Two Million Strikers Battle Sellouts, French Gov’t

<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>PARIS, Nov. 23 — The class struggle tests the mettle of organizations and individuals. Over the past two weeks, three simultaneous, interconnected battles have offered workers and students in France and around the world an assessment of their friends and foes.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>SPECIAL PENSION PLANS</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>On Nov. 13, 202,000 rail, energy and Paris commuter train workers struck a second time to defend their special pension plans, which allow them to retire at 50 or 55. On Oct. 18, a 24-hour strike by 247,600 couldn’t force the government to abandon plans to increase retirement age by five years.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>This attack on pensions is the first battle in the bosses’ effort to make all workers work longer for smaller pensions. The MEDEF — the French bosses’ association — wants to force everyone to work 41 or more years to be eligible for retirement. By attacking the transport and energy workers, the bosses hope to break the working-class unity needed to defend and extend existing retirement plans.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The bosses’ media, especially television, accused transport workers of “holding passengers hostage” and regularly said the strike was over. Socialist Party leader Emmanuel Valls attacked the special retirement plans as “unfair.” In October, labor faker François Chérèque, CFDT union head, said that “a long strike doesn’t lead anywhere” and on Nov. 16, the CFDT advocated ending the strike.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Worse yet, hours after the strike began, Bernard Thibault of the CGT union, the leader of the three-week 1995 strike that successfully defended special pension plans, abandoned maintaining the plans intact, offering to “negotiate” their “reform.” Thibault — a top member of the French “Communist” Party — also stooped to red-baiting, warning workers not to allow “political organizations” to hijack their strike. The CFDT and UNSA unions and the Socialist Party immediately supported Thibault’s sellout. Only the SUD union refused to downsize the workers’ pensions.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Negotiations began on Nov. 21 after French President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped ending the strike as a precondition. </p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The union hacks in France and Germany also did nothing to build international solidarity, although train drivers in Germany were simultaneously striking for higher wages.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Despite these attacks, a minority of transport and energy workers held out for nine days. On Nov. 22, Anissa, a Paris rail ticket agent, said “a gulf is opening up between the CGT and rail workers.” In Marseilles, a striker declared: “We should have blocked traffic! No trains moving. We know how to play cat-and-mouse with the CRS [the national riot police].”</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS </p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>On Nov. 20, 1.7 million public sector workers (out of 5.2 million) struck and 700,000 demonstrated in cities nationwide, demanding higher wages, job creation and better public services. In particular, 454,000 of the country’s 739,000 school teachers struck; 40,000 university and high school students joined them. It was a golden opportunity to unite civil servants, rail and energy workers and students.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The bosses’ friends made sure that didn’t happen. When the strike was announced on Oct. 23, Chérèque declared that “if there is a combination of strike movements between the special retirement plans, civil servants, and I don’t know what else,” the CFDT would not participate. The UNSA union also insisted that each industrial sector remain separate.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>On Nov. 20, Alain Olive, UNSA union general secretary, condemned rail and energy workers for defending special retirement plans, and thus “cannibalizing” civil servants’ demands. And President Sarkozy red-baited, saying “the majority must prevail over a very small minority, even if that minority is violent” — as if 1.7 million workers were “a small, violent minority.”</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Paris workers refused to let Chérèque demonstrate with them, showing they’ve seen through that faker. But they allowed Thibault, who’s no better, to lead the march.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The leaders of the public workers’ unions are threatening another 24-hour strike in early December if the government does not announce measures to increase purchasing power by Nov. 30. But the rail and energy workers’ experience shows that only long, earnest strikes have a chance to win some demands.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>STUDENTS AND TEACHERS</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Students have been striking for three weeks against the Pécresse law, which gives private business an even bigger say in running public universities and gives university presidents despotic power. Of 80 universities, 30 have been shut down and another 20 are severely disrupted. The movement has spread to high schools, where 80 have been disrupted or shut down. The CRS riot police have brutally attacked students on many campuses.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>Although teaching loads will increase dramatically under the Pécresse law, university teachers have been slow to support the student movement. The SNESUP-FSU, the main university teachers’ union, and the CGT and SUD-Education unions have finally called for a teachers’ strike on Nov. 27 to demand abrogation of the Pécresse law.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>COMMUNISTS NEEDED</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>The sharpening class struggle in France is exposing the union hacks’ and fakers’ treachery. These class traitors’ reformism puts them even more on the enemy’s side of the class struggle, in this age of fierce inter-imperialist rivalry, based on pushing racism and lowering workers’ standard of living still more to make us pay for their economic crisis and endless wars.</p>
<p align=”justify”>  <font face=”verdana” size=”2″>But, as Chérèque’s and Thibault’s betrayals show, exposure’s not enough. To avoid the pitfalls of discouragement and cynicism, workers need to build a revolutionary communist party. Only such leadership can move past these traitorous union misleaders and turn these class struggles into schools for communist revolution to eliminate the profit system.</p>

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