The text which follows, wants to be a statement on the development of the working class struggle in France. Initially written on May 25, the current mobilization against the questioning of the pensions and against the general attacks is still not finished and the week of May 26 to the 28 saw another demonstration and an another "Action day" ["day of action"] on Tuesday 27 and numerous local initiatives (assemblies of various companies, "interprofessional" ["inter-corporation"] street demonstrations, public-private sectors mixed, delegations to other places of work, etc…), in the province and the Paris area. But it seemed urgent to us to provide a series of concrete facts on what already occurred as reference of course and also as purely informative because it appears that the international bourgeois press exerts a true censorship on these struggles ; and to present our analysis and our intervention to all the proletarian camp and its militants so that they are known and discussed.
With our little forces, we published a leaflet (i) at the very beginning (late April-begining of May) and our workers militants were largely involved in the strikes, assemblies, meetings of any type, street demonstrations, which explains also our difficulty for making an "official statement more quickly".
Since the end of April 2003, a struggle movement in France has developed within the working class. This movement affects all the sectors and more particularly the whole public sector. It expresses the working class reaction towards the brutal attacks (pension, redudancies, lower wages, increased flexibility, worsened rates of production, etc…) that the French bourgeoisie decided to carry out. Symbol and highest expression of these attacks, the questioning of the conditions to get pensionned, announced as of the end of the war in Iraq, directly affects all the working class, public and private sectors, actives-pensioners-unemployed workers. It means an attack without precedent to the pension system : longer career, increase in the pension contributions which means an immediate fall of the wages, and for the future pensioners a fall of 20% of their incomes. Moreover, already is announced a drastic questioning of the social security system for September-October 2003 which will see an increase quite as consequent of the social security contributions and the end, or at least the significant reduction, of the repayment for many drugs.
This attack is not limited to France. It is all the European proletariat which is directly attacked today. In particular, the working class in Austria undergoes exactly the same questioning of the pensions and Vienna has known the most significant working class demonstration for several decades. In Italy, the same applies. The German proletariat (ii) already underwent a first part of this attack, the German bourgeoisie having made the choice of a more progressive "method" but not less brutal. It is thus in a context of generalized attacks at the international level, that the working class in France retakes the way to the struggle.
Moreover, it is at the end of the war in Iraq that the working class is obliged to break with the "mystification" of the national unity behind its bourgeoisie in the name of pacifism and the war refusal. It is true for all Europe. It is all the more true for the France of Chirac who had been the most virulent in his opposition to the war. In fact, the war in Iraq and the pacifist campaigns which accompanied it, have not extinguished the rise of working class combativeness that we had been able to note for a few months in various local struggles. Increasing understanding by the international working class of the extent and the gravity of the current historical stakes, generalized misery, wide impoverishment on the one hand and the imperialist war on the other hand, are in the core of the current struggles.
For us, after the war in Iraq and the beginning of imperialist polarization that we've seen in this occasion, the extent and the brutality of the attacks against the working class come to confirm that "a new period opens up". Already, in our "Statement on the events in Argentina" published in our bulletin n°5 (January 2002) [only in french], we said : "… the economic bankruptcy in Argentina and the violence of its social consequences are what awaits us in all the countries. (…) The demonstrations of this same brutal acceleration of the crisis are already at work in the central countries, from the United States to Germany, with in particular the violent rise of unemployment and repeated social plans. (…) This mortal and inevitable crisis is the true reason for the diving into war: (…) Austerity, unemployment, the reinforcement everywhere of repression and finally the war are as many requirements of the capital in crisis… "
We present here a series of facts which are certainly far from being exhaustive. Nevertheless, it seems to us that they well mark the various moments of this mobilization until today, Sunday May 25. Part of these facts ignored by the bourgeoisie press are known either by the leftist press or Internet sites, or by our own militants (iii).
Since the end 2002, we had been able to note a revival of the working combativeness which had appeared by local struggles in various sectors (hospital, EDF [electricity and gas public company]…). Following this, a whole agitation started to develop in particular among the teachers of secondary schools [called the collèges] (iv).
