France's Hot December - 4

Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at
Fri May 24 19:43:41 MDT 1996

boddhisatva wrote:

> I really hate to put a damper on the enthusiasm our French comrades
> have generated in all of us.  However, I think it is important to note that
> many, if not most, of the unions that struck were governmental or
> quasi-governmental unions.

They were - but *why should we notice? Boddhisatva:

> These are both (essentially) service industries
> and quite removed from the rigors of the marketplace.

On the contrary I think that the reason why we have seen more and
more strikes in public sector workplaces during the last years in
Europe (and elsewhere I guess?) is because the "rigors of the
marketplace" is being introduced still more ruthlessly there than

So what really is the difference between a public service and a
private one? When hospital workers strike they have a great
potential of drawing with them other sections of the working
class. It is true that one of the problems with the december
strikes in France was that they were only able to draw with them
very small parts of private industry. But the problem would have
been similar if only private industry workers were on strike and
were not able to draw with them public sector workers.

The problem has much more to do with the problem of strikes
being only sectional (not general) than it has to do with
public vs. private employees.

Of course there are differences between e.g. hospital workers
striking and steel workers or dockers on strike, but it should not
be over-empasized. I would argue that there are two aspects to

1. Steel workers, dockers etc. on strike may attack profits of
individual capitalists in a more direct way than e.g. hospital

2. Very often public sector strikes much faster become a
political problem for our rulers: They have to be dealt with
by government officials (thus showing the hard realities behind
their nice words). They often affect directly society as a
whole (remember problems with transport in France in december?)
much more than a steel workers' strike would (or the 1984-5 British
miners' strike).

> I think it is difficult to make a structural distinction between the
> capitalist state, and the large bureaucracy which attends that state,
> although it may be staffed with highly motivated segments of the proletariat.

- "segments"???

> Their action can be subsumed into a kind of reformism, unless it directly
> connects to radicalizing the industrial proletariat.

Most actions can be "subsumed into a kind of reformism" - in private as well
as in public sector - if it fails to radicalize *and generalize* to other
workers. This is not specific to public sector actions.


Jorn Andersen


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