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(en) France, Where’s the response from workers (employed, unemployed) and students (university and high school)? (fr)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 21 Mar 2005 10:31:07 +0100 (CET)

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(distributed at demo on March10, 2005, in Nantes) by Groupement d'Action et de Réflexion
AnarchoSyndicaliste – Nantes (Anarcho-Syndicalist Action and Theory Group – Nantes)
Considering the 2003 defeat on pensions and difficulties in defending
ourselves and organizing on the job, and in this overall difficult
period for everyone except those at the top, we believe it’s
indispensable today to be self-critical about what we do.
We are not satisfied with the usual cycle, some bill (or worse),
negotiations, demos and finally—nothing changes; and we march today, so
it is not a question of getting discouraged about what we do but asking
ourselves how we got here.

The Fillon law on education (regarding the future of schools) seeks to
force teachers and profs to cram into the heads of our kids even more
about the importance of the nation, of active citizenship and republican
values (but not, above all, to critique our society), talks about
replacing budgets based on social criteria with ones based on “merit"
and about designing high school curricula and graduation for the needs
of business. This law is about to be passed even as we are marching
today. The Fillon law is connected to the law on decentralization
(August 13, 2004), and both laws are a giant step toward privatization
of the education system (and so private interest groups put pressure on
schools, pushing for merchandizing, aggravating inequalities, etc.).

What information can we provide; what response do we give to all that?
The demo today? It would be better, before and leading up to any demo,
if we organized some information actions in the universities and high
schools on our mutual struggle, if possible—it has been too long that
our strategy has been to call a demo alone.

The thirty-five hour workweek law continues to be presented to us as a
social gain, but what does that law really say? It fixes the legal
workweek at 35 hours based on the year as a whole. Ignoring the
variability of people’s work schedules by spreading the total number of
hours worked over the entire year hides the fact that many people work
many more than 35 hours in a week; and the break time workers have won
through struggle are not counted as time on the job. The government has
instituted numerous SMICs [minimum wage levels], giving even more
freedom to businesses to negotiate specific agreements. Overtime pay has
been reduced. Bosses are still allowed to grant vacations based on
production needs. Negotiations are done job site by job site, thus
threatening collective bargaining agreements and interfering with worker
unity (people realize that this law can be favourable to workers in the
public sector, and yet, in the short term and above all at the RTT level
[around 10 additional days off a year, supposedly chosen by the worker,
but bosses have many conditions, with private sector bosses being
worse], it reinforces the private-public division between workers.

We could also describe the RMA [temporary, public-sector, need-based job
contract] and other new contracts allowing bosses to toss workers aside
when they're done with them, but we think you get the picture. The
bosses rain blows down on us, the bosses and the rulers together
continue their class struggle, and we must ask ourselves how we are
going to wage our own. We cannot give you some miracle solution, but we
question what's being done because, like you, we see that it's not
working. We participate in struggles today however we can while looking
to the past for examples to follow.

Here are some reports, questions and ideas:

Would it be better to prioritize our union work over more general
unity-building among other groups of employed workers, the unemployed
and students? We saw that, when the union bureaucrats did not call a
general strike in May/June 2003, as usual, it was still up to us to
organize things, including working with unionized workers and union
organizations sincerely involved in the struggle.

Public services are being privatized, but is it only the fault of the
Right, when the Left has signed agreements at the European level that go
in the same direction? Is a State public service necessarily better for
us (La Poste always raising the price of stamps)? A public service that
must be profitable is a service that raises the price of stamps against
the interests of all unemployed and employed workers whenever
competition demands it. We are for protecting public-sector workers, but
we believe that a public service in the hands of the State is not public
at all.

Has unionism abandoned the critique of capitalism it had at the
beginning of the century? With regard to private corporations, is
capitalism "with a human face" possible when workers still slave on a
brutal production line? And aren't office workers pushed past the limit,
too? When a worker is 10 times cheaper in the global South, and 4 times
cheaper in eastern Europe, it's clear that profitability motivates the
firing of workers here in France, so we can see how this sick system
demolishes lives near and far.

Are the next elections, referendums or new government going to replace
that which we ourselves cannot do on the job and in the street? Is a
struggle that doesn't attack the privileges of the bosses or put its own
words into action really much of a struggle? Nuclear weapons, GMOs, the
greenhouse effect, more and more cases of cancer—we are reaching the
point when our planet is going to be inhabitable. What will the profit
society do for us then?

We certainly know we must do something different, but the best way to
struggle doesn't just declare itself. We must begin by not continuing to
have isolated demos—getting into the street must mean making contact
with people, coming together to see what we can do in our solidarity,
rebuilding real fighting unions and acting directly on and off the job
without elected officials. Let's rebuild unity among all sectors of
labour, go on strike at the same time, block transportation, refuse to
allow co-workers to face the bosses alone. Shoulder-to-shoulder, let's
not hesitate to confiscate stocks or machines and have sit-down strikes
when the bosses try to lock us out and instead lock the bosses out and
ourselves in when the cops show up, sabotage production, find the means
to distribute the fruit of our labour without charge to make our
struggle a compassionate one to which others will respond.

If this interests you, you can always give us your opinion through our
paper, but most important is patiently constructing the conditions for
struggle through information campaigns, and then, instead of putting our
energy into demos, shutting down companies and administrations directly.
Take action now!

Let's organize and carry out actions while coming together in
solidarity, directly shutting down companies and administrations with a
general strike.

translated from French by SonofTomJoad, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
from: (fr) Ou en est la riposte des travailleurs, chomeurs, etudiants et lyceens ?

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