Here is finally the very rough and draft translation of GCI-ICG's text about the recent class struggles in France, we published in French on November 15th. Improvements to this translation will come later and can be directly downloaded in PDF version while clicking on the title here below. Good reading... and waiting for your comments and criticism.
“In this dispute, one of both camps should give up. The struggle promises to be long and harsh. We don’t have another choice than to go towards a total blockade of the country. The imminent vote of the law should not stop us…” (Excerpt from the editorial of the 1st issue of “Info-Luttes” – Caen, October 19th 2010).
When there are rumblings of discontent-ment in some bastions of social peace
Since some years already, there is a ten-dency of Capital to increase its offensive against the survival conditions of an always bigger part of the humanity, provoking in many regions in the world important movements of struggle. Let’s mention the world wave of struggle in 2007-2008 labelled (and caricatured) as “hunger riots”, but also since then on, the struggles in Madagascar, Guadeloupe, Kirghizstan, China, Bangladesh, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, etc.
Until now, this offensive happened –geographically and chronologically– very unequally all over the planet. And this fact maintained among proletarians, living in regions where they were less frontally at-tacked, the ultimate illusion that while accepting umpteenth sacrifices, while giving up to really confront their exploiters during their struggles, while finally selling themselves to the “lesser evil”, they would save their skin from the “worse”.
The problem is not yet that they would have a staunch faith in the favourable next comeback of the “growth fruits” (which is nothing but a media incantation only for the attention of the masses and which economists and capitalists are laughing about in their lounges). The problem is also not that they would preserve a blind faith towards this collapsing system or towards those who stuff themselves while pretending to be at the helm of the world economy. All in all they survive more and more uncomfortably in the muted anxiety, ideologically exuded by all possible means (television, culture, unions, narcoleptics, intravenous injections, etc.), that any mutiny ever so slightly consistent would carry them away in the wreck of the State.
It’s on this relatively fragile basis that the social peace has been globally maintained until now in countries of Western Europe and in the United States, in spite of move-ments of revolt of the most underprivileged sectors of the proletariat (particularly in the suburbs) that regularly break out there.
However, the maintenance of these “bas-tions of social peace” constitutes in our opinion the key of the world capitalist domination: while ascertaining the obedience of a part of the proletariat, world Capital also ascertains that these proletarians from “stable” countries and class brothers and sisters in struggle in the world don’t recognize each others, it ascertains to be able to continue to co-opt in these countries troops for repression armies (central as well as satellite ones), for world gendarmerie armies. And finally world Capital finds in these countries the means to finance these armies, their bases and their operations, while using the real or fictitious surplus value that social peace maintained to this end guarantees for it on the world market. It’s in this way, in this sinister topography given to the world by the permanent war of each atom of Capital against all the others that the domination maintains, that the dictatorship of the economy maintains against us.
It’s a well-oiled machine, indeed, but it doesn’t have anything with a perpetuum mobile that would put capital shielded from its fundamental contradiction. The bourgeois class, that personifies capital’s interests, never had and will never have, in spite of its multi-age-old and permanent political and military efforts in this sense, the capacity to determine as it wishes the world course of things, and this for the implacable reason that the bloodsucking and exponential needs of capital’s valorisation don’t leave any “choice” to its supporters, any possibility to put a brake on its course (whatever some sinister ideologists of “degrowth” view on the matter), any means to find even a partially solution for its catastrophic nature, and to postpone the process of its permanent attack against us. This process can only speed up at any level, and sooner or later the relatively preserved zones should also be subjected to brutal restructurings and measures of austerity, i.e. attacks on our wages and survival conditions that our enemies won’t be able to absorb without any reaction of our class, that our enemies won’t be able to assimilate to the “normal” and acceptable course of things, what will each time more and more bring into play the stability of the whole.
Thus currently, the fact to put on the agenda austerity policies in most European countries (and in certain cases, the most rigorous since 1945) and the reactions that they cause, create the objective conditions of a possible overcoming of this international status quo; they indicate the perspective that is furiously ours of an overthrowing of this pseudo fatality that constitutes the crushing our class struggles all over the world. In this way, the present period is incontestably a turning point.
After Greece, Spain, Portugal and France, it’s in England that new measures are now massively announced: wage cuts, increase in working time (length and intensity), lay-offs, hard labour for unemployed, etc.
Of course, reactions to these measures of austerity take (and will take) various shapes according to the particular social, economic and political situations of the different countries concerned. But in spite of that, all these reactions nevertheless fundamentally express one and the same REFUSAL TO SACRIFICE OUR LIVES FOR SAVING THE COLLAPSED ECONOMY!
The struggle against the retirement re-form in France: unification and radicali-sation of a deep and wider discontent
In France the first big measure of general-ized austerity voted by the governmental majority of the president Nicolas Sarkozy consists in bringing the minimum age to go into retirement from 60 up to 62 years old. This kind of reforms clearly shows that the State doesn’t have the room for manoeuvre anymore to attack and target one sector after another, in order to avoid generalized struggles. The retirement reform hastily voted in France is directly applicable to the whole of the workers on the national territory, what won’t be without impact on the turn of the struggle. It’s obviously one reform more on the list of all those passed against our class by this government and the previous ones these last years.
