Friday, 24 August 2018

The Truth About The French Miners’ Strike - CGT

The following is a transcription I've made of the above pamphlet by the CGT on the French Coal Miners Strike of 1948.


The Truth About

The French Miners’ Strike

(October – December 1948)


Foreword

After the Liberation of he country, the General Confederation of Labour, being concerned both with the interests of the working-class and with the general interest of the country, launched an appeal for increased production.

This appeal was understood by the workers and output rapidly reached a level, higher than pre-war.

Any Government having a sense of national interest and knowing that the recovery of French economy depended, above all, on the efforts of the working-class, would have improved the living conditions of the workers, since it was by their efforts that the country’s output had increased.

Nothing has been done in this respect: quite the contrary. For 18 months, our rulers have systematically carried out an anti-working class policy.

a)       They have reduced the purchasing power of wages by nearly 50%, by means of a deliberate and systematic increase of prices, which could only profit – and did only profit – the French capitalists, and by an unjustified and improper freezing of wages.
The situation appears clearly from a study of the following indices based on 100 in 1938 :

Retail Prices ………  1.870
Wages ………………   1.000
Capitalist Profits..   3.000

b)      To all demands put forward, the answer was : “No”. Each time the workers have declared a strike – the ultimate weapon at their command in defence of their rights – the Government attempted to break the strike by force.


It has not hesitated to use- in defiance of the Constitution – police and military forces, allowing them the use of tear-gas, grenades, rifles and machine guns against unarmed strikers who only wished to improve the living conditions of their families, by defending demands, the legitimacy of which nobody has contested, nor contests.



c)       They have continually attempted to misrepresent the economic character of the worker’s action, and tried to sow the idea in the public mind, that the unrest had a strictly political character. No honest and well informed person can to-day be taken in by this disgraceful stratagem.



d)      They have attempted -and they are attempting – to violate two social achievements : nationalisations and Social Security.



e)      It is to-day proven that the Government has carried out a policy of the surrender of national independence, a policy which gives birth to and allows the spread of unemployment (a paradoxical situation in a country where there is so much to be done) a policy which risks leading us towards the worst of experiences.



Everything in the Government’s policy is directed towards the same end.

In order to follow deliberately and with impunity the road of social regression, and to silence the powerful voice of the people, which rises vigorously to assert the truth, and to fight against insecurity and misery, the Government thinks it is necessary, first to master the working class, then to destroy or weaken its organisations. This explains the desire to encourage demands, to ferment strikes and to spread lies, so as to justify the use of force and the vote by Parliament of particularly iniquitous and undeniably anti-constitutional special laws.

This brief study giving an idea of the social atmosphere in France, at the same time underlines the responsibility of the Government and permits a better understanding of the reason for the thousands of strikes which have broken out within the last year and amongst which have broken out within the last year and amongst which the miners’ strike kas revealed itself as particularly important.

The French miners, who heroically led the struggle against the Nazi invaders, have been since the Liberation of the country the best artisans of French production recovery. They have, with courage and tenacity worth of praise, sustained an 8 weeks’ strike in order to defend their demands. They upheld it, in spite of the repressive measures of a Government which has thoroughly discredited itself in the eyes of the world opinion, and in spite of police excesses which have revolted the human conscience.

   The purpose of this pamphlet is to make known the truth about the miners’ strike.





French Miners’

Tragic Conditions



Lack of Security in the Mines

The lack of security and hygiene at places of work, caused by the reckless policy of the Government, which has taken on a real aspect of provocation towards the mineworkers was responsible during these last few months for several catastrpohes, notably at Petite-Rouselle, Courrieres and Lievin.

The catastrophe at Petite-Rosselle, on January 10th, 194, caused the death of 25 miners and severely injured 25 others.

It could have been avoided, had not the Management systematically ignored the miner’s shop steward reports, warning of the existence of fire-damp. The day before the accident occurred, the shot-firer refused to fire shots, fearing the fire-damp which a few days previously had resulted in his being confined to bed through gas poisoning.

The catastrophe of Courrieres, on April 19th, 1948, was responsible for the death of 16 workers and the severe injury of 30 others.

The responsibility of the management was clearly established and can be summed up as follows :

1.       Dust was not evacuated :

2.       No means of drawing off dust existed in the surface installations;

3.       The tipping devices were not separated from the pit entrances by a wooden partition, as the regulations laid down;

4.       Lack of maintenance of the compressors and the air pipes in the pits.

These are the results of the policy pursued by the Minister of Industry and Trade, Robert Lacoste, a policy of developing production at whatever cost, and of diminishing production costs, all at the expense of security.

