The Spark

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

French railway, subway, bus, and utility workers fight bosses' attacks

Nov 19, 2007

The following is translated from the November 16 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the journal of the revolutionary workers organization of that name active in France.

The workers of SNCF (French National Railway Company) have been on a strike that they have renewed each day starting from Tuesday, November 13. The workers of the RATP (Paris subway and bus), EDF (French Electric Company) and GDF (French Gas Company) joined them on Wednesday morning. The strikers are refusing the government's plan to force them to work longer for a reduced pension.

The French government claims that those who work for the railroads, the Paris subway and bus systems, as well as the gas and electric companies are privileged because their pensions have not been cut, while private sector workers and other public employees have seen their pensions cut. The politicians call these workers privileged even when the pensions for many of them amount to less than 1000 euros (1450 dollars) a month. These same people applaud the 15 billion euros (22 billion dollars) given in tax reductions for a few thousand richest families, or consider it normal that the president of the Republic gives himself a 172% raise!

The railroad, subway and bus, and gas and electric workers are right to defend themselves. All workers must be in solidarity with their battle and hope that the strike is massively supported.

The government is trying to make this strike a test of strength. But this test of strength doesn't only oppose the government to some 500,000 workers with special pensions. It also opposes the government and the bosses to all the workers. The government wants to save money at the expense of all retirees. It also intends on cutting health insurance, public services, all that is useful, indeed vital to the majority of the population, in order to funnel more money to the bosses.

On the question of pensions, the government is out in front. But it acts as the representative of the bosses, who carry out unending war against the workers by freezing their wages while prices soar. When prices soar, profits increase. And when wages are frozen, profits are free to increase.

The entire working class will lose if the government wins this test of strength. The retirement age for everyone will be pushed still higher and pensions will be reduced still more.

So let's be clear: whatever our occupation, our type of work, this strike concerns all of us. If we don't want to sink into poverty, we must join the struggle sooner or later. And we must put forth a powerful and determined enough struggle to make the bosses fear that our movement will escape control and will threaten their profits. And, furthermore, workers must fight to take away the bosses' exclusive control over the factories, banks and chain stores.

The monopoly of the great industrial and financial corporations over the economy is a catastrophe for the majority of the population, for the whole society.

While workers do more work and see their purchasing power erode, while retirees suffer misery, businesses make ever higher profits. Hundreds of financial corporations take charge of such unimaginable sums they don't know what to do with it. They carry out financial speculation which in turn threatens to bring down the entire economy.

But the union leadership has chosen to disperse the force of the strikers by calling on some to come out on November 14 and others on November 20. Faced with the attacks of the bosses and the government, the working class needs unity around demands common to all. In the past, workers have shown a fighting spirit that can overcome the foot-dragging of the union leadership and force them to go further.

All workers have an interest to push forward this spirit once again.