General Confederation of Labour

▪ Argentine labour union
Spanish  Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) 

      major labour-union federation in Argentina. The CGT was formed in 1930. Its leadership was contested by socialist, anarchist, and syndicalist factions from 1935 until the early 1940s, when it came under the control of Juan Perón (Perón, Juan), an ambitious Cabinet minister. When Perón was ousted from his Cabinet posts and placed in detention in October 1945, a strike called by the CGT won his release from custody and helped lay the groundwork for his ascent to the presidency of Argentina in 1946. During Perón's two terms as president, the CGT grew to include 2,000,000 affiliated members and acquired a vast network of patronage and welfarism.

      After Perón's removal by the military in 1955, the CGT was officially disbanded, but it continued to be a mainstay of the Peronist movement, which was weakened by factional struggles. By the time the CGT reemerged in the early 1960s, it was equally divided between Peronist and noncommunist independent blocs. A period of military rule in Argentina (1966–73) led the CGT to pursue political as well as economic goals, although these were sometimes contradictory, and led to further fragmentation of the group in the late 1960s.

      During the second Peronist government (1973–76), the CGT again achieved considerable political power and expanded to embrace white-collar as well as industrial workers. During the subsequent period of military rule (1976–83), the government suppressed the CGT, though it continued to operate illegally. President Raúl Alfonsín (Alfonsín, Raúl) (1983–89), whose Radical government clashed with the CGT, most dramatically in a series of general strikes, officially reinstated the federation in 1985.

▪ French labour union
French  Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) 

      French labour union federation. Formed in 1895, the CGT united in 1902 with the syndicalist-oriented Federation of Labour Exchanges (Fédération des Bourses du Travail).

      In its early years the CGT was racked by ideological divisions between socialist (socialism), syndicalist (syndicalism) (promoting an overthrow of capitalism by the working class), and other factions. The confederation advocated the use of collective bargaining and the general strike to reach economic goals, but it was also concerned with achieving more revolutionary social changes through class warfare. The CGT declined after syndicalists took control in 1906, but the organization began to grow again under the leadership of the socialist Léon Jouhaux (Jouhaux, Léon), who served as its secretary-general from 1909 to 1947. By 1914 the CGT's leadership was sufficiently moderate to support the French government in World War I.

      In 1921 the CGT expelled its more radical unions, which were led by anarchists (anarchism) and communists (communism) as well as syndicalists. The expelled unions responded by forming the Unitary General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Générale du Travail Unitaire; CGTU), whose politics came to be dominated by Moscow. The CGTU rejoined the CGT in 1936 when communist parties and unions formed popular fronts (popular front) with socialist organizations in joint opposition of fascism. By supporting the Popular Front government of the mid-1930s, the CGT won a number of victories, including a 40-hour workweek and an all-around wage increase ranging from 7 to 15 percent.

      The CGT was banned by the Vichy (Vichy France) government during World War II, and, by the time the confederation reemerged in 1944–45, the French communists had gained enormous popularity through their wartime resistance activities. In 1945 Benôit Frachon, a communist, became co-secretary-general of the CGT with Jouhaux, and in 1946–47 the communists won control of the CGT's administration. By this time the confederation represented more than five million members. That number dropped somewhat when the CGT alienated its more moderate socialist members by sponsoring strikes in 1947 to protest the French government's dismissal of communist ministers. Under the leadership of Jouhaux, the socialists left the CGT in 1947 and formed a new federation, the General Confederation of Labour–Workers' Force (Confédération Générale du Travail–Force Ouvrière), in 1948.

      Even after the defection by the socialists, the CGT remained France's largest and most powerful labour union federation for many years. The CGT maintained close ties with the French Communist Party and was a member of the World Federation of Trade Unions.

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Universalium. 2010.

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