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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 November 2008

France: Education strikes on the agenda

MORE THAN 250,000 teachers and youth demonstrated in France on 20 November. At the same time half of all teachers were on strike. It was the first national strike day in all the sectors of national education - nursery, primary, secondary and university - since last May. It was a massive mobilisation.

Leila Messaoudi, Gauche Révolutionnaire, France

Teachers are fed up with the huge amount of attacks launched by the government of Sarkozy-Fillon-Darcos. Teachers' working conditions and study opportunities for the young are worsening quickly, with cuts in jobs and budgets. These government 'reforms' are in order to adapt education to the economic needs of the bosses.

The attacks are simultaneously against each part of the education public service, from the Ecole maternelle (free nursery schools for three to six year-old children) through to universities. This explains the success of the strike. The economic crisis and the bailouts to banks and bosses from the government have also strengthened workers' anger.

A sign of the anger was the number of people attending general assemblies held by trade unions. Usually, these meetings are empty but this time a lot of teachers came along, with hundreds present in a lot of regions and départements.

Pressure

The strike's success has opened up the potential for building a national strike movement. That probably explains why the National Education minister, Xavier Darcos, was so aggressive and angry in his declaration on the morning of the strike. He said: "Nothing will change, the cuts will continue... More than 11,200 jobs in 2008, 13,500 next year..."

He denounced "the culture of striking with 33 days of strikes since 2000 in the sector". He attacked the trade unions as the most "conservative part" of the teacher body and said that "demonstrators have to realise that France is moving quicker than their contingents in demonstrations!" (RTL radio, 20 November)

The government is doing its utmost to stop the strikes and is trying to discredit the movement. For several months, Darcos and Fillon (prime minister) have succeeded in embroiling the trade union leaderships in the government's agenda.

In September and October, the union leaderships were arguing the need to 'modernise national education' and the danger of the so-called "empty seat" policy. But recently they couldn't stay any more in the government's round table discussions, such is the scale of the attacks. Now, the success of the strike is putting pressure on them.

Mass movement

In several regions, general assemblies have already called for new strike days on 25 and 27 November or both, depending on the region. The trade union leaderships are clearly under pressure to call for a new strike very soon but for now are refusing to do so.

The next general assemblies will have to fight to impose a new strike. This is what Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France) members are doing this week in their unions and local assemblies. There is a huge potential, especially with the primary school teachers, that the mobilisation could develop into several days' strike.

In Rouen, our young comrades organised the strike by mobilising the week before. Successfully, a dynamic contingent with 200 school students attended the demonstration. It was often the same school students who mobilised last year, alone, against the baccalaureate reform. And it's clear that next week, they will be in the streets again.

In the current political and economic climate, a movement of teachers and youth in France will quickly affect other sectors. In fact, mobilisations and strikes have taken place in: La Poste (postal service) against privatisation, Air France workers over pensions, by railway workers and local community workers.

We need to build the struggle against the government and the bosses around these strikes. But we also need to link all the sectors together. That is why workers and youth have to fight for an all-sectors national strike day in December: around common fighting aims - against privatisation, cuts in the public sectors and against closures and sackings in the private sector such as the car industry, for example in Peugeot-Citroen.

We should refuse to pay for the capitalist crisis. We can put pressure on the trade union leaderships and build a mass movement against Sarkozy and the bosses based on the general assemblies through a fighting programme of actions and strikes.

That what Gauche Révolutionnaire, is fighting for in the current struggles, inside the unions and involved in the new anti-capitalist party launched by Olivier Besancenot and the LCR. We can offer a genuine anti-capitalist programme, with real socialist measures to oppose capitalism.

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France: Education strikes on the agenda


 

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