The Spark

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

French Railroad Workers:
Determined Strikers!

Apr 30, 2018

This article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers group of that name.

Edouard Philippe, the French Prime Minister, agreed to enter into direct talks with the unions on May 7. This is not the beginning of a retreat, but it is at least a recognition of the government’s inability to stop the railroad workers’ strike movement. After three weeks, this movement remains solid and determined.

The press and the management of SNCF (the French rail company) tried to spread disinformation by talking about the weakening of the movement on April 18. But they mistook their wishes for reality, because the next day of demonstration, according to the SNCF’s own figures, the number of strikers was back up to the level of the previous week.

The 23rd and 24th of April, the next strike days planned according to the union’s calendar of two strike days every five days, the number of strikers remained very high. 63.4 percent of train conductors went out, more than half. At starting time, 27 percent of all the rail workers in the country were on strike, and more than 50 percent in many regions.

The proportion of railway workers involved in the movement is in reality much larger: In many areas, the railway workers chose to only participate on some of the strike days. But these workers feel themselves to be part of the movement and are also strikers.

Another sign of the movement’s vitality: There has been no discouragement after the declarations of Macron, Philippe, or Pepy (high government officials). On the contrary, their lies make the workers indignant. It’s the same with the threats to spin off freight, or to privatize the railways: These threats make it clear to the workers that if the movement is defeated, the attacks will fall on everyone, and very quickly. The workers’ determination to continue the fight remains unshaken and is commensurate to the attack they face.

The government can certainly multiply its declarations and hand-waving, but not the number of trains in circulation ... because it is the workers, and only the workers, who make them move.

For three weeks the railway workers have succeeded in building a movement that poses problems for the government, this ruling council of the capitalist class. First, on the economic plane, because many bosses are hurting: those that have lost customers, others whose employees have been delayed getting to work, and others who lack supplies they get from rail freight. But the problem for the government is also on the political plane: A part of the working class, which exists all over the country, has shown clearly that it is possible to resist.

It is thus vital to maintain and reinforce this mobilization to stand up to these attacks by the bosses.