There’s more forthcoming, but this ‘Address’, issued a few days ago by some guys around the various assemblies in Rennes (“Some participants in the general assembly of the students of the University Rennes 2, in the movement of unemployed and precarious workers, and in the inter-professional general assembly of Rennes”) is pretty important. The following is a modification of the translation of the original French posted on libcom a day or so ago. As usual, a plaintext version below the break; a two-page PDF is also available and not ugly. Really this is for distribution: circulate it as widely as you think it can have an impact, it’s not dumb. Or, as we say in a note at the end of the PDF:
(we’re circulating this text as the most advanced and serious effort at practical reflection that’s come out of the French movement so far. We hope, with its authors, that it will inspire discussion and action this side of the channel – even perhaps, across this whole stricken continent, which could in our opinion do with more striking).
MORE WHEN IT’S BROKEN.
Address to the wage-earners, unemployed and precarious workers of all the countries in the European Union
-Some participants in the general assembly of the students of the University Rennes 2, in the movement of unemployed and precarious workers, and in the inter-professional general assembly of Rennes.
25 October 2010.
We are precarious workers, wage-earners, students or unemployed, currently taking part in the struggle against the pension reform by the Sarkozy government which plans to postpone the legal retirement age and to extend the number of years of contributions to be entitled to a full pension. This measure will lead to the worsening of the living conditions of the precarious sections of the population and a significant advance of the logic of capital valorisation. This is in line with the Thatcherite policies pursued by the French government over the last four years, as in most European countries during the 20-year reign of neo-liberal orthodoxy. This politics of social regression (privatisations, wage freezes, cuts in the public sector and in social spending) is all the more harshly felt because of the 2008–2009 recession (and its trail of mass redundancies) which, far from leading to a revision of the neo-liberal dogmas, was able to justify a new round of austerity plans at the expense of the working class.
In many countries such as Greece and Britain, governments no longer hesitate to announce sharp cuts in wages and pensions while they spend tens of billions to save banks. Everywhere, measures that are beneficial to the bourgeoisie are on the increase: “tax shields”; ultra-precarious contracts under which the employer’s exempted from tax, when he’s not exempted from wages too; simplified lay-off procedures; restrictions on the right to strike and criminalisation of social movements. Everywhere, they try to divert popular discontent onto scape goats: the Roma, the Arabic, the Unemployed-who-do-not-want-a-job will be the perfect culprits. Everywhere, this Europe that was built on the myth of a continuous social and cultural progress, guaranteed by the institutions, is in the process of recreating the unwanted proletariat it thought that it had assimilated. The peace between the European countries has as a double side effect the exporting of the conflicts around the optimal exploitation of resources outside the continent, and the cooperation of all the petty lords of the European economy against everything that goes against its laws, be it popular resistance or social welfare schemes. At the same time as protection walls are raised against migrants, they continue to import that part of the work force whose function is to carry out the work that the “native Europeans” no longer want, and to export the industries that can cheaply exploit the other part of the work-force which is confined there by the multinationals of Fortress Europe.
Against this disheartening situation, the events of last spring in Greece paved the way for a counter-offensive on a European scale. But the strategy of the trade unions, timorous to say the least, and the sudden halt in the revolt caused by the tragic event at the Marfin bank, postponed until now the resumption of an open contestation. As for us, subordinates of France PLC, since 2003 (the previous movement against another pension “reform”) we’ve gotten used to the strategy, which was doomed to fail, of limited “days of actions”, scattered in time. After a month of conflict, the rank and file of the unions is now in favour of an unlimited and generalised strike. According to a recent poll, the majority of the population wishes a “radicalisation” of the movement in the face of another inflexible government. We all remember the movement of the students and high school children of the spring of 2006, the so-called “anti-CPE” movement, which was partly successful, and which established the economic blockade as a form of struggle, in addition to striking and demonstrating. In most big cities, at the same time as universities on strike were blockaded and occupied for several weeks and mass demonstrations regularly ended in clashes, the strikers used the tactic of blockading the roads, the department stores, the train stations and the airports, as well as post sorting offices and bus terminals. At the end, the bosses union (the MEDEF) begged one other “inflexible” government to show a flexibility that would allow the resumption of normal economic activities. The CPE law was withdrawn (but not the law of which it was only a part).
