(Eng) The dance goes on (Fr)

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Sat, 13 Jan 1996 19:12:28 +0100


Le Monde Libertaire (11th Jan 1996) met up with JP -
anarchist and unionist. Three weeks of strike action - along
with hundreds of thousands of fellow workers - a head full of
words, images and hopes. Here are the words of a striker...

LML - Would you introduce yourself?

JP - I've been working with the Parisian bus service for some 20
years. I'm a militant anarchist.

LML - Are you a union member?

JP - I'm with the CGT. I'm also a shop steward.

LML - Can you tell us about the experience of this movement as
lived by your colleagues? By yourself? How it affected
relationships between people?

JP - Let's take the specific example of my depot, which is at the
Porte de Clignancourt. We had no sense of history here - there
wasn't any. With this conflict we now have a sense of the past. For
the people who work here that is important. There has been a
corporate rupture; now there's a feeling of belonging to a particular
class - whether we are talking about bus drivers, workers in the
manufacturing industries, rail and postal workers and the teachers
who came to visit us. We feel ourselves to be part of one world,
one struggle. This is a new feeling because up until now we have
had the feeling of belonging to a corporation within the transport
service where a bus drivers only contact with a fellow worker was
at the petrol station - and even then you felt separate. Again a bus
driver was in a different world to an underground driver. Within
the company everywhere there were fractions. And all these
fractions broke down. This must have been the case in other

LML - In a previous edition of LML we've spoken about
individuals re-identifying with the proletariat...

JP - I think it is true for those of us who have lived the strike. A
strange kind of strike. It was like a party, there was a sense of
renewal.... Renewal because even if we can speak of past strike
action during the last 15 years, when there were conflicts they
were half-hearted. There was never really a desire to win. This
time we had a real feeling of struggle, having a party - it wasn't a
drag. Folk who were around at 3.00am were tired but happy.
Coming together was as important as the strike itself.

LML - What effect did it have on relations with the

JP - In our depot - unlike others - the management didn't join the
strike. So a big gulf has appeared and they know it. They have to
tread real careful when they want to ask a favour now. We used to
say that when in struggle we were as one, that we were strong.
Whatever management said meant fuck all to us. Whatever they
say today means fuck all and if they try to shit on us we are well
able to return the compliment. Perhaps it won't last but right now
they are having a bad time of it.

LML - If relations evolved positively can the same be said for
racist and sexist attitudes?

JP - Well to be honest my working environment is pretty sexist and
racist. It's a male atmosphere - there are few women drivers -
traditionally a man's job. And when it comes to racism there's one
union - quite influential, an independent group - which has links to
the Front National and which gives legitimacy to that kind of talk.
Having said that the conflict allowed us to call on our brothers and
sisters when there were problems of a racist or sexist nature. In the
context of struggle and solidarity everyone was able to discuss,
analyse, try to understand why it is stupid to look on a female,
West Indian or North African worker as inferior. There's always a
problem here but now we can discuss it.

LML - The media are full of the idea of a 'proxy strike'. Were
you aware of this? Did you feel that folk were pinning their
hopes on you?

JP - Absolutely. When we were on picket duty at the depot people
told us not to give in. There were gestures of solidarity... people
came in the morning with breakfast or money for the strike fund.
This may seem a little anecdotal but during the strike it all helped
to push us into seeing the movement through.

LML - What were the highlights at your depot?

JP - There were so many! Something every day. I still have
memories of meeting up with postworkers, railworkers, the public
and even a delegation from Germany. We had the impression of
breaking out of our area of Paris even France itself. Then I
remember the General Assembly when we got so carried away we
were calling for a world-wide strike.

LML - And after the Euphoria...

JP - It's not over yet - just on hold! It could all start again
tomorrow or next week. I really reckon it'll happen again before
spring gets here..

Interview by Laurent (Black Star Group of the FAF - Ivry)