Without any surprise, the socialists (cur-rently in the opposition) intend to take ad-vantage of the unpopularity of this reform to prepare their return to the government and the Élysée palace. Behind their conventional condemnations of the “ultra-liberal”, “ultra-law-and-order” right, it’s an acknowledged fact that the only divergences between all the political parties (as within the Socialist Party itself) are divergences about the mode and agenda of enforcement of the austerity measures. This opposition showbiz politics is obviously supported by the left big union confederations that started a cycle of days of “national mobilisation” against the retirement policy of Sarkozy’s government.
Since October 12th, in addition of these inoffensive parades, some movements of blockade in refineries , fuel depots, and more upstream, in oil terminals , take place and attack directly the very vigour of merchant flows and production. As well as the proper distribution of finished articles, it’s indeed the production itself that today entirely depends on the transportation since it almost completely uses just-in-time methods (to avoid at the most expenses connected with the immobilization of raw materials, spare parts, finished articles, etc.), without counting that oil is also one of the essential raw materials in several key industries in Western Europe, as for example chemical industry. The general evolution of the industrial configuration thus incontestably increased the nuisance power of the refineries’ blockade.
Generally speaking, reactions of govern-ments to the blockade of production and distribution energizing centres (e.g. gas-works, power stations, oil depots or refineries and since a half century, nuclear power stations ) are enough to reveal their strategic importance. During all the social movements of a certain extent, the energizing facilities were historically always the object of surveillance and particular attention from the State, very conscious that attacks on these sectors by proletarians in struggle can establish a balance of forces extensively favourable to these latter.
According to journalistic sources the avail-able oil reserves in France allow to satisfy the energizing needs of its economy during hardly ten days. Certainly, the abroad supplying in refined oil products can allow to temporarily get round the effects of a strike in the refineries (although it generates de facto an higher cost for the industry that is thus attacked in any way) but nevertheless there’s a need that the storage depots and infrastructures of the oil transportation are not blocked.
Hence the importance of the extension of blockades, all over France, towards the infrastructures of transportation and refined oil products storage. In this context, whereas some fuel transportation companies send their trucks to get supplies abroad, and among others in refineries of Feluy and Tertre, in Belgium, the blockade of these by their workers constitutes a strong act of international solidarity. In the same way, on Monday October 25th, some strikers of the Basque country (Spain) blocked the border post of Biriatou and immobilized all the trucks that tried to bring fuel in France.
A last element could intervene in the fact that blockades to struggle against the re-tirement reform precisely started in refineries; it’s the even vivid memory of the last strike in this sector. It was in February 2010, and it quickly led to a shortage of fuel in France and thus forced the government to directly intercede by the Total group so that it promised that no refinery would be closed before 2015. The fact that the oil sector has been explicitly referred to in autumn as the strategic sector ‘where to start’ is certainly not extraneous to this result that was gotten some months earlier.
“It is necessary to block the economy, how to do it? The answer imposed from itself around the question of oil. Even though no one finally knows if it will work, if it is the right way how to attack this problem, there is this attempt: to organize the shortage of petrol. And to see what will happen.” (Excerpt from the bulletin “First Round”, last week of October 2010).
Beyond the simple withdrawal of the retirement reform, what’s here decisive is incontestably the institution of a balance of forces about all the austerity measures to come, what explains that the government could not give up on basis of the sole blockade of the oil sector, what would have constituted a real confession of weakness from its part. Therefore it didn’t have the choice to harden the trial of strength with the strikers and it decided to purely and simply requisition workers according to territorial exception laws (which have been reinforced these last years), with the threatening for whom refusing to be sentenced to five years of jail and to get a €10,000 fine…
This measure will directly have for result to stir much more the anger of the most combative elements of the movement who will react while spreading blockades to other targets, all explicitly connected with the commodities’ circulation. Some groups composed of various profession workers, unemployed, high school students, etc. thus start blocking main roads, trucking companies, logistical platforms (distribution), bus depots, post office services, shopping malls, railway stations and railways, harbours, airports, incinerators and bin lorries garages and cleaning trucks, etc. In this movement proletarians behave like “Bisons futés” against the grain and sketch an original cartography, that of France of the best investments concerning hindrance to business. On October 25th, 200 proletarians block the access roundabouts to the enormous industrial complex of the “Française de Mécanique” (FM), subsidiary company of Renault and Peugeot groups that produces the twentieth part of the motors all over the planet.
As the flying pickets, it’s here about a manner to get round sanctions, intimidations and requisitions the strikers are subjected to from the State and employers, but it’s also about a considerable rupture with the union strategy of the partitioning (which is the allied of open repression) that recognizes a legitimacy only to the blockades led by strikers in their own factory and not to those made from outside. The repression thus prompts to right answers that consolidate the movement, pushing to struggle against personalisation, isolation, division into sectors, professions, etc.
The cost of September and October strikes would amount to 4 billion of €, according to the employers
“99% of the country’s domestic needs are provided by the road. Hindrances that we met in our work had obviously some catastrophic consequences. […] We obviously had difficulties to refuel our trucks and therefore to meet our customers’ demands. With the consequence that local economic fabric suffers from that. We also lost a lot in productivity, with pending drivers but always paid at 100%. Some transport SMEs had to resort to short-time working.” (Jérôme Bessière – “National Federation of Road Transport”)
“Social movements which led to the closing of French refineries and the blockade of harbours cost in total between 200 and 300 millions of € to oil industry.” (according to the paper “Les Echos”).
