The Strikes in France May 2016

The following document is a translation of a text written by a French comrade. It is obviously not a complete picture and refers only to the situation of the struggle in May but an update is already being prepared as is a document of deeper reflection on the significance of these struggles. CWO

The purpose of this document is to reflect on the current social situation and the balance of power between the classes not only in France but also in the world. Workers will have to go beyond the current fierce attacks against the working class that has lasted for thirty years in order to save capitalism.

The social movement that started 2 months ago remains largely controlled and manipulated by the forces of the "left" of the bourgeoisie. The key to the situation lies in the bursting of the bourgeois cage we are trapped in by the "Up All Night" movement. It also involves reflection and open political discussions of our situation but outside the limited framework imposed by "Up All Night." Irrespective of the use and abuse of "Up All Night", this phenomenon is a sign of a subterranean journey of some reflection and of the need to reflect on the serious political, economic, social, ecological, and other issues within some sections of the working class, including unemployed youth in the process of proletarianisation etc ... "

The Struggle .... Much Ado About Nothing!

Attacking the working class over and over is what the bourgeoisie does ...

The situation of France society in 2016? Nothing new to report! The economic crisis continues with its procession of the unemployed.

Obviously the economic and social situation is no different from that of any other country despite the propaganda that tells us that "things are getting better"[1] here and there in the world. But after repeatedly telling us that the United States economy is recovering[2], they then tell so is Spain despite its ballooning unemployment rate[3], then China and Brazil[4] were going to save the planet and boost the economy, they finally tried to repeat the trick in France after the so-called two-month decline in unemployment. In reality this amounts to nothing. But what a noise the media made about it!

In doing so, the bourgeoisie continues to attack the working class under the banner of carrying out "reform" or "modernisation"!

It is clear that "enough is enough" for workers. The El Khomri law was the last straw. This law is a draft reform of the labour code which is an unprecedented brutal attack on employees. The key points of this attack involve:

  • The development of flexible employment which means making sackings easier and making any employment contract worthless.
  • The release of firms from rules on binding contracts and collective agreements. Each is free to decide alone in its field.
  • Removing or weakening the power of labour judges (Industrial Tribunals)
  • The introduction of a referendum in each firm to endorse management decisions.

Obviously the bourgeoisie is beginning to fear the reactions of the working class and is trying to dampen its powder before any reaction. Anger is simmering!

We are not arguing here against feeling solidarity with the struggle and the struggle of workers seeking a way to fight and oppose this new attack. It is not about criticising the slogans of "Up All Night" who have been the first to try to regain the initiative against the steamroller of the conquering bourgeoisie. It is already extraordinary to see the storm they have raised against all the powers that our false democracy imposes on us.

What we are interested in is pushing workers to free themselves from all their "false friends" that manipulate us and send us on false paths.

Two manoeuvres are currently in progress: to politicallyregroup the left and to enhance the role of trade unions.

1. "Up All Night", an attempt to resurrect the far left ....

Conceived in late March by journalist François Ruffin[5] and his friends to enable the "convergence of scattered struggles” the "Up All Night" movement is enjoying unexpected success. The first occupation of the streets took place on March 31 at the end of a day of protest against the proposed El Khomri law. It has developed in many towns and cities and even internationally.

In reality, it is an attempt to advance the cause of Mélenchon[6].

Ruffin "does not hide (Fakir) his magazine’s support for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, which was the subject of an internal vote. "The future of newspapers is linked to the political situation. If no opposition of the left emerges, we will grin and bear it”, he said. “Our goal is that people in France feel supported." (Le Monde, February 15, 2013).

At a time when the "left" no longer has any dreams to offer, where nobody believes in anything, all adventures are possible. The section of the bourgeoisie behind Ruffin are trying to sell us old recipes as well as the virtues of what has happened in Spain and Greece with Podemos and Syriza. For now the language is very radical. Classical democracy can no longer be trusted, all politicians are 'corrupt', but tomorrow ...

2. The CGT riding the wave

The present developments in the struggle at workplace level were prepared several weeks ago. The CGT has now adopted radical language and has been pushed into even violent and radical struggle but it could have used this language already two months ago when it was organising days of action repeated every few weeks. The struggle was always for tomorrow. ‘Tomorrow’ in fact meant when the movement was already exhausted.

Thus on 21 April it was reported in Street press:


"Dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with "I love Bernard Arnault" (François Ruffin) called on us to do "something big" on May 1, with Up All Night and the unions working together. On the platform, several leaders of Sud and the CGT have already responded to his call. "Only like this we can carry out a general strike," said one of them."

And what do we see today? (from

"Ten out of ten refineries are blocked, dockers, postal workers, railway workers, airline workers, are emerging from the shadows where the media thought they were confined, to rouse themselves to be taken aback and bring back good memories of a bewildered opinion. You are talking of ‘36? You mentioned ‘68?

We were told some time ago that if NuitDebout (Up All Night) managed to rally the workers, it would hurt. It has been done." (...)

"Like everyone else, I too am one of the "consumers who have been taken hostage". But I can tell you that for me the Stockholm syndrome (empathy or open sympathy of hostages with their captors) really happens.

One last thing: I have often said - and I do not regret it in the context of the time – you could do worse than hang the CGT. Now that's the old trade union leadership who control radical workers' insurrectional movements masterfully. Go ahead, guys, there are situations where I love to be proved wrong." (Our emphasis added).

We can see the deception is perfectly described here. "Up All Night" which criticises the whole establishment: traditional parties and trade unions, is acting as a pimp for the CGT and boosting the image of the union.

Yes, we must fight, yes, but not by leaving it to the manipulators of "Up All Night" or the unions, who for many years stifled and destroyed our collective struggles which in reality were against the state’s attempt to pass its laws.

Let's take these struggles in our own hands, let’s organise strike committees and other coordinating bodies. Let’s have confidence in ourselves and in our own strength.

Olivier (26/05/16)

[1] Final words of François Hollande on the programme Dialogues citoyens, put out by the TV station France 2 on 14 April 2016.

[2] « Le mensonge de la reprise américaine en 9 graphiques ! » (The Lie of the American Revival in 9 Graphs) in Économie matin le 22 mars 2016 -

[3] 4.04 million unemployed according to the Employment Ministry. To find out more see

[4] In 2016 12 countries had negative growth (i.e. recession) amongst which were Brazil, Argentina and Russia. See

[5] François Ruffin, French journalist and founder and editor of the magazine Fakir. He also writes in Le Monde diplomatique. For 7 years he participated in the programme Là-bas si j'y suis (If I were down there). In 2015 he released his first film Merci Patron! (Thanks Boss!) criticising Bernard Arnault (France’s richest man).

[6] Leading figure of the Left Party which has currently collapsed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016