Everywhere and at all times, the miners’ shop stewards drew the attention of the Managements to the insufficiency of security measures. Because their warnings were intentionally not taken into consideration and because the necessary security measures were reduced (tests fir fire-damp made every week instead of every day, etc.) since the beginning of the year in the coal basins of Nord and Pas de Calais alone, out of a total od 126.500 underground workers, there have been 90 killed. 1.974 injured and permanently incapacitated, 98.400 slightly injured and 3.000 cases of silicosis.

At Carmaux and Alibi pits, from January to August 1948, out of a total of 4.500 underground workers, there have been 4  killed and 30 cases of silicosis. There were 1.045 accidents causing slight injuries and 19 cases of permanent incapacity.

Wages Paid to Mineworkers



The Government, through the Minister of Industry and Trade, Lacoste, has asserted in the National Assembly, that the wages paid to miners are higher than those of the engineering workers od the Paris Region, since they are calculated on the basis of engineering wages, plus certain bonuses. In stating this, the Minister was in theory referring to the Miners’ Charter which as a matter of fact, he violates and induces his agents to violate daily.

He asserted, in regard to underground workers, that 5.7% have a basic wage of 14.120 frs per month, or 17.070 frs, taking into consideration various advantages, and 24.640 frs for workers with two children. In addition he asserted that the maximum wages earned by underground hewers and strippers, that is to say 30.2% of the total manpower, is 26.500 frs and 29.000 frs, and if the various advantages are taken into consideration, 36.570 frs per month for workers with children.

These statements are far from expressing the truth.
At the present time, the average wages actually paid for an 8 hour day are the following :
In a region with 5% zonal reduction
[1]:

Category 1, underground worker…………………………………….  475,30
Hewer (Coal and rock) …………………………………………………….   654,15

In a region with 15% zonal reduction

Category 1, underground worker …………………………………..  425,28
Hewer (Coal and rock) …………………………………………………..   585,20

In the Loire coal basin, for example, taking into consideration the September 1948 increases, daily wages are as follows :

SURFACE WORKERS

1st category ……………………………………………………………..  436,65
2nd                      ………………………………………………………………   456,70
3rd                  …..……………………………………………………….   493,60
4th                 …………………………………………………………….   530,55
5th                       …………………………………………………….      567,50



UNDERGROUND WORKERS

1st Category ……………………………………………..   500, 70
2nd                   ………………………………………….      527,10
3rd                     …………………………………………       570,40
4th                        …………………………………….          618,10



After the September 1948 increases, wages are divided in the following way :
Out of a total underground and surface manpower amounting to nearly 303.000 :

61.000 underground and surface workers ear between 506 and 560 frs per day.

50.000 earn between 570 and 610 frs per day.

49.000 earn between 620 and 660 frs per day.

Thus :

160.000 underground and surface workers earn less than 700 frs per day.

17.000 surface workers earn between 700 and 750 frs per day.

122.000 underground workers (piece work) earn between 750 and 1.030 frs per day.

4.000 earn more than 1.030 frs per day.

These figures are given for the region enjoying the best conditions and include a 10% attendance bonus, which is not granted to a worker absent from work during the fortnight.

These are gross wages : to establish the net wage, a 10%  reduction has to be made for social security contributions, which in other terms means that :

160.000 underground and surface workers earn between 456 and 594 frs per day : Thus 160.000 workers earn less than the minimum wage :

17.000 surface workers earn between 630 frs and 725 frs per day :

122.000 underground workers earn between 735 and 949 frs per day.

Is it necessary to point out the particularly difficult nature of the miners’ work? Is it necessary to emphasize the danger’s he faces every day ? Certainly not.

Nevertheless, it is useful to specify that, in the pits, the output is related to various factors, independent of the workers will, such as the dimension of the seams, and the rate at which pit props and material for pushing forward the roads is supplied. So as to take into consideration all of these particular difficulties, the Miners’ Charter provided for a guaranteed minimum wage.





The Lacoste Circular

Of September 13th, 1947



Since the application of the terms of the circular issued by Lacoste, on September 13th, 1947, the guaranteed minimum wage provided for by the Miners’ Charter, is no longer applied. Under the pretext of fighting against the fall in individual output, it permits the most shameful exploitation of the miners in the difficult coal seams.

