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For an Efficient and Powerful Proletarian Fight-back, Generalization and Unification of the Struggle against French Capitalism! (March 28th 2018)

France : Strike a the SNCF, Struggles and Conflicts in All Sectors, Students and Pensioners’ Demonstrations

[Warning: the following text should have been published in English more than a week ago. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so for translation and technical problems.

Since the publication and distribution of this leaflet, the situation in France has not changed much except that the ruling class and particularly the unions manage to control quite well the situation. This makes the already very limited potentialities for the railway workers’ dynamic to spread and generalize the struggle to other sectors strongly reduced. Now, the railway workers struggle is already almost fully enclosed within the trap of the union’s corporatist and “diehard” strike while no other sector seems, for the moment, able to take over the lead, or be the core, of a possible general movement. Thus, according to us, unless “something”, any contingent event (spontaneous strike in another sector, violent demonstrations, etc.), comes to break the present dynamic and provides another perspective, this episode of struggle will now certainly remain under the full control of the ruling class and its state until the planned rolling strikes run out. Consequently, if we had the forces to intervene again directly and daily in this working class mobilization, this understanding would not change for the present moment the validity of the main orientation of the leaflet – «extension and unification of the strike, demonstrations and the class fight!» and «regroupment and organization of the most militant workers who want to fight for the extension and the unification of the struggle!». But it would change the focus of the revolutionaries’ intervention from the railway workers themselves to other sectors – April 10th]

We reproduce here the leaflet that we’re giving out in France these days before the strike of April 3rd in the state railway company, the SNCF. Its workers are presently suffering a direct attack by the Macron government, that is by the state and the French ruling class. The difficulty for French capital is that it happens while various sectors or factories have been on strike these last weeks and months or are passing through more or less open conflicts in the midst of a generalized increasing discontent in front of the many measures adopted by the government. After more or less secret discussions between the government and the unions, the latter (with very radical words but without any content of struggle) have planned in advance, and without having called on any workers’ assemblies to pronounce, several days of action; that is the classical union tactic in France of isolation and exhaustion of the working class struggles. Already in Paris, a street demonstration has taken place March 22nd in two different places at the same time with, on one side the “public employees” and on the other the railway workers. And the days of action at the SNCF will be rolling strikes and they are planed until… next June! Thus the unions and the bourgeoisie in general occupy the entire terrain of the working class fight-back and it remains to the working class to… submit to this imposed tactic leading to defeat or rise up frontally against it and the unions. The stakes are high.

After the March 22nd demonstration, the railway workers will be on a rolling strike from Tuesday April 3rd. They will be on strike every five days and the agenda is already established until… June. Once more, the union tactic of the days of action that has systematically lead to defeat in the massive mobilizations of 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2016, is served up again with the variant that the workers will make a rolling strike! If this scenario and this agenda is not questioned by the general assemblies and the strikers, not only will the railway workers be defeated but, moreover, the other struggles and sources of social conflicts won’t be able to identify and unite with the first ones to impose a genuine relation of forces to the government and French capitalism. Yet, the working class discontent is expressed almost everywhere: in the health sector, in the public services, Air France, but also in the private sector, the threat of mass redundancies in Ford and in various other companies all around the country, or still among the pensioned and the students of the faculties – often children of proletarians and future proletarians themselves for their most part. With the union’s days of action, all these struggles will remain isolated and will then be also defeated, while their extension and unification would be the best means to force the government and the state withdraw all these attacks.

It is clear for all that the attack against the railway workers is also an attack, economically and politically, against all the workers of this country. After the 2016 attacks against the work contracts, the French bourgeoisie aims to impose new sacrifices on the railway workers of course but also to continue its offensive against the whole working class.

Over time and struggles, the railway workers have been presented as the last bastion of the working class that does resist in France. Rightly or wrongly, the myth is there and the Macron government and, behind it, the whole French state capitalist apparatus, wants to bring it down. The French ruling class wants also to definitively put the memory of the great strikes, 1995 or still 1968, and the threat it is for it, in the drawer of past history. The time to hesitate in front of the proletariat is over if French capitalism wants “close the gap” with its rivals :

"France won’t have any motive capacity if it does not have a clear discourse and a lucid look at the world. But it won’t have it neither if it does not reinforce its economy and its society. That is why I have asked the government to engage the fundamental reforms which are indispensable for France. Our credibility , our efficiency, our strength are at stake. But the strength of some cannot be nourished by the weaknesses of the others for long. Germany which made its reforms fifteen years ago, notes today that this situation is not viable. My wish is thus that we can build a common force.” (Emmanuel Macron’s interview to many European newspaper of June 21st, we translate from the Swiss newspaper Le Temps,, since we could not find the whole interview in English).

