as a whole on the model of Western and Eastern capitalism alike. The unions' disputes with the employers bear on the necessity of readjusting wages[25] and giving free rein to union propaganda within the enterprise, as is the case in most of the enterprises all over the world. On a more general level, the CGT envisages a change in government, accomplished through elections, which would permit it to consolidate by means of the law, its position in society and in the enterprises.

Forced to talk about self-management, because everyone talks about it, the CGT, through Séguy, its general secretary, declared its position in these terms:

The movement guarded by the workers is much too powerful to be slopped by the hollow phrases, "self-management", "reform of civilization", "planned social and university reforms", and other inventions which all end up in relegating to the background the immediate demands.... We propose solutions and we refuse to stand surely for a vague formula.[26]

Under the pen of Salini, Humanité-Dimanche (6/2/68) set out the intentions of the PC:

The far-reaching structural reforms which our country needs, are nationalizations... Of only those sectors of the economy in the hands of the great capitalists.... Ten years of authoritarianism have made urgent the participation of all Frenchmen in the management of their own affairs, By the vole. By the extension of union freedoms in the enterprise.... We hope that the structural reforms and the full bloom of democracy will open the road to socialism, a socialism conforming to our traditions, our experience, our French political methods.
The theoreticians of the PC have elaborated certain models of management for the use of future nationalized enterprises.[27] To discuss them would be superfluous. These plans are not to be taken seriously; the Party hatches a few at every great social crisis; one could have read similar ones 25 years ago, which have never been applied (the fault doubtless of a parliamentary majority!). History has confirmed the just objection that the CGT itself makes about the "self-managementarians", modernists of the CFDT and others, that we can be sure that a system of partial control in a society which remains set on capitalist foundations is condemned to employ capitalist methods and to preserve a capitalist content, and that changing the style of management doesn't change very much. The idea of the CGT leaders is really very simple: it is the ideal of a bureaucratic society in which a class of technocrats rule by planning on all the problems of production and consumption; it suffices that an apparat calculate the needs of men and everything else follows. No place for workers' control in such a framework, except perhaps to draft at the rank-and-file level certain rules,[28] - decided upon by the higher-ups and concerning the execution of tasks and the distribution of products; something which is always done somehow or another anyway.

The CFDT: Self-management, the Magic Word

For a long time now, the CFDT has wielded a language in which modernist accents occasionally came to give some uplift to a speech identical, in the end, to those made by other union central bureaus. Last to enter the market, thus with leaders often younger and more inclined to take initiatives, the CFDT or a part of its directors, was certainly not unaware of the principle current in advertising, according to which the consumer, placed before two products of like quality, will choose the one presented most attractively, the "brand image" at once most original and most conforming to traditions. Besides, the monopoly on pure bread-and-butter demands belongs to the CGT.

In the end - with formal variations, of course - the CFDT joins hands with the CGT: only "reforms of the economic structure," a "process of democratization of the enterprise" can guarantee that wage increases will not be reduced to nothing in the near future.[29] How to attain these objectives? By parliamentary means, of course! However, what the CGT proclaims with loud yaps, designed to sound reassuring to the bourgeoisie and imperative to the rank-and-file, the CFDT suggests with a quite jesuitical caution:

The movement is of such depth that we don't see how the parties can today absorb the new forces and their demands, which are not only quantitative but also call for profound reforms of the structures of society.... As for the CFDT, we have decided to assume all our responsibility.[30]

But, of course, one must know how to be "realistic" and several days after these fine words, on the eve of the election, the headquarters distributed a leaflet in which it invited the workers to vote for the candidates which "appear to them the most apt to constitute that left majority on which the future of democracy depends.... Above all we put forward our objectives of union recognition, of the development of "union power," the expression of "worker power" in the enterprise, of structural reforms in the economy."[31]

What this means is clear, but it gives the CFDT only half of its brand name, the traditional side. That is not enough for the modernists of the central bureau who have pounced on the occasion to again launch a conception, at first sight advanced, extremist even in certain respects, in the measure to which the rule of rank-and file discussion and the idea of self-management is set in relief:

Self-management. participation: something readymade?
No. It must be defined by the workers!
The idea which we support and of which the first prerequisite is union recognition in the enterprise - is an act of the working masses. What counts for us, is that in the factories, the administrations, the workers discuss these problems and that they profit from the time of strength which the strike represents for workers to really discuss their place and the responsibilities they wish to assume in the enterprise and the economy.
If these discussions are carried on throughout the country, then, quite naturally, the content of what we want will be made precise, will be enriched with a whole workingclass experience which we don't perceive completely but which is extremely rich. Words take on meaning only when they take possession of the masses because it is the masses who nourish the content of the formulas that we put forward. Isn't self-management the final form of socio-economic life?[32]

For workers "bread and butter" issues are a response to an immediate reality, to a need that the unions translate with more or less success in their negotiations with the representatives of the State and the employers. Likewise, the passage we have just cited expresses a desire widespread among the workers, above all among the young - students, workers, salaried employees, peasants - a desire which gave the days of May-June 1968 their unique coloration: a profound demand, originating in a desire for individual self-affirmation, through at last responsible and meaningful action, and in the feeling of collective interdependence born in confused fashion during the struggle. These producers, unable to realize that profound demand at once envisaged its realisation through organs like the rank-and-file committees, action committees. etc., which corresponded to the struggle that they were carrying on at the time, and not to ancient phrases of general cretinization and social harmony. This, and nothing else, is the extremist point of view.

But the CFDT, following its vocation, ties this new content to obsolete practices which constituted a restraining force in the struggle - though not the only one and perhaps not the most important. These old practices are based on dialogue, between union and management within the enterprise, in parliament on the level of the society as a whole, and the inanity of which is recognized by a great part of those who give it their votes for lack of anything better.