In the "department" [region] of the northern suburbs of Paris, the "93", working class suburbs and whose conditions of existences are particularly difficult, this agitation tended to be structured around an Interregional General Asembly of the colleges [secondary schools] in struggle of the «93» made up, undoubtedly, by the initiative of militants of Lutte ouvrière (trotskyst group) and radical trade unionists (SUD and CNT). It played a leading role in the mobilization as well at the local level by contacting various companies and factories as during the street demonstrations. The same type of "local" mobilizations developed in province, in Marseille, Toulouse, etc…
At the Post Office, the union SUD has tried, since March 2003, to set up a kind of "coordination" of the sorting centers. This initiative did not take despite the large and "without exclusive" invitation addressed to the union and to the non-union workers. Other initiatives of the same kind have been presented by the "radical" and "rank and file"unions as by the leftists.
The war in Iraq finishing, the announcement of the measures against the pensions, their brutality, and even the arrogant declarations of the government, caused a true stupor among the workers. It was only after many days and some weeks that the stupor was transformed more and more into a will of collective reaction and desire to struggle. The reflexion which took place - once again just after the war in Iraq during which denunciations of capitalism as imperialist warmonger had met a favorable echo - led quickly and rather naturally to the conclusion that the extent of the attack and the determination of the government imposed a reaction of united struggle and strikes of all the sectors of the working class, public-private. It was the concern and the question at stake in all the minds, in all the discussions, in all the assemblies which started to be held everywhere. It was obvious.
Since the annoucement of the measures against the pensions, the strikes by rota and demonstrations carried out since at least two months by the General Asembly of the colleges in struggle of the 93 started to crystallize a certain incipient dynamic to the "general strike, public-private, all together", to the "interprofessional strike" against the pensions "reform". These slogans were chanted by the teachers at the demonstrations. Breaking the order of the union processions, ready to clash sometimes against the CGT (v) union police ["service of order"] (May 1st), the teachers gathered together under the banderoles of their colleges, intended, and sometimes succeeded, to take the head of the demonstrations. And at the end of those, they formed an "honor guard" on each side of the demonstration which marched in the middle of the slogans referred to above.
The question of the pensions then becomes the unifying demand of all the sectors. The demand in which everyone identified himself.
April 23, all the "united" trade unions announced the organization of one Action day for… May 13, public-private, on the pensions which, obviously, was part of a strategy planned in advance and "adapted" to the situation. But yet, all the workers knew that the CFDT - one of the "great" trade unions (with the CGT, FO and the CFTC) of which only one of the signatures is necessary for the legal adoption of the measures - will sign the agreement after this May 13. Already, this May 13, which then was appearing remote, was felt for one part like an attempt "to postpone" the entry in the opened struggle, on strike ; and in addition like a possible "burial" of the movement with the signature of the CFDT and the "unions division". It is in the name of this May 13 when "all the sectors will be on strike together" and "where all the unions will be united" that multiple local initiatives were already quelled.
The situation at the Post office of Paris was rather significant of the general environment of increasing combativeness and of the trade-unions tactic. Since the removal of the great sorting centers, the smaller Parisian sorting offices present the particularity of being at the same place as the distribution centers of the postmen. In particular, the Post office of the "Louvre" which is central, gathers 1200 workers and is located at the geographical center of Paris just near many other significant public services. It is not by chance if all the political leftist groups and all the unions are very well represented there.
