The deep crisis affecting the whole French society
Contribution to the United Front webinar on 23.4.2023
The struggles against a new law to increase the retirement age of the government are at the heart of a societal crisis, but the government and its entire policy are targeted, in connection with a critique of capitalist relations. All the institutions and social questions are concerned and the government goes from crisis to crisis: closing of classes, crisis of the fishermen, crisis of the water and the environment, public services, hospitals, education, equality of women... The increase in the cost of living is a particularly burning issue, which is also an expression of the class reality of capitalism.
In a survey by the "Institute of Economics and Consumption", more than 90% of those questioned were in favor of a change in the organization of society, including 24% for a "radical" change! Only 2% think that the leaders are ready to do it and 51% (!) think that such a change cannot be done without violence.
The global social crisis has developed and deepened as the public institutions have dealt with the pension law, without great illusions. On the contrary, every anti-popular decision of the state confirmed the will to struggle and inflamed the anger even more.
The union alliance of 10 unions is held together by the pressure of the base, despite the strong tendency to class collaboration of some organizations, but it is also held back by this fact. Since January, it has repeatedly been able to mobilize up to 2.5 million people in weekly days of action and call them out on strike.
After the first adoption of the law in Parliament, there have been unlimited strikes in several sectors, permanent actions, blockades of intersections, exits, companies, etc. It was mainly the public service workers who were at the forefront of the struggle, but the goal of a general strike was not achieved. Important sectors were missing, especially in industry, such as the car industry, Airbus, etc. Tens of thousands of new members were recruited in the different unions. The strike funds exploded at the end of March to 2.5 million euros. At the CGT union congress at the end of March, the left wing emerged stronger from a deployed line struggle, even if the new general secretary is in the compromise.
After the law was examined in the Senate, the government resorted to Article 49.3 of the Constitution, not being sure of obtaining a majority for the final vote in Parliament. This event shows the weakness of the government and the persistent division of the right-wing bourgeois forces: the leaders could not continue to govern as before.
An outcry arose in the country and the activity of the masses intensified. The garbage collectors' strike led to the accumulation of 10 tons of garbage in Paris, transport and schools went on strike, refineries, power plants, etc. The government, on the other hand, has used repression more and more, forcing employees in necessary sectors to work, in defiance of the right to strike!
The repression wanted to cut the ground from under the struggles, to intimidate and reached its peak during the demonstrations against the mega water tanks and the privatization of water - a real war led by the police and the (military) gendarmes against up to 30,000 young people from all over Europe resulted in injuries, the vast majority of which were among the demonstrators: one protester is still in a coma. The brutality is widely condemned in the country and internationally. The French Minister of the Interior no longer wants to subsidize the League of Human Rights in France because of its criticisms and wants to ban a new association "Les soulèvements de la Terre". This association must be studied closely, it is gaining influence and aims at anti-capitalist, ecological but also social mass actions.
The participation in demonstrations is indeed decreasing, but the majority of the population continues to support the struggles. The rejection and hatred of the Macron-Borne government continues to grow and is expressed in the demonstrations with signs and slogans about the French Revolution and the guillotine.
The actions are directed against the retirement plans, the arrogance of the Macron government, the contempt for all democracy, the repression by the state apparatus and the justice. Ecology also comes more into play. For many, Macron personifies the system in place.
But the majority of people are also surprised by his intransigence and his refusal of any concession, however small. This can only be understood in the context of a brutally exacerbated global competition, in which French imperialism must overcome economic, political and military defeats.
The existence of a dictatorship, however camouflaged, in France is spreading among the masses. For a relatively large and growing minority, the conclusion is active resistance and rebellion, although the methods and especially the perspectives are often not yet clear. The connection to finance capital is more or less clearly perceived. Especially among young people, the openness to revolution and communism is increasing enormously: a developed struggle of opinion on the perspective of socialism against "left" anti-communism dominates the picture: among many there is only confusion, very vague ideas or proposals for different reform measures (laws, referendums, etc.).
In our propaganda we have to be based on facts, to make people understand us. To explain scientific concepts while taking into account anti-communism. The Paris Commune gives us access to brains and hearts.
The war plays almost no role in the fighting. France does not play a leading role in the war in Ukraine, as RF explains on 12.4.23. But France is currently conducting huge maneuvers in the country, arming itself as never before and militarizing the whole society. A "universal national service", "SNU", of several months, from 13 years old, is set up in order to train the youth ideologically. There is little talk about it, but isolated initiatives of intellectuals and organizations are multiplying. It is here that we must concretize our policy, against the militarization of society.
Since the vote of the Constitutional Council and the immediate entry into force of the law on pensions in mid-April, the innumerable actions, demonstrations, break-ins, sabotage (electricity cuts at distributors) continue daily, despite their prohibition. They are organized by local forms of organization. In addition to the unions, they are mainly assemblies of different professional sectors, students and activists of all kinds. However, they covered only a small part of the population.
The influence of the Marxist-Leninists is weak. The fighting spirit, the organization and the consciousness are not yet enough to make the qualitative leap to a struggle for the transformation of society. Conquering a new prestige for authentic socialism is the central question and must go hand in hand with building the party against activism and anarcho-syndicalism. France insoumise, a far-left reformist party in parliament, which supports the struggles in the majority, has had a spontaneous adhesion. And, even more radical, the Trotskyist group "Permanent Revolution", which targets workers' struggles with revolutionary phrases, has some workers' leaders in important sectors and attracts mostly student youth (strong presence on the Internet).
We were present at almost every day of action - with a book stand or by participating in demonstrations. With short speeches and an open microphone we make a social demand and go on the offensive. Our stand is noticed by many people who get to know us or want to interview us. We also participate in different actions and stands in the suburbs. The small work remains an asset on a broader level. A growing number of sympathizers support our activities: The study group on the fundamental questions of Marxism-Leninism and our draft program is essential to consolidate the links. An activist café is planned for May, to which we invite a large number of people, including the many addresses of our stands "En finir avec le capitalisme dépassé - pour le socialisme authentique"!
Important note from the ICOR Office! This is only an automated translation of the post. The French version is the original. If you want to help us and improve this translation, we will be happy. You can be listed as translator on the homepage if you want to. Send us the improved translation to our email address firstname.lastname@example.org.