In accordance with the provisions of this circular, certain workers have been paid less than 150 frs per day. At Escarpelle, in the Nord district, the best workers, hindered by various working difficulties, have received only 200 francs per day.

By a court-decision on June 3rd, 1948, the justice of the Peace at Carvin, declared the Lacoste circular illegal.

In spite of this decision, Lacoste has not cancelled it.

All these anti-labour measures, which have been directed against the miners, since May 1947, by the Minister Lacoste, compelled the National Federation of Mineworkers to protest and to insist that a new policy should be developed by the Minister concerned.

From the 20th January, until the 25th August 1948, the Federation has 12 times contacted the Minister of Industry and Trade, as well as the various Prime Ministers and the President of the Republic, so as to urge the Government to carry out the following measures :

a)       Cancellation of Lacoste’s circular of September 13th, 1947, declared illegal by a decision of the Justice of the Peace of Carvin, on the 3th of June, and which undermines the guaranteed minimum wage.

b)      Increase of miners wages based on the changes in the cost of living (minimum wage and sliding scale).

c)       Ending of methods of exploitation which by disregarding elementary security and hygiene measures, were responsible for various catastrophes since the beginning of the year.

The delays and stratagems, during 8 months, in order to reject these just demands, have proved the Government’s intention to follow a systematically hostile policy towards the miners’ rights.

In the month of September 1948, the situation was worsened still more by 3 Lacoste’s decrees.







LACOSTE DECREES

A first decree lays down the principle of a 10% reduction in the surface manpower.

During two interviews with the Minister Lacoste, on the 24th and 29th of Sept. the National Federation of Mineworkers, agreed to the principle of such a reduction. Moreover, the Miners suggested to the Minister a 20% reduction in that manpower (for the good reason that the office and managements are a shelter for hangers-on and incapables placed there because of political favouritism by Ministries and Mine Managements), subject to the Minister promising, not to use the decree for political aims, that is to say for dismissing any worker whose opinion might not appeal to the Management.

Lacoste refused to give this promise, thus proving that this reduction of manpower was only a pretext to endorse and reinforce the arbitrary methods which are tending to become established in the mines.

He asserted that this decree was without importance; reduction of manpower could be easily achieved thanks to the withdrawal of German prisoners of war and miners placed on the retiral list. If that were true, no decree was necessary.

A second decree with 3 main points stipulated :

a)       The division of mineworkers into two categories:
- On the one hand, the established workers in mining companies who benefit from the Miners’ Charter and,
- On the other hand, the workers in mining companies, who contrary to the express provisions of the Charter only become established after a compulsory period of probation of 6 months, appreciation of which is entirely subjected to the Management’s opinion.

b)      The re-establishment of suspensions and the surrender of control by Joint Committees in regard to all penalties, henceforth to be decided upon by the Management and immediately applicable.

c)       The discharging of any worker who has been absent from work for 6 days running without justification, or who accumulates 12 days of unjustified absence in 6 months.



The first two points of this decree are unacceptable to the workers, because they violate the Miners’ Charter and submit mineworkers to the arbitrary decisions of the Management. Moreover, the re-establishment of workers suspensions revives the Vichy regime, since this measure, suppressed in 1936 was re-established by the Nazis in 1940, and suppressed in 1944.

As to the last point of the decree, it has to be linked with a third decree, issued on the same day and which takes away from the Social Security bodies, the administration of safety at work and Workmen’s Compensation, as well as occupational diseases.

Thus, the Government’s intention clearly appears: it consists of giving back to managements of nationalised industries, the administration of these risks and of submitting the appreciation of whether a sick or injured worker is cured, no longer to the Social Security health services, but to doctors appointed by the Managements and placed under their direct influence.

All these decrees aim at applying discrimination among the workers and constitute a war instrument in the hands of the Management, specially invented for use against the worker’s organisations and against the C.G.T’s trade union delegates and leaders, elected by the miners.

These decrees were issued on September 18th.

As the Minister Lacoste has himself cynically acknowledged to the representatives of the National Federation of Mineworkers, the mineworkers could not, in any way, accept these decrees. The Government, above all, aimed at creating discontent among miners, to compel them to launch a strike, a strike which they thought could be broken by means of savage repression.





MINEWORKERS DEMANDS

It was in these circumstances that the National Federation of Mineworkers established the list of its main demands:

1.       Cancellation of the Government decrees which, under the pretext of making economies, violate the Miners’ Charter and the regulation of the Social Security system; cancellation of the Government circular of September 18th, which in fact suppresses the guaranteed minimum wage.