Self-management, workers' control, for the CFDT, is no more and no less than the means for its implanting itself in the enterprises, since every union central bureau makes "worker power" and "union power" synonymous expressions. The following quotation without doubt does not express the position of the ex-Christian Confederation as such;[33] it has at least the merit of saying things crudely, while the usual proclamations live in a prudent clair-obscur:

"The meaning of workers' control has all its value in a planned economy oriented towards need and controlled by union organizations.... But we want to pursue the construction of a union apparatus powerful and controlled at all levels.... Without this reinforcement of unionism, everything we have said above is just literature,"[34]
In the light of its action in May and June, it would appear that the CFDT has always had in view only legal, parliamentary consecration of the movement's "gains", that is to say, of nothing at all, apart from the (promised) recognition of the union section in the enterprise. In general a minority in the shops, it preserved a certain freedom in speech, but where it had a majority-for example, at the Assurances Générales de France - it aligned its attitude with that of the CGT minority, thinking to make it take the blame in case the personnel contested the agreements made with the management. At any rate, the old guard sprung from the CFTC has the apparatus in its hands, and it is only a younger and more active nucleus which here plays the role played by the "activist minorities" in the Force Ouvrier.

FO: In the Image of the Traditional Left

The FO was hardly mentioned in the course of events, except in a few specific cases. Nearly a trifle, it was as imperceptible as the fragments of the traditional left, and for the same reasons: these groups bring together only dignitaries looking for government jobs and a circle of gaping strollers who are all washed up from the viewpoint of the powers that be in French society. These people are still into the individualism dear to the nineteenth century. This perhaps explains why at least two of the leaders of the FO, Hébert at Nantes and Labi at the Fédéchimie (chemical workers' union), could take leading positions without even dreaming of breaking with a visibly exhausted headquarters and, at least until now, without being expelled for it.

FO appeared to come out for important reforms "to humanize hierarchical relations," through union recognition in the enterprises and to the participation of its high officials in the elaboration of the Plan and in the "Economic and Social Council, in its consultative form.''[35] In short, to furnish specialists, eminent but not responsible, and thus to mitigate its absence at the rank-and file level by a presence at the summit. As far as action proper goes, a leaflet distributed by the FO after the strike limits itself to endless boasting about the reinforcement of the central and the "incontestable advantages" acquired, and so forth and so on. Entirely different, it is true, was the behavior of the Fédéchimie and of several other local or shop sections (both FO and CFDT), which did not hesitate to demonstrate its active sympathy to the student movement. What is more:

Keeping the pledge made at Charlety (to make no agreements with the bosses; Charlety was the site of a mass meeting organized by the UNEF and the SNESup among others), the Fédéchimie CGT-FO has signed no agreement with the employers in any of the chemical industries: chemicals, petroleum, glass, rubber, plastics. It has authorized the agreement of its National Union in the Atomic Energy Commission to the protocol which is the only one in Franca to anticipate the institution of organs of workers' control.[36]

And, in an attitude rather rare today among union officials, its secretary, Maurice Labi, came out against the elections:

The solution can be found only in the collective appropriation of the principal means of production, the democratic control of the enterprises, the reform of existing organs or the setting up of new institutions permitting the regulation of production and the harmonizing of social life.... In every factory, neighborhood, village and town, united committees of workers, peasants, students, and highschool students should be set up; the Estates General of the new France wilt meet to give our country a look young and modern, joyous and happy, socialist and free.[37]

O.K. Only when one proposes to abandon parliamentary methods, one must accept the consequences and, for example, continually keep up the pressure in favor of the organs charged with carrying on dialogue with the directors at all levels. We have seen above what came of the organs of the CEA one month after their legalization. Doubtless, since nothing has changed in other respects, they have hardly any chance to survive - but has the FO made an effort to support them by all the means of its propaganda? No. More generally, can the appeal to these "Estates General" come from an organization whose bigshots intend at the same time to play a consultative role in the various institutions of gaullist power? Is it simply a matter of replacing, as at Nantes, a mayor who called in sick? Labi bears witness to the old revolutionary syndicalist tradition, former glory of the French labor movement, but what does that mean now? At Rhone-Poulenc, a part of the workers has already answered: they joined up with the rank-and file committees, seeing clearly that the old structure had no value for the unity of the movement.

The CGC: The Cadres have their Right Place

We must put aside the critique of the hierarchy as such and of the concept of competence, not because these are unimportant questions - quite the opposite - but because their discussion would require a pamphlet the size of this one. We limit ourselves to calling attention to a very significant position.

In a leaflet of May 24, 1968 (Cadres CGC de l'Assurance) it is stated that "our desire to obtain a participatory structure doesn't date from today."

At the time of the last congress of the union of insurance cadres belonging to the CGC (March 13, 1968) this "desire" was thus defined:

We must be conscious of the role which we can play: we must realize that in the enterprises "capital" in the sense it used to have plays a less and less evident part, for the ownership of concerns is divided up between a large number of shareholders; finally at the head of the latter are various boards of directors and high level managers, who in the end play a much more important role than all the owners of capital. But we ourselves, to a different degree, have salaried status like the directors for, in the end, these directors are only, in relation to the proprietors of these concerns, neither more nor less than cadres; they are very high up, but their situation depends finally, despite everything, on these "corporate capitals" (even if the expression is losing meaning).

Consequently, one can say that the team of cadres which stands outside of the board of directors ought in its turn to have a chance to participate in making decisions; and it is this that we must absolutely demand in all circumstances.

It is on the basis of these ideas that it is good to repeat whenever one has the chance that we must structure our activity in such a way as to install in the course of years a true representation of cadres with power in the enterprise.

