The French NPA’s (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste)
perspectives on Britain

The SUAC- acting locally but thinking globally- looks across the channel to see how the French are responding to the attacks on their living standards and what the French make of the anti-cuts movement in Britain. 

Today, October 12, France will be protesting against austerity measures, pension cuts and the raising of the retirement age with open-ended strikes in public transport – and a one-day strike in schools.  They are protesting against plans to push back the legal retirement age from 60 to 62. The strikes will be followed by street protests on Saturday, October 16.  According to a survey by Le Parisien, 69 per cent of people support the strike. The last demos, on October 2, attracted three million people. The CGT union has also called an open-ended strike in the power sector, calling on workers to carry out power cuts targeting official buildings, but not households.

A short article was published a few days ago on the web site of the French NPA. (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste). It talks about the Con-Dem cuts and the NPA’s hope for a growing resistance here in Britain. 

Great-Britain. Resistance to the Budget Cuts
Saturday 7th October 

A campaign against government policy to make the masses pay the cost of the crisis has been put in place. The Conservative report into public finances will be revealed on 20th October. We can see that cuts of up to 25% will be a veritable massacre of public services, salaries, and conditions of work, the annihilation of which is the remains of union gains and the welfare state.

The government has already announced its targets: public-sector pensions, the right-to-strike, education, health and post, salaries and premiums. VAT was increased, and benefits cut. Committees led by Conservatives (Barnet, Suffolk) plan the extension of privatisation to the majority of services. 

The consequences will be dramatic. Without even including the decrease in salaries and allowances, or the increase in VAT, the Budget Cuts represent a loss of income of 4.9% per person, and even 11.2% for a single-parent family. Proportionally, women will be hardest hit by the cuts. According to a study by the House of Commons, they will bear three-quarters of the burden…

The massive bank deficit of 2008, which was guaranteed by public funds, is now transformed into a public deficit which they are asking us to pay! That which was “their crisis” has now become “our crisis”. The Conservative and Liberal-Democrat government is using the depth of the crisis to frighten people, and persuade them that there is no alternative to massive, immediate cuts, to prevent the collapse of society.

A realization is emerging. The number and size of public meetings against the budget cuts is increasing. There have been strikes on the underground in London, at Astra-Zeneca and Coca-Cola, as well as a large demonstration of fire-fighters.

The absence, since the elections, of any opposition to the cuts from New Labour or the TUC, explains why, until now, the level of resistance had remained quite weak. The executive of the TUC subscribed to this logic when they stated that “the deficit can and must be reduced, but over a longer period”. They even invited the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, to address the TUC congress.

But this congress has just agreed a vigorous campaign against the budget cuts, and to co-ordinate strikes at a local and national level. This constitues an encouragement to unions for local campaigns, and will give confidence to the rank-and-file for strike action.

The magnitude of the crisis demands radical solutions: nationalisations in response to closures of businesses or workplaces, the placing of the banks under democratic control, a limit on the wealth of the rich, a million green jobs to fight climate change. 

We need a united campaign, with a large support base, like that against the Poll Tax in 1990, or Stop the War. The French and Greek strikes and demonstrations can equally well serve us as a reference. 

The new coalition “Resistance Against the Cuts” (CoR) has rallied a large palette of Trade Union officials, left groups, left-personalities such as Tony Benn or Ken Loach. It’s aim is to provide a democratic national co-ordination of local groups and not to end up co-existing alongside already-established groups.

The important deadlines are set. The “Right To Work” campaign has called a demonstration at the Conservative Party Conference on the 3rd October. Demonstrations are planned for the 20th October, when the Comprehensive spending review will be announced.

The national conference of the Coalition of Resistance, the 27th November, will be the time to plan an escalation in power of the campaign. Next year the TUC has organised a national demonstration for the 26th March. It is a distant event, but, from now, in all the communities, and all the workplaces, we must carry the message: we won’t pay for this crisis, involve everyone in the resistance against cuts and privatisations.

So what are the French calling for at home?

Below we have translated communiqués from the main forces on the French left posted on their websites over the last few days. The NPA is calling for an open-ended general strike. The Front De Gauche (Left Front) offers a new electoral project, with plans to codify a ‘governmental programme’ next year. Whilst the Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Struggle) calls for the resistance to be stepped up.

NPA: One solution: Renewable general strike! 
Wednesday 6th October
On the 2nd of October, many new demonstrators marched in more than 200 towns across the country. The contingents were different to those of the 7th and 23rd of September.  Fewer workers from the large industries, and more workers from grades or jobs who cannot strike, or are not unionised, a larger public, and more youth.

More friendly, but just as determined. In fact, it represents a new widening of the mobilisation, representative of the rejection of Sarkozy’s politics by more than 70% of the population. But after this latest success, we must stop here. The government has not decided to retreat under the sole pressure of public opinion manifested in polls and demonstrations. The seventh law in ten years on immigration, the racist proposals of ministers and the agitation on the terrorist threat don’t permit the government to regain any legitimacy. 

We must therefore take a step forward in the demonstrations. There is no other solution to blocking this plan to destroy our pension plans than to stop the economic and social activity of the country. The government not only wants to inflict a defeat us over pensions to symbolise its 5th year in power, but to continue through attacks on social security, schools, free healthcare, what’s left of the 35-hour week, and by new attacks on civil liberties.

Many workers from all regions have understood the desire of the government to attack us on all fronts. This explains why many demonstrations have occurred without waiting for the national days of action. Thus, many thousands of anaesthetists demonstrated on Friday 1st October through the nice quarters of Paris, dockers from several ports are on strike not only for their jobs, but also because for them too, everything is linked to pensions. Hundreds of workers from Ford-Bordeaux disrupted celebrations at the World automobile fair by demonstrating to save their jobs inside the showroom. 

