OVER a million French civil servants went on strike yesterday, joining the hundreds of thousands of railworkers, busworkers and gas and electricity workers who began their strike last week.
Postal workers, teachers, air traffic controllers and hospital staff walked out in a 24-hour strike over pay and job cuts, imposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing Gaullist government. The purchasing power of their salaries has been cut and they face 23,000 job cuts, half in the education sector.
Schools were closed, hospitals were providing emergency cover only, newspapers were not being delivered, flights from Paris and Marseilles were cancelled or delayed and there were only a handful of trains and buses.
SNCF and Metro railworkers and RATP busworkers have been on strike for a week and workers at the state-owned electricity and gas services company EDF-GDF began their third 24-hour strike on Monday night. They are fighting to defend their pensions against savage cuts imposed by Sarkozy’s regime.
On Monday, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said: ‘The government will not cede on its reform principles’, a point reiterated by Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand who has insisted that the ‘special regimes’ covering rail and power workers’ pensions have to go.
At local meetings of railworkers they voted by 245 to five in Strasbourg, 181 to six in Marseilles and 97 to five in Bordeaux to continue their indefinite strike.
University and Lycée (high school) students have also joined the strike wave, in protest at the government’s plans for university autonomy that will hit poorer students. The national student coordination committee organising the campaign against the proposed university autonomy law have called for a day of action tomorrow, with strikes and demonstrations.
As more and more sections of workers and youth are joining the action and, as the votes at rail depots show, the determination of workers to defend their jobs, pay and pensions is increasing day by day, the trade union leaders are coming to the assistance of Sarkozy, offering to make a sell-out deal.
The Stalinist leadership of the CGT trade union federation is leading the pack. Last week, Bernard Thibault, the Secretary General of the CGT met Bertrand, calling for tripartite talks of the government, unions and employers to negotiate the ‘reform’ of ‘special pensions’.
This policy was adopted by the SNCF rail union leaders and those at the RATP Metro and bus services at the beginning of the week, when they announced that they will be negotiating with management of SNCF and RATP, in the presence of a government representative.
The fact that government representatives will be at the talks was hailed as a great victory in the French Communist Party’s daily paper, L’Humanité, yesterday.
In the midst of this huge strike wave and mass demonstrations against the government’s Thatcherite ‘reform’ of the public services, the President has been noticeable by his absence, hiding from the media and issuing no press statements on the strikes.
It is at this point, when the Gaullist regime is confronting its biggest crisis since Sarkozy became President in May this year, that the Stalinists are coming to his assistance.
They are playing the same counter-revolutionary role as they did in 1995, when they called off mass strikes against Prime Minister Alain Juppé’s attacks on social security and when they betrayed the revolution and rescued President Charles de Gaulle, ensuring the survival of the Bonapartist Fifth Republic in 1968.
It is clear to millions of French workers and youth today that they have unfinished business – to resolve the issues that brought millions out on strike and onto the streets in the spring of 2006 against the youth cheap-labour law (CPE) and those unresolved when the Stalinists sold out the public sector general strike in 1995.
Under these conditions, the most vital task confronting those hundreds of thousands of workers, students and youth taking action is the building of a new revolutionary leadership, a French section of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International, to defeat the Stalinists in the workers’ movement.
The French working class faces going forward to the organisation of an all-out, indefinite general strike to defend their past gains, bring down the Sarkozy regime, scrap the Fifth Republic, and go forward to a workers’ government and a Socialist Republic of France.
This will deliver a decisive blow against European capitalism and be a huge step towards establishing a Socialist United States of Europe.