Jean-Louis Schilansky, president of the “French Union of Oil Industries” (Ufip), explains that the first item of costs was the immobilization of ships off the terminals. “An immobilized ship represents a cost between 30,000 and 50,000 dollars per day”, he explains.
The second item of costs is that of refineries whose stopping costs between 500,000 and 1 million of € per day.
Finally, the third item of expenses is that of lo-gistical extra costs linked to the routing and transportation of fuel. “France had to import until 100,000 tons of fuel, domestic fuel or diesel oil each day”, the newspaper explains, to “25,000 tons in normal time”.
Of course, whereas these blockades express better than any other evidence the strategic consolidating and the stepping up of the movement, the police, union and journalistic arithmeticians bombard us with their everlasting counting of those taking part in the circus processions, counting which political purpose is to divert our attention on class practices and to prepare the indispensable general demobilization. And Christophe Aguiton, “researcher” and militant of ATTAC went farther in reformist mediocrity: “Any movement has its scorers, and for this one it’s clearly the demonstration. The strike, that was for long the classic mode of expres-sion (let’s say from 1936 to 1968), has been supplanted since some years by the proces-sion. Previously, the demo was not really well considered. It was for breakers, for steelworkers. Today, it reached a degree of legitimacy superior to the strike.”
Onto the ground, some proletarians in struggle seem however very aware of the radical level of the struggle in which they get involved and the necessity to lead it to the end: “no matter what the government says, it brazenly lies (about the number of demonstrators, strikers, dried-up petrol stations, incidents that break out, actions of blockades, etc.), and the present movement is increasing in scale –an historic scale– because of the number of people involved, because of the diversity of sectors mobilized in solidarity, because of the determination and radicalisation of people in struggle. The government decided to get through in force. The population is taking up the challenge. In this dispute, one of both camps should give up. The struggle promises to be long and harsh. We don’t have another choice than to go towards a total blockade of the country. The imminent vote of the law should not stop us…” (Excerpt from the editorial of the 1st issue of “Info-Luttes” – Caen, October 19th 2010).
# # #
While looking back, it’s easy to see that if this movement took quickly this turn, it’s also that every category of participants already got some –long-standing and recent– scores to settle with the managers of all this wonderful civilized misery. Indeed the present law on the end of career has been preceded by innumerable restrictions, constraints, humiliations, but also by sometimes harsh struggles of which the smouldering fire was only revived here.
So the harbour sector was already galva-nized into action because of a reform im-posed at the European (and world) level, which will come into effect next January, involving a brutal “liberalization”, i.e. a depreciation of professional statuses, layoffs, exacerbation of the competition between workers in the division of labour and consequently a strong pressure to decrease the wages. Not only the costs of commodities transport will be reduced but also passing this reform aims at breaking the workers’ historic combativeness in this strategic sector.
In the sector of fuel (refineries and depots), the promise to maintain the activity of all the Total sites in France, promise made to put an end to the strike of February 2010, proved to be a broken promise: indeed the main site (the Refinery of Flanders) has been nevertheless transformed in fuel depot, while the depot of Reichstett in Alsace could purely and simply be closed.
As for high school students (“lycéens”), who enter into the struggle from October 12th (and massively from October 14th), bringing thus a new and intergenerational breath to the movement while broadening it, it’s clear that their protest goes beyond the sole question of retirement, which concerns them somehow very far (and some years much more far at each governmental reform…). Here also the unrest is deeper, as it has been revealed by their struggle in 2006 “against the CPE”… and beyond.
# # #
So the employers and the State accumu-lated against them a deep and wide discontent, revealed and catalysed at a certain level of unification in the struggle by the “retirement reform”. This discontent didn’t feed on a particular fault that such or such attack, such or such reform would constitute (and that the socialists intend to adjust), but it’s about a more deeply-held rupture, a refusal of the fate reserved for us in this society, no matter the various statuses and social situations.
From the obvious fact of the blockade… to the radicalisation of the struggle in an autonomous way
During the second week of October, facing the ineffective union processions, the blockade of the economy becomes therefore to be essential and obvious to make the government give in. This strategic choice meant as well as favoured the autonomisation and radicalisation of the movement, and this at several levels.
The development of practices of blockade indeed objectively expresses an increased refusal of the ongoing bourgeois invitation to sacrifice ourselves for saving the economy in crisis in the name of the protection of “our competitiveness”, “employment” and “our social system” or even “stability of the euro zone”. Against the ordinary resignation (e.g. “In times of crisis you want to step up strike action? You’ll pay for that…”; “In times of crisis you want to block the economy? You will have to take layoffs upon yourself…” ), proletarians who practise the blockade prove themselves to be insolently deter-mined to sacrifice on the contrary the run-ning of national economy, and to act for the satisfaction of their human needs. As it’s very clearly pointed out in the bulletin of struggle “Premier Round”:
“Assuming to ‘block the economy’, it’s also assuming that there is no ‘national interest’, there is no reason to ‘be responsible and not deepen the crisis’. There is not ‘our’ economy that it would be necessary to protect, but there is the economy as an enemy.”