2.       Extension of the powers of shop stewards so as to ensure, at their maximum, security and hygiene in the mines.

3.       Increase of wages, salaries and pensions with a minimum wage of 14.300 francs per month and establishment of a sliding scale for wage’s whenever there is an increase in the cost of living.

4.       Respect for the laws on the nationalisation of mines.

5.       Effective fight against the high cost of living.











STRIKE VOTE

In refusing to examine these just demands, to which he himself gave rise, the Minister Lacoste used dilatory means aimed at exasperating the miners.

The National Federation of Mineworkers then decided on the 26th September last, to proceed to a wide consultation amongst the miners, on the question of an unlimited general strike for the satisfaction of the demands mentioned above.

The general referendum, embracing all the workers in the mines, and which took place between the 25th and the 30th of September 1948, gave the following results:

Total number of workers……………………………………………….. 317,506
Total present at work …………………………………………………….  259,204
Total voting …………………………………………………………………...   244,322

For Strike action ………………………………………………………  218,616
Against Strike action ………………………………………………..  25,086
Abstentions and spoiled papers ………………………………   15,502

Thus, 92% of those present at work took part in the vote. 89% of those who voted expressed themselves in favour of the strike. The difference between the total number of worker’s and the total present at work is explained by the number of prisoners of war, as well as the number of those sick, injured, absent on holiday, etc., these latter constituting about 22% of the total.

In the Moselle, 80% of the miners, by free and secret ballot, expressed themselves in favour of the strike.



The Government Attitude



Throughout the country, the Government policy was rapidly driving the workers to distress.

The Minister of Industry and Trade, Lacoste, by means that he knew workers could not accept, worsened the situation of the miners.

The miners could either submit and hence accept difficulties in their homes, insecurity, unhealthy conditions and arbitrary management in the mines, or protest by means of striking.

They chose to strike.

In order to break the strike, the Government used Jules Moch, Minister of Interior. The latter employed all means to achieve his ends: violent police repression, use of troops and war material, campaigns of slanders and lies, arbitrary arrests, pressure exercised on magistrates so that the sentences pronounced should be increased, suppression of family allowances, etc.

From there on, the miners not only fought for the defence of their demands but also for the defence od the right to strike, written into the Constitution, and which the Government is violating.





POLCE VIOLENCE AND USE OF THE ARMY

On the night of the 3rd – 4th October, a few hours before the beginning of the strike, police forces occupied the coal pits in Moselle. The Prime Minister himself on November, 23rd, admitted this during the National Assembly debates.

In fact, the use of police and armed forces, spread rapidly to other coal basins, and Jules Moch could proudly give himself the shameful appearance of a chief of staff preparing plans for attack against the enemy.

This enemy was the people of France, artisans of the country’s recovery.

Police provocations and brutalities began immediately.

They continued without any too severe consequences until the 8th October, when finally the Government’s deliberate policy of violence lead to the murder of the miner Jansek.

Jansek was taking part in a procession of demonstrators which was held by a C.RS.[2] barrage. The C.R.S. met them with gun-butts and tear gas grenades. Struck down by a butt blow on the head. Jansek, hardly up again on his feet, was mortally wounded by a second blow.

Soon, methods borrowed from the Nazis were used against arrested miners.

On the 14th October, at Petite Rosselle, the miner P.Adam was tied to a tree and beaten until he bled.
At Faulquemont, on the 20th October, 4 workers, tied in pairs, back to back, were thrashed until they bled.
On the 5th November, at Auchel, the Police Superintendent was himself a victim of C.R.S. brutalities.
Twelve miners were wounded by drunken C.R.S.
The police also broke into the home of miner Trisset. He was so badly treated that he fainted several times; each time he was doused with cold water, brought to, and finally thrown out in the street.

At Greasque (Bouches-du-Rhone) the C.R.S. fired upon a miner arrested  while picketing; they also aimed at a miner who was working in his garden and at his daughter who was holding her baby in her arms.

At Pecquencourt, the C.R.S. used the hostage system, arresting a little girl named Moniot aged 6, took her to Lemay pit, and tried to force her to say her father had broken the windows of “black-legs”.

At the same time, so as to force the workers to resume work, the police force attempted to institute a real terror regime, especially aimed against the miners’ families and the trade unionists.

At FORBACH, on October 18t, a policeman boxed the cars of a young girl who was wearing on her blouse the C.G.T. badge.

