French elections: Don’t be afraid of the attacks, fight back!
It’s back to harsh reality for the working class after months of an intense barrage of propaganda pushing them towards the ballot box, with glittering illusions about ‘a change’, ‘a break’ through the election. And for what? The Sarkozy government has taken office and set to work, and the bourgeoisie does not even need to wait for the legislature to announce the future which they have in store for workers: attacks and ever more attacks. It’s not only the programme of the ‘uncomplicated right’, it is the defence of the interests, pure and simple, of the whole national bourgeoisie, which the PS (Parti Socialiste) candidate would also have applied. The presence of renegades from the left and the centre within the governing team shows that there is really nothing substantial between their different programmes, all defend the interests of the national capital.
The ruling class has a real advantage in this situation with an overtly rightwing government, benefiting from a large majority at all levels of the state apparatus, able to use the language of truth without any detours or rhetorical flourishes.
A deluge of massive attacks against the working class
So the government can increase the speed and severity of its attacks. It has already announced an informative calendar of them:
· Introducing the non reimbursement for acts of medical care by social services until the end of the year. Furthermore, it has already announced that it is necessary to prepare for “other sacrifices” to fill the 2 billion Euro “hole” in the social security budget.
· Encouragement to take out mortgages with tax relief on the interest will push households further into debt and push the price of construction and interest rates higher still, making the housing problem more dramatic. A larger and larger part of the working class will be thrown into the streets or not be able to find decent housing.
· The third attack front is the single work contract (contrat de travail unique) known as “flexisecurity”. This allows the simplification of redundancy procedures making it easier to impose extra work on proletarians, with extra hours paid as normal time as much as possible. In any case, this overtime will not count for redundancy nor for pensions. This contract will also allow a growing blackmail of all workers, constrained not only to go from one workplace to another but also from one job to another at less pay, under the threat of redundancy. The growth in working hours, in productivity, an enormous pressure on wages, the permanent threat of redundancy – this is what is in store for the working class in the coming months.
· The objective is also to reduce the official unemployment statistics to 5% with part time, precarious work, as well as imposing compulsory work in order to continue to obtain dole money, with the right to it lost in case of refusal.
· The government has clearly announced its intention to make cuts in the civil service. Plans for redundancies and job losses will continue to rain down.
· The maintenance of ‘minimum service’ in transport until the end of the year aims to prevent a massive strike in this key sector such as that by rail workers which frightened the bourgeoisie in the winter of 1986/87. The most obvious aim of this project is to pass the law just before the end of the special retirement arrangements due in early 2008, which is particularly targeting the SNCF and RATP (French railways). It is a question of diffusing the most militant sectors which were also the spearhead of the strikes and demonstrations in the public services in 1995 against the Juppé plan which had exactly the same aim of stopping the special pension arrangements.
This is just a prelude to the attack on the retirement age for all which will be “reviewed” and corrected as a whole with the aim of raising it to 67 as is proposed in Britain and Germany.
All this is, not surprisingly, accompanied by the immediate reinforcement of the state’s repressive apparatus: immediately after the election the deportation of illegal immigrants was taken up with great zeal; one of the first measures of the new parliament will be to fix minimum penalties for repeat offenders.
The ‘Sarkozy era’ is being prepared for the great growth in social inequality that was already apparent in the policies of Reagan in the US or even more in those of Thatcher in Britain during the 1980s.
The response to government attacks is not the vote but the development of the class struggle
Workers, and in particular the younger generation, have recently been influenced by the ideological barrage from the left and the extreme left exploiting their fear of Sarkozy (since he crystallises their anxiety about the future) to swamp them in illusions about the elections and the democratic mystification. But they must not panic in the face of the loss of these illusions. Their conviction that capitalism has no future to offer them can only be strengthened.
The young generations of workers have already shown their capacity to oppose the bourgeoisie’s attacks effectively and get them withdrawn, with the struggle against the CPE in France last year. They made clear that this attack was an attack against all proletarians. They sought to bring to life truly proletarian methods of struggle in the universities, although not always fully conscious of this: general assemblies that were open, not only to their teachers and education employees but to workers, employed and unemployed; nomination of elected delegates who could be recalled at any time by the assemblies; interventions or leaflets calling on paid workers to join their struggle. Proletarians must take up this experience again which shows that the development of the class struggle is the only realistic response to the attacks of this system which condemns all workers to increasing exploitation and poverty. The development of these struggles depends on the capacity to affirm the unity and solidarity of all workers beyond the factory, the enterprise, the sector or national frontiers.
Unions are key to the bourgeoisie’s sabotage of the development of the workers’ fight-back
The government is preparing the blows it has in store for us by engaging in a broad “preliminary policy of social dialogue” with the unions. What does this mean? That the latter are closely associated with the government in order to make us take the medicine. We can already see how this has been started. All the union leaders (Le Duigou or Maryse Dumas for the CGT, Mailly for FO and Chereque for the CFDT) have appeared on the TV to declare “we are ready for dialogue and negotiation”. On leaving the Elysée Palace they have welcomed the government’s ‘positive climate for cooperation’ – and with good reason!. While they proclaim their ‘intransigence’ in respect of the ‘principle’ of the ‘right to strike’, they are already driving home the idea that in practice, for instance over the ‘service minimum’, ‘problems should be examined case by case, branch by branch’. They are well and truly on the same wavelength as the Sarkozy government which is only engaging in this parody of ‘dialogue’ in order to prevent a united mobilisation of all those faced with its attacks and so to allow the unions to divide workers sector by sector.
The bourgeoisie fears workers’ reaction to all these attacks. In fact it is hitting the whole working class. The question of the development of the greatest unity and active solidarity in its response is posed more clearly than ever.
This is why the unions are called on to play such an important and prominent role, assigned to them by the whole bourgeoisie, in order to sabotage the struggles.
Government and unions have a division of labour to prevent the workers’ mobilisation that, if it gives rise to a struggle might, for example, draw other workers and other sectors to follow this example.
Faced with struggles the state can count on the unions to do everything, to carry out their manoeuvres, to empty them of any expression of workers’ solidarity by keeping their reactions within the confines of the corporatist framework of the enterprise, as at Alcatel, Airbus or in the car industry.
We should remember how, in 2003, the unions brought about the defeat of the general mobilisation against the ‘pensions reform’ by organising the isolation of the education sector.
In the months to come we will see how the ‘iron man’ Sarkozy is not the only enemy of the working class. There is no doubt that his role is to attack the working class in the overt defence of the interests of the national capital. The more dangerous enemies are the false friends, the unions, who permanently sabotage our struggles and lead us to defeat in order to allow the government and bosses to push through their attacks. W 1.6.07 (from Revolution Internationale no 380)