Once the measures announced, all the unions together made a sudden and "surprising" call in rupture with the recent practices (of the CGT in particular) to an unlimited strike of the 3000 Parisian postmen from Monday April 28 on specific demands. And nothing on the pensions. However, it was this general situation related to the attack against the pensions which marks the significant mobilization and the combativeness which were expressed in the street demonstrations of the postmen. On the other hand, all the unions, firstly the CGT and SUD, opposed to the holding of general assemblies in the sorting centers often located a floor above the postmen workshop ; and when nevertheless the assemblies took place, they refused any [legal] strike notice and any call to the strike for the sorting centers. SUD, in particular, slowed down the wills to join the postmen' struggle under the pretext that it is better to favour May 13 because "we'll be all together" with the other sectors and corporations, public and private, and that the powder should not be wet. Then the CGT, on its side, announced an "Action day for the single sorting centers" for… May 22 of which it hasn't be any more question thereafter. Here is an example of sabotage, in the specific form of the backfire, exerted by the trade unions against a particular sector which could have represented a dynamic and unifying pole in the struggle. Very quickly, i.e. at the end of three days, and in spite of a strong combativeness which was especially expressed in the daily demonstrations of the postmen, the strike kept isolated, becoming minority although crystallizing a strong attention of the other workers of the Post office. It was finally stopped by the CGT. This one is then severely denounced by many postmen.
At the same time, still Monday April 28, at an "open" meeting organized by SUD (following their "coordination"), the local union delegates of ten sorting centers gave report of the discussions and the echoes which they received. There was a fast change of mood among the workers who now were pushing to enter into struggle. Within 15 days, the climate had changed completly in relation to the struggle. With this meeting, in front of several speakers - essentially rank and file delegates - who were questionning why not joining the postmen, SUD announced that it was calling to a renewable [i.e. more or less unlimited] strike the next day of May 13 and that it "hopes to outflank the CGT".
The CGT started to announce at the end of April that it intended to organize one Day of demonstration, public-private sectors together, on Sunday May 25. It was to be definitively decided a week later. It was then clear that this May 25, so remote in time, was only one new attempt to set up a backfire opposing to the rise of the mobilization spreading everywhere and a confirmation of the opposition of the unions to the entry of the workers in a massive struggle.
In spite of its first maneuvers of sabotages, the May 1st demonstration, in particular in Paris, was particularly militant and there was a very important participation and very significant of the rising mobilization. Teachers from the "93" - several hundreds – gathered and formed a "guard of honour" on each side of the demonstration shouting the slogan "general strike, public-private" ["public, privé, grève générale !"]. In a certain way, they transformed the May 1st inoffensive demonstration and "traditionally" without real content into one moment of mobilization and unification of the struggle.
Following the long weekend (extra days) of the May 1st to Sunday May 4, one Action day is planified in the National Education (teachers) for Tuesday May 6. The increasing dynamic of struggle among the teachers questions the most militant sectors of the working class so much that various companies of the public sector and even of the private (Alstom) contacted the teachers of the 93 and proposed to demonstrate with them. This same day, the employees of the Bank of France stroke massively and demonstrated on their own. We know that the unions were challenged and criticized to have refused to join the teachers' demonstration.
Nevertheless, the question to join the teachers' struggle on the question of the pensions was openly put and discussed at work places, in the assemblies, which started to spread. Unfortunately, at the Parisian Post office, the dynamic of mobilization was then temporarily broken by the attitude of the unions at the time of the postmen' strike; and that didn't allow this sector, or fractions of this sector, to put itself into struggle at the time of this May 6, nor to even join the demonstration. Nevertheless, the unions' manipulations didn't pass unperceived : it was denounced in General Asemblies and we were informed of a leaflet signed "Postmen on strike…" openly denouncing this local maneuver.
The days which followed, have seen combativeness going up and spreading. The will and the need to struggle with all the sectors developed and were expressed regularly, as well as in General Asemblies, as in the demonstrations whose number and participants multiplied. Here is what has obliged the unions to react, to adapt under penalty of being overflanked : many local unions sections and various sectors (the RATP, namely the Parisian buses and subways) called in their turn to join the day of May 13 general strike and street demonstration. Since then, we know it was the increasing willingness to struggle with all the sectors expressed by the workers which imposed to the local unions to make these calls. They sought to focus the movement on demonstrations to come in order to "calm the immediate ardours" and on "action days" which they organize, control and in which "unity" will be able to express itself only under their control.
