One of the less Stalinist CGT leaders of the post-war period, Georges Séguy, died aged 89 in 2016.
Among his experience as a life-long PCF member was attending the 1956 Russian Communist Party conference where Khruschev outlined Stalin’s crimes.
In 1968, as General Secretary of France’s then biggest trade union, the Communist-dominated CGT, he participated in the famous Grenelle negotiations in May 1968 whose agreements created an amazing advance in working class lives in France. But in failing to lead on to a revolution, his participation and not calling for a General Strike, made Séguy the object of much (unfair in my view) criticism from French Maoists and Trotskyists alike (and, to be fair, from many ordinary workers who believed still more could have been won).
Séguy’s father had been a founder member of the French Communist Party, and Georges was arrested as a member of the CP-led French Free Fighters and Partisan (FTPF) resistance at 17 years old in 1944 and deported to Mauthhausen in Austria. When he returned to France he identified the person who had denounced him, who was then tried and shot.
In 1978 he attempted to win over the CGT to form a united front with the formerly Catholic, then radical, CFDT union, but failed in the face of French CP opposition. He resigned aged 55 (the retirement age of the railwaymen he had been since 1946).