The May crisis set in relief the narrow spirit of the French bourgeoisie: its inconceivable distance from the real, its generic blinders. There is nothing astonishing about a group of cadres wishing to lean on the movement in order to curtail some few of the powers of its immediate superiors who. all shook up as they are, have a more than slight resemblance to idle royalty (without going on to ask themselves if they, the cadres, aren't in the same position). In the commissions that sprung up during the strike, the cadres frequently proposed two bases for reflection: (a) to define new structures capable of conferring a greater power to the cadre position, relaxing the old system of command and entrusting to the rank-and-file part of the regulation of its working conditions, in order to avoid the usual conflicts about "everything and nothing;" (b) to contest the role played in the working of the enterprise by factors both exterior (banks, the State) and interior (administrative council, board of directors), with a view to imposing - in the name of the "correctly understood interests" of all - the legal participation of "cadre power" in decision-making.

There was also a convergence between the situation of the cadres on the job and that of the future cadres, the students. The rapid evolution of the techniques and materials of production and control (until very recently) has engendered a technological unemployment, and thus a limitation of job openings, coupled with a tendential devalutation of their intellectual function. But when the students' action transcended itself to go so far as to confront the existing order ("We do not want to be the watchdogs of capitalism"), the great majority of cadres limited themselves to expressing the demands of which we have just spoken and whose success remains doubtful, under present conditions, since it is left to the discretion of the bosses' power.

Nevertheless, during the strike certain cadres advocated a non-hierarchized raise in wages and participated in the strike committees (with rank-and-file-cadre equality). This happened most often in the most modern industries, where the cadres are young, well paid, and severed from administrative tasks; it is a matter of a minority of the whole, but it is important that this occurred, and not only in a few isolated cases. It took a lot for the cadres, qua social stratum, to renounce, even on paper, what there is of authority in their functions (and only in very rare cases were they asked to).

To a great extent, the sympathies of the cadres toward the student movement expressed a sort of solidarity with the future members of their social class. This was also the source of the workers' distrust of both the students and the cadres. Even while supporting the cadres' demands of the sort mentioned above, the CGT exploited this suspicion to maintain a barrier between workers and students; to do this it did not hesitate to preach an "anti-intellectual" attitude, which is neither more nor less than a form of racism and is due entirely to imbecility and not at all to a reasoned critique.

Unions and Workers

The May movement permitted many to discover what a restraining force the unions represent. For, if spontaneity sufficed to lift the movement to great heights, it was not enough to keep it there, especially since the fight took on a sharp character only in exceptional cases. People became conscious of the function of the unions in the modern world: to participate in the administration of the labor force in the interest of society as it is, that is to say, to submit a certain number of demands to a series of specialized bargaining sessions, all while trying to reinforce their position within the apparatus of domination (the differences between union centrals turning solely on modes of realizing this last objective). But the unions could not function, thus did they not receive the approbation, passive in general, of the greatest mass of workers; in other words, the strength of the unions has produced only the weakness and the division of the workers.

When we see these powerful organizations, with hundreds of thousands of members, with a machinery run and guided by teams of experienced professionals, come to shabby results, the first reaction is to reproach them for their lack of efficiency (an inefficiency evident in France: the American union bosses are often gangsters or legal professionals but are at least relatively efficient in negotiations). After this, they are often accused of corruption, even of treason, and the means which comes to mind to remedy this situation is apparently simple: create another organization, this time pure and tough. To which the old centrals answer, with reason, that this would be to accentuate the division of workers even more. To which one could furthermore add that the history of the labor movement has showed for a century that these "new" organizations have been destined either to lose themselves in sectarian behavior and to wither on the stalk, or else, if they escape this fate, to model themselves on the old forms (as is demonstrated by the evolution of the various sections of the communist movement). Clearly: it is an impasse.

But why are the workers the only ones who don't talk about workers' control? Is it that they don't feel it would concern them? No, on the contrary: in their actions they already utilize spontaneous forms of organization and struggle which move in this direction. Even more, in his mentality and in his daily attitudes, in disobeying orders, in criticizing the cadre who confronts him directly, the worker contests in fact the principle and the practice of hierarchical control, the very basis of the capitalist system of management. But, just as in daily life this confrontation remains at a very individualized level, likewise at the first stages of collective action it doesn't succeed in generalizing itself. Although the spontaneous reactions, as we saw in May, often go quite far, they retain a passive adhesion to norms considered unbreakable. Thus, when at the Assurances Générales a CFDT militant, opposing the creation of a struggle committee elected by the workers, declared before 3,000 employees: "I am for it, but it can't be done. ...perhaps in 50 or 100 years," no-one reacted. A call to the same employees to organize by themselves a referendum on the question of strike pay found practically no response. And no one dreamed of reacting to arguments like, "The employees within one section will never succeed in coming to an understanding with each other," even after an extraordinary strike!

It is the capitalist mode of production which continually secretes such passive reactions among almost all of those who are under it. The established order appears to be the natural one in virtue of the consciousness which it in some spontaneous way engenders, according to which appearances correspond to reality, everyone receiving more or less his just share of the social product and finding himself in his just place. Of course, there are variants of this consciousness, a crowd of variants, but they are only phrases and ideas heard a thousand times since childhood in the family, at school, at work. and out of work: respect for authority, the cult of the leader, idolatry of knowledge - and the dogma that one's rank in the hierarchy naturally reflects a level of competence sanctioned in general by the diploma.

During the days of May and June, this thick blindfold was cracked; but the crack was neither deep nor lasting - at least at first sight. The fundamental reason for this was stated in the course of another great social crisis: "No proletariat in the world can from one day to the next reduce to smoke the traces of a century of slavery" (Rosa Luxemburg). And only the revival of the movement, with greater determination, can overthrow from top to bottom the mentality of the exploited masses.

VI The Organization of Production and Distribution by the Producers Themselves

A ruling class allows itself to be dispossessed of its power only by violence. Every working class struggle important enough to contest the social power (and not only, by troubling public order, the political power) of this class must expect to face the most pitiless repression to the extent that this contestation takes form in deeds and action.

