French workers press forward as Stalinists retreat

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MASS meetings of rail and transport workers were voting in France yesterday to continue their strike actions in defence of pensions.

The RATP urban transport workers of Paris had earlier voted at nearly all their workplaces to stay out on strike today.

SNCF railworkers at Paris Nord, Marseilles, Nantes and Bordeaux have also voted to continue and it is expected that in the other regions workers will make the same decision.

At Lille, on Thursday morning, trains were delayed due to the railworkers blocking up the points and tracks, causing an intervention by the ‘forces of order’, the CRS.

There was massive disruption to the transport system and the Paris region again was hit by 300 kilometres of traffic jams.

The working class is making it very clear that this is a fight to a finish to defend its pensions, jobs and basic rights from the onslaught by the Sarkozy regime.

In this battle the working class youth and student youth are 100 per cent with them.

Forty-one out of 85 French universities are being occupied or picketed in the ongoing fight against the privatisation law to reform the universities à la Sarkozy.

Lille III, Paris VIII and Toulouse II are totally blockaded and seven others have been closed by the university authorities to avoid confrontation.

Fifty students occupying Rennes II were raided by the police and thrown out after having their identities checked at 2.00am yesterday morning.

Six students who occupied the rail tracks and delayed trains in support of the railworkers strike at Rouen were arrested and will appear before the correctional tribunal in February; the CRS cleared the other demonstrating students from the station.

Yesterday afternoon, leaders of the students unions were due to meet the Minister of Higher Education and Research, Valerie Pecresse – whose law on university autonomy is one of the main causes of the present student occupations revolt.

Rank and file student bodies, who are leading the struggle on the campuses, have not been invited to meet the minister.

The role of the Stalinist CGT trade union federation leadership is the opposite to this massive movement forward of the working class and the youth.

To show ‘good will’ towards the Sarkozy regime they have agreed to negotiate the pensions issue enterprise by enterprise, rather than as a national issue facing the entire public sector.

This dangerous retreat is now being hotly debated and condemned on picket lines and at mass meetings all over France.

The government side has said that any negotiations will be given a timeframe of a month, and then the government will decide and publish the rules and regulations for the new pension schemes.

Yesterday morning, government spokesman David Martinon – currently being groomed by Sarkozy as his successor – said that they were prepared to discuss all aspects of the pension proposals but the increase in the number of years of contributions from 37.5 to 40 was a ‘red line’ for the government.

However, strike action is now spreading throughout Europe.

In Germany the biggest rail strike ever is currently taking place.

Banned by the courts in the summer, the action has returned with a vengeance and yesterday drivers extended the action to include passenger trains alongside freight trains. They are striking for wage increases which will put them on a level with other European train drivers.

Everywhere in Europe the working class is on the march, and everywhere its social democratic and Stalinist leaders are seeking to hold it back, as a prelude to betraying it.

There is a huge crisis of leadership in the working class movement.

This must be resolved through the building of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International all over Europe, to lead the working class forward to socialist revolutions to replace the crisis-wracked capitalist system with a Socialist United States of Europe.