France: First one-day strike against austerity gets big response

300, 000 people marched on demonstrations across France on Thursday 9 April

300, 000 people marched on demonstrations across France on Thursday 9 April – more than 100,000 in Paris – against austerity, for wage rises, against the Macron Law on deregulation, (including Sunday working etc) and many more were on strike. The Paris demo had the character of a national demo for the largest trade union federation, the CGT, which had the largest number of contingents, and for Force Ouvriere, who also had a sizeable turn-out. It was very big and lively and took five hours to pass through the Place d’Italie.

There was a large presence of workers from the private sector, especially shop workers, bank and insurance workers and workers in engineering. Workers from Carrefour, Casino, LVMH, Sephora, Simply and others were on the streets behind their respective union banners to say ‘no’ to obligatory working on Sundays and no to super-exploitation legalised by the Macron Law. A big contingent of undocumented workers (‘Sans Papiers’) also participated.

Diverse but united

From the public sector there were health workers out in force against the 22,000 planned redundancies, dockers from la Rochelle, Rouen, Lorient…, railway workers, postal-workers, and tram workers from several regions. The Radio France employees, on strike for three weeks, were there, as were the engineers of Sambre and Meuse who are occupying their factories to stop closure, local government workers from pretty much everywhere in France, and education department employees in struggle against the reforms in secondary schools – the reduction of classes etc.

The slogans and demands did not have the character of “everyone for themselves”. In the contingents and in the sectors that had mobilised, there was the same palpable anger on the same issues. Wages are too low – the index in the public sector has been frozen since 2010 and in the private sector, wages have been frozen for 3 or even 4 years in many companies. Slogans raged against Macron and his laws on night shifts and Sunday working, against the worsening of conditions in the workplace etc.

It was the biggest day of mobilisation and strikes since those of 2010 against Sarkozy’s pension reform. Most importantly, it was the first real day of action against the policies of the so-called ‘left’ government. The rejection of the pro-business policies implemented by Sarkozy yesterday and Hollande today can be felt across the board. The desire to get rid of them grows by the day, fuelled by the regular announcements of the government of Valls and his ministers – Macron, Rebsamen or Vallaud-Belkacem. And now the Senate is going to make the Macron Law even worse, and the reduction of classes in primary education is going to be announced while wage battles continue. This day of struggle and its success is a starting point.

Valls-Hollande not feeling comfortable

The media coverage (or blatant lack of it) for this strike demonstrates the potential for struggle that this day represents and the fears of the capitalists and the government! Obeying the conservatism that abounds, the media preferred to cover the family political conflict between the Le Pens, for example, than to bother about the discontent being expressed in the streets. Hundreds of thousands of workers and unemployed came out to say they cannot put up with a society where the rich gorge themselves while the majority merely survive.

The CGT carried out its side of the bargain and mobilised widely ‘against the policy of austerity’. Many CGT, FO and SUD contingents clearly said that the Macron Law was a ‘Law for the bosses’. There is therefore the need for a new call on the basis of slogans that clearly reject Valls-Hollande policies and encourage struggle on the issues of wages and jobs. For several months now, strikes and action on wages have taken off in a large number of workplaces. And they are continuing, like at Maubeuge buses or Amazon delivery.

This kind of mobilisation, be it when a redundancy plan is announced at DIM or the Hall of Clothing, or the struggles that have started against the closing down of classes, or in the Health Service where there are incessant skirmishes, will continue over the coming weeks. They will constitute – along with the rejection of the Macron Law – the two pillars of an all-out united struggle.

To this must be added the anger in the schools. Strike days are now being discussed in certain sectors of the health service and schools and the trade union organisations are pushing in this direction.

All this should lead up to a combative May Day, which will be as a step towards a national day of strike action in all sectors of the economy and society with blockades of transport and the cessation of production.

Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France) has consistently campaigned, over the last few months, for a day like 9 April to be organised, well-prepared in advance, allowing strike calls to be made and bringing together workers, unemployed, youth and pensioners around demands that really unite them against the policies of Valls and Macron. It is necessary from now to launch discussions in the unions, in the workplaces, in the neighbourhoods for a new day of action and strikes which are even bigger and more combative.

Against the Macron laws, and the redundancy plans, for wage and pension increases and against cuts in public services! This mobilisation was just the beginning!

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April 2015