The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

A Scandalous Sentence

Feb 1, 2016

This article is translated from the January 15th, 2016 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Two years after the fact, the correctional tribunal of Amiens has sentenced eight former Goodyear workers from the city to twenty-four months in prison, including nine months without the possibility of parole. They were on trial for having held the production supervisor and the human resources director in the factory for thirty hours on January 6-7 of 2014. On the 6th, the two executives had held a meeting to announce the upcoming closure of the tire factory and the loss of a livelihood for the company’s 1,143 workers—and therefore also for the many other workers who depended on the plant’s operations.

Today, the majority of the Goodyear workers have not found jobs again. But this violence is something that the government and the justice system refuse to condemn.

What they do judge to be criminal is to have held overnight on the premises of the factory those managers who made the cynical announcement that the workers would be thrown out into the street after having kept them going for years with promises. The workers who were sentenced to prison said that: “Those responsible for the loss of thousands of jobs have not been put on trial.”

What’s more is that the two executives had long since declined to press charges, and the Goodyear bosses themselves withdrew their complaint as part of the agreement they signed with the unions to end the conflict. It is the public prosecutor—and behind him the government—who has decided to keep pushing the case in search of harsh sentences. The prosecutor of Amiens had set out his arguments, pretending not to “tolerate, under the rule of law, even in a difficult social context,” that the workers “take justice into their own hands.”

Two years ago, at the time of these events, the leader of the local CGT union Mickael Wamen denounced, “the array of government powers at the disposal of Goodyear.” The riot police cracked down on the demonstrations at the same time that the politicians made false promises to keep the workers from taking action. Arnaud Montebourg had made a promise in the factory’s parking lot to “ban layoffs caused by the stock market” before the presidential elections, but after he became Minister of Industrial Renewal, he urged both the workers making a fight and their CGT union to “water down their wine,” and back down. The local Socialist Party politicians, journalists, and other union leaders had denounced the local section of the CGT for years, placing the responsibility for the layoffs on its shoulders because of how “inflexible” it had been.

In reality, it is the years of struggle by these 1,143 workers that the government hopes to punish heavily with this trial—an energetic and unrelenting struggle on the part of almost the entire workforce. Since 2007, the bosses had tried in vain to impose a reorganization of production and layoffs. A series of eruptions of anger and sporadic strikes that encompassed nearly all of the workers had forced the bosses to cautiously back off each time. After the announcement of the plant closure, the workers’ actions increased. Their will not to lower their heads in the face of layoffs made an impression on workers in the region and beyond. This is what the bosses, using the government as a front, want to make eight Goodyear workers pay for.