As soon as they enter into the movement, high school students energetically rejoin the dynamics of the blockades but they also start that of ransacking, looting, burning, etc. as they practically showed during the demonstrations of October 19th. In Lyon the Reuters agency talks about “genuine scenes of urban guerrilla warfare”, while the authorities speak about no less than “1,300 hooligans (‘casseurs’), manoeuvring in small groups and in a very fast way in the main streets of the city”. The riots take place in the flashy city centre and not in the suburbs anymore: windows of dozens of shops are broken, nine boutiques have been looted. According to the cops of GIPN who have been sent there with armoured vehicles, “the attacks were much more violent than during the riots of Villeneuve in Grenoble”. In comparison with these facts, the 75 arrests announced that day are relatively “poor”.
“One marks a nice difference with this social movement in comparison with its most recent precedents. The entry of the lycéens isn’t being accomplished in tranquil way: that’s the least one can say. The radicalisation isn’t lead by a minority for the sake of the movement [en fin de mouvement] but translates itself directly into acts, and even these are undertaken in a diffuse way. Reading the notices from one of the last few days gives us a precise, unequivocal indicator: they’re confronting the police, they smash, they burn, they sack etc, whether in the big towns or a little village. The contagion’s there, the machine’s getting going.” (Excerpt from the text “Le Front commun des casseurs” ).
This development of direct action is backed up with the forming of “inter-pro assemblies” (for “inter-professional”), relatively bad named since in many places they gather workers without distinction of profession, as well as high school students and unemployed. These assemblies are the shapes of organization that the proletarians in struggle endow themselves with to centralize and coordinate their actions and so to answer to the needs that the new direction taken by the movement sets out, since it goes beyond the pacific processions recommended by the big trade-unions.
Therefore, with all their contradictions and heterogeneities, we consider these “assemblies” as first formalisations of the tendency of our class to:
• become unified in the struggle and overcome divisions and partitioning imposed by the professional structuring of big trade-unions;
• develop its associationism and its autonomy against Social Democratic organizations that recommend “national days of action” reduced to simple sheep-like processions.
The inter-pro GA of Saint-Claude (in the Jura) points out in one of its declarations:
“The very positive point is the takeover of this movement by the basis, by people who are not card-carrying, neither of parties, nor of unions, anyway, people who come only in their name. One also finds workers, who don’t want to leave off there, even if it means to act without their union. One notes the presence of unions, very forced to connect with wagons of an initiative that doesn’t issue from them… One doesn’t refuse anybody however that may be and the unionists who don’t want to blindly obey their unions are welcomed in the framework of the General assembly that we try to make live.”
In the heart of this process of assemblies, initiatives didn’t stop increasing in order to endow the movement with material and financial resources allowing its perpetuation and extension. In many places appeared some “bulletins of struggle” , autonomous strike’s funds –“caisses de grève”– (that are not constituted and managed anymore by the union structures but well by those who take part in the movement themselves), free meals, etc. In Rennes, on October 27th, the inter-pro assembly occupied the old building of the CFDT and transformed it into “strike centre at the service of the popular struggles” .
“No eviction for the Strike Centre!”
The Inter-professional General Assembly in Ren-nes occupied on Wednesday October 27th a place called “strike centre” (“maison de la grève”) to make lasting longer the antagonistic experience of strike and economic blockade aiming to oppose the reform of retirement system.
To allow the most people to take part in the struggle, to build up solidarities, to conquer new rights, we requisitioned this place and want it to be at the service of the popular struggle.
This place belongs to the municipality of Rennes; therefore it belongs to the inhabitants of Rennes.
We think that in a city where the municipal ma-jority is preoccupied to give the city over to speculators, luxury hoteliers and other worship-pers of business convention centres, we only tried to intervene somehow in the balance.
In the past the town council answered scornfully or in a repressive way to the demands of places allocation for the popular struggle.
We invite the inhabitants of Rennes, especially those who are involved in collectives, parties, unions, associations taking part to the struggles against social regressions like the retirements reform, to take a stand and inform the town council about their wish to see our place lasting longer and their refusal of all repressive answer towards our initiative.
To the most motivated among them we wish to repeat that the struggle, strikes and actions of blockade continue and that our door is wide open.
LONG LIVE THE STRIKE!!!
With regard to the strike’s funds, it’s necessary to emphasize the emergence of self-financing practices, which are not separated from conflicting action: some operations “péages gratuits” (“free toll”) are thus organized, which consist in lifting the tollgates while inviting the drivers to contribute in supporting strikers. The purpose of these actions is to make pay for strike costs not only the workers and sympathizers anymore, but also the State, because the money given to strikers by drivers has normally to end up in the coffers of the motorway network managers… These operations of “free toll” have moreover the advantage to increase the sympathy of motorways users (who for once are not submitted to the toll racket) towards the movement. Anyway no media dared to start singing about these operations the classical media chant of “the population being held hostage”… Similarly on Friday October 29th, about fifty people interrupted the smooth running of the university restaurant in the rue de Tolbiac (Paris, 13th arrondissement) to distribute meals for free and to put money into strike’s funds.
