Andre Claisse (1918-2006)
Goupil, as he was known, was born on July 16th 1918 in Paris’ 14th arrondisement. He became a member of the CGTU in 1933 and a member of the Young Communists in 1934. He later became a railway worker.
Andre was taken prisoner at the front in 1940. He only remained a prisoner for three months as the Germans sent back three categories of workers essential for running the economy: railway workers, postal workers and nurses. Andre then became a level crossing operator. At this time he met Pierre Bois who had been at school with him. He became a Trotskyist militant in Union Communiste and made the acquaintance of Barta, who had a certain charisma as he had broken from official Trotskyism. The UC sent him to work (“to make agit-prop”) at the Citroen factory. He only stayed there six months carrying out an intervention by leaflets. Then he was taken on at the Radiotechnique in Suresnes.
Goupil is particularly famous in the revolutionary camp for his part in the Renault strike of 1947 which served as a pretext for the false Communists to withdraw from the “government of class collaboration”. Superficial journalists and little leftist pen pushers have especially focussed on Pierre Bois. Now Andre already had a lot clearer position on the independence of the proletariat. At the time of the strike he wasn’t initially an instigator, and wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of engaging in a large-scale strike in the difficult period of reconstruction. For a brief time he became a member of the strike committee led by a handful of Trotskyists of the UC of which he was still a member. But he stopped participating early on in the committee due to his differences with the direction the strike was taking.
At the gates of Renault he made the acquaintance of two sellers of the journal Etincelle (The Spark - their theoretical review was Internationalisme - CWO), Marc Chirik and Robert Salama of the small group “Communist Left of France” one of the few groups to have maintained internationalist positions during the war. Discussions with them in the surrounding cafes convinced him that he was on the same wavelength as these militants. He defended the idea of the extension of the movement which the two militants replied to him was the essential position. Contrary to the Trotskyists, with their corporatism and ambiguity towards the “Stalinist workers’ party”, he understood that it was not enough to limit the protest and pickets only to the Renault factories. The whole working class was facing the same austerity imposed by the De Gaulle-Stalinist government! They could only be made to withdraw them by the workers striking “all together”! The strike which endured and showed the intransigence of the mass of workers caused a stir inside the Stalinist Party. It was not so much frightened of losing two or three ministerial posts as it was of losing its terrifying authority over the working class.
Goupil remained in a minority in the action. He wasn’t a great orator. Nevertheless he didn’t have to put up with any direct threats from the PCF apparatus, more frightened at the determination of the workers for their ten francs wage increase than of being “duplicated” by some infinitesimally small and still more hardened revolutionary groups.
The strike, given the immediate circumstances of the post-war period, remained at a simple economic level even if the workers were conscious enough to ridicule the elected Stalinists in their ministerial armchairs. The isolation, the lack of any extension of the strike signalled the end of the struggle. In conformity with their trade unionist vision the dissident Trotskyist minority of Pierre Bois was reduced to forming a new trade union with a derisory name, the SDR (Renault Democratic Union) which Goupil refused to join considering that the only organisations really controlled by workers can only take the form of workers councils in a revolutionary period: this pitiful union lasted in sickly fashion for three years before disappearing.
Goupil remained a militant of the GCF until 1952, the date when this political minority disappeared. (Goupil was moreover very critical of the leader of this group M. Chirik who had left for Venezuela (“to preserve the group from the Korean War... “) Faced with the political emptiness in France and the evaporation of the GCF Goupil adhered in 1953 to the French Fraction of the Communist Left (FFGC) animated by Suzanne Voute, that is to say to the International Communist Party (the PCI, its journal Communist Programme of which Bordiga was the figure of legendary fame). He remained a member until 1971. At that time he was attacked by cancer for the first time which impeded his militant activity. Some years later he was cured. He still maintained correspondence with his comrades.
In 1990 he contacted the International Communist Current, several of whose public meetings he had attended, as he had those of the Parisian PCI. This group appeared then to conform to the historic heritage of the three internationals and was armed with a critical sense which was not fossilised. He became a member of it in 1998 but in a short time he saw that the group had evolved into a sect. He resigned in the year 2000. He made contact with the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party (Battaglia Comunista). He was one of the founders of its French review Bilan et Perspectives.