- Confédération générale du travail
full_name= General Confederation of Labour
native_name= Confédération générale du travail
office= Montreuil, France
Bernard Thibault, secretary general
website= [http://www.cgt.fr www.cgt.fr]
footnotes= The General Confederation of Labour (French: "Confédération générale du travail" or CGT) is a
national trade union center, one of the five major French confederations of trade unions. It is the largest in terms of votes (32.1% at the 2002 professional election), and second largest in terms of membership numbers. Its membership decreased to 650,000 members in 1995-96 (it had more than double when François Mitterrandwas elected President in 1981), before increasing today to between 700,000 and 720,000 members, a bit less than the CFDT[ Numbers given by Michel Dreyfus, author of "Histoire de la C.G.T.", Ed. Complexes, 1999, interviewed in Pascal Riché, [http://www.rue89.com/2007/11/21/en-pronant-la-negociation-la-cgt-peut-faire-bouger-le-syndicalisme En prônant la négociation, la CGT "peut faire bouger le syndicalisme"] , " Rue 89", 21 November 2007 fr icon] . According to the historian M. Dreyfus, the CGT is slowly evolving, since the 1990s, during which it cut all organic links with the French Communist Party(PCF), to a more moderate stance, and concentrating its attention, in particular since the 1995 general strikes, to trade-unionism in private sectors . Most recently in the news for briefly delaying Stage 3 of the Tour de France on July 7, 2008.
Before World War II
It was founded in
1895from the merge of the " Fédération des bourses du travail" (Federation of Labour Councils) and the " Fédération nationale des syndicats" (National Federation of Trade Unions). Up until 1921 the CGT was dominated by anarcho-syndicalists, having as vice-secretary Emile Pouget. During this period, the CGT was violently opposed to both the authorities and to employers. Moreover, it refused to become affiliated to a political party. In 1906, the " Charte d'Amiens" proclaimed the independence of trade unions. Furthermore, under the leadership of Léon Jouhaux, the confederation joined the " sacred union" during World War I, which provoked the CGT's first internal division. While Jouhaux tried to associate the CGT with the authorities, his opponents criticized the pervading air of nationalism. They welcomed news of the 1917 October Revolutionwith hope.
Pierre Monattecreated the Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees("Comités syndicalistes révolutionnaires") current inside the CGT, which opposed the trade-union's collaboration with the government during the war, carried out in the name of the " Union sacrée" national bloc.
Following the Revolution in Russia, the French labour movement became increasingly divided between "revolutionaries" who supported the Bolsheviks and strong action at home and "reformists" who favoured moderation and re-affiliation to the pre-war Second International. One outcome of this division was the expulsion of the "revolutionaries". Following the 1920
Tours Congressduring which the majority of SFIOmembers voted to accept Lenin's 21 Conditions, leading to the creation of the French Section of the Communist International (SFIC), the CGT also split. Radicals created the " Confédération générale du travail unitaire" (CGTU), where communists initially cohabited with anarchists, revolutionary trade unionists.
In 1934, left-wing parties united in order to counteract the far-right. Two years later, the Popular Front won the 1936 legislative election. At the same time, the CGT and the CGTU were reunited.
Benoît Frachonnegotiated for the CGT the 1936 Matignon Agreementsin June with the employers and the government.
Nevertheless, the Communists were expelled as a result of the
German-Soviet pactin 1939, then the CGT was dissolved by the Vichy government.
The CGT transformed itself into an underground organization in the Resistance. It became increasingly influenced by the
French Communist Party. After the ejection of the communists from the government and the 1947 general strike a further split took place, this time involving the departure of the reformist right, followed in 1948, when Léon Jouhauxfounded Workers' Force ("Force ouvrière" or FO) with CIAsupport. The FO criticized the communist influence as being incompatible with the "Charte d'Amiens". In order to preserve its unity, the Federation for National Education("Fédération de l'Education nationale" or FEN) left the CGT but did not join FO. The communist Benoît Frachonbecame leader of the CGT.
After World War II
Although the CGT was dominant in French trade unionism, it was isolated until 1966. At this moment, it chose to coordinate its actions with the French Democratic Confederation of Labour ("Confédération française démocratique du travail" or CFDT). During
May 68, the confederation was criticized by the far-left because its leader Georges Séguyhad signed the Grenelle agreementswith Prime minister Georges Pompidou. In the 1970s, it supported the "Union of Left". But after the defeat of the 1978 legislative election, the alliance with the CFDT was broken.
