Τετάρτη, 01 Ιούνιος 2016 23:38

The rising tide of resistance in France... a militant reports

Κατηγορία Κόσμος

e la libertà:

Interview with Elsa Bοulet

 

Elsa is member of NPA [Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste]

 

e la libertà: The media in Greece provide little or no coverage of the events unfolding in France. Could you give us a brief description of the situation in France at the moment ?

Elsa Bοulet:The situation has changed rapidly in the last two weeks. In the middle of May we were not sure where the movement was going: the student movement was decreasing as the exams took place, and the strikes among workers were minority ones, the movement in the railroad sector was blocked by the unions bureaucracies. Ten days ago, strikes started in the refineries: that was a tremendous change both in the objective situation and in the subjective situation. It created an atmosphere of enthusiasm – for those in favour of the movement – and of crisis – for those against it. At the moment 6 out of 8 refineries are stopped due to the strike, for several days oil stocks (warehouses ?) were blockaded by strikers, especially in the West and North of France (Normandy) were the dockers blockaded roads and oil stocks. This gave new energy to the movement and to the militants. Nuclear plants' workers have joined the strike; and this atmosphere of confrontation combined with the basis' pressure on the bureaucracies made the railroad unions call for an unlimited strike from the 31rst May on. In Paris the public transports will be on strike from the 2nd of June on. One-day strikes have taken place car factories. We are witnessing an acceleration of the struggle.

e la libertà: What are the key points of the reactionary reform of the labour legislation, and how will it affect working people and the unemployed ?

Elsa Bοulet:The aim of the Labour Act is to make workers powerless in front of the employers, to destroy individual and collective rights. Among various measures such as increasing the working hours, facilitating firing and even illegal firing (by reducing the penalty against bosses), the core of the Labour Act is the subordination of the Labour Law (Code du travail) and the collective agreements to the firm agreement. This means that the employers will be able to impose their conditions on workers, who will be deprived of the protection of the Labour Code and of the collective agreements. Although the Labour Act is presented as a way of reducing unemployment by encouraging “competitivity” and “flexibility”, it is quite clear that it can only increase unemployment (by firing people more easily and making those who have a job work longer hours), increased precarity and degrade working conditions. I have to mention that at the same time as the government tries to impose the Labour Act, it is also imposing a reform of the unemployment insurance system that would lower unemployment pensions: again, the aim is to make workers powerless by obliging them to accept any job not to starve, whatever the working conditions may be.

e la libertà: The law passed by order of the President, by-passing even parliament. The State of Emergency is being extended. What is the stance of the various political forces with regards to the shrinking of democratic and social rights ?

Elsa Bοulet:When the state of emergency was imposed in November, during the night when the terrorist attacks in Paris took place, most political parties and big unions supported it. The Left Front deputies for instance voted in favour of the Emergency state. A front against the emergency state was organised with far left organisations, amongs them the NPA, NGOs, human rights associations, some trade unions, but it was very small and did not manage to launch an effective campaign. The emergency state was extended twice since November 2015. At the moment there have been few mass reactions against the emergency state and police brutality, which is really important since the beginning of the movement. But the repeal of the emergency state has been a demand of the student movement from the beginning, together with the withdrawal of the Labour Act proposal. If the movement wins a victory against the Labour Act I hope we will be able to push forward and force the government to repeal the emergency state.

e la libertà: The Nuit Debout Movement, the Student Movement and the Workers Movement, how did they begin, which movements where first to initiate action, how where they linked and which political forces supported a direction geared to bringing together these movements ?

Elsa Bοulet:The student movement was the first to start, at the beginning of March. For one month it was quite isolated, because the unions called for a one-day strike only at the end of Mach. Nevertheless, it managed to call for demonstrations every week in March, and was followed by unions and workers, this was a help in building the 31rst of March strike. The strike was a big success: it is at the end of this day that Nuit Debout started in Paris, and later extended in other towns. The big strike of the 31rst of March was also the beginning of a radical, general strike in Mayotte, an island situated in the Indian Ocean which is supposedly a French departement but actually is more of a colony. People in Mayotte demanded equal rights with inhabitants of the metropolis, and in particular they demanded that the Labour Code would protect them too. After the 31rst of March, the next big demonstration day was the 28th of April, which was also a success but the strikes did not really start yet, in part due to the unions' bureaucracies strategy to delay the struggle.

