Meeting: Strikes in France: the working class begins to become aware of itself

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Saturday 7 March 2020


May Day Rooms

88 Fleet Street

London EC4Y 1DH

After years of retreat in the class struggle, and of a sustained capitalist offensive centred round ideologies either denying the existence of the working class or claiming that it is hopelessly divided between “native and immigrant” or the “left behind”  and those supposedly part of the “urban elite”; after a series of social revolts in which the working class has been drowned in a mass of “citizens”, most notably the Yellow Vest protests in France, we can begin to grasp the importance of the recent strike movement in the same country, principally involving railway workers, health workers and other parts of the public sector. This was a movement which was undoubtedly a response to a direct attack on workers’ living conditions – the so-called “Pension Reforms” demanded by the Macron government. It was centred on the workplaces where the working class is most obviously a living social force, but at the same time, there was a very strong push towards solidarity between the different sectors. There were also some signs – especially among the railway workers – of a capacity to take action outside the trade unions, even if the unions retained an overall control over the movement.

The significance of this movement was above all that it gives us a glimpse of how the working class can regain its sense of being a class – as some of the banners on the strike demonstrations proclaimed, “We exist”, “We are here”. It is the response of workers to the attacks of capital demanded by the remorseless economic crisis which will enable them to recover their class identity, an indispensable basis for the development of a revolutionary consciousness, the recognition that the working class is not only collectively exploited by capital, but also that it is the only force in society that can offer a real alternative to capitalism.

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