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France: Mass struggle forces government retreat
JUST OVER a week after signing the CPE into law (the new employment contract which allows bosses to sack workers under 26 years of age without warning or giving a reason in the first two years) France's president Jacques Chirac - faced with mass opposition, led by workers and young people - abandoned the CPE on 10 April.
Robert Bechert, CWI, writing from France
Two national days of strikes, the student occupations of their colleges and the daily demonstrations throughout the country lasting for weeks forced the right-wing government to retreat on this anti-working class law.
Both in France and internationally this is rightly seen as a major setback for the continuing 'neo-liberal' offensive by the capitalist class to cut working peoples' living standards.
However, Chirac has only partially retreated. The CNE, a law passed last year, lays down exactly the same conditions as the CPE for all workers in workplaces with less than 20 employees, and this is still in force.
The trade union leaders have declared that Chirac's retreat is a big victory but they are not utilising this opportunity to push forward with other demands.
The French government is in disarray and deeply split, now is the time to go onto the offensive both against the CNE and other neo-liberal measures and to demand proper, well-paid jobs for young people and the unemployed.
However the union leaders want to demobilise the movement, and ultimately redirect it towards supporting the opposition in next year's elections. A chance to create a wider movement against both Chirac and capitalism in general is being thrown away.
But whether the trade union leaders can prevent further struggles erupting in the next 12 months is a different question. The huge majority support for the anti-CPE protests illustrated the profound anger in France and the opposition to the attacks of the ruling class.
The combination of this victory over the CPE and many workers' bitter experience of the last 'socialist'-'communist' government that was defeated in 2002 could mean that new battles could break out in the coming months as sections decide not to wait for 2007.
Since the end of January a new young generation in France has participated in struggle for the first time and now has won a first victory.
Many have already begun to question the entire system and, as they start to draw socialist conclusions, can help in creating a movement that can end capitalism once and for all.
In The Socialist 13 April 2006:
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