At STIRING-WENDEL, children of 14 and 15 years old were arrested; they were only released 26 days later and without having been tried.

At LENS, on October 19th, the police forced the Public Services to cut the electric power, thus depriving maternity houses and hospitals of water.

At CREUTZWALD, on October 20th, in Lisieux Street, tear gas bombs were thrown into rooms occupied by children.

On the 23rd October, at STIRING WENDEL, the old mother of Pierre Lorentz, and his wife who was 8 and ½ months pregnant were beaten up.

At Carvin, on October 28th, the police ill-treated young workers. A boy named Matazak, barely 15 years old, was savagely beaten.

Other young workers named Henauty, Treanoy and Dujardin, with machine guns pointing at their stomachs, were searched.

On the 30th October, at Lallaing (Nord) about 7p.m. in the “Printania Hotel”, the C.R.S.  fell upon customers with butt blows, breaking down the doors, entering bedrooms, and upsetting a cradle containing a 3 months old baby.

Considerable pressure was exercised on foreign and North African workers to force them to resume work.

On October 19th, in Mosellle, the C.R.S. invaded the huts of North-African workers at Zimming in Faulquemont. They attacked and batoned the workers, destroyed the furniture, smashed in suitcases, and took away North-Africans to the pits by threatening them with their firearms and carrying out arbitrary arrests.

On October 20th, at Stiring (Moselle) the C.R.S. threw tear gas bombs into the huts of the North Africans at 4 a.m. Without giving the latter time to dress, they took them to the pits with machine-guns pointed at their backs.

On the 27th October, at Rosselmont (Moselle) the C.R.S. invaded the North-African workers quarters at 3 a.m. and whipped the miners out of their beds in order to force them to work.

On November 9th, at Lallaing. 500 gendarmes and C.R.S. surrounded the quarters inhabited by foreign miners, threw out the families including half naked children, in order to force their fathers to work.

On the 10th November at Carrmaux, foreign workers were thrashed and forced into motor-lorries which took them away to work.

At Auchel, on November 23rd, the Italian workers camps were invaded by the militia who insulted and beat them, finally taking the miners away by force to work.

The Government called in troops.

The Minister Jules Moch lined up war materials, tanks, machine guns and automatic weapons. He used troops called back from the Occupation Zone in Germany, and colonial troops from North and French West Africa. On 22nd October, police forces were authorised to make use of their arms.

On the previous day a miner named Barbier had already been killed at St. Etienne.

On the 25th October tens of thousands of C.R.S. and native Moroccan infantry, protected by tanks, attacked the Nord and Pas-de-Calais pits.

On the 26th October at Ales with tanks lined up, armed forces attacked the miners with canons and machine guns, injuring several miners and killing a worker named Max Chaptal the father of two children. A nurse wearing the Red Cross armband was wounded by a machine gun bullet.

But this bloody repression had been, previously thoroughly prepared by the spread of false news, lies of all kinds and by provocation. Several thousand C.R.S., gendarmes and troops with a considerable display of war material, camped on the immediate outskirts of Ales and in the very centre of the town, petrol dumps and various kinds of war material were accumulated.

CAMPAIGN OF SLANDER AND LIES

Once more, the Government tried to make believe that the strike was a political one, ordered by the “Cominform.”

Luckily, the common sense of the French population enabled them to reject with contempt the use of lies as old as reaction itself. (Did Louis Phillippe not attempt to make believe that the strike of Lyons silk-weavers in 1831 was inspired by England?)

Then, Jules Moch and his friends in the Government, tried to justify the police violence and the use of armed forces which they had ordered, by pretending that it was a question of saving mining installations and of ensuring “freedom to work”.

On this matter it is necessary to give a few details:
From the first day of the strike, on Oct. 4th, the National Federation of Mineworkers, stated that the security of underground and surface installations would be ensured. It stressed that the strike had been legally decided upon following a free vote by secret ballot. Thus nothing could justify the presence of police forces in the coal fields. It therefore called for their withdrawal, specifying that the miners, being in need of all their forces in order to resist police attacks, would not be able, if this withdrawal did not take place, to continue to ensure the security of the installations.

The Government immediately tried to make use of this statement, and, distorting the facts, asserted that in numerous pits, safety measures were no longer being maintained.

However, on the 8th October, everywhere, except in the Lorraine coal basin which was occupied by the C.R.S. and where entrance was forbidden to the miners’ delegates, safety measures were ensured. All necessary measures had been taken by the miners themselves in order to prevent any wreckage of installations (turning over of machinery, caulking, etc.).

Between the 8th and 13th October, the Government issued mobilisation orders, an illegal measure, and, through the national leaders of “Force Ouvriere” and of the C.F.TC. [3] (with whom it was still in contact), it published press communiques, aimed at obtaining an increase in security measures, and thus beginning a resumption of work.

This attempt failed miserably and on the 10th, thanks to the resolute attitude of the miners, the illegal mobilisation order was withdrawn.

The Government increased the police forces in the Lorraine basin, gathered large forces in the immediate outskirts of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais regions, ad multiplied incidents in order to find a justification for intervention.

It was only on 18th October – it must not be forgotten that the miner Jansek was murdered on the 8th October at Merlebach- that the National Federation of Mineworkers decideded, as a warning, to suspend security measures for 24 hours.

The brutal intervention of police forces made it impossible later on to maintain the security teams.

THEREFORE, IT WAS NOT BECAUSE SECURITY MEASURES WERE ABANDONED THAT THE POLICE FORCES INTERVENED IN THE COAL BASINS BUT, ON THE CONTRARY, IT WAS BECAUSE POLICE FORCES OCCUPIED THE PIT-HEADS THAT SECURITY MEASURES WERE STOPPED.



*
**

In addition the rulers tried to distort the facts.
At the time of Jansek’s murder, on October 8th at Merlebach (Moselle), in an attempt to conceal the crime, the radio and the press, in obedience to the Government, successively attributed his death to “being tramped on by the crowd” (sic); and then to pneumonia. Finally, Jules Moch, assured the National Assembly that Jansek died from heart failure.

In the end, under Governmental pressure, the death certificate of this murdered miner, as in the time of the Nazis, bore the phrase “death from natural causes”.

At Creutzwald, a second-lieutenant of the C.R.S. of Clermont, stated that they had been sent to Moselle, because, it was said, the population was Nazi.

True to his methods of provocation, used even before the beginning of the strike, Jules Moch claimed that the C.R.S. had only used their arms because the strikers had themselves fired. This only gave rise to a statement of newspapermen who witnessed the shooting, the text of which is given below:

“The undersigned journalists protest against the written and broadcast information which tends to deform the truth about the shooting at Firminy.

“They declare:
“1: that no shot was fired by demonstrators ;
“2: that the police force used its arms without warning.

“Anxious to fulfil their role of supplying objective information they solemnly protest against any other version of the events of October 21st.”

“For Ce Soir : R. VUILLAUME and DOUGET (photographer_; for Paris-Presse: FLORET and Guy MAZAUD (photographer): for  France-Soir: R. DELPECHE; for France-Dimanche: VALLIERE and FROMONT (photographer); for Liberation:  BEDEL: for Combat: DILLIAT; for l’Humanite:  LAMBOTTE; for La Depeche (St. Etienne): MATHOULIN; Le Patriote de Saint-Etienne: RASSON, GOUBELLY and LE PONCE (photographer); Le Progres de Lyon: MALLET; La Marseillaise (Marseille): CLERISSY; Express: Ms HARRISON; Associated Press: AUBRY (photographer) ; United Press: RUT, CONSTAD and WINTER (photographer); Presse filmee: PERSIN, BERTRAND, HESSE.”







During the police repression, at Ales,  on October 26th, the Government asserted that the strikers had stolen goods, and ransacked food stores, in that town. Jules Moch, in his speech to the Assembly on November 19th, asserted that mining stores had been pillaged in the same way as he pretended that, in the pits, engines had been mined and destroyed.

By its lies, the Government only made itself more hateful : two statements were issued to the press, one by newspapermen, the other by engineers who had both visited the pit installations, described by the Government as having been “sabotaged”; these statements indicated that all the engines were in working order and that no trace of sabotage could be seen.

All kinds of bluff were used.

On November 11th, at Montcean, in order to increase the very small number of strike-breakers who had resumed work, the whole staff of the apprenticeship schools were sent to the mines and it was proclaimed everywhere that work was being resumed.

All methods of intimidation were used simultaneously.



ARBITRARY ARRESTS

The Government ordered the arrest of active trade unionists: the best, as during the Nazi occupation, were sought in order to be thrown into prison together with common criminals.

At Carvin, on October 29th, 20 people were arrested; amongst them were Tsezefanlak, a former Auschwitz deported person; Celine Commens, widow of a man shot during the occupation; Jeanne Queva, wife of an ex-partisan (F.T.P.F.).

