Socialist Worker

Workers show power in France

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2603

Part of the demonstration in Paris last week

Part of the demonstration in Paris last week


A week of big marches and strikes in France ended on Sunday in Paris with 160,000 people joining a protest.

It marked a year since Emmanuel Macron won the presidential election, a year which is ending amid continuing battles to block his neoliberal assault.

There were big protests by rail workers, students, teachers and school students on Thursday last week. Over 200,000 workers and students joined marches across France the previous Tuesday, May Day.

Attacks on a McDonald’s and car dealership were used by Macron as an excuse to issue threats of a police crackdown on protesters.

Sunday’s march was organised by left wing MP Francois Ruffin and other former members of the Nuit Debout (Night on our feet) movement of 2016.

It sought to be a focus for unity for all the union federations and political parties. It didn’t wholly succeed, but the idea of going beyond the very significant but ­fragmented resistance seen so far is attractive to many.

Rail workers continue their strikes for two days out of every five. They are battling attacks on their jobs, their rights at work, their pensions and plans for privatisation and line closures.

Threatened

“Not everybody strikes every day, but the general level of participation is still high,” Robert, a rail worker in Marseille, told Socialist Worker.

“We are threatened with very serious attacks, so we can’t compromise. It’s been a long battle—we started on 3 April—but we have to keep going and be part of a wider social movement.

“We are making a particular push to close as many lines as possible this coming Monday. And we’ll be part of all the days of action. But we need a massive blow against Macron.”

Air France workers ended four days of strikes this week over pay. Then, in a big blow against Air France bosses, workers rejected a new pay offer that they were widely expected to accept.

The company’s chief executive officer, Jean-Marc Janaillac, said he would resign in response.

French media reports that “Janaillac, whose voice broke at times as he announced the results, becomes the second CEO in a row at Europe’s biggest airline to be toppled by labour strife”.

Civil service workers and many others in the public sector will strike and march on 22 May. And there is a follow-up to Sunday’s mobilisation on 26 May.

Ruffin told the rally, “On 26 May we have the opportunity to bring together citizen movements, political movements and trade union movements.

“The goal is that in the same way that it overflows today in Paris, that tomorrow it overflows in Besancon, in Perpignan, that it overflows everywhere in the country.”

The many different days of action are all important. But the reality is that Macron has not backed down.

He hopes the movement will grow weary and die down. His popularity is slumping—down now to 40 percent approval—but he can only be stopped by a movement that is both bigger and more radical.

The battle is far from over, but escalation is crucial.


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