The workers, as we have said, don't talk about control and think themselves incapable of managing an enterprise or society, if they so much as pose such questions or are asked them. The attempts at management we have spoken of should be considered from two points of view, contradictory in tendency:

- they are a response to a profound neccessity of capitalist society which has reached a certain level of development and concentration: the notion of workers' control arises spontaneously from the conditions of the modern factory, the modern enterprise.

- this is also evident to the ruling cllass, which perceives this fact from within the framework of exploitative society and tries to respond to it in terms of this framework. To integrate the worker into the enterprise by various recipes is fine for it and appears to the most "advanced" technocrats to be absolutely necessary for the survival of the capitalist enterprise. But this is to try to square the circle, because one can never integrate a worker into an activity the decisions about which and final control of which are totally out of his hands, decisions aiming above all to maintain the dominance of one class.

This very contradiction lies at the center of all the questions which we have brought up. Everyone in the various milieus - economic, political, union, technocratic - talks about "management", "control" because it is in this that the problem lies; but the solutions they propose succeed only in showing that they are no answer to the central problem of our society.

This question may now come to mind: "How may this problem be resolved?" But to pose it in this form expresses the viewpoint of a conscious and activist minority, and thereby reintroduces the division between minority and masses which appears to us to generate a new class system. Only the workers in struggle can give the answer - and all that we can do is to explicate situations in which the workers realize more or less rapidly that nothing fundamental has been changed.

This answer of the workers will be forthcoming only out of the struggle itself through the very development of this struggle. It is not conscious and formulated as a demand: it is the activity of struggle itself.

It is ultimately the only answer to the profound necessity for a system of production which gives total satisfaction to human needs and for a society in which the individual is not constantly frustrated in his activity. We think that this is the fundamental way to look at it: in terms of a system of management, control that flows from the struggle itself.

A struggle for material demands (wages, hours, vacations, retirement), if it is not content with partial satisfactions, if it is carried on with determination, if like this strike it extends to the whole country, if it is general, soon poses other problems than those of the strike itself, although they are the direct consequence of the strike and of its continuation with the same combative spirit.

First, all activities cannot come to a total stop: provisioning, medical care, transports, etc. pose problems which must be solved immediately, even if only for the strikers and their families. The longer the strike is prolonged, the more these problems of getting certain sectors going again become acute and important, till they extend to the country as a whole. Special questions (furnishing current to a hospital, delivering milk, etc.) at first, they come to be posed at the local level (provisioning of a city) or at the national level (assuring the transmission of information, for example.)

At the same time, the struggle of the ruling class against the strike acquires definite form and becomes more violent to the extent that the strike, precisely in lasting so long, changes in nature and seeks to control and manage instead of make demands. For then the social balance of power tips suddenly to the side of the workers in virtue of the simple fact that the activity of production and distribution is gotten on the road again and that they do it to serve themselves. As the repression develops, the struggle itself again transforms itself giving rise now also to the necessity of getting certain services functioning again, simply for the conduct of the strike: radio, the mails, transports.

These two domains of renewed activity - which appear distinct - interact make the need for liaisons and coordinating organs clear. This very necessity leads thus to replacing the apparatus of administration, of the police, by organs of workers' control of a local or national, or interprofessional, or other scale. In this way, the structures of a new society are set up under the initiative and the control of rank-and-file organs in the shops.

This reactivation of the economy can be accomplished in several ways. Let us set aside the case where this minimum functioning which preserves society from asphyxiation is assumed under the aegis of the existing power: either by scabs, or by the army, or by agreements made between unions controlling the strike and the "authorities" at whatever level. It is quite clear that power in such cases has not changed hands and that the workers do not control the strike themselves.

Likewise, some organization or other formed in the course of the struggle could take over management, if it could get control of the struggle and play a coordinating and organizational role that the workers would not have assumed themselves. The role of such an organization - party, union, revolutionary committee, etc. - would be the same as that played by the interunion organization at Nantes. It would exercise a power distinct from that of the workers in struggle: the latter either would submit to it in the same way that they submit to the current power - or would enter into conflict with it, through their own organs of struggle (strike committees, for example) or through those which they would create at that moment.

If at some point in the strike, the workers themselves set up an elected strike committee of which they kept control, everything would turn out differently. The reactivation of the enterprises, the creation of liaisons and coordinating organs, everything is done by the workers themselves, for it is they who must solve the material problems posed by the strike, its maintenance, and its development, and it is they themselves who do solve them. The management of production and distribution becomes the work of the workers. They did not think previously that they would run the enterprise, and if one had told them they could would not have believed it. But the very necessities of the strike force them to solve a practical problem and in doing this they seize social power.

It is certain that the ruling classes will do everything, absolutely everything, to prevent power from being taken by associated, free, and equal producers. Beyond measures of intimidation and violent repression, they will try to interest the masses in their politics of exploitation by organizing agitation in favor of the various tendencies among them which are supposed to be representative, those installed in power or those hoping to exercise it: electoral campaigns, a referendum, change of government, diversionary campaigns, etc. Then, or perhaps at the same time, the rulers will stress the risks of disaster and chaos that a prolonged struggle will bring to their economy. If the producers persist as a mass in remaining relatively indifferent to the politics and the economics of the ruling classes and continue their struggle, getting the enterprises going again under their own direction, then the ruling classes, all united, will decide to recapture, arms in hand, that of which they have always dispossessed the immediate producers: they will unleash civil war.

