The Spark

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

France:
Workers strikes and demonstrations on March 10 and the aftermath

Mar 21, 2005

On Thursday, March 10 there were strikes and demonstrations throughout France. This day of protest called by the three main union federations challenged the government's attempts to lengthen the work week and demanded higher wages. According to the police, 570,000 workers demonstrated throughout France. The press said there were 150,000 workers in a march in Paris, including large numbers of metal workers. The strikes affected the subways, commuter trains and the national railway network. There were postal workers, teachers, electric power and hospital workers on strike. There were thousands of work stoppages of various lengths in the private sector, especially at car-maker Renault, at Nestlé, at the rubber company Michelin, and the oil companies BP and Total.

The following is a translation of the editorial from the March 18 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), published by the French revolutionary workers organization of that name.

After the success of March 10: Extend the struggles

Acknowledging the success of the day of demonstrations and strikes of March 10, Prime Minister Raffarin proposed, "the opening of negotiations in the civil service." In the private sector: "a revival of participation and profit sharing by the workers," "sharing the fruits of growth."

But the workers won't be content with hollow words, for the demonstrations of March 10 expressed a real and profound discontent. For years "sharing the fruits of growth" meant the bosses and stockholders got everything, the workers got nothing. Worse: Gigantic profits, which the bosses of the big companies brag about to their stockholders, are made on the backs of the workers by a worsening exploitation. Workers feel it in their muscles, in their nerves, by the decline in their health, by the fatigue of days that are too long. They also see it when looking at their pay checks. If profits are up, it is because the bosses more and more crush the world of labor, because wages are too low, even when a worker has a stable job; because the hours of work have been made flexible and are imposed at the convenience of market fluctuations; because stable jobs are replaced by insecure temporary and part-time jobs.

This is true for the private sector and more and more true for the public sector. Even in the civil service, job security is a lie brandished to divide the workers and to set workers in the public sector against workers in the private sector.

The fundamental problems are the same for every worker: the threat of unemployment, insecurity and insufficient wages. The objectives of the struggles must also be the same for everyone.

On the evening of March 10, Raffarin said that he was "attentive to the concern expressed." But it isn't the concern of the workers which will make him give in, it is their anger....

What the bosses and the government fear above all is that the movement will grow. A growing movement is also the way to show the union leaders that the workers won't let their vital demands be abandoned for small increases during negotiations....

A sweeping movement threatening to go beyond all boundaries is necessary. It is necessary that all of the workers get together around clear objectives: no mass layoff, no insecurity, a decently paid job for everyone, a general increase in wages!