Thus, all is focused on May 13. But, in the assemblies, among the railwaymen of the SNCF (trains), in the RATP, in the Post office, in the hospitals, in the "Taxes public service" ["service des impôts" in french], etc. and even in certain private sectors companies [car industry, chemical, technological, etc.] the May 13 stake was clearly posed : to renew the strike everywhere and all together, all sectors mixed, for May 14. Then, there was a true multiplication of deposits of local strike notices by the local unions while at the same time the "confederations", the "trade-unions leaderships", were opposed to it.
This willingness clearly posted and claimed to continue the strike the 14th was expressed as much in province, in Toulouse, Marseille and Lille, in particular. In many provincial towns, the same dynamic towards the united struggle all sectors mixed is expressed, sometimes even more openly than in Paris.
The bourgeoisie wanted to make May 13 a turning point, even a burial of the movement ; the workers decided differently
May 13 confirmed the rise of combativeness and of the struggle. "Between one and two millions demonstrators and massive strikes yesterday against the reform plan of the pensions" runs as a headline Libération, the french newspaper of May 14. Many private sectors came out on strike and were present in the demonstration. Not only the participation in the strike and the demonstrations was massive (in spite of the total stop of Paris transportation), but the contents of this day is "today in the street, tomorrow we renew" [the strike] and still "public-private, general strike until the withdrawal of the Fillon-Chérèque plan" (vi). The general strike was in all minds and all discussions. The unions became aware of it : the same night, at the end of the huge demonstrations, the trade unions, led by the CGT, judging that the date of May 25 was too remote to prevent the starting of the unified struggle, called to a new "Action day, «strong-time»" on Monday May 19 "to build up the struggle" (read "to take control of it"). A new backfire that it was urgent for them to create.
The following day, the strike continued in massive majority among the railwaymen and the Parisian urban transport workers but variable at the Post office (sometimes majority, sometimes minority around 30%). To the workers' hesitations to engage in a long renewable struggle (this question was largely discussed in the general asemblies), the first signs of lassitude were added. The unions announce of May 19 played well its role of backfire and reinforced the hesitation of some (at the Post office for example) to renew the strike the following day. And where the will to renew the strike was clearly posted, the CGT exerted a true pressure during all this 14th of May. Particularly in the railwaymen' assemblies, it used of all the means to impose going back to work in the name of one… unlimited strike beginning June 3 ; according to a witness, it summoned in urgency its local union delegates (the RATP) "to give them a rocket" because they "didn't manage to contain the rank and file" and ordered them "to bet all on June 3"… At that moment the assemblies have been very tumultuous and very tense. Here is what Lutte ouvrière of May 23 reports :
"In many workshops and sectors, the CGT responsibles militated against the strike and posted their opposition by leaflets and declarations at the time of the workers assemblies. May 14 and more still on May 15, the CGT delegates enumerated the sectors which had gone back to work - or rather that they had made go back to work to encourage those who wanted to continue to turn back to work. They argued by noting that, since there were no general strike of the public and private sectors, it was useless to continue the strike (…). On the sector of Paris-Austerlitz, where a good hundred strikers, agents of control, controllers, sedentaries working in the workshops of the depot and with the workshops of Masséna, were decided, even minority, to militate so that the strike extends, the CGT responsibles played without shame the «fireplanes» [planes against fire which are called in french "canadair"]. May 15, around fifty of them left to the boos of the assembly of the railwaymen, after having opposed so that a teacher CGT could speak and after having declared : «We are to stop the strike and thus we've decided to withdraw from this movement»".
During this time, many sectors decided locally to go on strikes (hospital, taxes service) (vii). The strike extended nationally to the whole public Education.
The sabotage of the CGT was obvious for all workers ; the assemblies were tumultuous and very often denounced this sabotage up to the point that the CGT has been obliged to react everywhere : "the CGT is against the government plan against the pensions. Some union organizations, some people want to make believe the workers the opposite while using blackmail, verbal aggressions, even threats during the speeches (viii). With the CGT, we say it clearly : it is intolerable " (the CGT of the Paris Postal workers, the Rag of the CTC n°57 [the union local newspaper], May 2003).