As early as May. when the forms of real worker power existed only in rough outline, the different ruling groups were unanimous in flourishing this menace: the right by speaking of it openly, the left, knowing themselves incapable of reacting, speaking only of the risk of military dictatorship. To the old reflexes of passivity among the producers were added reflexes of fear, also quite old. The workers entered into struggle not only because they saw the students occupy their workplaces and open them to all but also and above all because they saw the most resolute portion of the youth go down into the street and meet the forces of repression head on; they were "ready to fight to the finish," people said, and this opposition in its turn made everyone "ready to fight to the finish." There was much of this feeling in the greeting the strikers gave the union officials who had obtained at best a readjustment of French wages to the levels practiced in the other countries of the Common Market. But afterwards the workers had either to submit to the rod of the State, the employers, and the unions, that is to say, to the laws of the market, or really to go to the finish, to the reactivation of the occupied enterprises. And that no one dared to do; everyone knew what that would mean; fear paralyzed everything.

And now? Since nothing has changed, since there was no victory, but no defeat either, the alternatives remain the same: either to submit or to take up the fight again. Without doubt there will be groups or individuals capable of sweeping away the difficulties with a phrase, of rigorously working out a perspective to accommodate a strategy of dreams; and others; more numerous assuredly, to explain that all that happened had for origin "impatience raised to the level of a theory",[38] or will have no future. In fact, it is clear, the question of a renewal of the struggle clearly may not be settled in the domain of reflection but, to begin with, depends on the success of exemplary actions. All one can say is that the shock has been felt profoundly by the masses, that a new mentality has begun to emerge, that the pressures of authority restored and the arrogance of the bosses are not likely to diminish.

Consequently, at some time relatively near, the struggle will be able to begin again, on condition that it beats the ferocious opposition that it will meet at the hands of the union centrals. It will be a matter of wildcat strikes and demonstrations, carried on by organs arising directly from the struggle. When the struggle extends and is prolonged and these committees will have to take in hand the task which the ruling classes are from that moment on incapable of carrying out: they will have to administer production and distribution on the local, then on the national level. Faced by a State power already today deprived of all other support among the masses but that of the ballot - less than nothing in a period of social crisis - and one which can count only on the meager police forces, they will organize self-defense. They will transform themselves into councils of producers - workers, professionals, students, and peasants -instrument for the struggle and for the direct organization of production and society by the producers themselves.[39]

We think of ourselves as contributing, in our position within the movement,[40] to pushing the event in its natural direction. That means among other things to propose for discussion certain general ideas; not a plan preconceived by a few people, not a program which, under present conditions, can be tied only to organizations of the old type, by all the evidence maladapted to periods of social crisis.

These general ideas relate above all to the principles on which societies do or might function. Capitalist society without doubt still functions in the way stone age societies did, at least in one fundamental aspect: the subordination of men to an order over which they have little or no control. It is, however, possible to reduce capitalism's special mode of functioning to several basic principles, for example the extraction, the realization, and the accumulation of surplus value, the search (private or carried on by particular social categories) for profit. Likewise, the appearance of the new society, born of the old, is dependent on the diffusion and the realization of new social principles, applied on local, national and finally - else the new world is condemned to disappear - international levels. Assuredly, this application can only be empirical, can only take on forms varying to fit different places and times, and it would be pointless to wish to predict these practical forms today in detail. However, the permanent existence of producers' councils presupposes the appearance in the course of the struggle, indeed because of the class struggle, faced with the failures of capitalism and the ruling classes, of new economic foundations of society as a whole.

At a certain point, during the crisis, the problems of the organization of production and of the return for labor will ineluctably pose themselves. On the local level, then on the national level, the councils will have to organize production and distribution as a function of a plan whose data will be made available to everyone and which will be decided by everyone. In the present state of technique, in view especially of the progress of economic calculating techniques and of the computer industry, which makes it possible for anyone who wants to check up at any time on how things are going, this no longer appears to pose fundamentally insoluble problems, although a profound change of mentality is necessary.

There now exists a plan in each of the two great branches of the world capitalist system but, although what takes the place of a plan here is quite different from the plan in the East, these two forms of planning have at least the common characteristic of resting on the system of prices or of credit allocations, which rests in turn on the system of wage-labor, that is to say, on the exploitation of man by man. Producers who have learned to direct their struggles themselves, under conditions of equality for all and collective effort, will tend in a natural way to make the planned production and distribution of goods rest on new foundations. First, as we have seen, because this follows the natural tendency of the struggle, and also because, the value of money having been reduced to zero by inflation, it will be necessary to choose a new unit of account; but also because contemporary history has shown that the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, though an evident necessity, does not absolutely coincide with the end of exploitation.

In the capitalist economy the system of prices more or less determined by the market (or credit allocations more or less "determined" by the divisions of the plan) constantly creates the illusion that exploitation is a problem of the market (or of planning), whose conditions need but be modified - generally, in the more or less democratic countries, by a "dialogue" between the classes in parliament and within other so-called representative structures - to effect a real and lasting transformation of the human condition. In the same way, the wages system only hides the reality of exploitation and divides the producers from each other by attaching the level of remuneration to levels of qualification which are basically imaginary. In fact, all the products of human labor, and thus the labor time of various categories of producers materialised in these products, have qualitative value, since they are all the crystallization of a certain quantity of labor, immediate and mediated: immediate in the factories and the fields, mediated by means of knowledge socially accumulated, transmitted, and applied.

In the capitalist system, the measure of the value of commodities is always money, which itself hides this fundamental reality; the producer is and can't be other than an article of commerce, himself a thing with a value. In other words, the producer cannot see himself otherwise than as an object who functions either as director or as directed to the extent to which he is considered and considers himself as gifted with competence or with rights; judged by criteria of differentiated value, he is linked to others by an abstract relation. He does not appear as he really is, a producer linked to other producers like himself by their sharing equally the quality of social labor. The abstract relation between things with values is incarnated in money, another abstract power, incarnating in turn the play of taws which essentially escape the will of men in general; the visible source of all baseness and all unhappiness, money is one of the properties of Capita!, By contrast, labor-power is one of the properties common to all men. The measure of the time which each producer devotes to work is the hour of labor. And the measure which permits the calculation of the labor-time crystallized in the products of human activity (with some near exceptions: scientific research and other creative works} is the hour of average social labor, basis of the communist production and distribution of goods.

