October 1, 2010
Hope this message will find you ok and with the same fighting spirit as ever.
Yours for the revolution
CNT AIT Paris militants
As many European countries, the French economy since 2008 is engaged in what the upper class call a crisis: it means that workers have to make more and more sacrifice to allow the owners to keep their goods and privilege.
A slow but steady discontent is growing in the french population, into the workers but not only. Farmers and also small entrepreneurs are also unhappy, but not for the same reasons of course.
Furthermore, it is now obvious that Sarkozy and all his government are only at the service of the hyper-rich class, people like Bolloré, Pinault and other billionaires. The rotten bounds between the financial “milieu” and the government has been made public this summer with the Woerth scandal : Woerth is the current ministry of work and pension. Before, few months ago, he used to be Ministry of Finance, while he was in the same time Treasurer of the Sarkozy political party UMP. And it is obvious that Liliane Bettancourt, the richest person in France, gave him and all his political friends and allies, money to corrupt them.
This September, is the month were the Parliament is voting for the pension law reform. This new law, as each one, is truly unfair, extending the age of pension from 65 to 67. In fact, it is an attempt to destroy the french system, that is a public system of insurance and not private, and to privatize it to the benefit of financial and big business corporations.
So, in face of this growing discontent, Sarkozy chose to divert the people’s attention by increasing populist declarations and policy. By doing that he hopes to divert people from social issues, and to engage the debate not on (social) class issue but on national (if not “race”) issue. That is why this summer Sarkozy designed the Roms (gypsies) as a major threat to society. His ministry of Police, Hortefeux, who is a 40 years old friend of Sarkozy (when he speaks in fact you can hear Sarkozy), has even been condemned by a court for “racial prejudice” … but he is still ministry !!! (as the case is in appeal now, he didn’t dismissed)
But this maneuver misfired, and many people refuse to jump into those rotten trap. So now it’s new attempt is to try to frighten the population with terrorism, arguing that some crazy fundamentalists said they will blow up Paris.
So while there is quite a tension in France, in fact it is mainly turned against Sarkozy. But it doesn’t seem that people are really ready to change things. Lot are expecting the next general election (especially the leftists) in 2012. Capitalism no longer seems to satisfy population (even if consuming is still deeply rooted in minds) but it seems that most of people resign themselves, or at least they just don’t know what they could do (we could also talk about the feeling to be alone and isolated created by the propaganda of the system) … So we need more than ever, as anarchosyndicalists, to go down the streets, organize things in an alternative way. That’s what some CNT AIT local unions are trying to do.
Union situation in France
In France, less than 8% of workers are unionized. (and in fact less than 2% in the private sector)
There are more than 15 reformist unions (including Vignoles and small various non-aligned/independent or corporatist unions ). But the major ones are 4 : CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC (Christians) with more than 100 000 members each and up to 500 000 for the 2 firsts. We also have to mention Solidaires / SUd, which federates many branch organization (including cops, custom officers and jail workers) and around 30 000 members and is regarded as the more militant organization in the reformist spectrum. SUD uses frequently a radical rhetoric, and can also organize some times spectacular actions (which they call “direct action”, but which are not in fact because they act as intermediate between workers and boss). SUD is more or less controlled by Trotskysts, at least in some branches. But its evolution since its creation in 1988, is similar to the one of Spanish CGT (with whom some of their unions maintain a close relationship, to the sorrow of Vignoles) and can be compare with : while they pretend to be “rank and file”, “base union” and “direct action union”, the process of bureaucratization and integration into the capitalist system is largely engaged.
The two biggest unions (CGT-linked with the Communist Party and CFDT-social democrat) are not against the reform, but want to modify it. Only FO and SUD claim to be for the abolition of the project and general strike, but all thru unity with the other unions and political parties (from socialists to Trotskists)… Their common revendication is for a pension at 60, with 37,5 years of cotisation (number of years of payment to the public system of pension you need to have if you want to receive a full pension)
The first demo was in May, and since then, no strike has been organized. Some militant workers are getting fed up with this well-known strategy, to tire the movement. But they still rely on the reformist unions to mobilize the workers, arguing that its is only a problem of leadership: if trade unions would have better leaders, things would be better. We try to oppose them that it is not a problem of leader but a problem of method. Elections, representation and all the institutional system just lead workers to apathy and inertia ; while direct action is the solution.