Thursday 15, a new Parisian demonstration of secondary and high school teachers and primary school teachers [now on strike too] was massive and militant : 5 to 10.000 demonstrators in spite of the subways strike. The absence of other sectors to this demonstration - in spite of the presence of many individual workers – was the result of the sabotage of the CGT in the railway, in the RATP (even if the subways were still in strike) and at the Post office ; this sabotage obviously stopped a dynamic of generalized and united struggle which seemed to open up the evening of May 13. And yet even in the course of this demonstration, hundreds of teachers invaded the Post office and an hospital which they met in their march. In this occasion, they invited those who were working there to join them in the demonstration and the struggle.
In spite of the repeated sabotages, the workers combativeness and initiatives are maintaining and developing
After the manifestation of the 15th, the day of May 19 became the only and single concrete term. And that even more since the official news of the CFDT signature to the agreement with the government came to give a new energy to the dynamic of struggle. The assemblies were held on the question of May 19 with the same "debate" that the 14th 's one : to renew the strike or not to renew it the 20th. The perspective for a generalized strike continued to be posed in the General Asemblies which echoed the slogans heard and shouted in the street demonstrations while the unions strove to evacuate this perspective by being deaf to it. However combativeness didn't fall down.
Saturday 17th, the newspapers Libération and Le Monde made large articles on the strikes in the Education sector and on their specific problems. All was set up to make it the sector in struggle as the extremist one ["jusqu'au-boutiste", i.e. up until the end], the sector on which they will seek to focus "the anger of the public opinion", the sector in which the others cannot recognize themselves any more and to which no one wants to unite with. Such was the stake for the bourgeoisie.
Monday 19th which was to be used as a backfire, was organized like an action day of the single "Public sector". Private sector and transport (the SNCF-railway, the RATP-Paris transportation…) were excluded from it. In fact, but according to a superficial sight, the number of strikers is less important than the 13th, even if it remains still considerable. The Parisian demonstration is still massive. Significant processions of health sector and "inland revenue services" [taxes]workers are present. But it is especially the teachers which constitute the majority of the demonstration. Once again, the teachers of the«93» and other colleges placed themselves at the head of the demonstration (ix). They were accompanied by many others without any union badges most of them workers, individually, and who placed themselves at their sides. They were around 3000. At the end of the march, they formed once again the "guard of honour" for the rest of the demonstration shouting the slogan "general strike, public-private". They also called to an open assembly after the demonstration to prepare this "interprofessional strike" of all the sectors. Actually it was a real assembly, a real militant meeting, which has taken place at the end of the demonstration and it was a war of slogans between the CGT processions opposed to the renewable strike and these workers who were real militants of the struggle. In some general assemblies in the following days (within the "Taxe revenue services" for example), this demonstration has been examined under a microscope : they recognized themselves fully in the dynamic developped by the teachers (whose massive delegations were welcome with fervour), they discussed the possibilities of joining them and of supporting them with the certainty that they "will not be able alone to make move back the government".
Even if this demonstration didn't seem to us carrying a dynamic able to oppose and break with the one imposed by the trade unions, these facts were significant of a reality of combativeness and experience that some sectors of the working class were re-appropriating.
Although Tuesday May 20 did not lead to significant strikes which could have crystallized a unification of the combat, we attended a moving situation which saw strikes stopping, and others starting, even many restarting again. There was a true turmoil within the working class. Since the 14th, we often attended numerous local initiatives, inter-sector ones, sometimes led by leftist militants of course, which seemed to break with the past schemas of the "French strikes". There were many contacts between local unions, particularly in province, which had maintained agitations in various sectors. The sabotage of the unions since the end of April, and particularly after the May 13, did not succeed to extinguish the combativeness ; on the contrary, it is often the occasion of discussions and reflexions, among the workers, on the trade unions and their role in the struggle.
