Sur la base d'une enquête menée en 1981 dans cinq municipalités d'union de la gauche situées dans la banlieue «rouge» de Paris, l'auteur examine le comportement d'une section cégétiste d'employés municipaux face à un maire communiste, comment la CGT agissait-elle dans une municipalité socialiste et comment réagit la CFDT
Unions in France proclaim their independence vis-à-vis political parties, according to the «anarcho-syndicalist» tradition. In fact, the communist affiliation of the most important French union, — la Confederation generale du travail (CGT) — is well known. The «Confederation française democratique du travail» (CFDT) and the Socialist Party are in a paradoxical situation being both allied and in competition as the two main organisations of the non-communist left. The third union — Force ouvrière (FO) — claims to be apolitical but is largely assimilated to the «rightist» forces. It is easy to imagine what the unusual features of the relations will be between the unions and the employers in municipalities governed by leftist parties. What will be the attitude of a CGT section towards a communist mayor? How will the CGT function in a socialist municipality? What will the behaviour of the CFDT be? Will the FO be able to rally rightist opponents in the leftist municipalities? The author answers these questions with the help of an inquiry completed in 1981 in five leftist municipalities of the Parisian area — a crucial time in French political life. All eleven union sections in the five municipalities are carefully studied. They include: two CGT sections acting in two municipalities dominated by the Communist Party, three CGT sections, three CFDT sections and three of the FO acting in three municipalities dominated by the Socialist Party. In a difficult context for trade union action, the behaviour of these eleven sections varies in terms of the political factor. In the communist municipalities, the CGT sections play a role of politicizing the municipal administration in two different ways: first, the CGT attempts to mobilize municipal employees with slogans of the Communist Party; second, the CGT helps the communist municipal officiais to regulate labour relations and anticipate conflicts with the personnel. The CGT takes the opposite attitude in the socialist municipalities where it is also playing a role of politicizing the municipal administration, but this time politicization is directed against the employer. Until the 1981 national Spring elections, this local struggle was closely linked to the strong rivalry between the Socialist Party and the Communist Party at the national level. There is clear evidence of the communist affiliation of the CGT. Its sections put pressure on socialist municipalities until the presidential election was held, and stopped abruptly after the nomination of communist ministers to the Mauroy Government. The CFDT sections hesitate about the strategies they should choose. They are divided between the fear of being swayed by the CGT and the desire to «prove» they are not aligned with the employer (the socialist mayor), with whom they share some political links. As for the FO sections, they do not play any significant role and are not able to rally the employees with rightist sympathies. The author concludes that politicization of the unions, when it occurs in medium or small public organizations, such as the five municipalities studied, has weaker effects than expected. Thus, the CGT sections failed to massively involve municipal employees in those struggles where the political character was too evident. As in the case of any other union, the CGT needs to be sustained by its members and, in communist as well as in socialist municipalities, it had some difficulties in adjusting necessity and political strategies. On a more theoretical basis, the author provides a typology of the different union requests in terms of the degree of politicization. He identifies four types of criticisms that unions might direct to the employer when he has a political coloration: administrative criticism— questions about only the hierarchical administrative authority; institutional criticism —directly involving the employer, but keeping the debate strictly on labour relations questions; political criticism —extending the debate to any policies initiated by the employer, judging them and describing them as the source of the employees difficulties; radical criticismdenouncing the employer for sharing interests and ideologies fundamentally opposed to the interest of the workers.
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