Let’s be bold and daring like the railroad workers!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
April 23, 2018

Almost three weeks into the strike, SNCF workers remain determined and the strike continues. Week after week, SNCF top managers keep announcing that the strike is losing momentum but, whether they like it or not, there were more railroad workers on strike on April 19 than there were on April 13. And a lot of those who took part in the demonstrations organized throughout the country on the 19th agreed with the railroad workers’ action. Youngsters who oppose university selection and retirees who oppose the drain that the CSG[1] inflicts on their pension were joined by workers from the public and private sectors.

In the town of Reims, the entire staff of a Monoprix supermarket quit work to join the local demonstration. In Limoges, workers who are threatened with being sacked from Legrand (manufacturer of electrical fittings) and from Steva (a metal stamping plant), were also in the street. And in many other towns, numerous workers used this day to show solidarity with the railroad workers and also to say that they’ve had enough.

French president Macron said that he isn’t “the president of the rich”, adding that the rich don’t need a president to defend them. True enough! The bourgeoisie runs this society and has no need for a president, just a servant to do its bidding in the war it’s waging on the working class. Macron is a perfect fit for the job of taking measures in favor of the ruling class: from the executive orders of the Labor Law[2] to the almost complete withdrawal of wealth tax, from the increase of CSG to the belt-tightening imposed on the public sector.

Macron can claim all he wants that the reasons behind the different protests are unconnected. But if the whole of the working class has so many reasons to express discontent, it’s because Macron’s policies are aimed at all workers! During a recent visit to the town of Saint-Dié, he tried to teach a lesson to a railroad worker, telling him that he should accept change… for the worse, of course! According to Macron, railroad workers should accept the end of their specific status since this measure will only affect future hires.

The big bourgeoisie finds it perfectly normal to transmit their riches and social standing to their children. But workers should accept the loss by the next generation of the few advantages that their elders managed to gain? The railroad workers are commendable: they refuse to condemn tomorrow’s workers to low-rate jobs! They’re standing up against the future that the bosses would like to impose on all workers–generalized insecurity, low wages and worsening working conditions.

Macron may repeat that he sees “no connection between all those who express anger”. But there is indeed a common origin for the worry and discontent. Retirees see their income decreasing and know that the money taken away from them won’t go towards better healthcare or to create jobs for their grandchildren. Children in secondary education who struggle to put together a university application know that it’s a masquerade because universities are overflowing and there just isn’t room for all those who apply. Workers who are threatened with being laid off, those who demand pay rises, those who are condemned to temporary jobs or have part-time jobs imposed on them all know that they are being sacrificed for higher profits.

With typical contempt, Macron recently defended himself against protesters by saying “In France, we have got into the habit of complaining”. He also declared: “Everyone looks at their own backyard and says “this is what they’re taking away from me””. But far from just looking at their own backyard, the railroad workers are fighting to hold on to their rights. And they’re right to do so! Their strike has transformed the indignation, the disgust that all workers feel individually into a collective response. They’re not complaining, they’re fighting and that’s what bothers Macron.

The railroad workers are still on strike and they’re not just addressing train passengers but also other categories of the working class. This is a step forward for all workers. For those who are not prepared to accept the bosses’ attacks, for those who want to raise their heads, the railroad workers’ fight represents a wider protest, an expression of their anger.

We need to do everything we can to make the railroad workers’ strike become a more general fight, a counterattack by the whole working class. That’s how the bosses and Macron, their top sales rep, can be defeated!

[1]     CSG (Contribution sociale généralisée) : a supplementary social security contribution created in 1991 by Rocard's Socialist government. It “extended” the tax base to include retirement and disability pensions, unemployment and early retirement benefits, etc. 111and provided for lesser contributions by the bosses. Its rate has been increased over the years and is now bigger than income tax. It finances over 20% of all social security expenses and is paid mostly by workers themselves (over 90%). Macron further increased the rate on retirement pensions on January 1, 2018.

[2]     The Loi travail (Labor Law) adopted in August 2016 is also called the El Khomri law, after Socialist minister of labor Myriam El Khomri. It has made it easier for the bosses to impose their views on all aspects of labor-management relations.