On the 5th November at Carvon (Ostricourt) Mrs. Driard a newspaper-seller and widow of a man shot during the Resistance was arrested without any reason.

On the 9th November at Avion, the following were arrested: a miners’ delegate, from pit 7, named Nizart, who was the first to go down the pit when 8 workers were killed by a fire-damp explosion; Augustin Allard, assistant mayor of Avion, surface workers’ delegate, ex-deportee: Florimond Surmont, former “Force Ouvriere” administrator, who had rejoined the C.G.T.

The Government re-opened the Doullens Camp, where during the war, French miners were detained by the Nazis.

On the 10th November, at Grand-Combe (Gard): Mr Delenne, Secretary of the local C.G.T. union, was arrested.

On the 13th November, Mrs. Theret,  mother of 5 children and 5 months pregnant (her last child not yet 1 year old) was dragged out of bed at 4 a.m. and was only released at 10 p.m. after a thorough cross-examination; courageously, she refused to answer.

On the 16th November, at Billy-Montigny (Pas-de-Calais). Robert Dorne,  was taken to the police station at No 10 pit. He was kept there without sleep or food for two days. He was beaten, tortured and insulted. Covered with blood, he was tied to a chair and shown as an example to those who were going to work.

At Carmaux, 5 Polish families were expelled in the middle of the night and thrown into goods-trains.

At La Combelle (Pas-de-Calais) as a meeting of the Strike Committee was breaking up, the police tried to arrest a delegate named Allezard. His comrades protested, but the militia appeared and beat an old moner named Charbonel aged 60 with rifle butts and knocked him out. The miners were thrown into lorries, like cattle, together with people who were peacefully playing cards in the Gras Café. Women who protested against these actions were pushed into the lorry and taken to the pits, which had been transformed into veritable prisons.

At Monceau, one of our North-African comrades was arrested without any reason and left to the brutality of the gendarmes who beat his naked body with straps, whips and waistbelts for hours. For 24 hours he was left without any attention or food. When he begged for a piece of bread, they brought him a crust smeared with human excrement. Being unable to prefer any charge against him, he was released in the afternoon at 4.p.m. after having been forced to wash up the mess tins of the division.

On the 17th November, police dogs were used to hunt 8 strikers.

At Courieres, on the 18th November, the miners’ delegate from pit No 4, Francis Leblond, the first to go down to help his comrades at the time of the catastrophe of April 19th 1948, was arrested.

On the 19th November, at Courrieres, the police, unable to find Jean Ville, Secretary of the local union, arrested his wife and confined her in Bethune goal.

At Guesnan (Nord) 30 strikers were arrested and ill-treated by the C.R.S.

On the 24th November, at Lessevale, at 4 .a.m., gendarmes and militia surrounded the miners’ quarter; supplied with lists of names they searched numerous houses and especially the homes of miners who had been active patriots during the occupation.



PRESSURE ON MAGISTRATES

AND

CONDEMNATION OF STRIKERS

Meanwhile, magistrates were given strict orders by the Minister of Justice, Andre Marie, to give arrested strikers the maximum penalties/ Each time a sentence seemed too light the Government lodged an appeal.

In disregard of the constitutional principle of separating the executive and legislative legal powers, the Government exercised a strict control over the magistrates. As an example the Procurator of the Republic, in Bethune, Mr. Dorny, was reduced to a lower rank for having freed strikers who had been illegally arrested.

Sentences were numerous.
Ny November 20th, more than 2.500 miners were in prison.
Following are a few examples of sentences pronounced by the courts:
Carmaux (Tarn), 7 sentences totalling 1 month and 17 days imprisonment and 100.000 frs in fines.
Montcean-les-Mines (Saone-et-Loire), 28 sentences totalling 53 months imprisonment and 112.000 frs in fines.
Courrieres (Pas-de-Calais), 8 sentences totalling 5 months imprisonment and 15.000 frs in fines.
Lievin (Pas-de-Calais), 40 sentences totalling 23 months imprisonment and 6.000 frs in fines.
Bethune (Pas-de-Calais) 60 sentences totalling 54 months imprisonment and 90.000 frs in fines.



Violation of Workers’ Rights

The decree of September 18th, had already withdrawn the administration of accidents and illness from the Social Security system.

In order to force the penniless miners to resume their work, the Minister Lacoste, arbitrarily suppressed family allowance payments to wives and children of striking miners.