But, it will be said, what is the difference between value-money and the "consumption voucher" calculated on the basis of the average social hour of labor? In a capitalist system, exchange expresses a fundamental fact; the immediate producer is not master of the means of production and social labor is the property of the ruling classes. The latter divide up the products of social labor as a function of "properly rights," of "degrees of competence", of the laws of the market and other laws, of a lot of factors and rules, sometimes corresponding to reality but always falsified by the division of society into classes - of which the old union organizations constitute one expression. On the other hand, when the hour of average social tabor serves as the basis for calculation of production and consumption, there is no more need for a "wages policy"; the productive forces, supposing the will of the producers and the existing capacities of production, determine automatically the volume of consumption, of the society of the whole and of the individual.

Henceforth, the producers themselves regulate production, but this regulation is no longer effected more or less blindly and always arbitrarily, as it is today. The social relations run no longer vertically, from top to bottom, from director to executor, but horizontally, between associated producers. It is no longer factors escaping human control or expressing the division of society into classes that fix the objectives of production, but the free producers themselves. And the measure that serves to regulate production is a quality distributed equally among men. But association, liberty, and equality of producers may not properly be said to flow from the realization of moral aspirations; in one sense, they are the consequence of the natural tendency to self-emancipation to which the old organizations and the old ideas are opposed; in another sense, each enterprise remains a cell of that immense economic body which is society and whose vital metabolism, the system of exchange, necessitates and produces organic unity. The various cells are integrated into one whole which rests on a radically egalitarian basis, and which can be no other than this: labor time taken as sole unit of calculation of production and consumption, a standard controllable by all.

All this is doubtless far from the immediate facts: a general strike which derived above all from a spontaneous explosion and propagation; a movement which really deepened only in a certain sector, that of the production of the higher levels of producers; new forms of organization which here and there appeared in embryonic state and as a function of specific situations; discussions of a qualitative and quantitative extent the like of which have never been seen in the history of human societies and which in the absence of their extension into action - the reactivation of the economy by associated, free, and equal producers - rapidly fell to chasing round in circles. Months and months of inaction are going to follow weeks of action. But just as the initiatives of some served to unleash the initiative of the greater number, the reflections of some may serve to awaken those of the great number. And this awakening to reflection is itself a first condition of the struggle.


* agreements signed with Leon Slum in 1936, ending the strike, legalizing the unions, guaranteeing 15 days vacation per year, creating social security, etc.

[1] Le Monde, 2-3 June.

[2] These proposals were made during the second week of May, when the movement was very little radicalized. Events made the majority of M22M afterwards lose interest in the problem.

[3] Leaflet issued by M22M on May 24; published in Partisans, no 42, pp. 107-8: Ce n'est

qu'un debut.... (Cahiers Libres, no. 124), pp. 49-57; parts of the latter have been translated in Caw!, issue no. 3.

[4] In fact this was the Movement's form only for a short period; if it was abandoned, it nonetheless made possible the creation of several Action Committees.

[5] The Faculty also sheltered a certain number of commissions, including the "eyewitness" commission, which collected depositions concerning police brutality, the student-worker action committees, and a poster studio similar to the popular studio of the Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts).

[6] See the Tribune of March 22, reprinted in I.C.O. No. 72, in Partisans, No. 42, etc.; translation in Caw!, No. 3, pp. 33-35.

[7] One saw this very well the day after the strike, when the management decided, despite the formal agreements, to speed up the line and to fire two foreign workers. After a daylong work stoppage, a meeting of workers on the evening of Wednesday, June 19, voted with raised hands for an unlimited strike. Officially, the CFDT was at the head of this movement; but the CGT would not hear of this "provocation": it opposed the strike and the CFDT finally fell into step with it, all the while denouncing very loudly (of course') the "treason" of the other union (the elections to the CE would soon be held...).

[8] Leaflet: "How to go on?" (CA Sorbonne)

[9] A useful chronology with documents may be found in Partisans, no. 42, June-July 1968, "Ouvriers, etudiants, un seul combat"

[10] Declaration of the unions of the Assurances Générales, Le Monde, June 2-3. 1968.

[11] Le Monde, May 29, 1968.

[12] Syndicalisme (organ of the CFDT), no. 1191, June 10,1968, p. 24.

[13] As in the student movement, one finds here, though to a much more limited degree, the role of detonator which certain "activist" minorities had in favorable circumstances (in 1936 as well, there were several cases of this type when the strikes began). Of course, these minorities couldn't furnish the "material basis" of the strike (general conditions, state of consciousness, etc.) any more than its direction.

[14] Action, No. 6.10, June 7.11; reprinted in Cahiers de Mai, No. 1, June 15, p. 4.

[15] An inquiry confirmed in its own way by the Figaro, which wrote (5/30/68): "The unions in reality have laid an iron hand on the Loire-Atlantic region ... On the market, new inspectors, but this time union men, control prices following the official government guidelines. From the metalworker to the fisherman, everyone waits for the union's decision," etc.

[16] Cahiers de Mai, art. cit., p. 10.

[17] "La revelation de Mai: les CA dans les enterprises", No. 18, June 27, 1968.

[18] "When they have a demand to make, they come to make it before the city hall (of Nantes), that is to say before the strike committee, but finally they appeal to it as in other circumstances they appealed to the Mayor" - said a guy of the March 22 Movement. Ce n 'est qu'un debut... pp. 94-95.

[19] This was also the origin of the rank-and-file committees at RP-Vitry, an experience about which a participant notes that it showed "in an obvious way the reasons for the 'depoliticization' and the 'apathy' of the workers: for the latter, when they feel themselves concerned, participate actively and massively, in a direct way. In a decision in which the decisions are made in their name by someone else the disinterest is almost total." Cahiers de Mai, No. 2, 1-15 July, p. 11.