The discourse is clear. One must further lower the living and working conditions – what they call the reforms – of the proletariat so that French capitalism can play a role in the world imperialist and warlike arena on Germany’s side and in front of the American, Chinese and Russian great rivals. Not only must the proletariat pay for the economic crisis of capitalism but also, and more and more, for the imperialist war to which the first, the crisis, inexorably leads. Yet it is the only one able to oppose this infernal dynamic… by refusing the sacrifices through its struggles and by offering another historical and revolutionary perspective, that of a communist society without misery and war – and of which it is necessary to recall that Stalinism has been the main and bloody gravedigger in the USSR and in the whole world.

Oppose the Union Confinement and Isolation by the Strike and the Extension

The tactics that the unions have put in place isolate in advance the fight of the workers of the SNCF in the corporation and in a schedule of days of strike which can only lock them even more in a strike without any other perspective than to make it last ’to the end’... which, very quickly, will cause division within the strikers between those who want and can strike and those who will not, or less, and who will be discouraged.

The union tactics of the days of action is to be rejected. It imposes demands and fights that are corporatist and isolated. Worse still, by imposing legal notices to strike and by no longer calling general meetings in many SNCF depots - on this point, ’management’ and unions work together in all companies - union days of action make the strike a purely individual and not collective decision, which weakens all the will to combat and the feeling of workers solidarity, each worker being referred to his ’individual’ consciousness or will, including now at the SNCF by making a prior individual notice of strike.

What is to Be Done in Front of the Union Impasse?

How to outflank the union’s slogans? During the strike at the SNCF from December 1986 to January 1987, and while the CGT had set up working picket lines to prevent the strike from starting on Friday, December 19, 1986, the railway workers had imposed their general assemblies (GAs ) and went on strike against the CGT and the other unions. This is the path that must be taken again. Imposing GAs to decide on the strike where unions refuse to do so is the way. Continuing the strike in SNCF depots and assemblies after April 3rd is certainly a first step.

But if it is necessary, it is also insufficient. The object of the strike should not be in itself the simple blockage of the economy – capital knows how to organize itself to face and circumvent the points of blockages – but the extension of the strike to the other sectors and companies. To this end, it is necessary to advance the most unitary possible demands that the other workers can take back on their own account.

Some proposals among others (and to discuss, even to decline, depending on the particular local situations): the workers of the cleaning company of ONET who clean the Paris railway stations are on strike. It must be maintained that they have the same working and salary conditions as railway workers - or, depending on the strength of the strike, demand the termination of the subcontractors and their hiring by the SNCF. Faced with the redundancies at Ford Bordeaux, maintenance of wages and the employment contract until the end of their unemployment, or even hiring in public services. Or, since the retirement of railway workers will be attacked again, advance the demand for the upgrade of all pensions, public-private, to the present one of railway workers or the ones of public transport. Or again, in the wake of demands at Air France, increase wages and pensions for all ... All that goes in the direction of unity is to supported. All that goes in the direction of isolation is to be rejected.

In the same way, the GAs must seek the links and the extension of the struggle around it, geographically, by their opening to the other workers in struggle or even by the sending of mass delegations to the other sectors and companies, even in the so-called popular neighborhoods. The extension of the strike should not be reduced to the extension to the SNCF especially as the main unions opposed to the strike will succeed in blocking it in the least combative deposits while exhausting the strikers on the pretext that the entire SNCF must first strike before extending. It must be done on a geographical basis, by district, city or region and, in return, its success will convince the less militant SNCF workers to join the fight. In addition to the companies and sectors in struggle, it is also the means to train neighborhoods and young people, and younger generations, in the class struggle against capitalism and thus offer them a real solidarity, in the struggle, and a perspective of class struggle. The perspective of class struggle against capitalism is the only remedy against social despair and impasses.

Regroup for the Fight for Extension and Unification

Finally, wherever possible, it is appropriate that the most combative workers and the most convinced of these orientations, the need to fight against isolation and trade union traps, join together in committees of struggle or "interprofessional assemblies" - it does not matter what the name is - in order to organize and to intervene collectively wherever they can to take up this fight both for the extension and the unification and against their sabotage by the trade unions. For the struggle for extension and unification will not be able to do without this political confrontation against the particular organs of the capitalist state that are the trade unions and the left-wing parties, because they act directly in the working class environment.

From the 3rd, in all SNCF depots, general assemblies to impose the renewable strike!

In the factories, the neighbourhoods and the cities, extension and unification of the strike, demonstrations and the class fight!

In the factories, the neighbourhoods and the cities, regroupment and organization of the most militant workers who want to fight for the extension and the unification of the struggle!

The International Group of the Communist Left, march 28th 2018