Here and there, from Montpellier to St Nazaire or Paris, blossom embryos of creative strike’s fund (caisse de grève). They are not delimited anymore to corporation engaged in the strike and their use sur-rendered to unions structures, whose specialty is to maintain a opacity on their use. A new horizon is emerging: that one being reinforcing the practical means of blockage. Strike’s funds for all town, supported by assemblies of students, unemployed, and all those who are defending the strike, which purpose would be to the compensate for financial loss of employed strikers on key sectors (trains, refiner-ies,…), or to take care of judiciary costs in case of arrests. With the promise within itself that the movement goes beyond the question of pensions. It is necessary to find means to make the strike lasts. So that the strike, on its duration and its form, becomes then the affair of people who are participating in. From that can emerge and get invented new communal practices, relation to time and world, more desirable than the individual comfort awe are asked to run after.
A space is opening up, let’s dwell in it.
Bulletin “Rebetiko”, October 18th 2010
Let’s create strike’s funds
The movement promising to be quite long, the idea emerges to create strike’s funds. In various schools of the town for example some strike’s funds are orga-nized to help those who have the lowest wage to with-stand the financial weight of strike days. Such strike’s funds can be increased in various sectors particularly those that entered the first into renewable strike.
Demonstrations, roadblocks, handing out leaflets, strike pickets can be opportunities to collect a little money. Concerts of support can also be organized. In the same way operations “free toll” with leaflets for popularizing the struggle movement can be quickly considered.
“Info-Luttes”, n°1, Caen, October 19th 2010
In its actions and doings, as in its organization, the movement thus took a progressively more territorial and more autonomous character, the workers of various sectors getting directly organized themselves, determining their actions, not individually anymore in each factory but collectively, with unemployed and high school students, and with the obvious purpose to prevent the smooth running of business. The agility and mobility clearly show their superiority upon the abnegation to lay siege to such factory, such building, such crossroads or rail junctions: one will avoid direct confrontation, and the infrastructures, returned to their productive normality by the police brutal intervention, are blocked again once these police leave.
Finally, and it’s not of lesser importance for the process of autonomisation of the movement, these practices were accompanied by a impressive proliferation of written expressions (leaflets, banners, tags, bulletins of struggle, texts of analysis, etc.) that express at different levels the deep nature of this movement: i.e. to be the movement of negation, of abolition of the existing social order, to be the bearer of the destruction of what destroys us.
CALL TO FINANCIAL SOLIDARITY TOWARDS SECTORS IN STRUGGLE
Since several weeks, in many sectors, salaried workers are mobilized notably against the re-tirement reform. The fact to go on renewable strike allows creating a balance of forces, but it’s expensive. We indeed realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to go on renewable strike.
However, there are other means to maintain the balance of forces while supporting financially and concretely the strikers. The constitution of solidarity funds allows many social and wage advances, as well as maintaining these poles of protest. These funds already exist in sectors like railways and petro-chemistry, strategic and cru-cial sectors allowing a large and efficient move-ment.
The money we collected today will therefore be pay fully back into strike’s funds of railway workers in Caen and refineries workers in Le Havre in struggle since the beginning of this mo-bilization.
THE HAND IN THE POCKET IF NOT BEING HAND IN HAND.
Students’ GA in Caen.
Leaflet handed out to drivers during the operation “free toll” in Dozulé (Calvados) on November 1st
Let’s mention among these writings “From movementism to the autonomisation of the struggles: a draft of practical reflection” (text in two parts at the moment we finish this article) that affirms thus very clearly “that, no, we are not there for negotiating, that we are not there for the media, but that when we go in demo, we will organize pickets, make actions, that is an act of war. War against the State. War against Capital. War against the trade-unions. […] The word is turning, it reappropriates itself, it expresses itself quite openly: the State, police, trade-unions, wage relation, capitalism, are fundamentally ENEMIES. With all the consequences about”. Farther, the text continues: “the retirement reform will already lead to another, the reform of the Social Security and the program of austerity, therefore we don’t have any more to fight some partial reforms but the very logic and system that allow these reforms.”
In the practical perspective to break the union “movementism” which renders the struggle powerless, which makes it breathless and exhausts it, this text has something strong: it also puts the question of how going on?, how going farther?, while talking about the necessity among others:
• to impose a temporality of struggle peculiar to the movement (and not anymore decided by the trade-unions);
• to develop always further the offensive action, organized and coordinated in an autonomous way: the authors of the text thus emphasize the initiative of the constitution of a “national and autonomous coordination to get round the trade-unions’ mottos, whose first meeting took place in Tours on November 6th” and of which we reproduce the call in a box on next page;
• to “go through a necessary movement of occupations”, directly referring thus to “the elements of the teachers’ great social movement of Oaxaca in Mexico that re-sulted in the great popular insurrection of all the South-Mexico: permanent occupa-tion of a square in the city, occupation and creation of several radios of struggle, reappropriation of local and national tele-vision channels; general strike through total local economic blockade; paralysis of the means of communication of the State and repression forces through occupation-reappropriation; etc.”
These expressions are certainly still a mi-nority, bore by the most advanced elements of the movement, who were for most of them politicized already before, but they are not at all separated from the movement, they organically develop with the radicalisation of the movement itself.
