France

Two months after it burst onto the scene, the scandal surrounding Dominique Strauss-Kahn continues to occupy a prime position in the coverage of the French capitalist media. Each day brings a bout of more or less anodyne ‘scoops’ against a background of a continuous flow of images.

The French army has bombed the residence of Laurent Gbagbo, to "protect civilians" we are told. One is struck by the wide variety of means used to achieve this so-called “humanitarian” objective!

In October we witnessed a massive mobilisation of the French workers and youth against Sarkozy's attacks on pensions. All the potential was there for the government to be defeated. The overwhelming majority of the population supported the protests. So what was missing? We are publishing an a analysis by the French Marxists of La Riposte to explain what happened and why it happened.

On Friday, October 22, finally the French government managed to get the pensions reform passed through the Senate. The increasingly unpopular government of Sarkozy, faced with an unprecedented movement of strikes, demonstrations, road blockades, mass pickets and general assemblies, hoped that this, together with the beginning of the All Saints school holidays, would bring the mass movement to a halt. This does not seem to be happening, however.

After October 12, the movement against the attack on pensions has reached a critical threshold. The great days of action are no longer the centre of gravity, although they are still massive and increasingly militant, as shown by October 19. Now, the central axis of the struggle has shifted onto open-ended strikes and pickets blockading different sectors of the economy.

On Saturday, October 16, more than 3 million people took the streets of France in hundreds of demonstrations in cities and towns throughout the country in the latest national day of action against the proposed counter-reform of the pensions system. The number was on a similar scale as October 2, the last time the trade unions called a day of action on a Saturday but the movement has certainly developed further. The demonstrations were another show of strength of this movement which has lasted for months and seen 5 national days of action since the end of the summer holidays.

The magnificent movement of the French workers is an inspiration to the workers of all Europe. It shows the real face of the French working class. Yesterday strikers were continuing their action for a second day running, following an impressive day of action on Tuesday.

A new national day of action against the pensions reform brought 3.5 million demonstrators to the streets of France on October 12, the largest number so far in this movement. The massive character of the demonstrations can only be compared with the strikes of 1995/96 when the government attempted to cut social security and pension rights of some sections of workers.

The struggle against the attacks on pensions in France is perhaps moving onto a higher stage. After mass demonstrations mobilising between two and three million workers, on 7th and 23rd September and on the 2nd October, a new demonstration is planned for the 12th. The national leadership of the trade unions intends to limit the action to “days of action” of this kind, but rank-and-file pressure is growing in favour of indefinite strike action.

The comrades of La Riposte once again had their stall at the Fête de l’Humanité, but this time much bigger than in the past. This year the Italian Marxists of FalceMartello were also present, explaining what is happening in the Italian labour movement, in particular the developments at FIAT.