The election of
Henri Krasuckiin 1982, followed by the resignation of the communist ministers ( Charles Fiterman, Marcel Rigoutand Jack Ralite) two years later, after the substitution of Laurent Fabiusas Prime minister to Pierre Mauroy, led to an initial radicalisation of the confederation. However, at the end of his term (1982-1992), Krasucki began to distance himself from the PCF Pascal Riché, [http://www.rue89.com/2007/11/21/en-pronant-la-negociation-la-cgt-peut-faire-bouger-le-syndicalisme En prônant la négociation, la CGT "peut faire bouger le syndicalisme"] , " Rue 89", 21 November 2007 fr icon] . His successor, Louis Vianet, did the same, going as far as resigning from the political bureau of the party . Thus, during the 1990s, under the leadership of Louis Viannetand Bernard Thibault, the CGT cut its organic links with the French Communist Party and succeeded in remaining one of the two major French union confederations.
From the 1995 general strike to today
It was the leading trade-union in the 1995 general strike against
Alain Juppé's plan of Welfare State reforms (in particular concerning pensions). The CGT also protested against UMP minister François Fillon's project of pensions reforms in 2003. In February 2005, the National Confederate Committee (CCN), the "Parliament" of the trade-union, rejected national secretary Bernard Thibault's support of the TCE. Therefore, the CGT actively supported the "NO" during the 2005 referendum on the TCE (Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe), criticizing its neo-liberal orientation and weaknesses concerning the few democratic measures about the working of the European Union(EU) institutions.
In autumn 2005, the
Marseillese section of the CGT, representing the more radical faction opposed to Bernard Thibault's more centrist views, demonstrated against the privatization of the SNCMship company. The CGT then supported the student movement during the 2006 protests against the " Contrat première embauche" (CPE, First Employment Contract).
The CGT left the Communist-oriented
World Federation of Trade Unionsat its 1995 congress and became a member of the European Trade Union Confederationin 1999. It is also a member of the International Trade Union Confederation(ITUC) created in 2006.
In 1937 CGT began organizing workers in
French West Africa. The union's functioning was interrupted by its banning by the Vichy regime, but in 1943-1948 a process of reconstruction took place. The main centres of activity were Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Togoand the French Soudan. CGT had an upper hand in the Muslim regions in comparison to its main rival CFTC, who depended on the presence of Catholic communities for its recruitment. CGT emereged as the major trade union force amongst the 100 000 strong organized labour force in Senegal and Mauritaniaafter the Second World War. [Fall, Mar. "L'Etat et la Question Syndicale au Sénégal". Paris: Éditions L'Harmattan, 1989. p. 24, 27]
Within the CGT branches in the region, there was however a growing wish for independence. A leader of CGT in French West Africa, Bassirou Guèye, promoted this idea. At meeting of the Territorial Union of Trade Unions in Senegal and Mauritania, held in
Dakar November 11- November 12 1955, the majority of delegates voted for separation from the French CGT. A conference was held in Saint-Louis on January 14- January 15 1956which formed the Confédération générale du travail africains(CGTA), separating the parts of the West African CGT organizations from the French CGT. At the conference 50 out of 67 delegates had voted for separation. [Fall, Mar. "L'Etat et la Question Syndicale au Sénégal". Paris: Éditions L'Harmattan, 1989. p. 31-32]
In Togo, CGT had 45100 members in 1948 (65% of organized labour). By 1952 the number had decreased to 34000 (46% of organized labour). [Fall, Mar. "L'Etat et la Question Syndicale au Sénégal".
Paris: Éditions L'Harmattan, 1989. p. 44]
CGT formed a branch in
Madagascarin 1936. [Busky, Donald F.. "Communism in history and theory. Asia, Africa, and the Americas". Westport: Praeger, 2002. p. 128]
Pierre Monatte(leader at the beginning of the century)
List of trade unions
Anarchism in France
Politics of France
* other trade unions
** the other confederations:
Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail
Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens
Confédération Générale des Cadres
Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques
Mouvement des Entreprises de France
* [http://www.cgt.fr Official site of the CGT]
* [http://libcom.org/history/articles/cgt-france/index.php The beginnings of the CGT, 1895-1921] An account and analysis of the
anarchistorigins of the CGT, and the later rise of the Communist Party within in it.
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