Strata of social peace and the confiscation by Marxism-Leninism (and its several manifestations) of the very words with which we perceive our own social reality still deprive today a lot of proletarians in struggle to recognize themselves as a class in struggle for the abolition of all class society. They consider themselves often as aggregates of individuals –naturalized in this condition of free individuals, and historic product– who in their “free will” bind themselves in networks on a circumstantial and “affinitarian” basis. Even if this ideological limit is not yet con-siderably overcame, we consider that on many aspects the present movement reaf-firms in its practices (more than in its words, until now) the existence of a com-munity of struggle against the State and all its factions, the existence of a class common interest, which is instinctively opposed to this very class condition, gathering workers, unemployed, high school students, etc. beyond their statuses and particular situations, while being under work’s and exploitation’s rule. We insist on the fact that beyond the words used, it’s the development of the movement itself that imposes to take sides there always more distinctly and to get organized as a party, either for the party of order and economy or for the party of the uncompromising and non-negotiable affirma-tion of our needs.
Call to the national meeting in Tours on November 6th
On November 6th in Tours gathered the elected or observer delegates of 25 inter-professional General Assemblies (GA), struggle’s GA, inter-union GA open to non-unionized, collectives, inter-sectors coordi-nation, etc. from Laval, Le Havre, Angers, Béziers, Saint-Étienne, Roanne, Chambéry, Nantes, An-goulême, Cognac, Bayonne, Chinon, Nîmes, Tours, Saint-Dennis, Rouen, Champigny, Paris-Est, Paris-Centre, Paris 5th/13th, Paris 20th, Vannes, Lille, Grenoble and Nancy (cities of Aubenas, Agen, Brest, Rennes, Montpellier and Sarlat are excused).
Workers of public and private sectors, unemployed, retired people, high school students and students massively mobilized through strike, demonstration and actions of blockade for the withdrawal of the retirement reform, with the support of the majority of the population. Yet, the power answered only scornfully, through disinformation, repression, offense against the right of strike, and it decides to go through in force.
The struggle against the retirement reform reaches a turning point. Whereas the government and most of the media announce since weeks the end of the mobilization, actions of blockade and solidarity are led all over the country and demonstrations are still massive. This law must be abrogated. We refuse the end of the movement after the vote of the law.
The strategy of the inter-union association was a failure for workers. But time is not for resignation: we are determined to continue the fight. In many localities, those who struggle, unionized in various or-ganizations and non-unionized, met in General assemblies and collectives to think and act together: to inform, to support sectors in struggle, to spread renewable strike, to organize actions of blockade. We want that this dynamics of self-organization and common action perpetuates itself, develop and get co-ordinated.
This movement lies within a larger perspective to give a death blow to the government’s and employers’ policies, which prepare news attacks, notably on health insurance. We remain convinced that the only means to win against the government is the blockade of the economy and the general strike.
We call to stand up against the repression that hits more and more brutally those who take part in the social movement.
We held this national meeting to begin to discuss between each others, to coordinate and to lead some common actions.
We call those who struggle to meet into General assemblies, if there are not yet in their locality.
We call all inter-professional GA, struggle’s GA, inter-union GA open to non-unionized, etc. to take part in the next national meeting in Nantes on Saturday November 27th 2010, while sending of elected dele-gates.
We invite the union organizations to send observers to this meeting.
We call to the following actions, in order to consolidate the actions of all kinds that take place daily:
• A symbolic action on November 11th at 11am for the abrogation of the law project and in homage to deaths at work before retirement;
• An action day of economic blockade on November 15th, for which we call to international support;
• A symbolic action consisting in burning the text of law the day of its enactment.
The struggle is anti-capitalist.
The war is social and total.
We won’t give up anything, we will take all.
Let’s dare the offensive, through and for the unlimited general strike, through and for the movement of occupations, through and for the liberation in an autonomous way of the grass roots in struggle.
The left against proletarian violence… and vice versa!
In 2006, high school students and students had already practised some blockades in addition of the strike and occupation of their schools and faculties, but in demonstrations the prevailing pacifism had allowed the State to isolate –as an ideological representation– a subject called “casseur” (rioter) and to put it into the same category as the subject “youngster of the suburbs”. At the time, the obsession of the recent riots of 2005 and a possible junction with the “anti-CPE” movement (and beyond) had been explicitly evoked by the Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, elected president recently.
Today, without reaching the level of suburbs conflagration in 2005, it’s important to underline that radical modes of action (wild demos, ransacking, looting, arsons, direct actions led by very mobile small groups, etc.) have also been adopted by high school students during the demonstrations:
“In the crushing majority of the cases, van-dals are not external to the protest move-ment, a senior official explains. It’s first about high school students themselves, or even hardly 12-year-old schoolboys.” “In the demonstrations, a police officer also declares in the Essonne (Ile-de-France), high school students and schoolboys coming from tough districts turn into rioters. They put their hood and begin to throw stones on us or to set fire to dust-bins, or even to cars, and then they come back melting into the crowd, some of them changing their clothes with each others to not be recognized on videotapes shot by our departments.”
The cop-in-chief Sarkozy is obviously fully aware of all this when he declares at the same time, for the sole purpose of doing a propagandist caricature, that the authors of violence “have nothing to do with those who protest honestly”. In spite of such same old story, it becomes always more complicated for the State to uphold without flagrant incoherence that all violent practice would be the fact of external elements to the movement, in order not to have to recognize this violence as what it is: i.e. the direct product of oppression and socials contradictions.
