Socialist Worker

Strikes and blockades in France show how to win

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2505

Protesters march against the new Work law

Protesters march against the new Work law (Pic: Photothèque Rouge/JMB)

Petrol shortages gripped parts of France at the beginning of this week as the movement against the Labour-type government’s attacks moved to “shut down the economy”.

The Work Law increases working hours and gives bosses more power to sack workers.

Road blocks have cut off refineries, ports, distribution hubs and industrial estates since Tuesday of last week. At the same time, unions made an effort to turn generalised strike calls into shutdowns of key workplaces.

After cops cleared several key roads, refinery workers held meetings and voted to strike—shutting them down from within.

One in ten petrol stations had run dry by Sunday. The shortage is severe in the north and west and even affects the capital Paris.

Valentine Roberts, a student in the New Anticapitalist Party in Rennes, told Socialist Worker, “Every morning cars leave to support the blockade of a refinery.

“We think the politicians and bosses are on the same side, and they won’t listen to us until we hit them in the wallet.

“This movement started with students who weren’t able to do this on our own. Now unions’ calls to shut down the economy have given it life.”


Hauliers were the first to begin an indefinite strike. Within days the government backed down on plans to slash their overtime pay, but this didn’t end their walkout.

Protesting in Paris against the law

Protesting in Paris against the law (Pic: Force Ouvrière)

Rail workers and others stepped up their strikes this week.

Isidore Ducasse joined an occupation of a railway line in the small city of Poitiers.

He said, “The train station was cut off for an hour and a half. It really surprised the police since there was a demonstration nearby at the same time.

“I was pleasantly surprised too—before now the movement hasn’t been as strong here.”

Two nationwide days of action last week reversed six weeks of declining turnouts, reaching a new high.

Some 100,000 people marched in Paris alone. The next day of action was set for Thursday.


Entertainment workers fighting to defend their social security scheme are occupying high profile theatres.

The “Nuit Debout”—Night on our feet—movement launched out of mass meetings in city squares last month has fed into the direct actions.

Police were sent to attack the blockades. Valentine said, “We went to join the lorry drivers blocking the bypass on Thursday of last week.

“Police ran towards us, and finally drove us out with their truncheons.

“I was hit several times for helping a woman over a barrier. My friend’s face was covered in blood after a man next to her had his head split open.”

The stakes are high for the government.

Each concession has failed to stem the revolt—and hardened opposition on the right in parliament.

Prime minister Manuel Valls insists he will clear the blockades.

The repression has limited the numbers joining the action—and provoked fierce debates among those who do.

But if the movement succeeds in spreading its shutdown it could beat back the attack and set an example to workers across Europe.

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