From Jusqu’ici: interview with a striking worker at Saint-Nazaire

There should be more material on what’s coming up in France – as everyone in the struggle tries to hang on through the school holidays after the CGT went back to work. But here’s something about the moment that just passed. The following is from the new weekly strike bulletin Jusqu’ici (‘hitherto’ or ’til now’), whose first issue was released on Friday the 28th of October [PDF]. It doesn’t have a website yet. We’ve translated the editorial from the first page – for context – and an interview with a striking FE college teacher at Saint-Nazaire [Lyceens, enseignants, cheminots, greveurs des rafineries, nous sommes tous en reseau, page 8 of Jusqu’ici], which is interesting for its slightly finer-grained than usual account of the way the movement was organising itself in the last few weeks in that ‘last bastion of the worker’s movement’. Here’s a PDFof the english translation. (This blog format is dumb.)

Lyceéns, teachers, train drivers, refinery strikers: “We’re all joined up.”

Saint-Nazaire – with its shipyards, its refinery, and its social movement on the cutting edge of the contestation of the pension reform. Jean-Marie Cosson, FE teacher on strike, talks about the revolt at one of the last bastions of the worker’s movement, where the entrance of the lyceéns in the movement was given an ovation by “their fathers in blue collars.”

BASTA!: What’s the situation at Saint-Nazaire?

J-M Cosson: It’s still delicate. On the 7th of October, before the lyceéns had even started to consider participating in the movement, some hooded guys went into a lyceé and smashed some windows. Bizarre… The end of the demo on the 12th, which had got 20,000 people together (Saint-Nazaire has a population of 70,000), didn’t go well. The gendarmes fired teargas at the lyceéns, even though their representatives had negotiated with the police national to avoid things turning bad. This time justice didn’t wait for many years like it did for Chirac. Three guys went straight to trial. Two got two-month mandatory sentences.

How does the movement organise itself between public and private sector workers and the lyceéns?

The general assemblies are held per sector, and the co-ordination is done systematically. For example, on the 13th of October the lyceéns blocked their establishments in the morning. Then, the guys from the shipyards organised a meet-up for a general assembly. The workers from Airbus, from the refinery at Donges, the train drivers and the teachers arrived. Followed by hundreds of lyceéns who were given an ovation by their fathers in blue collars. These are the intense moments, where one rediscovers solidarity. Lyceéns, teachers, train drivers, refinery strikers, we’re all joined up.

What are the debates in the general assemblies?

During the general assembly at Donges refinery, where 350 workers were present, the indefinite strike was debated, with the understanding that they weren’t going to re-vote the strike every 24 hours. They decided to blockade the refinery until the 18th of October. In the education sector, some voted for an indefinite strike. Others didn’t support the idea of a strike for its own sake, to stay at home and content oneself with filling up the state’s coffers by allowing it to withhold wages. So it was decided to have actions every day: we wanted to attack the sites of economic production to hit the wallet. We wanted absolutely to avoid its coming about that we found ourselves opposed to one another, public against private. It’s been 40 years that they’ve been teaching us to be individualists.

Where’ve the blockades been? How have you been trying to extend the movement?

The Donges refinery is blocked. The guys help the twenty employees of the petrol depot nearby to maintain the strike pickets and to prevent the police [forces de l’ordre] from occupying it. In the small businesses it’s delicate. The guys daren’t …

Did this convergence of strikes and sectors start up quickly?

(…) The unions called us into the streets many times in quick succession. We told ourselves that if we didn’t take the matter in hand, the movement would croak. Fed up with marching! Especially since some unions stopped saying the words “general strike”.

What’s the role of the union federations in the movement at Saint-Nazaire?

Little wars between branches always exist. So do contradictions between what the national leadership say and what goes on at a local level. We ask ourselves sometimes why they don’t get behind the movement more firmly. (…) The movement ‘s federated itself between generations and between the different sectors. We don’t demand to know each other’s union affiliation. We don’t give a fuck! I’m in SNES [FE teacher’s union]: that gives me access to some information, but we don’t show off our badges.

What have you made of the media’s treatment of the movement?

At the moment I often have an urge to turn off my television, because I get so wound up by the bulletins! What they say about the lyceéns is unsupportable: always to hear this discourse of ‘manipulation’, as if they were incapable of thinking on their own. When one proposes to the kids that they become self-managed entrepreneurs at 16, that’s not going to make anyone happy.

Recorded by Ivan de Roy, for BASTA!

————–

JUSQU’ICI: INTRODUCTION

A public appeal by Jusqu’ici has established a correspondence-journal to bring into view here what’s going on over there. Immediately, offers of cooperation came from all over France, and a little co-ordinating group, quite new, got together at Montruil. Apart from the individual participants, an editoral committee also constituted itself for the occasion at Lyon.

Jusq’ici is a weekly dedicated to the movement, a street-paper aiming to link up and to inform on the struggles in course. By its decentralised writing process, it’s able to permit itself to speak the multiplicity, in practical terms, of languages, of organisational forms. Simultaneously breaking with the dominant representation of the media, focussing on the strong moments and the spectacular actions and filtering the surfeit of information that the internet produces. Reinventing, in other words, a sort of popular journalism [journalisme populaire], made by the guys from the movement themselves, in which the inner narrative doesn’t signify the absence of critique and permits the limits of the movement to be highlighted.

Jusqi’ici invites everyone [tout le monde] to participate, with reportage, stories, interviews, analysis, photos, drawings or songs. The editorial work and the physical limits of the journal make a degree of selection necessary: we’ll privilege those texts which bring the movement into view best, and which take care to situate the actions and the things reported; we’ll make sure, too, to avoid repetition.

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