France - pushing beyond the one day strikes


On three occasions in the last 6 weeks, over 3 million have marched against the government’s pension reforms in France, which are opposed by 70% of the population. The government, however, is determined to impose the changes. If we are to defeat the government and the architects behind these reforms, we will have to engage in real strike action. As the law is about to be passed in the Senate, renewed industrial action must be considered in all professional sectors. The renewal of the strike after October 12 is on the agenda in many areas: the railways, urban transport, chemical industries, ports, EDF, local authorities, education, culture and many more.

However, a serious failing of the movement has emerged. The directions of some union and parties, who are still hoping to amend the bill, are inhibiting the radicalization of the movement. The strategy of "action days" is one method of applying pressure but to force the total removal of the pension reforms, it is necessary for all the national unions to push beyond single days of action and to engage in prolonged strikes.

The general strike is up to us to build. It is futile to expect a call for general strike by the union leadership. It is futile to wait for the Socialist Party remove the law in 2012, when it agrees with the substance of pension reform. It is futile to hope that  only mobilisations of students, or railway workers or any one sector at a time will be enough to win.

It is by organizing massive general meetings in our workplaces that we will encourage our colleagues to engage in the strike. It is in these mass meetings that we can build the general strike. Because the strike will take time to have an effect it will be crucial to break the isolation between professional sectors by taking advantage of the walkouts to visit services and businesses, organizing coordination of between strikers, organizing and solidarity with the workers, including the establishment of strike funds.

Moreover, we must empower employees in sectors which are less organised: temporary workers, the unemployed, youth, retirees and engage in action, for example by organizing disruption of transport, communications and the economy. Such initiatives have already appeared in  various locations: they just need to multiply.

Taking the offensive!

The strength of such strikes will depend on the strength of the mobilization. We demand the withdrawal of the attack on pensions, but beyond that, what else? The status quo? Should we place our faith in a supposedly left-wing government, which is likely be win the elections in 2012, and pray that it will do away with these reforms? No! No! We must smash this attack now!

The government and the elite are making us the price of the financial crisis by lowering our wages, expanding unemployment and job insecurity. Pensions are only the tip of the iceberg, and it could be the the straw that breaks the camel's back. Sarkozy tries to blame immigrants, women and youth in particular for the failure of capitalism. We have to transform this reactionary outlook through confrontation with power and demand wage increases, reduction of working time and employment of unemployed.

WORDS:Alternative Libertaire, translated via google translate and modified for an Irish context