[20] Action, ibid.

* See, for example, J-J Servan-Schreiber, Le Reveil de la France, Paris. 1968; an idiotic book which is interesting for its presentation of the May-June events entirely from this point of view.

[21] "Les Comites d'enterprise", ICO, no. 51, July 1966, p. 11.

[22] Vallon, a left gaullist deputy, proposed a law instituting profit-sharing.

[23] "L'assemblée générale de CNPF", Le Monde 10/7/68.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Which is evident when one knows that with a higher hourly productivity and labor-time, the hourly earnings of French workers were in general lower than wages in the same branches within other countries in the Common Market - except Italy, and even then not always. (Cf. J. Servant in Economie et Politique - theoretical journal of the PC - No. 168.)

[26] L 'Humanité, May 22. 1968.

[27] For example: J. Brieve, "La gestion démocratique des enterprises du secteur public et nationalise", Economie et Politique, No. 166-67.

[28] Cf. ibid.: 'These decisions (of the General Management), which must conform to the line set by the Administrative Council (in function of a policy set by the National Assembly [sic]) can be at all limes controlled by the latter and by the personnel, within the bounds of its rights." Longwinded on these "rights", the author is absolutely silent on these "bounds": one would have bet on it.

[29] Leaflet put out 5/27/68.

[30] Special edition of Syndicalisme, May 30, 1968.

[31] Supplement to Syndicalisme 6/13/68.

[32] Syndicalisme, 5/25/68.

[33] Another CFDT bigshot limits himself to demanding an increase in the "powers of parties other than the possessors of capital," a system "assuring the workers and their union organizations the full exercize of their rights." (R. Bonéty, Le Monde, 7/9/68). [34] Declerq, "Pour une planification démocratique", report to the 30th Congress of the CFTC, June 19-21, 1959.

[35] Le Monde, 7/9/68.

[36] "Contre le piege a c... des elections", Combat, 6/17/68.

[37] Ibid.

[38] L. Figuères, "Le Gauchisme", Cahiers du Communisme, No. 6; 1968.

[39] See Appendix, Thesis 3.

[40] That is to say, in participating in organs which are in principle non-exclusionary, with all its disadvantages on the side of visible efficiency, and not based upon a principle of discrimination, which must, whatever the supposed justification, obey the principle of class society and can in consequence never engender the slightest real efficiency but only produce a sect.

APPENDIX: Five Theses on the Class Struggle

By Anton Pannekoek.


Capitalism in one century of growth has enormously increased its power, not only through expansion over the entire earth, but also through development into new forms. With it the working class has increased in power, in numbers, in concentrated mass, in organization. Its fight against capitalist exploitation, for mastery over the means of production, is also continually developing and has to develop into new forms. The development of capitalism led to concentration of power over the chief branches of production in the hands of big monopolist concerns. They are intimately connected with State power and dominate it; they control the main part of the press, they direct public opinion. Middle class democracy has proved the best camouflage of this political dominance of big capital. At the same time there is a growing tendency in most countries to use the organized power of the State in concentrating the management of the key industries in its hands, as a beginning of planned economy. In Nazi Germany, a State-directed economy united political leadership and capitalist management into one combined-exploiting class. In Russian State-capitalism, the bureaucracy is collective master over the means of production, and by dictatorial government keeps the exploited masses in submission.


Socialism, put up as the goal of the worker's fight, is the organization of production by Government. It means State-socialism, the command of the State-officials over production and the command of managers, scientists, shop-officials in the shop. In socialist economy this body, forming a well-organized bureaucracy, is the direct master over the process of production. It has the disposal over the total product, determining what part shall be assigned as wages to the workers, and takes the rest for general needs and for itself. The workers under democracy may choose their masters, but they are not themselves master of their work: they receive only part of the produce, assigned to them by others; they are still exploited and have to obey the new master class. The democratic forms, supposed or intended to accompany it, do not alter the fundamental structure of this economic system.

Socialism was proclaimed the goal of the working class when in its first rise it felt powerless, unable by itself to conquer command over the shops, and looking to the State for protection against the capitalist class by means of social reforms. The large political parties embodying these aims, the Social Democratic and the Labor Parties, turned into instruments for regimenting the entire working class into the service of capitalism, in its wars for world power as well as in peace-time home politics. The Labor Government of the British Labor Party cannot even be said to be socialistic; what it does is not liberating the workers, but modernizing capitalism. By abolishing its ignominies and backwardness, by introducing State management to preserve and guarantee profits for the capitalists, it strengthens capitalist domination and perpetuates the exploitation of the workers.


The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie. It is only realized by the workers themselves being master over production.

Mastery of the workers over production means, first, organization of the work in every shop and enterprise by its personnel. Instead of through command of a manager and his underlings all the regulations are made through decision of the entire body of the workers. This body, comprising all kinds of workers, specialists, and scientists all taking part in the production, in assembly decides everything related to the common work. The rule that those who have to do the work also have to regulate their work and take the responsibility, within the scope of the whole, can be applied to all branches of production. It means, secondly, that the workers create their organs for combining the separate enterprises into an organized entirety of planned production. These organs are the workers' councils.

The workers' councils are bodies of delegates, sent out by the personnels of the separate shops or sections of big enterprises, carrying the intentions and opinions of these personnels, in order to discuss and take decisions on the common affairs, and to bring back the results to their mandatories. They state and proclaim the necessary regulations, and by uniting the different opinions into one common result, form the connection of the separate units into a well-organized whole. They are no permanent board of leaders, but can be recalled and changed at every moment. Their first germs appeared in the beginning of the Russian and German revolutions (Soviet, Arbeiterrate). They are to play an increasing role in the future workingclass developments.


