Socialist Worker

Day of massive strikes planned in France

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2600

Workers on the 22 March demonstrations. Their banner reads “Don’t break workers’ rights”

Workers on the 22 March demonstrations. Their banner reads “Don’t break workers’ rights” (Pic: Phototheque Rouge)

The seven French trade union federations that called the massive day of public sector strikes and demonstrations on 22 March have called for another day of general action on 22 May.

Strikes are planned by rail, air and maritime transport workers, every level of education from nurseries to universities, postal workers, firefighters, health workers, electricity and gas workers, refuse workers and many more.

There will be demonstrations across France.

“It’s good to have a day we can work towards. It’s our class against Macron, it’s saying that that what’s happening now isn’t just a rail strike or a refuse workers’ strike—it’s a big movement against a government that hits everyone,” rail worker Yves from Paris told Socialist Worker.

“But it’s a real problem that it’s not for a month”, he added.

“We have another 16 rail strike days before 22 May. It can feel a lonely battle if others don’t join us quickly.”

The CGT federation has called a general day of action on 19 April, but this is not certain to be the escalation that’s needed.

There is a boiling political atmosphere in France. Macron’s entire strategy is on the line. Big and continuing strikes are mixing with revolt by students against changes that would make it harder to access education.

But the unions are half-hearted in their attempts to spread the resistance.

And the second biggest federation, the CFDT, is not backing 22 May.

There’s no doubting the wide public support for the strikes.

A fund set up to support striking rail workers has raised nearly £500,000 in just over two weeks.

Organise

“When I was young, we used to organise collections for local workers on strike,” said Jean-Marc Salmon, a sociologist who launched the fund drive. “I simply wanted to rehabilitate this practice using the internet.”

When the media talks to passengers, they often find strike supporters.

"I completely agree with the rail workers and the reasons behind what they're doing," Hamet Sylla, whose train from Gare du Nord station had been delayed for five hours, told The Local website. 

"It's absolutely vital to protect your rights and keep on fighting those trying to take them away. And the disruption to our day might be annoying but this is part of living in a society where you have the right to protect yourself."

Meanwhile the battle is sharpening among students.

On Tuesday the president (equivalent of vice-chancellor) of the University of Nanterre reacted to repeated student mobilisations by closing the college, cancelling all lectures and bringing in the police.

At 3pm, the CRS riot police burst into a “general assembly” of students and staff and arrested seven people.

There have now been police interventions in Nantes, Bordeaux, Paris, Lille, Caen, Dijon, Grenoble, and Strasbourg.

The CGT said it, “strongly condemns the intimidation and physical violence that students and staff have had to endure on different campuses while legitimately defending their ideas, their demands, their future. Police violence, repression of protest, and physical coercion, have no place in the university.”

The revolutionary socialist NPA party says, “The government does not understand that police and military interventions show millions of young people and employees the true face of its policy: that of total aggression against the working classes. It is time for everyone to move against Macron and his world.”

Macron can be defeated. But the struggle has to unite and escalate.


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