From the beginning the student movement took a position that it had to address the workers so that the student movement and workers movement could fight together against the Labour Act. The NPA members advocated for this orientation in the regional and national coordinations of students (the self-organised leadership of the movement). We were not the only ones, among the students this orientation had quickly the majority. In Nuit Debout, at least in Paris, a minority is organising the convergence with the workers' movement, especially the “general strike commission”. Again, NPA members participated in Nuit debout general assemblies and commissions to advocate for such a convergence. Union bureaucracies have been very reluctant to be linked to Nuit debout, but basis unionists and workers have taken advantage of the square occupation to organise sectorial meetings, for instance “Hospitals debout”, “Railworkers debout”, or “Social work debout”. Reformist organisations have either been quite passive, or even have opposed the convergence.

e la libertà: What is the role of the trade unions and the trade union bureaucracy in the movement from its beginning to this day ?

Elsa Bοulet:First the unions bureaucracies delayed the mobilisation, by calling for a one-day- strike once a month. This tactics was used in 2010 in the mobilisation against the pensions reform, and the basis movement was not strong enough to push for closer mobilisation days and for unlimited strike, we lost. At the same time, local unions and radical members pushed for a tougher tactic, there is a collective of unionists from different unions called “let's blockade everything” for instance. Among the railworkers, the unions have delayed the unlimited strike, but now with the pressure from the other sectors (energy) and from their basis, they are calling for an unlimited striker from today on. So actually what happened is quite usual: the bureaucracies both organised the struggle and tried to prevent it going “to far”, that is out of their control. Local unions and groups of members pushed forward, in particular in the places where there are revolutionary militants.

e la libertà: What is the role of the French Communist Party in all of this ?

Elsa Bοulet:In France the main trade unions, especially the CGT, are linked non-officially to the Communist Party. You have to understand that the French Communist Party is quite different from the KKE: it is a reformist party, it has electoral alliances with the Socialist Party, it is very institutionalised. It lost much of its members and influence in the last 40 years, even if the youth organisation is still active. But in the student movement the Communist Youth has almost disappeared from the general assemblies and coordinate together with UNEF (there are close). The discourse of the Communist party at the moment is close to the CGT's one: the Labour Act is not acceptable as it it, what we want is to negotiate with the government. Together with the Unef and other reformist organisation, the FCP is advocating for a referendum on the Labour Act, which is a way of pretending to be fighting against this reform while not calling for the general strike. Of course, in the NPA we think that this referendum is a diversion, the only way for winning a victory is by forcing the government to withdraw the bill through a massive and unlimited strike.

e la libertà: What is the intervention of the NPA and what goals does it put ?

Elsa Bοulet:In a nutshell, the NPA militants participate very actively in the movement in their workplace and union, and we push toward a general and unlimited strike. For instance, comrades in the social work sector have organised assemblies that brought together people who work in small, isolated workplaces and social work student. This made a strike possible, because people came together and realised they could organise even if they worked in different places. In the railroad sector, comrades have fought the bureaucracies' position to delay the mobilisation, they have organised and participated in mobilisation and strike committee, independent from the unions' leadership. They have also organised, together with student comrades, actions and demonstrations of convergence that claimed that the rail-workers had to fight both for their own working conditions and against the Labour Act (the bureaucracies opposed such a line and tries to divide the rail-workers' movement and the students' movement). In every workplace, every university and high school, we advocate for self-organisation and convergence between the different sectors. We are convinced it is the only way to win a victory.

e la libertà: What are the prospects for the movement ?

Elsa Bοulet:Today the rail-workers' strike is starting, the day after tomorrow it will be the Paris transports. The Paris garbage collectors have just started a strike. What we see is that the strike in the energy sector is giving hope and people are beginning to think we might actually win. There is a real chance of winning. But we will have to be very attentive to the unions' bureaucracies, especially the CGT, because they are very strong is key sectors like the energy and railroad sectors. They could have the power to make the strike stop if the government agrees to negotiate. Self-organisation is a crucial stake. For the moment the government refuses to withdraw the bill, they are being very aggressive and even abusing against the CGT, strikers, workers... This helps building the mobilisation as people get more and more angry. The next days will be decisive, the question is: will the movement get stronger and stronger until the 14th of June, the day of a national demonstration in Paris ? If it does, the Labour Act and the government might fall.

 

 

Greek translation

 

april 2016 france

Τελευταία τροποποίηση στις Πέμπτη, 02 Ιούνιος 2016 23:26
Το e la libertà.gr σέβεται όλες τις απόψεις, αλλά διατηρεί το δικαίωμά του να μην αναρτά σχόλια με υβριστικό, ρατσιστικό, σεξιστικό φασιστικό περιεχόμενο ή σχόλια μη σχετικά με το κείμενο

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