France: Millions protest – but trade union leaders hesitate

After last Saturday’s million and half strong protest against both the new CPE, youth employment contact law, and the French government in general the key issue has become how the struggle will develop.

The anger against the CPE and government has been enormously increased by Saturday’s police attack on a postal worker that has left him in a coma. The attack on this worker, a member of the SUD-PTT union, has had a similar radicalising effect as did the death of Malik Oussekine during a 1986 protest that made Chirac, then prime minister, withdraw a plan to limit university entrance.

Currently the government appears to be sticking to its course, although the bosses are now talking about making a few limited concessions regarding the CPE law, but these are now seen as too little to late.

The latest opinion poll says that the CPE is rejected by 73% of the population.

But the trade union leaders are, as so often has happened before, hesitating. Despite having threatened the government with a general strike instead they have called a “day of action” on March 28. One trade union leader explained that they did this because the words ‘general strike’ have “an insurrectional meaning”, in other words they did not want to challenge the government as a whole. They would like a day of protests rather than a mobilisation for the next stage of struggle.

In contrast to others on the left the Gauche révolutionnaire, the CWI in France, has continued to call for a general strike to unify the struggle against the CPE with those against the other attacks on living standards that Chirac and his government are attempting to carry out.

As Gauche révolutionnaire explained in a recent statement it “defends the idea of a massive and democratic strike. We think, as well, that we need a real alternative to capitalism, a new party that can be a key tool in struggles and to resist capitalism. Such a party can be born out of the present strike, if campaigning or strike committees, while building the struggle, extend their demands to unite workers and youth against capitalism.”

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