The STATE OF WORKERS’ STRUGGLES IN FRANCE

2

27/03/2018 by socialistfight

TrotskyismToday

By Viriato Lusitania 27/03/2018

On March 15, a protest by retirees against the government gathered more than 100,000 people in Paris and tens of thousands in the provinces, according to organizers. A broad mobilization that surprised many observers. It was the answer to a reduction in pensions of 250 euros per year for all those who receive more than 1200 euros per month.

Government candidates (LREM La République en Marche) have lost all by-elections and the popularity of the president and the prime minister is declining. Moreover, they have never exceeded 50% approval.

A street protest in Paris.

On 22 March, railway workers, civil servants, and teachers took to the streets in large numbers. The police counted 300,000 throughout the country and the trade unions claimed 475,000. The union leaders of the railway workers have announced a “pearled” strike two days a week, every week until June.

As we wrote in Socialist Fight after Macron’s electoral triumph, [1] his entire reform program aimed at the execution of a vast plan of “liberalization” of French society. The recent “reform of the Labour Code”, such as the liquidation of the Railroad Workers’ Statute, as well as the project to “reform” the compensation of the unemployed are underway or already in place.

The major components of the transformation of the solidarity pension system (the ones who work pay for the retired) into a financial pension system, which bankers and other financial companies are eagerly awaiting, or the liquidation of the Social Security System, are awaiting the demoralization of workers following the defeats of which the bourgeoisie counts to be put as laws. They are waiting “favourable conditions” but are already announced and promoted by the “news” on TV. And that is because the bosses are counting on trade union leaders not to wage a full fight and/or on the repeated defeats suffered by the whole working class since then will demoralise them.

The complete absence of any party, whether Stalinist, reformist or so-called Trotskyist, turns workers demonstrations into a sort of street-walks with no future. The stakes of these struggles are such that without a solid, militant organization and united action, the struggle exhaust the masses themselves, demoralize those who participate and lead to even greater defeats.

The demonstration of 22 March, although important, was not sufficient to make the government back down. They “took note” and declared that they would continue with their policy because they “count with the necessary parliamentary majority.” Vae Victis!

Some, still taking their desires for reality, invoke the spirit of May ’68 but we are far away from that today. This Marotte, invoked every time there is the beginning of a mobilization, is squashed in the bud by the union leaders as soon as they see that it can grow, as it would surely grow if we lead it well and really mobilize, because anger roars, is only that, it becomes an incantation of small groups without any hold on the events or any militant force. A silly consolation that eventually further demoralizes many people.

There is still some response from labour leaders to the government’s challenge. They have called a Demo on the 19 April. But is only the CGT calling because FO [2] has rejected the call and CFDT [3] has said that it is not the means or ways to “obtain something”… (FO and CFDT are the two other big Unions in France but they mobilise fewer rank and file than the CGT. In fact, the CGT is the only real mass worker’s fighting union, even if reformist. That should mean, most probably, a lesser attendance than the 19th and the subsequent demoralisation of the masses that look always for “Unity”.

The FO attitude is quite baffling because, inside the FO Union, the POI (conducted by a so-called Trotskyist fraction) has many cadres. They have said many times that “they don’t want to endorse demonstrations without tomorrow”, but, is this an excuse not to join the mass movement against a full swing attack against all worker’s in France?

The small formations of all orientation (because today the political movement of the workers or they are little groups or it does nothing other than follow the trade-union slogans) call for ultra-left measures without finding any echo in the mass.

Today we find nevertheless a certain concern and mobilization of the base, without going beyond or, even being comparable to other mobilization such as the fight against the CEP or against the law for the extension of the retirement age, and with always the same people demonstrating, lacking even a united and decided group of workers, not to say real political parties of the working class.

The patient can only be treated with the appropriate medicine and this one is not in the pharmacy in France: a real communist party. There is not even the awareness of its necessity in an adequate form because everything that exists is as sick as the sick workers’ movement: ideological decadence and organizational weakness. The crisis of Stalinism and pseudo-Trotskyism prolongs the agony of the workers who see themselves stripped of their indirect wages and even their direct income to the benefit of a bourgeoisie, today in open trade war, preparation for new wars and forced to endanger its domination by impoverishing each time more and more layers of workers and/or unemployed.

Faced with such a reality, full of all possibilities, those who still think (and who are not “intellectuals” in their living rooms) are taking wrong ways in search for “solutions” of facility without seeing that it will be necessary to go through the long work of reconstruction of the political organizations of the working class.

Nevertheless, these struggles show that the French working class has the will to mobilize despite having been deluded so many times and for nothing. It is surely a basis which, in exceptional situations, can prove decisive.