In Le Monde of May 18, we learnt that "the CFDT federation of railwaymen signed with the CGT, FO, SUD-rail and the autonomous unions of the FGAAC, a text proposing «to set up a debate on the perspective for a renewable strike from May 26 on»", i.e. after the 25th demonstration. This announcement revealed that the question posed to the unions, up to that date, was still the same one, that they were bringing the same answer since the begining. It came to confirm at the same time the persistence of working class combativeness and, also, the trade-union willingness to close the door to any immediate perspective for any united and generalized struggle. It confirmed therefore the total control of the situation by the unions and their difficulty to extinguish the working class combativeness and initiatives.
This situation of combativeness and seething, but unfortunately without clear perspective, maintained throughout the week from May 19 to May 25.
At the moment when we are writing, the evening of the 25th, the demonstration was of course massive - between 600 000 to 1 million in Paris. Various local or sector strikes (hospital) are announced for tomorrow. The strike in the National Education carries on. May 27 should be "a strong time" with strikes in health, taxes services, airports, Post office, France-Telecom… and a demonstration. Thursday 29 is again an extra-day [a long week-end] and all the unions have called for a renewable strike of the railwaymen of the SNCF and of the RATP's workers from June 3.
It is clear that this last date had been set by the CGT with the hope that the combativeness would then have fallen down in the other sectors. That is not the case. On the other hand, it is difficult to consider, in the immediate future, the possibility that the movement frees from the influence of the unions which, until now, globally preserve their control on the essential decisions, on the timing, thus on the organization of the struggle. Even if we don't exclude completely an event, an initiative, which comes to break this process. And without this break, this mobilization is doomed to fail at least by exhaustion.
If we draw the lessons just taking into account the movement from an immediate point of view, i.e. according to the immediate relation of forces that it founded vis-a-vis the bourgeoisie and according to the results that it obtained compared to the antiworkers measures of the government, we must go to the obviousness : in spite of its massivity and its very significant combativeness, the class movement did not really succeed in opposing an organized and united front which, only, would have made it possible to make move back the bourgeoisie ; indeed the latter, thanks in particular to the work of the trade unions (by their "division" between the "confederations", i.e, the unions leadership, and between the rank and file and the leadership, by their concrete control of the organization of the struggle, by their practice several times renewed of the "backfire", etc), could, until now, globally control the movement ; in spite of the tendency to general seething, it could prevent that "the casserole explodes" while letting escape regularly the vapor.
Satisfying with this immediat analysis cannot carry out, in our opinion, but to a superficial and, finally, distorted understanding of the situation. This movement of struggle, which lasts since more than one month, enabled the working class to make, on several levels, a very significant advances ; and, to a certain extent, it is in rupture with all we have known on the level of the struggles since more than one decade :
- by the importance of workers combativeness as well as by its tendency to be confirmed and to even extend to new sectors despite all the intimidations, the maneuvers and the attempts of sabotage which the bourgeoisie with its trade unions opposed to it ;
- by the extension of the movement to an increasing number of sectors, primarily in the public one but also in the private one; in a considerable measurement, this extension was well understood and assumed by the workers like we saw it through certain "intercategory [i.e. corportation] and intersector General Assemblies ; it happened also in this general assemblies that the union delegates were hooted and repudiated for having wanted to refuse or to silence the workers delegations of the other companies ;
- by the multiplication of the initiatives taken every where by the workers in order to seek to generalize the movement ; initiatives whose nature is specific to the proletariat and which very often opposed the trade-union policy (local demonstrations of overflanking the trade unions were numerous) ;
- by the numerous holding of general assemblies, frequently massive in the enterprises (but also, sometimes, in the streets at the end of the demonstrations), which were the occasion of debates about the control and the perspectives for the struggle, often tumultuous vis-a-vis the trade unions. But they were also the occasion of a rich reflexion, among the workers, on the general situation and its stakes ;
- by the fact that, globally and contrary to what had occurred in particular in December 1995, the bourgeoisie and its trade unions did not but "run" after the movement.
