French “Communists” Support Wages System

The 37th Congress of the French trade union centre, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), voted last November to change its statutes. It threw out the phrase “abolition of the wages system” (disparition du salariat et du patronat) and substituted “socialisation of the means of production and exchange” (socialisation des moyens de production et d’échange).

Of course the paper aims of an organisation tell us very little about what it actually does, but they can tell us how its members and leaders think. The CGT is led by members of the French Communist Party. So it is particularly revealing that they should wish to remove a phrase which Marx described as revolutionary and specifically recommended trade unionists to adopt.

It is also a measure of the French Communist Party’s aim to reform rather than abolish capitalism that their trade union centre should adopt instead so meaningless a slogan as the “socialisation of the means of production and exchange”. The means of production are already socialised in the sense that they can only be operated by social, co-operative labour. This has already been done by capitalism; what Socialism will do is to end the class monopoly of these means, to establish social or common ownership as well. The CGT’s new aim cannot mean this as the social ownership of the means of exchange (banks, etc) is a contradiction in terms. When the means of production are socially owned, wealth will be produced purely and simply to satisfy human needs. Production for the market, or exchange, will disappear and along with this banks and other commercial and financial institutions.

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