The Spark

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

France:
January 29 General Strike

Feb 9, 2009

After the success of January 29, it is necessary to continue and build the mobilization. Two and a half million demonstrators took to the streets, according to the unions. Even the police said there were more than a million. Those who went on strike returned from the demonstrations with their morale high.

In Paris, the demonstration – 300,000 according to the organizers and 65,000 according to the police – took hours to go from one side of the city to the other. The ranks of marchers overflowed onto the sidewalks and often into adjacent streets. The innumerable banners showed teachers and public sector workers side by side with large numbers from businesses big or small. The CGT (union federation) was notable for its large turnout. And in its midst were many groups of protesters shouting out slogans against the bosses and the government.

Anger and a sense of injustice dominated these demonstrations, as well as the awareness that in order to go further, it was necessary to go “all together.”

The new Labor Minister, Brice Hortefeux, conceded the day was “the expression of unrest” regarding the crisis.

But it isn’t only unrest, it’s discontent and anger – not at the crisis, but against the bosses and the government. Against the increasing layoffs. Against low wages, against job insecurity, against this government which finds billions to pour into the pockets of the bankers and industrial bosses, all of which aggravates the situation of the workers.

Workers responded in large numbers to the call of the unions for January 29. However, we cannot think that one single day, even a successful one, will make the government and the big bosses retreat.

So what comes next? If union leaders had acted on their responsibilities, they would have immediately announced a follow-up, a new day of strikes and demonstrations.

Instead they decided to wait to see what President Sarkozy has to say.

So what are union leaders waiting for?

This government and this president aren’t there to help workers get their heads above water. They are there, spouting lies, to push the policy demanded by the big bosses, which is to save business profits, to increase the bourgeoisie’s income, to rob the workers still more.

The workers of Guadeloupe have just made a demonstration that even to be heard they had to block the island’s economy.

The union leadership here pleads that it takes time to “build a movement” like that of January 29! That’s the very reason, no matter what day is picked for the next demonstration, that it needs to be announced quickly. Then militants and the most determined workers can prepare for it.

It’s up to the union leadership to set the date. Let them be aware: If, focused on negotiations alone, they don’t do their job, they don’t set a schedule for mobilization with established dates, struggles will break out and spread without them, from the rank and file.

It’s indispensable that we defend ourselves against our exploiters and their servants in the government. We have the forces to do it.