However, the major weakness that the working class has showed in this movement, and which the ruling class has benefited from, is due primarily to its lack of confidence in itself which makes that it never really took in its own hands its own struggles, through its elected and revocable delegates and its own strike committees which organize and put into practice the decisions that it takes in its General Assemblies. Thus it continues to give up this responsibility which is its own, to the trade unions and it leaves them the organisation of the struggle, i.e. the care to sabotage it. It is one of the essential lessons that the workers must draw quickly so that their next struggles fully express their determination, their will and their force.
For us, all these elements state clearly that the working class is engaged in a new dynamic of a struggles revival and that it is leaving the period of retreat which it knows since nearly 15 years. This new dynamic which appears in France and in several other countries of Europe, i.e. in the heart of capitalism, is of course a consequence of the violent aggravation of the economic crisis. But it is especially the working class' response to the policy which the world bourgeoisie carries out to deal with the bankruptcy of its system. What we already said, with the workers struggles in Argentina at the end of the year 2001, is fully confirmed today in France and Europe :
"The events of Argentina, which burst whereas finished this terrible year 2001, answer like an echo to the brutal acceleration of the world situation opened by September 11 and the capitalist militarist outburst to which they gave the signal. In front of the escape ahead towards the war of the world capital in crisis, the struggles in Argentina reveal that this same crisis while deepening, carries in itself, still intact and full of potentialities, another dynamic, another perspective different from the war. And this dynamic is not but the second term of the historical alternative : the development of the working class struggles, that of the conscienciouness radicalization in our class, the proletarian revolution."
With the struggles which are presently engaged in France and in Europe, we can say that the working class starts to give its response to the situation opened up by the capitalist class after September 11, 2001.
Our intervention like "fraction", i.e. like a regrouping of communist militants, obviously was very limited both by our particular situation of excluded fraction and by our weak material forces. On the other hand, our militants daily assumed an intervention and a permanent political presence. At the Post office, in the absence of any preliminary regrouping of workers, of a "struggle committee" for example, and in the urgency, we diffuse a "local" leaflet signed the fraction since April 24 towards the strike of the postmen which begun on April 28. The 30th, we took again the essential elements of this leaflet and we generalized it to the whole working class. It called for the struggle all together, all sectors united. This orientation was fully justified, in our opinion, during the first days which followed the announcement of the government attack against the pensions. During this short period, the strategy of the trade unions consisted in leading some quite selected and well isolated sectors, like the postmen, in the struggle where was starting to be posed in many places the need for a massive and general response. The obvious goal of their call to "large action day" for May 13 (which, "it was promised", was gooing to be followed by several others) was "to cool down" the anger, at least temporarily, of an increasing number of workers and, while waiting, to exhaust the sectors one after the other. Our leaflet wanted to be a response to this quite precise situation within the class. We diffused it at the May 1st demonstration, particularly within the processions of the teachers. It seemed to us that the perspective given by this leaflet remained overall valid up to the May 6 National Education demonstration. At this time, the question of the struggle "all together" is not any more posed in the same terms, all the more since it is taken over and wrongfully realized by the great trade-unions "confederations" with the May 13 general strike and the massive streets demonstrations.
Before, during and after May 13, the question of "the renewed strike in all the sectors" was of course posed every where. There have been then a real battle, a real open opposition between mainly the CGT and the workers. But the real stake which was posed then, after May 13, was the capacity of the working class to assume its decisions and its willingness to struggle, to take in its own hands the leadership of its struggle, of its strikes, against the decisions and the timing which the unions impose. It is in this direction that our militants intervened in the assemblies - obviously also adapting to the local and particular conditions given the diversity of the local situations. On the one hand, they intervened for renewing the strike, where it was possible. But especially, they intervened by concrete proposals on the need for the sovereign and decisional assemblies against the unions sabotage and against their false ground, mainly proposed by SUD, of struggling for the unions unity and "to oblige the confederations" to follow the assemblies decisions. Where the assemblies and the workers remained relatively passive with respect to the timing and the ground imposed by the trade unions, we defended the need for "taking in their own hands" the struggle [i.e. to be active, militant of the struggle and not let the unions decide for them]. Where the assemblies already made decisions, often of strike, and against the sabotage by the unions of these decisions, we pushed the workmen and the assemblies to assume their decisions concretely, for example by the nomination of strike committee.
