The Spark

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

Who is taking who hostage?

Dec 3, 2007

After waiting a week to see what happened in the French transport strike, President Sarkozy finally spoke. Here is Lutte Ouvriere’s response to the French media’s propaganda against the strikers.

Since the beginning of the strike in public transport, the government ministers, bosses and their supporters have been singing the same refrain on television, radio and in newspapers: “The strikers are taking the riders hostage.”

No government ministers, bosses, or high functionaries are waiting on the cold platforms in the train stations, nor are they crowded like beasts into the cars of the subway. It’s obvious that they aren’t the ones who have no other way to get to work. Yet every day of the year, the workers suffer from the deficiencies in public transport, the overcrowding, the slowdowns, the lack of buses or trains or subways.

All during the year – not just during the days of the strike – workers are victims of the measures of the government. In post offices, where they exist and when they are open, there’s often a wait of an hour in line to get service. In the hospitals, sometimes the sick have to wait an entire day in the hallways on stretchers before getting care. Teachers and professors find themselves often with overcrowded classes, etc. And all because the state refuses to invest sufficient resources and enough personnel for public services. It really takes a lot of nerve for government officials to talk about the difficulties of riders during the strike when these same commuters are “taken hostage” every day of the year by the government’s refusal to pay for public services.

In fact, what’s really bothering the bosses, the government and the commentators who serve them is that the bosses won’t make money during the strike. That’s why, if the auto workers at Peugeot, Renault or Citroen were to stop work tomorrow, we’d be hearing that heavy equipment drivers were laid off or taxi drivers couldn’t get any fares. And we’d hear, if farm workers went on strike, that they were trying to starve the population. And if employees at supermarkets went on strike, they’d be accused of stopping us from shopping.

Workers make society run and produce all its riches, no matter what sector they are in. So a work stoppage will have consequences for the rest of society.

But whether we are workers or riders or consumers, we are first of all victims of capitalist exploitation. And against that exploitation there is only one recourse: the strike.