Interview with Charles Piaget
mediaposted on 11.03.2021, 09:45 by Robert Gildea
Confédération Française du Travail Chrétienne/Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail/Lip strike/ Agir contre le chômage
Born 23 July 1928, Besançon. Brought up in poor Besançon neighbourhood of Battant. Protestant father died in 1943 and he was entrusted to a ‘new family’, Italian, ‘very Catholic’, stepfather a mason.
Technical school, got brevet d’enseignement professionnel (engineering) at 17.
Employed from 1946 by Lip watch factory, where brother-in-law was a skilled worker. Became a skilled precision engineer, finished as chef d’atelier. Married, six children. Widowed, remarried.
Through industrial conflict over his right to re-employment after his military service 1949, then against arbitrariness of management over hours and pay. Elected union official in Confédération Française du Travail Chrétienne 1960, becoming Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT) in 1964.
1968 about organisation and mobilisation rather than drama. Two-week strike but no picket, ‘leap in democracy’ with votes in general assembly, cahiers de doléances, secured deal with boss after one week but stayed out in support for other strikers. .Voted against letting students into the factory.
Lip strike. Build-up of union strength, attempt by owner Fred Lip to break it 1971 frustrated by ‘civil disobedience’. Piaget was leader of strike and occupation of 1973, when production and sales by workers continued, but key was ‘democratic’ link between union leadership and the Comité d’Action. Suspicious of intrusion by outside agitators who were enthralled by this quiet and local prolertarian revolution. A second industrial conflict 1976-80 led to the founding of six cooperatives.
Took early retirement 1983, voluntary work in Agir contre le chômage/Action against unemployment 1993).
Lip. Charles Piaget et les Lip racontent (Stock, 1973); with Edmond Maire, Lip 73 (Seuil, 1973); Film: Christian Rouaud, Lip: l’Imagination au pouvoir (2006)
Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories
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