YESTERDAY, the French railworkers’ trade unions began their indefinite strike action, to defeat the attempts of the Sarkozy regime to destroy their pension agreements, by raising the retirement age, first to 60 and then to 65, adding 10 years onto the working life of French public sector workers.
Sarkozy maintains that this is a fight that he is determined to win, that there will be no compromise, and that the public sector workers will be defeated, as the first step in driving back the whole of the French working class and the youth.
This struggle is therefore strategic, and not episodic.
It has been provoked by Sarkozy and comes at the same time as the regime is seeking to privatise university education, and follows on the regime’s attacks on immigrant workers, and Chirac’s attempts to turn millions of French youth into cheap labourers who could be sacked at a moment’s notice.
Naturally, all those sections of the working class and the youth who have been attacked, or are under attack, are lining up behind the railworkers.
Paris was stopped yesterday with rail, metro and bus services halted. Gas and electricity workers joined the action to defend pensions as did the artists of the Paris Opera and the Comedie Francaise whose pensions are also under attack.
At Nanterre university, a centre of the May-June 1968 uprising, students blockading an entrance were assaulted by the state’s riot police, the CRS, the Garde Mobile and the Gendarmerie.
At the Sorbonne students voted for an occupation but found that the CRS had already been called to take control of the entrances.
Twenty-five universities across France have been occupied by the students, while the CRS has been moved into the Paris suburbs in force to try to prevent a youth uprising of the type that broke out in November 2005, in support of the railworkers.
Sarkozy is hated by the French workers, the students and the mass of youth.
The classes are now polarised, with nothing left to do but fight the issue out to a finish.
Defeating Sarkozy’s counter-revolutionary plans, which are a product of the world crisis of the capitalist system, will require a general strike to bring down his regime, and its development into a socialist revolution to bring down the Fifth Republic and go forward to a French Socialist Republic.
That the French workers and youth are more than capable of carrying out this task is obvious.
That Sarkozy realises the dangers of the situation is also obvious.
Therefore he is already moving on the first day of the mass action to try to split and divide the trade unions.
Xavier Bertrand, the Minister of Labour, has said that he is delighted that after engaging for two hours in talks with Bernard Thibault, the secretary general of the Stalinist led CGT trade union federation, the CGT wants tripartite talks between the employers, unions and state representatives to begin negotiations on the ‘reform’ of the ‘special pensions’.
Thibault is said to have volunteered to the Labour Minister that the strike’s duration could be shortened if the government provided room for manoeuvre. Stalinism remains a counter-revolutionary force.
Prime Minister Fillon responded to this spirit of compromise by instructing the Minister of Labour to immediately contact the leaders of the other trade unions.
However, as far as workers are concerned there is nothing to negotiate about – they will accept no rotten compromise over their pension rights.
The essence of the situation is that since French capitalism can no longer afford workers their pensions, it is capitalism that must go, and not the pensions that workers have won.
Accordingly, a new and revolutionary leadership must be built in the French trade unions and amongst the youth. This means forming and building a French section of the International Committee of the Fourth International that will lead this struggle forward to an indefinite general strike, and a socialist revolution, to bring down the Fifth Republic and go forward to a Socialist Republic.