In a more general way, our fraction will diffuse a leaflet, with the objective to draw the first lessons of the struggle, as soon as it appears that this movement comes to an end. We are convinced that such a document will have all the chances, during the current period, to be well received and well understood by the workers all the more since, according to us, they will resume work, certainly tired, but with intact discontent and anger, even redoubled, and especially worth of an invaluable experience of struggle.
May 31, 2003
i Unfortunatly, we don't have the forces to translate our two leaflets into english. At least for the moment. They are published in french on our french web pages http://members-lycos.fr/bulletincommuniste/ .
ii Since the writing of this text, we know that significant struggles and strikes have taking place in Germany in the metallurgical industry and in Belgium with a 24 hours strike which has fully paralized the traffic railway.
iii The latter have the advantage of working in significant companies in this mobilization (Parisian Taxes State services [sorry for the english translation], transportation, Post Office) and in central places (geographically - Paris -, socially - large workers concentrations -, politically - in particular in the principal postal center of Paris which "gathers" together all the political leftists and trade-union forces).
iv It is not by chance if this sector will be brought to play a "leading and dynamic" role of in the continuation of the movement : a more or less deep contesting of the "traditional" trade unions is sensitive there with, as the same time, increasingly difficult working conditions. Here is in particular what RTL [a French national radio], eminent representing of the bourgeoisie medias in France, said at the time the May 22 demonstration in Paris: "… The LCR [French trostkyst section of the 4th international], the anarchist of the CNT and the militants SUD involve themselves more and more obviously in the processions. Some join the collective 'Collèges in struggle' spontaneously born in the collèges and which gathers many not-unionized teachers of colleges and lycées. Because if 15 years ago, a teacher on 2 was not unionized, they are not any more but 30 to 35 %. From where the risks of overflankings. The trade unions all fear to be overdstepped by the base [the rank and file]. They do not always control the spontaneous movements which characterize the rotating and "go-slow" strikes. Besides it is visible : in the demonstrations, the teachers don't march any more under the banner of their trade unions.The banderoles take the identity of their school, college or lycée. A situation which weakens the trade unions, at the moment when they are the only interlocutors of the government ". ]
v The main french union whose stalinist origin is still alive particularly in terms of violent repression against the workers.
vi Chereque is the name of the CFDT leader who signed the agreement on the pensions. Fillon is the name of the minister in charge of the "pension reform".
May 15, among SUD union delegates,
circulated the following informations :
- Equipment: It is a little the event of this day. Part of the 100 000 agents of this ministry enter on the renewable strike in almost all the areas, this phenomenon must accelerate from Tuesday. In the center of the concerns, pensions, use and future of the missions of the equipment.
- Taxes services: 45 departments touched today by the renewable strike, rate of strike between 25 and 82 % according to places'
- Public Treasury: strike in 25 departments. Intervention of the cops against the strikers in Créteil, strikers who blocked for the second consecutive day the trucks of the post office charged with cheques for the payment of the provisional third. [payment every 4 months of the annual taxe on the income]. The personnel decides to boycott the seizure of the cheques. FO 94 Treasure [local union] fearing confrontation invite to resume work, the CGT is keeping silent, only SUD with Treasury 94 calls to the action.
- the SNCF : strong turmoil within the CFDT [against its leadership] which defends a fast entry in the renewable strike with FO and SUD-Rail [railway], the trapped CGT is torn apart between temporization and waiting June 3 on one hand and on the other the request for action of a number of teams in the services. A resumption of the generalization of the strike around May 26 seems to become clearer."
viii The union concerned is SUD. And among the "people" concerned are our militants. It is at the very least comical to raise that the CGT uses exactly the same terms against us as the "new ICC" does, "blackmail, aggressions, threats".
ix This practice consisting in placing themselves openly in front of the demonstration of the great "trade-union bureaucrats" by facing physically their service of order is not only significant of the determination of the strikers but was inconceivable a little time ago.