The Spark

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

An Attack on Railroad Workers is an Attack on All Workers

Mar 19, 2018

This article the translation of an editorial from workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The so-called Spinetta report recommends transforming SNCF, France’s state-run national railroad, into a limited liability company; closing down “secondary lines;” opening up to competitors; doing away with current working conditions of railroad employees; and slashing five thousand jobs. In other words, this report is laying the groundwork for the accelerated privatization of SNCF and the destruction of railroad employee rights.

This is an outright declaration of war, to which the CGT, France’s major union confederation, replied by calling for a day of protest on March 22.

Railroad employees have every reason to fight back, and so do all French workers. The government is proudly boasting about the economic recovery and the return of prosperity. No worker should accept seeing his working and living conditions getting worse. No worker should accept being treated like a chip in a poker game.

This is the government’s latest attack not only on railway workers but on all workers. Macron is intent on bringing railway workers – and the whole working class – into line. His aim is clear: Let’s not forget that he announced 120,000 job cuts in the public sector just a few weeks ago.

Apart from being an attack against all working people, privatizing SNCF and opening up railway transport to competition would be a huge setback for society.

Those who take the train on a regular basis are well aware of the consequences that the lack of investment already has on the railway system.

Many trains are slowed down or cancelled, others arrive late due to various technical problems. Millions of travelers experience these inconveniences ... or worse.

Those who explain that privatization will make things better for the public are telling flat-out lies.

A number of financiers are interested in the state’s decision to open up SNCF to competition. They are accustomed to seeing the state cater to them. They expect to lay their hands on SNCF’s infrastructures, materials and employees at a low cost. Their only problem will be to choose the most profitable parts!

SNCF has for years been acting like any private sector enterprise. Railway workers are submitted to the same productivity-oriented pressure as the rest of the working class. Travelers are confronted with exorbitant prices during peak periods and with the closing down of trains and lines that are deemed unprofitable.

Today’s government wants to take this situation one step further by opening up new opportunities to private capital.

In the name of profit, the government is pushing more and more people to the edges of society. This approach leads slowly but surely to a system in which the age of the patient – or the content of his wallet – decides whether he will get an artificial hip joint or not, a system where social security will not cover expensive treatments and where access to a university education is restricted.

Whether in hospitals, retirement homes or on the railroads, making profits is the priority. And yet accepting the parasitic nature of capital is contrary to the interests of workers and consumers.

In the battle they’ve decided to fight against the government, we stand on the side of the railway workers against Macron and the bourgeoisie.