Class Struggles Sharpen In France

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Postal workers in the Paris region are on an open-ended strike starting Monday, September 21, against the closure of 185 Paris post offices and 140 jobs cuts.

On Tuesday there was a national strike against the proposed change in the constitution of La Poste in January 2010.

The change will ultimately permit the investment of private capital and then privatisation will naturally follow.

The government claims that the postal service will remain 100 per cent public, while the changes are necessary to comply with EU competition rules.

In 1994, Nicolas Sarkozy, the then minister for the economy and finance said: ‘There will be no privatisation of Electricity de France and Gaz de France, that’s clear, simple and complete.’

He also said that their transformation into public companies would not lead to privatisation.

Today both are quoted on the stock exchange.

La Poste’s management are following a slash and burn cuts policy.

Since January 509 post offices have been closed and replaced either as downgraded local agencies or with a minimal service run by shopkeepers alongside their normal business.

Large areas of the country are at risk of becoming postal deserts as far as full-scale provision is concerned.

Seven thousand jobs were cut in 2008 and one postal worker in every three who leave is not being replaced.

Fifty thousand jobs have gone since 2002, and between 2010-2012 20 to 30 per cent more are targeted.

The Associations for the Defence of La Poste (unions, political parties and local support groups) are organising a nationwide ‘citizens’ vote’ on the proposed privatisation – between September 28th and October 3rd.

• On Tuesday police moved into the area known as the ‘Jungle’ at Calais where refugees desperate to reach the UK had set up encampments following the shutting down of the Sangatte Centre.

The police dragged the ‘illegal’ immigrants away for questioning and possible deportation for those older than eighteen years of age.

Many of those rounded up were from Afghanistan.

Despite protests from members of local associations who help the refugees with voluntary welfare contributions, the state forces proceeded to bulldoze the area’s makeshift dwellings.

• The spectacular actions of the independent milk producers continue with millions of litres of milk being sprayed over fields, thrown into rivers or given away free in local market places by farmers who say they have nothing to lose as the price they’re paid per litre is less than the cost of its production.

Saturday, September 19, saw a joint demonstration of German and French producers at Strasbourg, where they met on the River Rhine frontier bridge, Pont de Kehl, and poured large pots of milk into the river as well as into a neighbouring field.

They marched behind a tractor which held high a large placard with the slogan ‘Unsere Milch ist Revolution’ – Our Milk is Revolution.

At Saint-Etienne on Monday, the producers’ demonstration was met with a strong presence of CRS riot police.

The determined farmers treated them to a torrent of milk sprayed from giant tankers.

At Clermont Ferrand, Tuesday, September 22, angry producers removed hundreds of road signs.

Hit by falling consumption of milk products due to the economic crisis, production companies (milk, cheese, yoghurts etc) are driving down the price paid to the farmers; at the same time the EU is organising the implementation of a no-holds-barred Europewide free-for-all in the milk market.

The independent milk producers are being ruined; hence their desperate measures to save their livelihoods.

At present they are paid between 240 and 270 euros per 1,000 litres of milk.

They say they need minimum prices of between 350 and 400 euros to just cover costs and make a living.

• Alcatel, Lannion (Côtes-d’Armor) workers demonstrated on Thursday, September 17, against the cutting or transfer of two hundred jobs at their factory.

Afterwards five hundred went to the beach at Beg-Léguer where they dug to expose the transatlantic cable, Apollo.

The 12,300km fibre-optic cable carries communications between Europe and the east coast of the USA and its terminal is handled by Alcatel.

The workers carried out the ‘symbolic’ operation to show the ‘fragility of the network’.

• The creation of a Grand Paris police force, a pet project of President Nicolas Sarkozy, was enacted on Monday, September 14.

In the face of the unrest amongst the youth of the capital, its disaffected banlieue housing estates hit by unemployment, and the regular rebellion of school students against government policy, not to mention the mass demonstrations of trade unionists against the Sarkozy government’s across-the-board attacks on jobs and social gains, the state is beefing up its forces of repression.

The new force will cover the capital’s 6.4 million inhabitants and its three départements, and have none of the inter-jurisdictional problems of the previous police forces, now being able to intervene anywhere across the capital.

Meanwhile evoking dark memories of the years of the Nazi occupation and the Vichy régime, the police chief of Essonne has made available an address to which letters of denunciation can be sent by anonymous informers.

The move is meant to counter the population’s reluctance, particularly in the working class areas, to grass on its neighbours.