Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 31 May 2003

French workers' protest: Building For A General Strike

AIR TRAFFIC controllers, school teachers, hospital workers, postal and communications workers in France have again taken strike action this week against the Raffarin government's attacks on pensions. This follows last Sunday's mass demo by trade unionists in Paris, from where MANNY THAIN reports on the growing mood amongst public sector workers for a general strike.

THE STREETS of Paris resounded to the beat of drums and marching feet, last Sunday. Music blared. Rail workers ignited red flares filling the air with smoke. It was a riot of colour. Massive balloons marked out trade union contingents, flags waved. Banners and placards spelled out the demands: "No to the government's attack on pension provision", "No to the 'decentralisation' of education".

French workers are on the move against a whole raft of cutbacks and attacks from the right-wing conservative government led by Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The CGT and FO trade union federations had called this demo. But even they could not have expected one-and-a-half million. Indeed, they have put the figure at 600,000! But this is a gross underestimate.

Assembling at Place de la Nation from 10am, it was due to march off at 12 noon. Yet it could not move for hours and the police opened up two parallel routes for the march to go down to cope with the huge numbers. Even then, as with the huge anti-war demo in London on 15 February, many people frustrated with waiting took to the side streets on the way to the final rallying point at Place d'Italie.

Wide sections of French society were present and came from all over the country. Public-sector workers were predominant, however, - teachers and lecturers, health workers, rail workers, inland revenue staff and firefighters. Significantly; they were joined by smaller contingents from the private sector, such as Dunlop and Citroën workers.

The government pension 'reform' is a fundamental attack on the public sector. Workers will have to work for 40 years before they are entitled to a full pension, as opposed to 37.5 today. And this is set to rise to nearly 42 by 2020.

This represents a determined attempt by the French capitalist class to take back some key social provisions won by the hard struggle of the working class in the past. The plan to 'decentralise' education aims to cut state spending, open up education to big business, undermine pay and conditions, and lower education provision for working-class students.

The festive mood on the streets of Paris belied the growing determination and rising anger; especially on the part of those on strike. Although called by the unions, many of the contingents were from local or, in cases such as Le Havre, city-wide Assemblées Générales (AG) which organise the day-to-day running of the strikes.

These rank-and-file activists are the most determined and uncompromising sections, rejecting any negotiations on the pension counter-reform and demanding its complete withdrawal.

There is bitter anger, too, directed towards the leaders of the CFDT union confederation for signing up to a compromise deal with the government - over the heads of the activists - with large numbers of CFDT members on the march.

Uncharacteristically for France, students have not yet been involved on a mass scale. Often in the past it has been this section which has kick-started the workers' movement. But they are increasingly coming on to the scene.

Initiatives are being taken to link school and college students, and parents not involved directly in the strikes, with the strikers, to cut across a government-driven propaganda campaign aimed at dividing the movement.

The momentum of the struggle is clearly towards a general strike. But this is being driven from the pressure from below - from the AGs in particular. The union leaders are dragging their feet, fearing that they could lose control of the situation if the strikes become more generalised and linked. It is the activists in the AGs who are maintaining the local and regional activity - pickets, blockades and demos - and linking up with the private sector.

In the face of the union leaders' hesitancy, the government has maintained a tough stance. But it has a hard fight on its hands. The sheer size of the demonstration has stiffened the resolve of the movement. Tuesday's public-sector shutdown - involving education, transport, health, post, and telecoms workers - and the second massive demo in Paris two days, proves this point.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 31 May 2003:

School Cuts Wreck Our Future

Building A Fighting Leadership For The PCS

End Low Pay In The NHS

Strike Wave Rocks Europe

French workers' protest: Building For A General Strike

Israel/Palestine: Behind Sharon's 'Change Of Heart'

Education: SATS tests

G8 Summit: Protesting Against Imperialism And Its Corporate Agenda

After the Scottish elections: How Is Socialism To Be Won?

India: Massive General Strike Against Privatisation

Drop All Charges Against Day X Detainees


Home   |   The Socialist 31 May 2003   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleFrench Labour reform protests

triangleFrench elections: Macron's win

triangleFrench elections: time to build a fighting left alternative

triangleFrance - Huge voter abstention belies Macron's 'landslide' election

triangleFrance: Macron won't solve economic & social crises


triangleArriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleUnite local government sector plans strike ballot

triangleStriking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni


triangleSocialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleUprising to save the NHS!

General strike:

triangleSupporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter


triangleCampaign against political repression in Hong Kong


triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?


triangleSchools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now




Hong Kong

Campaign against political repression in Hong Kong



Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't



Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide



Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events



Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia



Germany: Election results in political earthquake



Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!



German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance



French Labour reform protests



Catalonia: Student strike called



Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis



Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state



Berlin hospital strike



Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?



Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice