The article on May Day Strikes in France (Solidarity 468) contains a slip on the nature of 1 May in France.
Since Marshal Pétain in 1941, 1 May has been a Festival of Labour, in place of the International Workers’ Day of struggle, and this remained the case at Liberation. It is a paid day off. Workers’ class consciousness can be measured by whether or not they attend the union demonstrations on 1 May, which is a day of paid leave.
Except sectors where there is year-round activity (hospitals, transport, firefighters, food, hospitality, cinema, entertainment), the question of strikes isn’t posed.
We must underline the fact that in Paris, following the provocative acts of the Black Blocs, which were completely instrumentalised by the police and the Ministry of the Interior, the union demonstration was almost cut into pieces, by the riot police (CRS).
Happily, led by a CGT bloc hailing from a banlieue, the march found its way and was able to take an alternative route to its intended end point, Place d’Italie. It was strange to demonstrate in peace over several kilometres, without seeing a single cop or provocateur!
During the most intense confrontations generated by the Black Blocs and the police, the central leadership of the demonstrations completely lost control and stopped leading anything at all! Happily, teams of workplace activists stuck together and stopped a catastrophe which would have helped the government.
The article might have referred to the police pressure on mobilisations in the universities, which was designed to stop general assemblies being held, as well as occupations. For the government, it is a matter of extending to universities such regime which has operated in further education colleges (lycées) for ten years. One of the present priorities is the construction of a mass union movement in the universities and colleges alike, to defend the right of everyone to study, to get a good qualification and a broad critical culture.
The student organisation UNEF, whose last big win was the mobilisation against the CPE in 2006, has fallen back a long way from its high point. FAGE, a kind of appendix of the [pro-social-partnership] CFDT union federation) has greater influence.
Witness the scandal documented by journalists at Le Monde and Libération, of a system of sexual predation by the “big leaders” against “mere grassroots activists”. This was also very widespread in the Mouvement des Jeunes Socialists [the youth wing of Hollande’s Socialist Party] during the same period (2006 to 2014) and it illustrates a very low level of consciousness at the top of the organisations of youth, which are in general populated by young people who are (very much) revolted by injustice, oppression, and exploitation...
The article also mentions the NPA initiative of a unity meeting on 30 April in Place de la République. Even though it went in the right direction, and took in participants from a number of political groups and parties (PCF, Ensemble, GDS, PCOF, Nouvelle Donne, Générations, Socialisme et République …), this initiative only brought together 300 participants.
The article states that the NPA is calling for united strike action to beat and remove Macron. But unfortunately, while the NPA is calling for Macron to be beaten when it comes to the question of removing him, the NPA’s attitude is far from clear. It depends on who you speak to! The NPA is not thinking in terms of a battle for a workers’ government, or in terms of a battle to build working-class political representation.
This article gives a rather too one-sided vision of the situation, which might lead one to believe that everything is easy. Macron’s policies are generating a wave of social discontent, which for the moment is all the slower, because of its depth.
The political task of the moment is to avoid the movement dispersing, to facilitate the mobilisations coming together, “all together, all at once!”, and to build this movement of resistance by an implacable opposition to all of Macron’s politics.
We must refuse “social dialogue” and by preparing the unity of the movement, centred on the need to get rid of Macron.
Olivier Delbeke, Paris