Léon Jouhaux

1879 – 1954 • France

Revolutionary syndicalism • Trade unionist • Anti-communist

Elected General Secretary of the CGT in 1909 as a revolutioniary syndicalist, he held the post until 1947. He opposed strike action against the First World War and led the opposition to the Communists in 1921 and in 1948 created the CGT-FO trade union of which he became president.

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Rue Daubenton

Arrondissement 5

Number 22

A street linked to the revolutionary syndicalist direct action tendency within the CGT, the only trade union confederation in 1908. Pierre Monatte was living at No 22, where he was editing the ‘l’Action directe’ journal and escaped arrest with the rest of the CGT leadership in the aftermath of its call for protest action, The street has a much earlier history too… to a riot at the start of the French 16th century wars of religion.

This was the editorial office of the CGT’s revolutionary syndicalist journal, L’Action directe’. Pierre Monatte worked as its proof reader.

In 1908 Monatte was living here when two gravel-pit strikers were shot by gendarmes at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. On July 30 1908 the CGT called a solidarity demonstration at Draveil that was attacked by soldiers. Four demonstrators were killed and 200 wounded, with 69 soldiers wounded. The next day the government announced it would arrest the CGT leadership for ‘moral responsibility’, including the printer, Monatte, who escaped to Switzerland.

The CGT called a 24-hour general strike on August 3 1908, but it only had any real support in the building industry. Its General Secretary, Victor Griffuelhes, and other CGT leaders were jailed. The arrest of the direct action leadership, the failure of the general strike and the defeat of the three-month long gravel workers’ strike was a turning point in the CGT away from revolutionary syndicalism.

There is a little historical twist to Rue Daubenton’s connection with direct action. In 1561, Hazan (IOP) recalls: ‘following an obscure business about bells spoiling a meeting held by the Calvinists on Rue Patriarche (now Rue Daubenton, opposite Saint-Médard), the latter sacked the Saint-Médard church. This affair, known as the ‘Saint-Médard disturbance’, led to a number of deaths, and is often seen as a prelude to the [French] wars of religion’.

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