Meanwhile, combining provocative and harassing measures his colleague, Jules Moch, presented a Bill establishing a credit of 50 million francs from the Ministry of the Interior budget “to make up losses of miners having suffered in exercising freedom to work” (sic).



Draft of Exceptional Laws

Finally, the Government, having already violated the fundamental laws of the Republic and undoubtedly desirous of continuing its policy of enslaving the working class with the appearance of legality, presented a Bill, heavy with consequences, to the Assembly.

Among other things, this Bill is intended to penalize “concerted cessation of professional activities, or misuse of the right to strike by diverting its professional or social purpose”; it would permit any action or any systematic abstention aiming at or resulting in active or passive sabotage, being penalised.

It is pure and simple abolition of the right to strike. Thus, the Government is attempting to suppress a right written into the Constitution, although it has no power to altar the Constitution by means of a simple vote of the National Assembly.

Moreover, this Bill aims at penalising all those who, by means of their writings or their words, might encourage such action. Apart from the fact that this Bill violate freedom of expression, it would permit the exclusion of active trade unionists from the French community (the draft eventually provides for banishment from any stated region or town and the suppression of civil rights).



It is essential to understand what happens in a country when rulers attempt to smash trade union organisations: it slides by slow degrees towards neo-fascism.





Result of the anti-national

policy of the government



By its anti-working class and anti-national policy, the Government has dealt a severe blow at our economy. It has thus given satisfaction to the wishes of American imperialists who, through the operation of the Marshall Plan in France, are trying to achieve the same results.

As a result of coal shortage in power plants, the Government drew liberally upon the hydraulic reserves. Before the strike the dams were 70% full; on the 15th November they were only 47% full, despite favourable weather. It will be possible to judge of the seriousness of our hydro-electrical situation when it is understood that the situation is considered critical at the beginning of a winter when the dams are less than 55% full.

In addition, cuts in industrial current, which have reduced by 33% the industrial quota of electric power, led to a reduction of the output in numerous industrial fields.

According to statements made to the National Assembly by the Minister Lacoste himself, the electro-chemical and electro metallurgic industries were severely hit. The production of carbide which amounted to 3.000 tons per month, iron alloys which amounted to 5.600 tons, and zinc which totalled 1.600 tons has been reduced to nothing. After a 4 weeks complete strike in the mines, the whole of the industrial output in the North has slowed down.

From October 4th until November 29th, the coal output losses were about 5.680.000 tons.

If the fact is taken into consideration that all the workers could not resume their work on the 29th November because of governmental measures of repression against the miners, the total loss of coal can be evaluated at about 6.000.000 tons, which equals at market value, 21 billion francs.

If the Government had satisfied the just demands of the miners, the additional expense would only have amounted to 2 billion francs per month.

However, far from drawing the necessary conclusion the Government, on the contrary, attempted to break the strike by placing an order with the United States for 2 million or even 3 million additional tons of coal. It is notorious that American coal, very poor in quality, containing, according to the manufacturers using it, 1/3 earth and stones, costs 2.000 frs more per ton, than French coal.

Besides, the Government, a few days before the devaluation of the franc in relation to the dollar, had-under the pretext of technical justifications- taken care, once more, to increase the price of French coal, in order to reduce a part of the difference between the price of America and French coal.

The Minister Lacoste has asserted that these additional purchases of American coal would be made at the expense of other essential purchases for our economy, such as cotton, petrol and fats. The Minister had little time to weep: on the 15th November the American Government made it known it was granting the French Government a first instalment of additional credits for coal purchases.

If the Government imports 3 million tons of additional coal (supposing it can) even if those credits are part of the Marshall Plan, it will have to pay to the account of “American Aid” in francs, the difference existing between the cost price of American coal (that is to say5.500 frs) and the domestic selling price of French coal (that is to say 3.500 frs) which in fact represents a subsidy of 6 billion francs.

*
**



In its fight against the miners the Government used all the means in its power, hoping to hit at the whole working class by breaking the miners’ strike.

It has sabotaged public finance and our national economy.

It has followed a policy of political adventure the essential aim of which was, in disregard of the fundamental interests of the nation, the wiping out of the workers’ organisations.





[1] The basic minimum wage in France is subject to regional percentage reductions according to the area and varies from 5% to 25%, the Paris region being 100.
[2] Republican Security Companies. A national armed force under the direct control of the Minister of Interior used to put down so-called civil disturbances.
[3] Confederation of Christian Workers.

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