The Socialist 30 March 2006 |
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28 March 2006:
France - millions march for job security
FRANCE'S 28 March "day of action" saw much bigger mass
protests and strikes against the French government even than the 1.5
million who demonstrated on 18 March.
In Marseilles alone between 200,000 and 250,000 were on the streets,
compared with 130,000 on 18 March. Trade union leaders said three
million joined protests on 28 March. The right-wing Le Figaro said that
the national mobilisation left prime minister Villepin
France has seen mounting protests against Villepin's CPE, the
"First Job Contract", that allows workers under 26 to be
sacked without reason or warning during their first 24 months with any
Starting mainly amongst university students, the anger spread to
school students and to manual and white-collar workers. School students
see this law as legalising their exploitation and lack of future,
turning them into the "Kleenex generation", used then thrown
Millions of workers see the CPE as the second stage of the
government's plan to give more power to employers to intimidate workers.
Last year, the government passed the CNE that allowed for the sacking of
any worker during their first 24 months in a company with less than 20
Polls show a continuing rejection of the government's policies. Both
President Chirac and Villepin are so far hanging tough, but they may be
forced to make some concessions now, only to come back for more later.
However the trade union leaders repeatedly hesitate from calling for
serious action against the government and, despite occasional threats,
have not called for a general strike because they don't want to
challenge the government. This long-standing policy means they take no
initiatives themselves. Nearly all the demands for action come from the
rank and file.
One result of the leaders' passivity is that they offer no
alternative to many of the most oppressed youth. A tragic warning of
what this can produce were the attacks on the 23 March student demos by
small gangs of youth trying to steal mobile phones, etc. from
But instead of having a policy that could both offer these youth a
future to fight for while also protecting the demonstrations from
criminal elements, the leaders of the main trade union, the CGT, simply
agreed that the police should surround the demos while their own
stewards try to keep political slogans out of the protests.
The union leaders are trying to ride out the movement by calling one
protest a week. But, more and more, workers talk about the need for a
general strike to turn the tide against the attacks they have suffered.
There is anger in the private sector as well. If private-sector workers
saw there was the chance of a generalised struggle that would not leave
them isolated in their individual companies, they too would join in.
A national student meeting has called for blockades of railway
stations and motorways on 30 March and a general strike on April 4, but
a more generalised strategy is needed. However it cannot be ruled out
that the French tradition of spontaneous strikes will be seen again with
workers deciding to continue striking.
The past weeks show that large sections of France's population want
to fight, not just complain about, the neo-liberal agenda. Today it
looks likely that the French 'Socialist' Party could win next year's
elections, but as has been seen in the 25 years since Mitterrand became
the first 'Socialist' president in 1981, this will not lead to a
What is needed is a new political force, a new workers' party, which
can combine this resistance with a genuinely socialist struggle to
Out soon! 1926 General Strike
This May sees the eightieth anniversary of the 1926 General Strike in
Britain - the most important and earth-shattering moment in the history
of the British working class.
To commemorate it and, more importantly, to draw out the lessons from
this movement, Peter Taaffe has written a book outlining the course of
the nine days that shook British capitalism to its foundations.
It is more than a narrative and chronology of the events themselves,
although these will be important for newer members and activists in the
Following the biggest strike of the British working class since 1926,
it will discuss the use of the demand for a general strike. But it will
particularly deal with the revolutionary possibilities of the General
Strike and the question of whether the fledgling Communist Party of
Great Britain had the right strategy, programme and tactics to take full
advantage of the strike and the period.
This book is a must for all socialists. Cost £7.50. Place your
advance order now - just £5 including p&p.
Cheques to Socialist Books, PO box 24697, London E11 1YD