A. Rosmer

The Labor Movement

The Situation in France

(14 February 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 12, 14 February 1922, pp. 84–85.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

With the new year has begun a new phase in the labor movement in France. Jouhaux and his clique with the patronage of the bourgeoisie have at least succeeded in shattering what was up to now the united working-class. The leaders of the CGT have long hesitated to commit this crime; they have never ventured to place the problem of the cleavage freely and openly before a congress. Even at Lille in July of last year, they never ventured to speak of expulsion; on the contrary, the expulsions which had already been pronounced against some federations were cancelled and the expelled members and unions were reinstated at the Congress with full rights. But what they were not able do at the Congress, they have accomplished in committee. After the first sitting of the National Confederal Committee, which was convened after the Congress, they have adopted the policy of expulsions. The Committee, which was composed entirely of trade-union officials, carried out this policy, however, with great difficulty. When it came to the vote, they only obtained a majority of one.

Notwithstanding this feeble support, which best reveals the composition of the Federation Committee and the hostility of the organized working masses to a split, they have proceeded with their project.

In order to avoid a failure they have by an arbitrary act of their own will fixed the date for the convening of the Congress two months earlier, for it is quite certain that after the regular and steady growth of the minority, the Congress of the year 1922 would have meant the collapse of the trade-union bureaucracy. One after another the National Unions broke away from them. But a few months more would have meant their debacle. These ardent democrats, these enemies of dictatorship, tried to prevent this with all their power. Against this they wished to set up their dictatorship of the trade-union bureaucracy with the support of the Geneva League of Nations and Amsterdam. They were determined not to submit to the trade-union majority, which would pronounce its will at a Congress. On the day when they saw that the majority was against them, they decided rather to break the organization than budge from their posts and go back to the workshop or the factory, which they had left for too long a time. Driven from the leadership of the C.G.T. they would become insignificant, it would mean the end of direct cooperation with the bourgeoisie, the end of the participation of Albert Thomas in the work of the Labor Bureau of the League of Nations, and in the League of Nations itself. Naturally they did not desire this, and if they had actually agreed to this, their masters, the bourgeoisie and Albert Thomas, would not have allowed it. If France had left Amsterdam and Geneva, it would have meant an important event with great consequences.

In order to avoid this there was only one possibility: the brutal splitting of every trade-union and this they have done. And today we see two C.G.T.s existing in France; the C.G.T. of those who stand for the unity of the trade-unions and the C.G.T. of Jouhaux, Fimmen, Albert Thomas and the bourgeoisie. France has never had, like other countries, trade unions with a big membership running into millions, but on the other hand, it always had complete unity of the trade-unions. The Catholic and yellow trade unions have never, in spite of repeated attempts, been able to take part in this development and for this reason the C.G.T. was able before the war, in spite of its numerical weakness, to organize the whole working class. These conditions, so favorable for activity, are now lost.

But the working masses, who realize the danger, will know at whose door lies the guilt. The revolutionary minority has made the greatest efforts to avoid the split. They convened a Congress to be held on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of December, which was to have been a great demonstration for the unity of the trade-union movement. To this end they issued an appeal, not only to the minority trade-unions but to all trade-unions without distinction of tendencies. Their end was fully and entirely accomplished. 1,528 unions, the majority of the C.G.T., replied to the appeal and among them were more than a hundred of the majority unions. They again attempted to influence the C.G.T. of Jouhaux. Jouhaux himself had left Paris and instructed his representative to answer in the same manner as the Amsterdam International, which had scornfully replied to the wireless of Lozovsky on behalf of the Red Trade Union International. The revolutionists therefore could show the assembled masses who are solely responsible for the split. Jouhaux and his friends already feel that their action was too clumsy, for not only have the revolutionists affiliated to the Unity C.G.T., but a portion of the reformists, who are opposed to the split, have decided that their organizations shall remain autonomous. They will not go over to the new G.G.T., but they will break with the C.G.T. of Jouhaux. That was a severe blow for the friends of Albert Thomas, for the well-paid agents of the bourgeoisie. Without doubt Jouhaux reckoned upon help on the part of the government. He is convinced that the capitalist state will undertake an intensive persecution of the revolutionary trade-unions by arresting their leaders in order to terrify the working masses and to persuade them that things are much more peaceful in the trade unions of Jouhaux. The employers also will use the opportunity to lock out the radical elements. The Unity C.G.T., which is the actual C.G.T. in France today, must bring all its skill and wisdom to the fore, in order to thwart all these manoeuvres, to avoid all obstacles and traps, which are laid for it.

If it rallies all the forces of the working class, it can hope with the support it can obtain from the autonomous organizations – which are not altogether revolutionary but stand unconditionally for unity – to become in the eyes of the French proletariat the real center of the working class. It is not too venturesome to think that it will be able in the not too distant future to accomplish the reconstruction of the united trade-union movement over the heads of Jouhaux and his associates, who then will finally be hounded out of the ranks of the workers of France.

Last updated on 5 May 2019