Notes

[1] See,  France: The repealing of the Labour Code and the permanent State of Emergency, https://socialistfight.com/2017/06/25/france-the-repealing-of-the-labour-code-and-the-permanent-state-of-emergency/

[2] The General Confederation of Labor – Workers’ Force (French: Confédération Générale du Travail – Force Ouvrière, or simply Force Ouvrière, FO), is one of the five major union confederations in France. In terms of following, it is the third behind the CGT and the CFDT.  The Independent Workers’ Party (POI), the Lambertists, self-declared Trotskyists, in the Independent Workers’ Party (POI) reputedly have hundreds of full-time officials in the FO.

[3] The French Democratic Confederation of Labour (French: Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT) is a national trade union center, one of the five major French confederations of trade unions, led since 2012 by Laurent Berger. It is the largest French trade union confederation by number of members (875,000) but comes only second after the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) in voting results for representative bodies.

2 thoughts on “The STATE OF WORKERS’ STRUGGLES IN FRANCE

  1. Chris Barratt says:

    Viriato paints a wide-ranging and detailed picture of the day-to-day situation facing French workers as they attempt to mobilise but are always misled by the reformist trade unions and the vacillating “left-wing” parties and groups, whether revisionist or Trotskyist.
    Viriato pointedly says, correctly, “…it will be necessary to go through the long work of reconstruction of the political organizations of the working class.”
    Very true.
    But what must that reconstruction consist of? What is holding back workers from forging a powerful communist party? Why can’t workers get unity?
    The answer lies in Lenin’s axiom, “Without revolutionary theory, there will be no revolutionary practice”.
    There needs to be a fight for theory, and it has to be REVOLUTIONARY theory. Not reformist or anti-proletarian revolutionary.
    This means individuals have to come forward who want to battle for theory and TAKE IT TO the working class. Marxism has always understood that workers’ theory never goes beyond trade unionism, even if their spontaneous actions sometimes do.
    But what is revolutionary theory? It is using previously understood classics of Marxism – by Marx, Engels and Lenin – to fight for a correct perspective of the situation in the world, and then apply it to events in France (for example) or the UK. Then assessing results by looking at things objectively.
    Furthermore, another key quote from Lenin is: “Only he [or she] is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.”
    Those who are against this Marxist understanding (sometimes from genuine confusion that can be remedied, but more often because they cling to middle-class sensibilities down to their boots) think of a million reasons to support bourgeois parties, reformist parties, anti-communist parties, anti-Soviet parties etc, nationalism, economist trade unionism, etc – all the way to supporting whatever the latest CIA or MI6 stunt is.
    Those against this Marxist understanding also think of a million reasons why capitalism is doing OK, not collapsing, not in insurmountable problems, not in crisis, not wrong about “evil terror” coming from the Middle East, can be convinced to “end austerity”, can “change its mind about pensions or pay” etc.
    These “lefts” can also think of a million reasons why the “time is not right to talk to workers about revolution”, “you need to talk at their level” (what?? Trade unionism? Confused pro-imperialism? Confused anti-communism? What’s the point of an “outsider” Marxist – as Marxists always are – talking non-Marxism (LIES!!) to workers?)
    What’s the point in feeding illusions about “lefty” politicians in France or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK??? Or Bernie Sanders in the USA??
    Workers need the CORRECT perspective put in front of them that monopoly-capitalism is sinking into deeper and deeper degenerate warmongering breakdown, just as Marx and Lenin explained would happen. Look at Trumpism, US warmongering and trade war, look at the Brexit turmoil, look at the seething hostility of French workers (and UK workers, eg Grenfell fire) and LOOK AT the complete capitulation by reformism to the warmongering diversions of capitalism (Corbyn’s social-pacifist grovelling over the “nerve agent” stunt and “left-wing anti-Semitism” fraud; Sanders’ urging of US imports controls, etc).
    Such “lefts” fear going against a completely middle-class obsession with “voting” and “parliamentary democracy” (but always forget that all such niceties get torn up any time capitalism feels like it – look at Ukraine or Egyptian coups against elected regimes). Or they fear being “left behind” by “big left reformist movements” – instead of realising that these movements, like Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain or Blairism and the Labour party in general will ALWAYS DISGRACE THEMSELVES UTTERLY in the eyes of the mass of workers because they are counter-revolutionary.
    Nor is it possible to “sneak up” on capitalism and have soft, meaningless “unity” that glosses over all hard issues.
    What did the Moscow leadership get right and get wrong after Lenin’s death? Why did revisionism end up supporting dunderheaded “popular frontism” around the world? What was the real damage this inflicted on the workers movement? Was the Trotskyist “remedy” of describing the Moscow leadership as “a counter-revolutionary caste” true or anti-Marxist nonsense (given Moscow’s help for China, Cuba, Vietnam, Korea, ANC, Sandinistas etc).
    Gorbachev’s liquidation of the Soviet Union and the decades of Cold War anti-communism from 1917 to the present mean that the vast confusion about the perspectives for achieving workers states have to be confronted by DEEPLY going into what went right and what went wrong in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European workers states.
    Talk that “democracy” was the answer puts everybody saying this in the pro-imperialist “freedom and democracy” camp. People attempting to be Marxists need to read Lenin’s “State and Revolution” and many other works discussing why the party-led dictatorship of the proletariat has to be STRENGTHENED all the time that imperialist counter-revolution exists on the planet. What’s hugely democratic about the party-led dictatorship of the proletariat is WHAT CLASS is in power (and what class has been overthrown). Training up workers as communists and administrators is also hugely democratic. But involving workers in that way is not anarchic and it is not “votes in workplaces over the direction of the economy” or even “producer congresses”!!The party leads and directs the economy!!
    Developing Leninist understanding – and the great debate to achieve this – starting with a few individuals or groups and moving on to being a sizeable group, then party, that workers can see in action and start to follow and appreciate is the ONLY WAY to go.
    Build Leninism.

