To say it shortly !
1)The attack by French Prime Minister De Villepin on the CPE (First Job Contract) is not only an attack on the youth, it is completed by the CNE (New Job Contract for all workers in the companies under 20 wage-workers ). When De Villepin issued the CNE last summer, the top officials of trade unions said nothing or nothing loud and didn’t nothing to mobilise.
But it must be clear that the stake of the dispute is something like the issue of the miners’ strike in Britain in 1984-85. Either the right government and the bosses inflict a big and historical defeat to French workers by destroying all the Labour laws who protect the workers either the workers succeed in defeating the government in something higher than the 1995 strike or even opening the way to the fall of the government.
2) If there is a national strike next Tuesday (28 march), it will be not thanks to the top officials of the unions (all the unions from CFDT to CGT and FO), but it will be thanks to the struggle of the youth in universities first, and now in the lycees.
Without that struggles, in which excepted the students associated with the CFDT (Cé : Confederation etudiante), nobody play the role of the “yellow”. All the youth organisations of official left (CGT, FO, UNSA, SUD, FSU, UNEF, FIDL, UNL, JC, MJS, and even the JCR !) made an united committee (see on the web www.stopcpe.net ) for organising and mobilising.
It was against the will of the official leadership, under the pressure of the rank and file, that the top leadership of all the organisations are obliged to adopt the slogan “retrait du CPE” (withdraw of the CPE !). The official ideology of the CGT, for example, is something more closer to John Monks’s ideology than to “ordinary trade union class struggle”.
So what happends ?
2) Despite that the leadership refuse to call clearly to strike on 7 february, on 7 march, on 16 march, at each time, the demo contingents were larger and bigger that ordinary “journée d’action”. Sometimes, some local unions or some federations call on for strike.
Why that ? Because the top officials of the trade unions are the safety belt of the regime ! And in this play, the first role is played by the top leadership of the CGT.
When some supporter of Solidarity made evocation of “the maneuvers of PS-lead UNEF”, it is missing the point. The Ligne Maginot of Chirac is back-boned by the Stalinist apparatus, who after the Fall of the Berlin Wall has made a change of master : yesterday they were devoted to Kremlyn’s bureaucracy, now they are devoted to European Union and their national government, country by country. So, in France, they are the main agents of Chirac to avoid the successful reactions of workers against the right’s attacks on social gains.
3) On the contrary of 2003 (attacks against pensions ) and 2004 (attacks against the Securite Sociale and privatisation of EDF) , in the youth, the bureaucrats have lesser means to stop the movement. On last October, after the day of action on the 4 October, the strikers of SNCM and RTM and Marseille’s harbour and the oil raffineries were deliberately isolated by the Thibault-Le Duigou leadership.
So, the youth opened the way for their parents, and now, the workers are entering on the stage.
On Thursday 23 march, there must happened a national march in Paris on the call of the national students coordination. By now, as these article is typed, we ignore how things will happened in Paris. Everywhere in the country, when people are not going to Paris, there will be a lot of local demonstrations and strikes in some workplaces but without a central call for strike.
4) The call for the strike on next Tuesday, 28 march, is the result of the unions leadership to refuse to call for strike before, on the calculation that the youth will be tired by nearly two months of struggles. But now, the link is beginning between that fighting spirit and those of the olders, the workers.
5) The left is divided in two camps (not three !!). One camp is on the line “struggle, struggle, struggle” …but don’t touch to the Chirac-Sarkozy-Villepin ‘s government. This include PS, PCF and the main far-left groups (LCR, LO, PT).
The other camp said “if you want to win, you must get rid of Chirac and his regime, so prepare for general strike, national demo against the power in Paris and don’t be afraid to oust that government !”. This is what are doing a (very) little “workers’ alliance” including the Liaisons’s supporters, the group Militant, the group La Commune –UIT-, and others in the left of the PS. But outside this tiny minorities, the feelings of many rank and file militants is going towards that tune, at first with a lot of confusion, but on the way of experience, things are going clearer !
Now, we are entering in a stormy period. Only the struggle will decide the issue.