“As usual, they come with the same old story of the “casseurs” (rioters). But, last Tuesday, you should see the face of the rioters on place Bellecour [in Lyon], in the heat of the clashes with the police: youngsters and old folks, the truck of the CGT Vinatier, in the middle of teargas, its occupants staying there despite all the obstacles, railway workers starting to burn pallets, like while picketing… High school students that day, they were at the head of the procession, arrived opportunely on Albert Thomas Avenue. The battle that followed, taken in the mess of the big dem-onstration, necessarily led to some crazy gestures, gestures that make that the same person who tries some minutes earlier to calm down the situation starts suddenly throwing stones… Who is the “casseur”? Who becomes suddenly?”
Excerpt from the bulletin “Premier Round”, last week of October 2010
Repression & solidarity…
On October 22nd, there were already 2,257 of arrests, of which 1,677 in police custody, since October 12th. And 72 cops injured! Solidarity with the accused is essential: one can go before the police station then the court to support buddies and help the lawyer in his work; one can also get organized to find money to pay for fines or postal orders for those who will stay some months behind bars… In Paris there is for example the solidarity fund Kaliméro to pay postal orders: [email protected]
However, as sectors partitioning disappear in the struggle (partitioning that the State uses to divide us), it turns out all the more vital for it to maintain a firm quarantine line around all the more determined proletarians who practise direct action. This quarantine line is not embodied only in the ranks of CRS or judges who give particularly stiff sentences , but also in an ideological war whose issue consists in sowing confusion and making from violence a question separated from the struggle . It’s there that the Social Democrat forces (parties, unions…) intervene in a determining way, distilling their calls to dissociate ourselves from these practices, to denounce on the ground those who take part in them.
However, to keep law and order (and to act as a police force) in demonstrations, to ostracize the more radical proletarians for what they are –sometimes while directly handing them over to cops– can always backfire on union teams of stewards be-cause of the sympathy that these proletarians win within the movement.
Plain-clothes cops & Team of stewards…
If the trade-unions are the political enemies of the struggle (negotiation and co-management with the employers, minimalist demands, py-ramidal and ultra-hierarchical structure), their Teams of stewards [“Services d’Ordre” = “SO”] are the direct enemies of demonstrators. With truncheons, gas-spray, leaden gloves, the “SO” physically attack all those who don’t demonstrate submissively as the unions would like: coordinated with the cops, they beat up and ar-rest the too much unruly high school students; they contain and prevent those who would prefer to start a wild demonstration, etc.
Plain-clothes cops are also swarming: they often move silently by group of 10-15, with the trun-cheon hidden in their back. They are neither demonstrators nor rioters. They are more and more present in the processions so that each doesn’t know anymore who the cop is, who the comrade is: a kind of containment and psycho-logical pressure on the demo… Plain-clothes cops as well as “SO” don’t have anything to do in our demonstrations, it would be necessary to get organized to kick out them…
(Excerpt from “En grève jusqu’à la retraite!” [“On strike until the retirement!”], paper of struggle against Capital and against the State, November 5th 2010)
In addition to this range of repression measures there is a very nasty confusion (“amalgam”) that deserves some attention; it’s that putting violent action in the same category as “police provocation”. Facing the present movement in France the left thus promoted in a very strong zealous way the figure of “policeman-rioter”. This figure is based on the reality of an indeed reinforced presence of plain-clothes cops in the demonstrations , presence about which the left can offer a show of disapproval, while continuing of course to collaborate with the police.
“The CGT appeals salaried workers, strikers for vigilance because of the presence of provocateurs in the union initiatives. They encourage to violent acts likely in return to fuel police repression and discredit the struggle.”
National communiqué of the CGT, October 22nd
“It’s our responsibility to issue an appeal for calm. Let’s not yield to provocation. The youth in the street, this is not violence.”
François Chérèque, General Secretary of the union CFDT
“Be vigilant, don’t break anything.”
FIDL (one of the “lycéens”’ union)
“We don’t support any of the acts committed today [in a high school of Carcassonne]. Damages were done by people from outside of the schools and by hooligans we never seen in our demonstrations. Following today’s events, we decided to cooperate with the police so that our demonstrations and our blockades stay peaceful.”
Victor Chabert, UNL representative (“Union Na-tionale Lycéenne”), Monday November 8th
“Those who throw stones, set alight, break shop windows are sarkozyst militants, they maybe aren’t card-carrying members [...] but the one and only person to whom they are of use is the president Sarkozy. We are absolutely disgusted by these people.”
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, president of the Left Party, on October 21st
The manoeuvre is cleverer than it can ap-pear at first sight: it is here about pretending to side with (to stand up for) the whole of the movement, against the police. While depicting the police as the very embodiment of the agent inoculating the movement with violence from the outside, the effective tendency among proletarians in struggle to resort increasingly to direct action, violence, and destruction, is thus fully discredited and considered as being a police manoeuvre. The lesser the police division between “honest demonstrators” and “rioters” prove to be effective on the ground, the more the left applies itself to restoring this figure of “rioter” in the negative, while putting it in the same category as that the indeed de-tested cop, all the more the plain-clothes cop. Once again the left performs conjuring tricks and assumes here its work as a police force, spreading a mood of confusion, disorientation, bewilderment, paranoia, paralysis to prevent the necessity to go through with levels of more violent action against the State.