Concerning the CNT-AIT, we try, with our means, to put the struggle not about pension (our main slogan is “60 years, it’s already too much !”) but on wage slavery as a whole, the root of capitalism. For the means, as usual, calling to popular assemblies without any professional of politics… Those assemblies are gathering in public spaces like parks or alley or in front of factory, to allow ordinary workers to talk and debate on politic and create their own space of reflection and action, autonomously from political parties and trade-unions. Such popular assemblies are already organized in cities like Toulouse or Clermont Ferrand.
A first demo was organised the last 7th of September, in order to protest against the pension reform. It has been in a way a major success, as there were more than 2 millions of people in the french streets, even in small towns. But workers didn’t engaged into a general strike. They just made a demo, and went back to work and normal life, as usual.
A new demo has been organised this Thursday, 23d. One more time, many people where on the street, but mainly from public services. And further more, instead the cries of “basic unionist”, those “day of action” are not prolonged the day after. Even if there is a growing discontent of the workers and people, there is no expansion of the struggle, that stay inside the frame determined both by government and both and by the mainstream unions. We do not assist to movements of overrunning of unions, even if the minority of workers and unionist expressing a discontent against the policy of negotiation of the mainstream unions is getting bigger each day. But it is a slow movement, and it is possible that it will extint. It is difficult to forecast what will happen, in which direction the movement will go. But we try to push forward to self-organisation and direct action as much as we can…
The Anarchosyndicalist Activity
During this time we do not remain inactive.
This summer was the annual summer camp of the South West Region (Midi Pyrénées), that allows militants from various unions from all over France to debate and prepare some propaganda and intervention tools for the “September return”
As a fruit of this collective work, a special issue of “anarchosyndicalisme !” has been made, in order to be ready for the 7th of september demo, where it has been widely distributed by the local unions participating to. texts are about pension system and its reform, what is capitalism about, how linguistic and words are used by Power propaganda to abuse us, about institutional racism, anarchosyndicalism and what it stand for, … You can download it from here :
Also, in response to the racist policy of government against the Roms, a new issue of the “Hedgehog in black fury” (le Niglo en colère Noire, Niglo is the Rom nickname for Hedgehog, the symbolic animal of the roms ) has been released. This “non periodical” paper is made by CNT AIT members and friends that are from the Rom community. You have a text of reaction against the governmental racism, a text written in 2005 calling the “french roms” to solidarity with “romanian roms”, a text we distributed after the eviction of the Roms by the socialist mayor of Argenteuil in 2009 ( just to remind the left that she is not better than Sarkozy on this issue …), a news about the strike in Gremer in Czech republic from Priama Akcia, and some history about a famous gypsy artist Hector Helios that used to be CNT and IWA member in the 20’es -30’es. It has been widely distributed during the demos against racism the last 4th of September.
It may be downloaded here :
Individual articles : http://cnt-ait.info/article.php3?id_article=1823
Newspaper : http://cnt-ait.info/IMG/pdf/NIGLO_2010.pdf
The Paris local Union (SIPN) also issued a poster against racism in various languages. It says “our enemies are not our neighbors but the capitalist boss that exploit us ! Lets unite against exploitation and injustice” in Esperanto, French, Bambara, Chinese (traditional and modern), Arabic, Turkish, Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian-croatian, English, Portuguese. (if you can make other translations we will be grateful to receive it !) The poster may be download here : http://cnt-ait.info/article.php3?id_article=1831
In Clermont ferrand, our new union of young people made also a specific statement that is spreading to to student community. Other CNT AIT unions planned to use it also.
Our unions participated to the various general assemblies and demonstration of the last 7th and 23d of September. In Auch for instance, our union has been remarked by its propaganda material, that was not in line with the general left tones of the classical unions or political parties (to make it short, as there will be Presidential elections in 2012, all the unions and political parties call to wait until this election before to do anything). Some samples of the Auch propaganda can be find here:
In Toulouse, in order not to go back home “just as normal” after the huge demo of the September 7, the CNT AIT local union created a “popular assembly” : an open space of debate where everybody can attend and participate, as long as it is anticapitalist, antistatist and antiauthoritarian. It is now the forth time that Assembly that have been gathered (7, 12, 19th and 26 th of September). This initiative, that is getting bigger each time, allows all workers to talk directly to each other, without any political or trade-union interference. Such popular assembly is now expanding to others cities (Caen, Clermont, Poitiers).
This strategy is more a long term one, seeking the construction of a strength balance, as we don’t know already if the general movement will collapse or if we assist to the beginning of something (but in this case, it will be a slow start …).
We will try to keep you regularly informed of our activity, in the purpose of developing anarchosyndicalism and IWA,
Yours in solidarity
CNT AIT Paris and Clermont Ferrand members