France

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.

The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) was set up in France, supposedly as an alternative to both the Communist and Socialist parties. The leaders of these two parties had shifted more and more towards market orientated policies. In reality the leadership of the NPA also suffer from the same illness, in that they believe that in order to be successful on the electoral front they must tone down the Communist and revolutionary content of this new party. That is not what many genuine revolutionary militants were expecting from the NPA.

Sarkozy lost his glossy image some time ago. But now he is exposed in the eyes of all. After all his bragging about his own extravagant lifestyle, he is attacking the living standards of pensioners, workers, students and the unemployed. The mood in France is an angry one. If the leaders of the left and the trade unions were to mobilise the workers, this government could be brought down relatively easy.

Last week in France around two million workers came out onto the streets to express their anger at the latest government attacks on pensions. The union leaders hope to hold the movement at this level, i.e. of formal protest but no strike movement. But the workers are looking for more than this, as the growing discontent in the ranks of the labour movement clearly indicates.

On January 30th a successful meeting was held in Paris to launch a network of PCF members who want to struggle to bring back the ideas of Marxism into the French Communist Party. Lessons of the past were discussed and conclusions drawn on what are now the next steps that need taking. Speaking at the meeting was also Alan Woods, editor of Marxist.com and a comrade representing the Marxists in the Italian PRC.

Last week mass demonstrations involving more than 2.5 million people took place in France. In the face of constant attacks by Sarkozy on the working class the trade union leaders have attempted to hold the movement back, preferring a series of government “consultations”, but the pressure from below is becoming unstoppable. A new period of militant class struggle is opening up.

At the end of January French students were out of the classroom and back on the streets. On January 29, students and teaching staff joined in the national strike that had an estimated 2.5 million French workers marching in the major cities to prove to President Sarkozy that his provocative remark in the summer of 2007- ‘These days, when there’s a strike in France, nobody notices,’ was as wrong as it was rash. [This article was originally published on February 9.]

An examination of the results of the recent vote in the different federations of the French Communist Party indicates a sharp shift to the left in the thinking of the membership since the previous congress. And the vote for the Marxists confirms this process.

PCF members have voted on which of the three alternative documents should be the base of discussion at the coming party congress in December. The document written by the comrades of La Riposte, "Renforcer le PCF, renouer avec le marxisme", obtained a resounding success which went beyond any expectations: 5419 or 15.04% of the total valid votes.

We are delighted to announce the launching of the Renforcer le PCF, renouer avec le marxisme website, whose aim is to promote a Marxist programme in the forthcoming congress of the Communist Party and to collect the required number of signatures. Watch also a video of Greg Oxley, member of the PCF and editor of La Riposte, speaking on the current programme of the PCF (in French).

Alan Woods went to Paris in May 1968 seeking contact with revolutionary workers and youth. He describes here what he encountered, the mood, and the discussions with workers and students. He explains how the workers were looking for leadership but never found it, neither in the ultra-left groups, nor in the Stalinist leadership that betrayed them.