Nowadays, it isn’t a coincidence that the audacious experiments of the 2006 movement appear as the elemental modes of actions of the most active tendencies in the struggle against the current government project. In Rennes, the department stores are targeted in every demonstration. The most resolute strikes affect oil refineries and depots among other things. The strikers at Marseille, a true avant-guard of the movement, paralyse the harbour and impose on their city the rhythm of the movement. The train drivers are also on the front line, and the lorry drivers have joined the movement. We know that the more we trust our own force, the more our joyful determination becomes contagious. The images of the flying pickets in Barcelona last September, that forced all the shops to close during the day of general strike, probably played a role in the will to systematise these practices. We know that in order to win, we must be able to counteract the government’s current strategies, which consist in waiting for the deterioration of the conflict and the use of techniques of intimidation. This can particularly be seen in the increase in the of police violence: several young demonstrators badly injured hundreds of arrests and outrageous sentences (for example, prison sentences for putting a bin on fire), the use of truncheons and tear gas to clear traffic blockades as a now common practice. Added to this use of violence, the right to strike is totally disregarded (workers in the petrochemical industry being requisitioned and threatened with harsh sentences if they refuse)
In our opinion, what is now needed is a massive use of this weapon, the economic blockade. By such means, the unemployed and precarious workers who do not have access to a stable and permanent workplace can participate in the pressure built up by “traditional” workers against the dividends of the bosses. Economic blockade, as a technique to intensify the strike, is nevertheless a means that is accessible to all. If a strike (of wage-earners, of students, schoolchildren, the “strike” against forced integration of the unemployed and the precarious people) frees up time and attention from their customary subordination to the economic circuits, economic blockade makes it possible to use fully the time that is thereby freed for the disruption of these same circuits, which are run by the powers against which we fight, and to disrupt them in a far more reliable manner than the peaceful demonstrations which have absolutely no effect on them ( let’s mention for example the great business done by the fast food industry during the “days of actions”). In an integrated economy, which affects everything through its flows of capital, commodities and information, the economic blockade allows the generalisation of the impacts caused by a strike that is until now limited to a few sectors. What’s more, it can create the possibility of encounters between the strikers who come to blockade a workplace and the wage-earners of this same workplace who are by this action encouraged to join the movement. Striking itself can be directly considered as a weapon in the blockading of the economy, which helps the movement to keep going; and such a strike needn’t be indefinite (it’s tough on workers to strike for too long at once): go-slow strikes, rolling strikes, strikes which paralyze certain “key” sectors or positions which can be supported financially by others.
Clearly, the success of this movement, be it symbolical or incomplete, can only come from this: that each collective of struggle, each local union, each group of militants, friends, colleagues, parents, whether formal or informal, at the same time as it tries to coordinate with others, gives itself the liberty to constitute its own flying picket. Such forms of availability to the struggle would be totally compatible with moments of slow-downs when we could take the time to organise materially, to share a meal together, and to share ideas, songs or experiences… In a period in which the government does not hesitate to use police intervention or the threat of prison sentences to break the picket lines and force the resumption of work, the fact of being ready to move quickly, of being able to gather as quickly as possible in one point to constitute a mass that can not be flushed out, as well as spreading to block the metropolis at ten different places at the same time, is in our opinion the only truly coherent way to “become involved” (to use the union slogan), the best use of the time freed by the strike.
As we come closer and closer to a fuel shortage, the question of which are the priority targets for the blockade seems already solved: refineries, oil depots, roads and rails, department stores, distribution platforms. We’d also point out how interesting blockades which contribute to the spreading of the situation outside the national ghetto are. For example, let’s think about tourism, which constitutes one of the main profitable economic sectors of our museum-continent: luxury hotels and restaurants, big cultural shows, luxury consumption… It’s interesting, too, to call on some parts of the media to “deblockade” the flow of information and give a voice to those who are institutionally deprived of one. Let’s think, too, about the “business districts” of our metropolis, which could spread to the all world the bad reputation of their badly colonised “provinces”…
Belgian train workers, Castilian steelworkers, Marsellaise dockers, Greek couriers, temporary workers, precarious and unwanted people from everywhere, your struggle is ours. Everywhere, we need to respond with solidarity and in a coordinated way to all attacks coming from any of our national oligarchs, who are more or less in connivance with European bankers and commissioners.
For the end of the counter-reforms and austerity plans, for the improvement of our living conditions, for a policy that welcomes and shows solidarity to the migrants and proletarians of all countries, let’s create, everywhere, struggle committees, inter-professional general assemblies, brigades of flying pickets that are increasingly coordinated beyond the borders. Let’s block the Europe of capital, let’s open up Fortress Europe, let’s get rid of all the Sarkozys, Merkels, Barrosos and other Berlusconis!
Unlimited general strike! Stop the economy!