How ‘worker’ and ‘student’ unions undermine the struggle

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As we have already shown in our press, the attacks being imposed on the transport, electricity and other workers around the ‘special pension regimes' are just the first stage of an assault on the conditions of the working class as a whole. Tomorrow, the pensions of all workers will be put into question. At the same time, the new medical charges are part of a wider attack on social benefits.

The students in struggle have shown that they understand this when they widened their demands, not only for the withdrawal of the law for the ‘reform' of the universities but also for the defence of the existing pension and medical agreements.

The spectre of the struggle against the CPE is reappearing and the unions, both ‘worker' and ‘student', are doing all they can to prevent a similar dynamic from developing, from opening a perspective for the struggle of the whole working class, not just in France but internationally.

We have already published on our website a number of examples of union sabotage during these struggles. Wherever our forces have allowed us to intervene, in the workers' assemblies and the universities, we have received a lot of sympathy and support from workers and students. Thus, in the south of the country, a group of young students[1] came to discuss with our comrades and gave us their own experience of the union sabotage of the struggle.

What the comrades experienced is very revealing about the contempt these so-called ‘workers' organisations' have for the movement. The only thing that counts for them is that it doesn't escape their control and become a really autonomous force which would allow the workers and students to build real solidarity and draw confidence from a common struggle.

1. How the leftist and union organisations fight each other for control of the movement behind the backs of the general assemblies

We will cite the comrades who wrote to us: "Around 10 November, there were some major thefts at Mirail. Immediately, the administration threatened the AGET-FSE[2] that it would proceed to an administrative closure of the main buildings were not evacuated. We know that the term ‘administrative closure' is a euphemism for ‘sending in the CRS'.

Why did the administration threaten the union at this point? Because it knew that there was a conflict between the occupiers of one building ((l'Arche) and those of the main building. In one building there was the AGET-FSE and the JCR[3], and in the other the anarchists.

The AGET-FSE and the JCR organised an ‘extraordinary commission' to debate the question, in the absence of the anarchists. It was decided to liberate the building whose evacuation had been demanded by the administration, the one occupied by the anarchists!

But this ‘military' operation didn't go as planned. The AGET-FSE abandoned the JCR in the middle of the ‘strong-arm' operation. The anarchists resisted and the ‘putsch', as the anarchists described it, was a failure.

This attempted putsch did a lot of harm to the movement. The majority of he anarchists boycotted the struggle committee dominated by the AGET-FSE and the JCR. What's more, this coup was hidden from the general assembly".

And the comrades concluded: "if such manoeuvres are possible, it's because the commission are presented as something quite impersonal at the general assembly. The movement has a leadership and a well-organised one: it's the unions like the AGET-FSE, student SUD, political organisations like the JCR. There are numerous independents and anarchists. But this leadership is hidden from the general assembly through the hypocritical anonymity of the commissions, which are supposed to carry out the decisions taken by the assemblies!"

2. Not respecting the decisions of the general assemblies

At the assembly we supported the proposal of these comrades to send the largest possible student delegation to the general assemblies of the rail workers. This proposal was voted for by the assembly. But the self-proclaimed presidium declared that it was not possible to go en masse to the railway workers GA on the pretext that there were many actions to be carried out simultaneously. In the end only three students got a mandate from the GA for this delegation: a militant of the AGET-FSE, a militant of the JCR and an ‘independent', as the comrades put it. They themselves offered to be in the delegation, but not being as well-known as the union figures, they had no chance of being mandated.

"All the same we went to the railway workers GA, on the one hand because we had been invited by comrades from the station, and on the other hand because we wanted to listen to the interventions of our delegates.

We were not able to hear them. We went to four of the general assemblies and we never saw them. We asked the comrades of the Sud Rail and others if they had seen them in other general assemblies. They hadn't. In other words, the student delegates, elected by the general assemblies, had not respected their mandate.

In the evening we went to the struggle committee to ask why our delegates hadn't been to the rail workers' assemblies. A member of the AGET-FSE answered that the delegates hadn't known where or when the assemblies were being held...

There was a precedent. On 18 October, I was sent as a student delegate to the rail workers' assemblies. There had been 5 other delegates. At the beginning of the assembly I was the only one there. Only two others arrived when the assembly was over.

At the second assembly, I was once again the only delegate present. No other delegate had respected his mandate. And at that time also they said it was because they didn't have the information!

Railway workers have been holding assemblies for over 8 days. We can't believe that organisations like AGET-FSE and the JCR are incapable of opening their address books and finding the telephone number of a trade union. We who are hardly organised managed to do it".

Caught red-handed in its intrigues, the AGET-FSE found nothing better to do than reproach the comrades for having acted on their own initiative and accusing them of falsely acting in the name of the student assemblies. But in fact the comrades went to the rail workers' assemblies in their own name. They were well received and were able to speak, proposing that the rail workers' should come to the student assemblies (which was done) and a joint leaflet should be distributed at the metro.

As the comrades said, "Whereas these actions were a success, concretising the rapprochement between rail workers and students, they reproached us for taking initiatives, for having gone over the head of the general assembly! By going to the general assembly we were just applying the decision voted some time before by the student assemblies: go to the workers. As communists, it is our duty to work with all our strength for the practical unity of the struggle!

Everything we did was done in full view and knowledge of the assembly. We hid nothing from it. Those who wanted to take part in our action did so, those who didn't want to didn't. We imposed nothing on the assembly. The only thing is that we were independent of the organisations which currently lead the movement".

The ‘worker' and ‘student' unions hand in hand against the growing solidarity between workers and students

The growing solidarity between workers and students, the fact that retired comrades who are not rail workers were able to speak at the rail workers assemblies, all this showed real advances in the struggle: the struggle of the rail workers is not just for themselves, it's part of a struggle of the whole working class, whether working, studying or retired. The unions can't accept this and do all they can to prevent such expressions of solidarity from spreading.

On 22 November, the comrades participated in the student demonstration, in the streets of Toulouse. Again, let them speak:

"At our general assembly, the students were called to participate at the general assembly at the Mediatheque, at 15.30, the place the rail workers, electricity workers and gas workers were assembling. Unfortunately the CGT thought it would be a good idea to change the time of the gathering and sabotage any attempt to hold a general assembly. Had it really been organised, and who by?

The CGT had not expected the students to arrive but they quickly barred the way. When university and high school students arrived we called on them to join the workers, but the official union stewards blocked us. On the other side, the CGT decided to move off, all the more because the workers were making friendly gestures to the students and asking them to join them. The student demonstration was kept 50 yards away from the workers' demonstration".

The strength of the struggle is the struggle itself. These few elements reported here shows how the movement begins to pose in practice the necessity for solidarity in the struggle between workers, students, pensioners... In continuity with struggles like the CPE in France, only the widest possible unity can enable us to constitute a balance of forces that can push back the bourgeoisie's austerity plans.

The bourgeoisie has the unions and the leftists there to prevent this from happening. It is an important victory for the working class when it recognises its real enemies, and there were small signs of this happening in this struggle. 30.11.07

[1] A member of this group calls himself a Trotskyist although not part of any organisation and they sign their writings: ‘some communists of the Marx, Lenin, Trotsky branch'.


[2] Student Union: Association Generale des Etudiants de Toulouse-Federation Syndicale Etudiante.


[3] Jeunesse Communiste Revolutionnaire, youth wing of the Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire.



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