Here’s well and truly the Party of Order at work, in an admirable division of labour that very clearly mobilizes all its tendencies, all its “rivals” on “the political scene”. Thanks to that we spare our time and energy because we don’t have to sort out all these “different” factions…
We would like to remind and denounce once again this typical manoeuvre of the left: indeed when the former Italian president Cossiga advocated to “infiltrate the movement with agents provocateurs ready for anything” , the leftist Besancenot (currently spokesman of the NPA, “New ‘Anti-capitalist’ Party”), took over this declaration to confirm his condemnation of violence in demonstra-tions as being the fact of cops.
“The falsification is obvious, we wrote: Cos-siga doesn’t indeed say that the minority and radical violence is a product of the State but he explains the tactics to confront it. […] Let’s not be mistaken about those who throw stones or Molotov cocktails against the centres of power and repression, those who loot the big shopping malls, those who paralyze the production and supplying of commodities during their struggle against the power, THESE ARE NOT PROVOCATEURS, on the contrary, these are our class brothers and sisters, our comrades. The provocateurs (usually cops disguised as demonstrators) are on the contrary those who in our demon-strations try to put a brake on violence against the bourgeoisie, those who try to repress our direct action. They infiltrate demonstrations to disorganize and disorientate them, they push them to attack some targets, which completely discredit our class strength, in particular the immigrant minorities or considered ethnically as different, or to destroy other proletarians’ goods.”
On the same issue, the text “Le Front com-mun des casseurs” answers in a very direct way: “A note to the democratic conspiracy theorists: comrades, in order no longer to have any doubts whether or not there are cop-provocateurs who bust shop windows and commit all sorts of violent acts, notably around the Parisian black blocs, next time get your hands on an iron bar and bust it first. It’s the only shock therapy which you have available. Other than that you can still rejoin the ranks of the SO or, further afield, those militant Stalinists forming up. But pay attention, you’re going to get one bang in the face, because even if we know that the SO don’t have cops embedded in their ranks (oh shit, yeah, there are sectoral branches of cops and prison guards in a fair few union) we also know that those guys have cops well-embedded in their heads. So they’ll be treated as such. Pigs to slaughter.”
A spectre haunts the world…
In its very practices of blockading, the movement of autumn 2010 in France de facto sends back to the face of the economy its moralistic sermons. And, refusing to sacrifice itself for the economy, the movement intends actually to attack it in its nerve centres to reverse the balance of forces in favour of the struggle, to put forward the human needs against those of Capital. The present movement distinguishes itself in terms of overcoming of sectors partitioning, self-organization and contamination of targeted practices against the economy and the State (quantitatively prejudicial for these ones, at the rate of four billion of euros ac-cording to the employers’ figures).
In terms of limits of the movement, let’s straightaway avoid the pseudo distinction between the “internal” limits of the move-ment, the limits that it “would impose to itself” because of its “own weaknesses”, and the “external” limits, that “would have been imposed on it” through force, either physically or ideologically.
The movement of negation of the existing conditions is a product of these ones. Even though this movement of negation is pre-cisely what is irreducible to these existing conditions, that cannot be integrated and absorbed to them, it is born on the very soil of these conditions, in a given world balance of forces, and it still reproduces features and ideologies of this society.
It is therefore never pure, free from contradictions, oppositions, illusions, etc. These ones always cross it and it will necessarily have, during its development, to make choices (programmatic, strategic, technical, material ones, etc.) that are maybe not shared by all. Sometimes these decisions will be essential by themselves; sometimes they will lead to the important internal struggles.
The limits of a movement also point out the perspectives of future development of everything that is potentially contained in there and that has already been expressed in various ways, explicitly and implicitly.
While considering the present movement, in France and other countries of Europe, the question is to be put about the necessity of more contagion, and mutual recognition that goes beyond the passive sympathy, including abroad, so that the workers of strategic sectors don’t stay alone, exposed to sanctions against their wages, exposed to the blackmail about incomes, exposed to repression. The question is also to be put about the necessity of a clearer autonomisation towards unions and parties (no matter they are soft alternation or pseudo-radical alternative), the necessity of a stronger coordination, a bigger operational agility.
What the State fundamentally has the more to fear, the spectre that haunts all its present reforms and the ones to come as well, in spite of the little chieftains’ show of triumphalism who impose them, it’s that the movements to come overcome the limits we brought up here. State’s fear is that more and more frontal attacks against the capitalist valorisation develop then, together with the reappropriation, at the source, of the production (among others through occupations led by the needs of the struggle, against any impasse around “workers’ self-management” given over to market’s mercy), by an increasing number of proletarians who, for doing this, can only get organized in force outside and against all the Social Democrat organizations, including those among them (present and to come) that proclaim themselves to be “anti-capitalist”, “revolutionary”, and which practice denies the arrogant pretensions.
Beyond its own length every movement that tangibly breaks with the time of capitalist valorisation drives us to our fundamental contemporaneousness with all the past struggles and the ones to come, it unites the ones with each others, every time more intimately, in our community of struggle, in our radical strangeness to these relative “returns to normality” our enemies long for to postpone the fall of their putrid world.