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(en) France, UCL AL #333 - Unionism, Women in struggle: Marie Saderne, a worker at the podium to found the CGT (ca, de, it, fr, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 20 Jan 2023 09:58:46 +0200


At the end of the 19th century, women were numerous in the textile industry. In rural areas, the Catholic Church plays an active role in their exploitation. But their struggles have forged activists. Marie Saderne is one of them, who had a special role in the organization of the founding congress of the CGT. ---- The CGT is today the first mass resistance organization of women, with more than 200,000 members. From Marie Guillot, first confederal secretary in 1922, to the CGT newspaper Antoinette with 120,000 copies in the 1970s, the place of female workers in the CGT is old but often ignored. It stems from the courage and the will of these women convinced that without the workers, the working class will not be able to win.

It was in Limoges, in 1895, a working-class city marked by anarchist currents, that the professional labor organizations decided to unite and found the General Confederation of Labour.

XIX, One third of the workers are women workers

Those who are forgotten in textbooks and even in union training, play an essential role in the birth and development of the labor movement, like Marie Saderne. It was the Parisians of the working-class neighborhoods who launched the beginnings of the Paris Commune, by recovering the guns financed by the people. Nearly 10,000 women participated in the organization and defense of the Paris Commune, according to anarchist and feminist journalist André Leo. She will make this comment at the time: "Do we believe we can make the revolution without women ? In 1880, fifteen years before the creation of the CGT and the corsetiers' strike, the first mass strike broke out against miserable wages. At their head? Several thousand ovalist workers, whose task was to prepare the silk thread. They are ultimately victorious. Victory was snatched by these Lyon workers who later participated in the International Association of Workers.

The longest strike in France's leading industry

In 1895, it was again in the textile sector, at the time the leading industrial sector, that one of his longest strikes broke out in Limoges. His origin ? Appalling working conditions, daily iron discipline for twelve hours, punctuated by the obligation to follow religious rites, which Marie Saderne and her colleagues experience daily. They are employed by the company that manufactures Clément corsets. Fines, bullying and dismissals are commonplace. Marie Saderne and her colleagues all come from the Limousin region. She was only 19 when the strike broke out. She fights with Madame Barry and Mademoiselle Coupaud.

The refusal of daily prayer is the trigger for this strike which lasts one hundred and eight days. Marie Saderne participates in the creation of a women's union supported by the unions of Limoges, in full preparation of the first congress of the CGT. During these three and a half months of strike, about forty workers took part in this fight for freedom of thought, the dignity of workers but also for better wages. Paid only 2 francs a day, they claim the increase of 20 additional centimes per corset. The nuns come to replace them in the workshops. Most of the strikers, including Marie Saderne, lost their jobs. But the lessons they learn from their resistance will not be lost.

The subordinate worker status of textile workers like Marie Saderne reveals from the outset the criminal alliance at play between patriarchy and capitalism. In September 1895, Marie Saderne was assessor for the second session of the founding congress of the CGT. This means that she chairs part of the first congress alongside mal

At the beginning of the 20th century, debates on the place of women in the home and in the management of the family arose in the confederation, carried by the conservative fringes of trade unionism. Stupidity and union machismo prevailed, until the exclusion from his union in 1913 of a typographer, Emma Couriau, for the sole reason of being a woman. In those same years, Madeleine Vernet kept this sad account: on 54 occasions, workers went on strike against the work of women, everywhere in France.

The presence of Marie Saderne at the organization of the debates of the first congress of the CGT is therefore an important marker. Recalling its history, and remembering those that will take place after it, helps to break the ignorance of the role of feminist trade unionists in the labor movement and to cut to pieces the inferiority complexes that we can feel as trade unionists. It is a continuity with which we must never break. It is also to shed light on the balance of power to be held, on the eve of the election - which we hope - of a feminist trade unionist, Marie Buisson, to the general secretariat of the CGT confederation. Power relations and alliances to nurture which are essential to the future of mass and class unionism, and therefore feminist.

Louise (UCL Saint-Denis)

Read the biographical notice of Marie Saderne on the Maitron.fr website.

https://maitron.fr/spip.php?article85354

https://www.unioncommunistelibertaire.org/?Femmes-en-lutte-Marie-Saderne-une-ouvriere-a-la-tribune-pour-fonder-la-CGT
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