Monday, 25 October 2010

The current Class Struggle in France

What happened on Friday at Grandpuits is unprecedented in the recent history of industrial relations in France.
Refinery workers rounded up by the paramilitary police and FORCED to return to work under a so-called "sate of national emergency" law is not only unconstitutional, it is also an indication that the class struggle has reached new heights in Europe.
The news from Granpuits has shoked and angered union members throughout France.
And the rifts between unions on what to do next have not prevented them from calling for more strikes, even after the bill on pensions becomes law on Wednesday, October 27th.
Even the reformist unions, like the CFDT and UNSA, acknowledge that they are under strong pressure from the rank and file to pursue the strikes.
Outraged by what happened at Grandpuits, the workers from 9 other French refineries have extended the strike by at least another week, fuel depots are being re-blocked as soon as the riot police leave them and there is every indication that this mass movement is set to last. The objective of disrupting the economy to put pressure on bosses is the unifying strategy of strikers all over the country. They understand that in the class war, production is the key to disrupting the normal profits of the Capitalists. They openly seek to prevent the accumulation cycle of Capital from taking place in the sphere of production and realization by the most efficient means possible.

The strikes are taking their toll in terms of wages lost (in the railway and energy sectors for example), particularly as real purchasing power has been declining steadily over the last twenty years. Therefore, and quite naturally, workers are turning to direct action and "sabotage" tactics that can profoundly disrupt the economy while organizing "rolling strikes" in which they participate some days and not others.
Again, the movement as it now stands can last for some time, and the bosses are very worried. They are complaining that production is stopped at many factories due to shortages of raw materials and fuel. Le Monde's characterization of the protests as "a long-lasting, peaceful social guerrilla" is not far from the truth.
Workers are determined to stand up to the government's bullying, and are returning to all the old favorites of solidarity strikes, strike funds, direct action, sabotage, revolving strikes, etc. And workers from all sectors are acting together, are systematically manning picket lines together, are supporting each other... The union leaderships have no choice, for the time being, than go with the flow. But there is little doubt among many strikers that they will try and reach a settlement with the government at the earliest opportunity.

The government itself is also taking up a hardline position in the class war. The authoritarian leanings of the present government are becoming clearer by the day. After drastically increasing police powers,  deporting gypsies, imposing severe restrictions on the right to strike (the so-called "minimal service" laws), they are now using "state of emergency" decrees to force strikers back to work. And even though a judge declared the requisition of strikers unconstitutional on Friday, the government simply went on with the requisitions, knowing that the strikers will have to wait until Monday to get an injunction from a judge suspending the government decree. This has very serious implications.

The pension reform revolt (which everybody knows is about the redistribution of wealth and not only the retirement age) is an important moment in France and Europe. 


1 comment:

  1. We are with you! Don't back down! David Whitten, Maine, USA