Labour History Review

Talking Out of Revolution: Henri Krasucki and Jacques Chirac’s Secret Pigalle Negotiations and the Resolution of the French General Strike of May–June 1968

Labour History Review (2018), 83, (3), 219–247.

Abstract

At the height of the French general strike of May–June 1968, future president Jacques Chirac, then Secretary of State for Employment, initiated a series of secret meetings with Henri Krasucki, deputy general secretary of the Confédération général du travail, meetings which arguably lay at the origins of the Grenelle agreements and hence the end of the strike. This article seeks to peel apart the various competing and contradictory layers of memory and mythology around the Chirac–Krasucki negotiations, exploring the paradoxes of this encounter and its legacy in historical context. Chirac’s own accounts of the episode have often been taken more or less at face value, as the same few questionable sources are recycled in popular texts. By contrast, the individual who had most interest in keeping quiet about such manoeuvres was Krasucki, who is generally eclipsed by Georges Séguy in memories of the CGT’s role in May. Krasucki’s complex relationship with French labour movement activism as an assimilated Polish-Jewish immigrant and frequent visitor to Moscow places him at the margins of many accounts of May 1968. Yet Krasucki’s silence was less total than it appeared: he did engage in memory transmission of his alternative version of events in private, among fellow communists. Light will thereby be shed on how two very different men sought, with a surprising degree of success, to cross the profound political, class and Cold War lines that lay between them. These discussions explain something of the flexibility which enabled the Gaullist state to avert its revolutionary overthrow.

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Author details

Gordon, Daniel A.