Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 20, 2010

Report on the French struggle

Filed under: France,workers — louisproyect @ 12:40 am

(Posts from France by Dan K. to the Marxism mailing list.)

I’m exhausted.

I’ve spent the last three days going from road block to road block, together with teachers, railroad workers, truckers, nurses, etc.

So far, in our sector, we’ve managed the feat of keeping the Arnages oil depot totally closed since Friday 4 AM !

As a result, all the petrol stations in a radius of 70 kms are closed, completely out of gas.

I slept 4 hours on Friday night, 6 hours on Saturday, 2 on Monday … Today, we got the main Teachers’ Union to call on all striking teachers to come and help block all the remaining fuel depots.

The police can’t intervene, because the truckers have established road blocks on the major roads leading to the oil depot.

What is incredible is that despite the fact that there is no more oil available, and therefore that people are blocked at home, a resounding 71% of the population approves of the strike (according to today’s opinion polls).

The movement is set to last at least another week. I spent the whole of Sunday night with transport (railway and truckers) workers playing cards and drinking beer. It was quite cold (2°C) around 4 AM, but the railroad workers brought several truck-loads of “palettes” (empty wooden containers) and we lit a might bonfire.

Striking workers from the neighbouring  Renault factory brought firecrackers and we spent the wee hours of the morning lighting them.

Workers are determined to fight until the bitter end. Workers who chose not to go on strike are being encouraged to donate part of their salary to the workers of the most “strategic” sectors, especialy the Donges raffinery.

Personally, this is my 6th day of Strike. An open-ended strike that might not be the best way of going about things, the consensus now being that “revolving” strikes (15% of the workforce on strike on a given day) would enable us to hold out longer.

The support from “ordinary people” is astounding. When we block a freeway, drivers often honk to support us, give us money, hand us daily newspapers, even though we are effectively blocking them.

I’ve decided to stay on strike for a further three days but to spend more time with my family, which is also what the union is advocating. Some comrades have spent 4 days without going home and the union is worried this may cause trouble with spouses,who are forced to look after the kids, which would further undermine our resolve.

All 12 French oil refineries are on strike until next Friday. Many depots are blocked. Half the trains in France are blocked (including in major railroad nodes).

Truckers have blocked the roads leading to the main production areas, and factories cannot function because they lack raw material and pieces (they don’t have any stocks of materials stored because they believe storage costs money).

Anyway, the mood is indescribable. Workers from every sector are united and determined, and for the first time, many workers can chat with people employed in other industries knowing that they share a common goal.

The only problem is, it will be hard, very hard to go back to work. But thanks to the government, people are prepared to remain on strike until next week. Then we’ll see.

It’s a general strike and a lot of ordinary workers I’ve talked to are determined not to resume work until the retirement age is brought back to 60.

Some problems remain, even though A LOT, a great, great deal, has been accomplished since last Tuesday.

1) The strike is now indefinite

2) The union membership is demanding support from the union bureaucracy which is forced to yield

3) Public opinion overwhelmingly supports the strike

4) The economic impact of the blockade is being increasingly felt by the bosses, who are now uncertain whether to follow the government or call for a truce.

5) the strike has bread true comradeship between workers of very different sectors, and the blur/white-collar worker gap is slowly being bridged.

6) despite the loss of wages, the determination of workers is still extremely strong, BECAUSE they can actually see that although they are loosing money, so are the bosses.

negative points :

1) the government has declared a state of emergency and is threatening to impose prison sentences on “those who seek to destroy the country”. Of course, nobody takes those threats seriously, but still…

2) agents provocateurs are burning down public buildings and then blaming this on strikers.

3) the government is trying to appear as “the restorer of order” and is increasingly accusing the unions of “undemocratic behaviour, because picket lines prevent those who wish to go to work from doing so”.

4) tensions are rising between the union rank and file and the union leadership. There are rumours that the leadership is ready for a “sell-out”.

5) left-wing political parties are telling people that going on strike is well and good, but voting for a “socialist” candidate in the 2012 presidential election is the only way forward. Yeah ! A “socialist” government, just like in Greece !

I’ve lost a fourth of my monthly salary so far, have had my car window smashed by people unknown, but am feeling very happy by the way ordinary people have decided enough was enough.

I suppose I should get ready for a rude awakening.

12 Comments »

  1. Very good report. The personal aspect puts a face to the struggle.

    Regards

    Comment by Renegade Eye — October 20, 2010 @ 1:06 am

  2. No wonder the right wing in the USA despises French people.

    They not only didn’t buy into the Iraq war but they know how to shut that mofo down when they’re livlihoods are threatened with IMF & World bank austerity measures.

    We abroad welcome your bold & self-sacrificing example.

    We here in the belly of the beast shout out our warmest comradely regards from America to the 2010 French General Strike.

    Heads Must Roll!

    A century and a half after Marx there’s still no better axiom for the future of this godforsaken planet than: “Workers of the World Unite!”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 20, 2010 @ 1:28 am

  3. This is all tremendously inspiring. It would be good to know how we (outside France) can support the strikers.

    Comment by Micah — October 20, 2010 @ 1:33 am

  4. Just shows the total power of a united working class.

    Comment by purple — October 20, 2010 @ 4:30 am

  5. This strike truly shows the difference between the strength of the French working class and the British working class. In france the retirement age is raised from 60 to 62 and there is a general strike, here in the UK the retirement age is raised from 65 to 67 and there is little more than a shrug of helpless acceptance. Hopefully the French struggle will encourage strikes throughout Europe in the coming months and years.

    Comment by George — October 20, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  6. [“This strike truly shows the difference between the strength of the French working class and the British working class.”]

    It all begins with a history of chopping the heads off aristocrats and kicking their skulls down boulevards that run red with the kruvy of parasites.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 20, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  7. Brilliant example set by the workers and students of France (isn’t it nice to be able to say such a thing with a straight face for a change… no “mass meetings” with 20 people and stuff here).

    Comment by christian h. — October 20, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  8. […] report on the French struggle from Louis Proyect (via Pink Scare) This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink. ← Queers are […]

    Pingback by “Jealous of the French” | The Fourth Dimension — October 20, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  9. The best way to help the French is to do the same damn thing here, regardless of which capitalist lackey is sitting in the White House! Afterall, sit-down is an American word!

    Comment by MN Roy — October 20, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  10. The BBC’s Christian Fraser says the French government has authorised the use of a special intervention force to deal with protesters blocking fuel depots

    French strikers have tightened fuel blockades, hours after security forces began clearing protesters from depots.

    Comment by purple — October 20, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

  11. We are following your struggle with all our hearts. Good luck to all of you. Working people of all countries, unite!

    Comment by dave — October 20, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

  12. Grandpuits (near Paris) is one of the twelve French raffineries. All are still on strike. These strikes are very important for the present struggle (because they are really impacting on the daily life of people) so they must continue if we are to win against the governement.

    The governement is demanding by requisition the workers at Grandpuits reopen the raffinery. The legal struggle is unfolding.

    Here is one way to help (by donation) those workers :

    http://www.raffineriegrandpuits.fr/

    Please tell me if you have any question.

    I would appreciate to learn what are the most important websites (in terms of readers, etc.) to post about this issue.

    United.

    Comment by Yann — October 24, 2010 @ 1:20 pm


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