The Hollande/Valls government hoped that by the time Euro 2016 started, the months-long strike movement would have run out of energy. But the size and combativity of the 14 June march show that it’s still huge. Organisers report more than a million in Paris and large numbers elsewhere. Workers from every section of French industry were on the Paris march and every part of France is represented despite the bosses of some coach companies refusing to hire coaches to the CGT trade union to take people to Paris.
Hundreds of strikes have continued to erupt. One thing that connects all of them is that strikers are demanding the scrapping of the new labour law.
We are told this law is to improve the economy, make it more “flexible” so jobs can be created to combat the high levels of employment in France, especially among young people.
But the idea that employers are refusing to take on workers because of strict labour laws is nonsense. Last year 85% of new work contracts in France were temporary, and 70% were for a month or less. How much more flexibility do employers want?
In Britain we are constantly told that we must vote to remain in the EU if we want to protect workers’ rights. But the unelected EU commissioner for the euro and social dialogue, Valid Dombrovskis, welcomed the labour law during a recent visit to France: “[It] is an initiative that is intended to address the rigidities of the labour market, which should boost employment”.
Unlike French workers, the EU has made no protest against the anti-democratic way the labour law was passed. Failing to win a majority in parliament, the Hollande/Valls government used an obscure part of the constitution, article 49.3, to force the law through anyway.
But the pressure from the streets makes it even less likely that the government will get a majority the next time the law is discussed in the assembly. MPs could use this to put a vote of no confidence in the government - but last time they failed, leaving the battle to the unions and lycée (further education) students.
The trade unions, in particular the CGT, have been ready to call strikes and demonstrations and declared their willingness to fight till the labour law is dropped, but haven’t put forward a clear strategy for how this can be done.
Gauche Révolutionnaire, the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, is calling for meetings to organise the struggle, general assemblies to be held in every town and city from 15 June to discuss and agree the next steps for the movement. In the port of Le Havre, left activists within the CGT have shown on a small scale how this could be done across France.
Before each day of action trade unionists have discussed the most effective method of building the struggle, and put it into action. There the struggle involves the masses, not only in very effective blockades of the port and the town, but also with general assemblies at each blockade to discuss how best to continue the struggle.
This could not only help defeat the labour law, but help transform this revolt into an organised political opposition to the government, the right and the far-right, based on workers’ struggle.