The Spark

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

France:
After the Success of June 14th, the Struggle Continues

Jun 20, 2016

This was the editorial in the June 17th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France. The French government run by the Socialist Party is trying to pass the El Khomri law which will eliminate a great part of gains won over the decades by workers. There have been large worker demonstrations of protest for months.

The administration, the bosses and the media don’t let up. They have poured out torrents of slander. They carried out crude blackmail over solidarity with victims of the floods. They used the European soccer games being held in Paris to demand the end of strikes. That didn’t prevent the June 14th demonstrations from being a big success. The strike at the French national railroad continued, the garbage collectors held firm and the Air France pilots made good on their strike threat.

The workers are right. Will the administration and the bosses observe a truce in their offense against us? Obviously not. Then why should the workers make one?

They go on about the image of France and the supposed celebration which the European soccer games are supposed to be. It’s a crude trick. One can be a soccer fan and even a flood victim without wanting to see the abolition of the Labor Code!

Do workers’ rights mean nothing? The soccer games will go on for a month, but we’ll have to suffer the effects of this law for years if it’s adopted. Enough of this blackmail, which is always aimed at workers who are silent and submit.

Workers have sacrificed for years. They must let their hours of work be flexible, work still more, knock themselves out, be ever more put upon. All that, for what? So the stock holders and the CEO’s can put more in their pockets.

President Hollande and Prime Minister Valls carry the entire responsibility for what’s happening. They accuse the opponents of the El Khomri law of being extremists, a minority, irresponsible. But who’s the minority in this affair? Who’s persisting in pushing for this bill that’s massively rejected by the population and almost all workers? As for irresponsibility, it consists in making the conditions of workers go years backwards!

The administration intends to clear up the lack of understanding by instructing us. No worker is deceived. If the bosses can, by agreements at the company level, get rid of rights written into national industry contracts, there will be a worsening of working conditions. If they can lay off more easily, there will be more layoffs and more job insecurity.

The elimination of jobs, the backward moves on working conditions and pay are the reality that millions of workers see. From railroad workers to pilots, from Peugeot auto workers to Michelin tire workers, this offensive takes the exact same form: plans for competitiveness, where workers need to work more, with hours that jump around and cuts in compensation, when it isn’t a question of outright pay cuts as at Air France.

We can’t be silent any more, and we must continue to denounce this umpteenth attack of the administration, as we’ve done for three months. The June 14th demonstration was the occasion to show the massive rejection of the El Khomri law. As long as the opposition continues, nothing is settled.

But what’s at stake in this mobilization goes beyond what happens with this bill alone. The opposition means the recovery of a more widespread discontent, a larger anger against the general offensive of the bosses and of retreat across the whole of society. It is shown in the variety of sectors which have thrown themselves into the mobilization: the youth, public and private sector workers, those of big companies and small and middle sized ones.

It shows the wish of a fraction of the workers to reverse the relation of forces with the bosses. It’s still a question of only a minority. But in workplaces across the country, workers organize, stop work, go on strike and demonstrate. We need to continue in this way, it’s the only way which will permit the workers to be respected!

This is more important for the future. For workers aren’t facing the end of the bosses’ attacks. And if they have the habit of resisting, things will go quite differently.

The administration and the bosses bet that the movement is winding down. Some workers have already gone on strike for eight, 10 or 20 days. Many railroad workers and oil refinery workers have already lost a month of wages in strikes.

So yes, it’s a long drawn out struggle. But the working class has the resources, it has forces in reserve. Let’s show the bosses and their political henchmen that we are denouncing their offensive as on the first day. Let’s show them that we are just as angry and that we don’t accept that the bosses get this law!