    Like

  2. Viriato says:

    Well, to put things strait I have written “stalinists” to include revisionnist and fake ‘marxists-léninists’ and “pseudo-trotskists” to underline that they are not trotskists.

    Precision in terms is the first condition for a sound approach to a sound worker’s ideology.

    Here in France I cannot find a single “trotskist” group with a minimum understanding on the Syrian (Libya, Ukraine, etc) question, the nature of Russa and China, or a more or less elementary political presence in national politics,with organisational methods near true democratic centralism , and so on.

    Or you have sectarian centrism with a corporal party regime with no internal democracy or “un bordel” (a brothel) of “tendencies” lack of elementary discipline, far to the right in national and international positions, varying with the direction of the winds, liquidationism etc.
    Even the little groups talks all kind of non sens; marxist leninist still talking about “social-imperialism” of …Russia, when they are not praising NEP-China…

    ‘Build leninism’ of course but take also the Trotski contribution when is clearly in the line of marxism and leninism (as far as I know, from what I have red until today, almost always).

    In fact, IMHO opinion, real marxists-leninists and real trotskists, as far as they honestly study the question, slowly converge on the URSS analysis and can be quite near, almost of a single opinion in present matters if they based themselves on Marx and Lenin. And Trotsky for trotskist and even for the ones that yet have some mistrust in trotskism. For real marxist-leninist who have really studied Lenin, there could be, should be also the same point of view.

    When they diverge, it is because of poor understanding of the methodological and tactical questions, or because the situation is hard to be fully undertandable. That can be and should be debated between them, there is not a China Wall that forbide some “work together’. Practice should be the truth criterium, to define who is right.

    But the fact that these people are very few in numbers , is a real problem. Because they have no grasp on the real, still existing, worker’s class mouvement.

    Of course the main question today is a theoretical question, or better said, the defense of marxism and leninism first but open mindly, accepting the contributions of other thinkers. We have today the possibility, without prejudices, to study in the texts, in documents, in testimonies coming from actors of that time, of statistics, of archives to have a good vision of what happened in the URSS, that surely will never happend again in the same form. And having studied, as much as I can, I can only say that I am an old marxist leninist but after Lenin the one who, with some mistakes perhaps, continue the marxist and leninist way was Trotski.

    Surely this does not close the debate and every aspect of the URSS policy, and of Stalin, and of the other participants, every one of them, under the real conditions of that time, should be studied fully. Trotski between them and principally because it was the one with the broader insight of all the URSS questions.

    Is it necesary to be trotskist? I am not so sure because of their history, but puting marxism-leninism against truly orthodox trotskism is a non sens. The real practice shows that there is not the slightless difference between their analisis and what we think, me too, an old maxist leninist horse.

    All depend on the masses as Mao said (I was a maoist). If they take the way of fighting, there will surge youth and worker’s needing a sound ideology for their fight (if it is not ‘un feu de paille’, a straw fire).
    Better to study and learn, write when possible and form the ones we can, and work together with people that have the same approach, even if they not fully agree with us.

    The time puts it’s conditions, and today we should work for unity and for the propaganda of a sound marxist leninist ideology with all possible contributions, Trotski included.

    Is so big the decadency of the (so called) “marxist thought” that a truly hard, scientific, (mostly honest) work should be done as the MAIN duty of the remaining marxists of the time. Hélas, I am old and mediocre, but I will try my best to contribute, as much as I can in this direction.

    Like

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