France - Workers’ Anger is Mounting

The anger of the workers in France is mounting as the consequences of the economic crisis begins to make itself felt. But this anger is also against the former “liberal” and radical measures of the government to lower labour costs.

One of the directors of the Continental firm in the department of L’Oise (a tyre factory which employs 1200 workers) was bombarded with eggs, the managers of Sony in Les Landes, and of the pharmaceutical works 3M at Pithiviers, next to Orléans were held against their will in an office. Their complaints are over job losses and the closure of factories.

In Auxerre, the workers of Fulmen, which makes car and lorry batteries, forced the manager to join in their demonstration.

There is also a long list of struggles of a new type such as the invasion of the head office of Caterpillar in Grenoble. Next came the occupation of Rencast (vehicle parts manufacturer) in Chateauroux where the strike began on 12 March when the legal wind up of the group was announced. Finally, a mass meeting of workers unanimously decided to strike and occupy the plant. A new “boss-napping” took place as April began when four managers were held at the Scapa factory in the Ain. What was new about this was that the wage workers were able to get their redundancy payments doubled. So taking action pays because the fear of radicalisation is well understood by the bourgeosie. They know the social situation could evolve rapidly. The widespread nature of these struggles over the entire national territory, even into the smallest towns is an important characteristic to note, and shows that the sense of grievance is spreading and is generally deepening

For now violence has been limited. But something has changed, workers are taking up the struggle because they have nothing to lose. They recognise what they themselves need to have and that the measures to lower wages which they have accepted have solved nothing. At the end of the day they are laid off just the same. And above all they are taking control of their own struggles without listening to the unions who are preaching calm or waiting for a “more favourable” moment to lead a struggle. According to the media the workers are carrying out more violent actions in these struggles. Is that all! In fact the bourgeoisie is beginning to panic because it well knows that this is only the beginning and that the struggles will become more widespread with the deepening of the crisis.

It is clear that these struggles are the sign of workers’ powerlessness and despair but they have the merit of existing. They are the sign of a reawakening of combativity which can only develop in a more significant fashion when all the features we are seeing in the capitalist crisis make themselves felt even more massively.

Bilan & Perspectives, 5 April 2009