Thursday, April 11, 2013
A speech by Vincent Duse, a militant of the CGT in the Peugeot Mulhouse plant and a member of the Revolutionary Communist Current (in the NPA) of France
Comrades: Before beginning my statement, I want to bring a greeting from my comrades of the CCR, an internationalist greeting for everyone.
At the beginning of the Congress, much was said about the situation in France, because, really, the capitalist crisis is hitting the French working class and the entire European working class very hard. We must understand some elements of the situation in France, both of the previous Sarkozy government and of current government of Hollande, that, in particular, have meant a frontal attack on the automotive sector, like the competitiveness agreements concerning employment, because the dominant discourse of the employers says that, in order to keep work, it is necessary to lower wages. Many unions share and agree on these attacks with the companies. Hollande had the votes of a large working-class base, while he was convincing people, during the presidential debates, that he was not going to vote for these competitiveness agreements; the first thing he does when he takes office, is to approve them. The majority of the workers feel betrayed.
This situation is creating a lot of hatred among the working class, but what the workers do not find is an organization that is willing to fight this battle, because the main reasoning of all the union organizations (I, personally, am in the CGT) is to defend the industry, in order to keep jobs. What we want is not saving the industry, but saving the workers’ jobs. These days, there are a certain number of struggles, for example, Goodyear or the one at Peugeot Aulnay (PSA), and there are a certain number of militant trade unionists, that are now beginning to suffer repression. On the other hand, the new Socialist Minister of the Interior, when he spoke on television during the confrontations at Goodyear, said he was going to fight radical trade unionists in the same way that he would fight Muslim fundamentalists.
Now there are many comrades who are fighting, as, for instance, in the PSA, but the problem that exists is the lack of a perspective, because they are already going through the tenth week on strike, but, actually, they lost six months, because of the CGT, led by LO (Lutte Ouvrière, a tendency that claims to be Trotskyist, and that leads the CGT of that factory), because this tendency, with its strategy of wanting to keep trade-union unity, stopped the workers that wanted to go on strike some time ago, by forming an alliance with the pro-employer union SIA (in 1975, this union engaged in strikebreaking; it was attacking the picket lines; there were even fatalities).
So, many comrades in the factory are saying, “How are we going to make agreements with these unions that are working for the bosses?” Then, after a time when we carried out this discussion with the comrades of the CGT Aulnay and of LO, they answered me, “If we go on strike, we are going to help the factory close more quickly,” which is quite nonsensical for comrades who say they are Trotskyists and revolutionaries. Now the problem that is posed in the PSA plant, is that the leadership of LO, while they say that they are fighting against closure of the factory, at the same time they say that they are ready to negotiate severance pay, or that the workers should try to go to another Peugeot factory. This was happening at the same time that there were workers of the factory who were saying, “We have to go out, in order to spread the conflict, and to meet with the workers from the other factories in struggle.” A comrade of the CCR got in touch with workers from other companies where there are layoffs, and that is how the idea emerged of having a meeting in the School of Political Sciences, to coordinate all the groups in struggle. From then on, an e-mail list was created, in order to be in permanent contact with everyone.
Now, the real discussion is not about severance payments. Because now, for example, the former leader of the Continental, who went to express their solidarity with the PSA workers, and who, in his time, had presented getting 50,000 euros in severance pay as a victory to the workers, but, after the conflict, there were many workers who ended up in complete poverty and even many who committed suicide; now, at the meeting at the PSA, this leader told the Peugeot workers, “It’s your factory; don’t ever give it up.” This shows that the discussion that we must propose to the workers now, is the solution of expropriation and workers’ control. What happened at Zanon (in Argentina), is now, for France, not propaganda, but it is a real perspective.
In order to talk about building our tendency inside the NPA, you should know that at the First Congress, I was part of the P2 [Platform 2, one of the main tendencies, into which the NPA was divided, led by former youth leaders of the LCR, Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, the main party of the international tendency founded by Ernest Mandel, that in 2008 decided to disband and found the NPA], but then I realized that this Platform had a centrist position and that it was unwilling to advance towards revolutionary positions. I believed in the need to build a tendency as leftist as possible, in order to be able to win over the party, and they constantly accused me of being “workerist” (you should also know that I was the only worker on the National Political Commission (CPN, a kind of Central Committee) of the NPA.) Then I decided to break with the P2 and join and form a real revolutionary Platform, that would have, at the center, the perspective of expropriation and workers’ control.
When I had to go present the Platform (I was the only one who could present it, because I was in the leadership, but I want to emphasize that it was a collective work, because I had the support of the comrades that helped me with the line of reasoning, without which, I would not have achieved it, and I would not have had the strength to be able to wage this battle), they put a mountain of obstacles in front of me, and there was a big campaign to disparage me and prevent me from developing my platform, because they considered it to be sectarian. From that point on, we launched a campaign so that there would be democracy within the organization; with this campaign, we succeeded in getting many committees of the NPA to vote that we should have the right for our Platform (which became the P4) to able to be discussed and read in all the committees. So it was that at the First Congress we were able to present Platform 4, which got 3.5% of the votes.
At that time, the P2 also tried to isolate me; they never wanted to do anything with us, neither a statement nor a flier of any kind; by way of contrast, we were never sectarian, and every time that we wanted to present a position within the organization, we called them and asked them for meetings and appointments, to try to arrive at agreements and go together (the P2 was leading the NPA with the majority, the P1, until the most recent Congress); in that way, they were abandoning their most revolutionary positions and turning to the right, and then, at a National Conference, an entire group decided to vote with us instead of with them. That allowed us to go from 3.5% of the votes to 6%, and now, in the Second Congress, we already have almost 10% of the votes. Which shows that, with a correct political orientation, we can go on advancing in our positions inside the organization. This meant that after the Congress, in the first meeting of the CPN, a joint statement between the P2 and ourselves was presented, winning 47 votes against 50. This shows that we won a political battle. This opens up prospects for us inside the NPA, but also within the working class. Now one of the discussions taking place is about cooperatives, since the workers see no other prospect for keeping jobs, because, unfortunately, on the far left, they have no confidence in the working class, much less in a revolutionary perspective, when everything shows that when there are workers who go to the front and consider a point of view, it is possible to take steps forward.
Now we have to build our tendency, in order to be able to confront the employers and the government in the future. This is what we are trying to do by getting inside and making connections with strategic companies, despite our modest forces, as we did with the meeting in Political Sciences or in our daily activity. For that reason, we can say that now is the beginning of a revolutionary group that can move forward and can win influence. To conclude, I want to tell an anecdote. There is a comrade, François Sabado, that is a leader of the former LCR and of the current NPA, who said he was ready to leave aside positions that have to do with the class struggle or are revolutionary, in order to keep the unity of the party, to which I responded that I did not want the unity of the party, but the unity of the entire working class.
Translated by Yosef M.