Certainly, workers and the union apparatus remain marked by the defeats and retreats of the last years. The last inter-union statement on the 4th October hides badly the refusal of the principal union federations to engage in confrontation with the government. But in the factories, the offices, the neighbourhoods, the schools, the hospitals… the attacks on conditions of work and living and the racist policies of the government is provoking anger and revolt. 

Everywhere we need to build and amplify the demonstrations, the strikes, walkouts, and stoppages. We must now not merely discuss the open-ended strike, but everywhere win mobilisations to this avenue. Opposing the Media, we must circulate information and make contacts sector by sector, town by town. 

Less than ever the development of the renewable strike must be from national guidelines or local spontaneity. If some firm steps have been taken in this direction (RATP), many other structures seem ready to engage with it (SNCF, Education, CGT Seine-Maritime, Bouches-du-Rhone et Paris, inter-union federations in Paris and many ‘local’ branches, CGT chemical federation, etc). 

The concerted action of unions and convinced militants, sincerely engaged in building the confrontation can change the balance of forces and force the government to retreat. Don’t wait for the 12th October, we won’t stop on the 12th. 

FRONT DE GAUCHE: The Left Front opens a new space. 
Saturday 30th September
The Left Front launched, during the fete de l’humanite, a process of elaboration of a “shared project” covering multiple local and national initiatives in order to forge an ambitious programme for our country and its place in the world, a programme which the Left Front intends to carry to the elections to come. 

This rentree is placed under a double cross: on one hand, a government policy continuously  antisocial, anti-liberties, xenophobic, which doesn’t hesitate to question even the very foundations of the Republic; on the other hand, important and militant citizen and social mobilisations. Every day that passes delegitimizes further Sarkozy’s headlong rush.  The demonstrations of the rentree – those of the 4th and 7th September – and their support in the country, shows that on the question of liberties and of equality of rights like the social plan, the politics of Sarkozy won’t get through!

The Right in power has plunged into a deep political crisis that reveals their collusion with the financial powers. We must block them from any further destruction of social and democratic rights.

It is this sense which the Left Front intends to give its presence on all the demonstrations and struggles currently under way. It will be on all the movements for unity called across France based on the repeal of the government pensions’ project or in the movements defending the liberties and principles in our constitution with regard to the defence of the rights of man and citizen. We call in particular to join the rallies called by the inter-union federations on 15th and 23rd September.

The fight against Sarkozy also necessitates the construction of a credible Left alternative  to policies entirely devoted to the interests of the MEDEF (French CBI).

This is why, since 2008, the Left Front has proposed another way to the “people of the left” which doesn’t lead to yet another of the accompanying variations of liberalism. It constitutes a dynamic opening which has the capacity to grow.

It is in this spirit that the Left Front reaffirms its wish to “jumpstart” the situation of the Left. It means to assemble in the country a new left majority on the basis of a government programme that ruptures with the dominant logic of a capitalist system and it’s productivist models, of which the current crisis only confirms the necessity of surpassing.

It is in this vision that today, 11th September during the fete de l’humanite, a process of elaboration of a “shared project” covering multiple local and national initiatives in order to forge an ambitious programme for our country and its place in the world, a programme which the Left Front intends to carry to the elections to come. 

This “workspace” the Left Front intends to throw open nationally as well as locally to political formations which share the objectives and desire to be associated with this new project, but also to all citizens, especially union activists and associations who are involved in the pursuit of a society that denies the upgrading of economic profitability of all human activity, to substitute the values of equality, solidarity and humanism which are the real heritage of the Left in this country.

We will, therefore, put forward a concrete method: We call for the multiplication of local initiatives, permitting the largest number of ordinary people to get involved as possible: local committees of the shared project, initiatives of election and rallying of important local activists, workshops in the neighbourhoods and workplaces.

In the course of this process, we will ensure that we merge the work of elaborating the Left Front, with the demands and requirements of the organisations and actors in the social and citizens’ movements; unionists, organised militants, intellectuals who are at the heart of the resistance to liberal policies.

We also propose the setting up of “Thematic Fronts” rallying the activists of difference sectors (e.g. health, education, art, economy) in order to work out proposals together, which are likely to permit a viable democratic re-appropriation of society’s issues.

More initiatives of public debate, of a national dimension, will also be organised. For now two initiatives have been announced for the coming months:– An initiative on the question of Europe, to propose an alternative which breaks with the logic of the Lisbon Treaty and austerity measures, put in place by the Liberal European governments.

The Standing Liaison Committee of the Left Front will offer soon the forms in which organizations that wish and all citizens who share the approach of the Left Front and its objectives can fully participate.

All follow-up tools necessary to this project will be largely to inform about local and national initiatives to be taken, to publicize the work and contributions to various ensuing exchanges and allow the widest participation. 

Finally a national meeting in 2011 will conclude this process by adopting a program of government that we will be fighting for in the upcoming political events.

 LUTTE OUVRIERE: Everyone on strike on 12th October and onwards. 
Saturday 9th October
Workers’ Struggle calls for a massive turnout in all the strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday 12th October. 

Only a unified movement, each time bigger and more determined, can impose retreats on the government, over pension reforms, but also over all measures of social regression which for years have aggravated the conditions and lives of the popular masses. Only a powerful start from the workers can compel those who govern us in the name of the bosses of big business and bankers, to renounce their attacks on the conditions of the working class. 

LO also calls on the youth to join the struggle, as the issues concern the future of all society. Therefore we must all be in the strikes and demonstrations on 12th October and beyond. It is time to demonstrate that the anger rumbles on, and an explosion threatens.

Many thanks to Workers Power for providing the translations.

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