On 26 May gigantic mobilizations took place in more than 60 cities following eight days of strikes. The struggle is against Hollande’s government (Socialist Party) labour code, known as the “El Khomri Act”.
Minister Khomri aims to introduce greater “flexibility” of work, weaken national contracts in favour of local contracts (Article 2), allow an extension of working hours (up to 12 hours a day), reduce overtime pay and allow dismissals without constraint.
Hollande intends to impose the measures without parliamentary debate by using part of the French Constitution which allows a law to be imposed by decree. The pressure from workers is so great that a free vote in parliament could be against these proposals.
Oil Refineries, construction, commercial, and health workers have been on strike. New strikes are planned with transport workers including main line and metro worker, and workers in nuclear power plants (in France they provide nearly 80 percent of energy produced).
The mobilizations are mainly called by the CGT (largest trade union federation), Force Ouvriere, FSU and Solidaires and student organizations. Youth protests organised by Nuit Debout) are growing every day.
Three labour unions, among them the CGT and Solidaires plus three students’ organizations (Inter-Union), are calling for a further general strike 14 June. “The faster our actions bring the economy to a stand-still and affect the profits of the directors and shareholders, the faster we will win!” explained Solidaire.
The Economist claimed, “For the past week, France has felt like a country on the verge of civic insurrection.”
Labour and union leaders ignore French struggle
Demonstrations and strikes took place on 9, 13, 26 , 31 March, 28 April; and again 1, 17, 19 and 26 May.
The British Labour Party and most trade union leaderships have ignored this, while the Economist, 27 May article says the battle is “over the future of the French left.” Not a small political question! The Economist also comments on the level of public support,which is splitting the government, “62 percent told a poll that they thought the CGT-led strikes were justified. In another poll 70 per cent said the law should be shelved in order to end the blockades.”
Movement spreads the government creaks
The fighting spirit of this growing movement is remarkable considering that taking advantage of the November bombings, the government had decreed a state of emergency, with curfews and highly restrictive measures (supported in parliament, helping the bourgeoisie in a covenant of “national unity”) that are being used against protestors.
But the reactionary measures of the “socialist” government have not managed to stop the rising movement. Various government ministers, who had initially ruled out any amendment of the measures, began to open chinks in the negotiations, while at the same time sending police to attack the demonstrators with tear gas and gas bombs; arrest activists; searches of trade union offices at the forefront of the fight (like the headquarters of our comrades in Solidaires).
Union bureaucracies (like CGT) are currently driven by the impact of the struggle beyond where they would like to be (they tried to limit strikes to particular sectors), have begun negotiations with the government in exchange for recognition of their role and marginal changes, and are willing to try to curb the movement.
But the bureaucrats will not have an easy task because in the struggle there is a growing awareness by workers and young people of their power and of their opponent’s weaknesses.
International action now!
The first duty of every fighting union, social and political organization is for street demonstrations in solidarity with the French struggle. International solidarity means taking urgent actions now and to develop similar struggles in our own countries.
A great task
Various versions of neo-reformism are in crisis across the continent. However, revolutionary Marxism was torn to pieces by the revisionism of Mandel’s (the main leader of a current of a Fourth International) heirs in the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) who, after calling to “unite revolutionaries and reformists” are now in a deep crisis – and abandoned Trotsky’s view of the necessity for a revolutionary international.
As in the past again the main task will be resolved by forging a mass alternative in the thick of the struggle: but in France today this mass leadership does not yet exist.
It is the same in Britain. For example Left Unity does not consistently oppose the Corbynism, one reason why they did not stand in the local elections this year to challenge the Labour Party.
The ISL and IWL-Fourth International are engaged in the fight for the great task of building a mass alternative.