The French education workers

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Tue Jul 15 07:18:48 MDT 2003

France - A wave of working class mobilisation


The period between mid-March and 19 June saw the largest wave of industrial
protests in France since the Winter of 1995, when a railway strike developed
into a full-scale mobilisation across the public sector.

This time, the spearhead of the protest was education workers. However, the
series of national days of action called by the trade- union confederations
provided opportunities for new sections of the public sector to join the
demonstrations which were organised in many towns. In some cases, these
workers remained on strike for several days, in between consecutive national
days of action, or carried on participating in street protests. Such was the
case, in the public transport systems of the large towns, in the railways,
the post office, the road maintenance service and municipal services, among

Private sector workers did join many of the marches held during this period
and some took strike action, if only for a few hours, to join the protest.
But the mobilisation did not really spread to the decisive industrial
strongholds of the working class.

The strikes and marches which took place during this period involved several
million workers in one way or another - that is a significant section of the
working population. The most positive side of this wave of militancy was its
lack of sectional divisions. Due to the general character of its objectives
(the issue of pension rights and to a lesser degree the attacks on
education) and due to the determination of a large number of strikers to
convince other sections of workers to join in the protest, it appeared as
the militant expression of the working population as a whole. For once,
thanks to this high degree of unity in purpose and action, teachers - i.e.
intellectual workers who do not normally see their fate as being tied to
that of the rest of the working population - had to take on board the fact
that all wage earners, whether intellectual or otherwise, have the same

This wave of protest failed to force the government to withdraw its attacks
against the pension system. But despite this failure, it has proved that the
working population could raise its head and fight back, even after the past
years of on-going attacks from the bosses and their governments. Besides,
no-one can tell what the future has in store. It may well be that this
militant wave is not over and that what has happened in April-June turns out
to be the first phase of a future larger mobilisation, large and deep enough
to be victorious this time. In any case this is what can be hoped for.
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