Political parties up to the present times have two functions. They aspire, first, at political power, at dominance in the State, to take government into their hands and use its power to put their program into practice. For this purpose they have, secondly, to win the masses of the working people to their programs: by means of their teaching clarifying the insight, or, by their propaganda, simply trying to make of them a herd of sheep.

Working class parties put up as their goal the conquest of political power in order to govern in the interest of the workers, and especially to abolish capitalism. They claim to be the vanguard of the working class, its most clear-sighted part, capable of leading the uninstructed majority of the class, acting in its name as its representative. They claim to be able to liberate the workers from exploitation. An exploited class, however, cannot be liberated simply by voting freedom, but, when it wins, only new forms of domination.

Freedom can be won by the working masses only through their own organized action, by taking their lot in their own hands, in devoted exertion of all their faculties, by directing and organizing their fight and their work themselves by means of their Councils.

For the parties, then, remains the second function, to spread insight and knowledge, to study, discuss and formulate social ideas, and by their propaganda to enlighten the minds of the masses. The workers' councils are the organs for practical action and fight of the working class; to the Parties falls the task of the building up of its spiritual power. Their work forms an indispensable part in the self-liberation of the workingclass.


The strongest form of fight against the capitalist class is the strike. Strikes are more than ever necessary against the capitalists' tendency to increase their profits by lowering wages and increasing the hours or the intensity of work. Trade unions have been formed as instruments of organized resistance, based on strong solidarity and mutual help. With the growth of big business capitalist power has increased enormously, so that only in special cases are the workers able to withstand the worsening of their working conditions. The Trade Unions grow into instruments of mediation between capitalists and workers; they make treaties with the employers which they try to force upon the often unwilling workers. The leaders aspire to become a recognized part of the power structure of capital and State dominating the working class; the Unions grow into instruments of monopolist capital, by means of which it dictates its terms to the workers.

The fight of the working class, under these circumstances, more and more takes the form of wild-cat strikes. They are spontaneous, mass outbursts of the long-suppressed spirit of resistance. They are direct actions in which the workers take their fight entirely into their own hands, leaving the Unions and their leaders outside.

The organization of the fight is accomplished by the strike-committees, delegates of the strikers, chosen and given mandate by the personnels. By means of discussions in these committees the workers establish their unity of action. Extension of the strike to ever larger masses, the only tactics appropriate to wrench concessions from capital, is fundamentally opposed to the Trade Union tactics of resisting the fight and putting an end to it as soon as possible. Such wild-cat strikes in the present times are the only real class fights of the workers against capital. Here they assert their freedom, themselves choosing and directing their actions, not directed by other powers for other interests.

This last shows the importance of such class contests for the future. When the wild-cat strikes take on ever larger extension they find the entire physical power of the State against them. So they assume a revolutionary character. When capitalism turns into an organized world government - though as yet only in the form of two contending powers, threatening mankind with entire devastation - the fight for freedom of the working class takes the form of a fight against State Power. Its strikes assume the character of big political strikes, sometimes universal strikes. Then the strike-committees must take on general social and political functions, and assume the character of workers' councils. The revolutionary struggle for social power then becomes a fight for mastery over and in the shops, and the workers' councils, as the organs of struggle, grow into organs of production at the same time.

List of Abbreviations

AM Agents de maîtrise - junior executives (not an organization).
CA Comités d'Action Action Committees (see text).
CAL Comités d'Action Lycéens - Highschool Action Committees.
CFDT Conféderation Française Démocratique du Travail - French Democratic Confederation of Labor, created from the CFTC. While the latter admitted only Catholics, the CFDT is open. It is unattached to any political party.
CFTC Conféderation Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens -French Confederation of Christian Workers, maintained by a few members of the old CFTC when the mass of the union was transformed into the CFDT.
CGC Conféderation Générale des Cadres - General Confederation of Cadres.
CGT Conféderation Générale du Travail - General Confederation of Labor; the largest union in France, in principle independent of the PC but in fact directed by it: its secretary general Séguy is also a member of the PC politburo, as are all the most important leaders.
CLEOP Comités de Liaison Etudiants-Ouvriers-Paysans - Student-Worker-Peasant Liaison Committees (see text).
CNJA Centre National des Jeunes Agriculteurs - union of young peasants and farmworkers.
CNPF Centre National du Patronat Français - National French Employers Association.
CRS Compagnies Republicaines de Sécurité - special police force ("riot police") created by the gaullist provisional government after World War II to maintain "order".
FER Féderation des Etudiants Révolutionnaires - Revolutionary Students' Federation; one of several Trotskyist groups; very dogmatic.
FNJA Féderation Nationale des Jeunes Agriculteurs - union of young peasants and farmworkers.
FO Force Ouvriere -Workers' Strength; more correctly CGT-FO, a union resulting from a split in the CGT after the war on the issue of PC control and pro-Russian policy; FO has links with American unions, has been suspected of CIA financing; has a mostly white collar membership.
PC Parti Communiste - Communist Party.
RATP Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens - nationalized company running all public transportation in Paris.
SNCF Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français- French National Railway Company, nationalized after the war.
SNECMA Société Nationale d'Etudes et Construction de Moteurs d'Avion -National Airplane Motor Research and Construction Co., one of the first companies to be nationalized after the war.
SNESup Syndicat Nationale de l'Enseignement Supérieur - National Union of Higher Education; union theoretically of all university faculty, in fact mostly junior faculty; very left wing.
SNI Syndicat Nationale des Instituteurs - National Union of Primary School Teachers.
UEC Union des Etudiants Communistes - Union of Communist Students, official student organization of the PC.
UNEF Union Nationale des Etudiants de France - National Union of French Students; the main student union, with leftist tendencies.
UNR Union pour la Nouvelle République -Union for the New Republic, one of the changing names of the gaullist party.

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