The Spark

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

France:
Successful October demonstration

Oct 10, 2005

The following article is excerpted from an editorial in the October 7th edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), newspaper of the revolutionary workers organization of that name in France. It discusses the meaning of the large demonstrations that took place in cities around France on October 4th. So many workers took part that public transport, city services, post offices and even some private companies were partially or completely shut down. Effectively, these angry workers from workplaces and cities all over the country staged a one-day strike to protest the worsening situation.

The day of action on October 4th was a success. Large numbers participated, both in Paris and in many other cities. There were workers from the railroads, public transit, city governments, the postal service and many other public services, as well as many workers from the private sector, and not only in companies threatened by layoffs. This turn-out is an encouragement for all workers....

We can no longer count all the blows that the bosses and the government have rained down on the workers. The big companies, even those making billions in profit, lay off workers, freeze wages and hire mostly temporary replacements. The government facilitates their task by suppressing the few provisions in the law still protecting workers. And the government adopts budgets that give enormous gifts to the big companies and wealthy individuals, while cutting back on unemployment compensation, social insurance and pensions, that is, on whatever benefits the working class.

This has been going on for years. Governments change, the parties in power trade places, but the blows against the workers continue.

So workers must react. The workers of SNCM (the Marseille-Corsica Ferry Service) have reacted to the plan to sell off their company for a tenth of its value to a speculative fund, which will cost hundreds of jobs. With the support of the port workers of Marseille and Corsica, they showed that they have no intention of keeping quiet while their throats are cut. They forced the government to back down somewhat: those sailors imprisoned for taking over a ship were released and the French state will keep possession of one quarter of the company. The workers of SNCM continue to fight and are right to do so. The plan to privatize the company is still there – as is the threat of layoffs hanging over several hundred workers.

Our only way forward is to defend ourselves. It's vital, for if we stop, the bosses and government will continue their offensive. They don't have confidence in their own economy. They won't invest if the market isn't promising. They want more profit with less spending on investment or research; so they exploit workers more. Their current profits, which are really extravagant despite the listless economy, are realized from our labor. The big, middle and even little bourgeoisie make so much money that they don't know what to do with it, while the working class is pushed into misery. If things are left up to them, they will continue in the same way.

There is only one way to oppose the bosses' desire to profit and increase their stockholders' dividends at any cost: threaten their profits....

As many workers participated in the demonstrations and strikes of October 4th as did in the one last March 10th. Despite the attacks suffered by workers since then, their determination hasn't weakened. The union leaders, however, waited almost seven months to follow up on March 10th.A follow-up to October 4th is needed, and quickly! Those workers who still hesitate can see by the October 4th demonstration the force the working class can muster and they can join others showing such determination. We have to strike while the iron is hot. We must continue the mobilization until the working class in its entirety is ready to mobilize and engage the struggle up to the point that it gains its vital objectives: a general increase in wages, ending the casualization of labor, the prohibition of mass layoffs and the withdrawal of all the reactionary measures taken by the government.