Monday, September 14, 2009

Solidaires Assessment of French Movement in Response to Financial Crisis

The document is an extracts of the text adopted by the National Bureau of Solidaires on July 2. It is an incomplete translation of the text published by Solidaires on September 1.

Together Let Us Make the Assessment - To Be Stronger Tomorrow

This text was adopted at a meeting of the Bureau of National Trade Union Solidaires and all national member organizations. The text is result of both the discussions at the July 2 meeting, and of the discussions of the officers and the National Committees over the past year.

A special year

Two new elements have marked this year 2008/2009 namely:

* The open crisis of the capitalist system. For Solidaires, we do not ask others to accept every detail of our analysis we simply insist on the fact that it is indeed a crisis of economic and political system, not simply a bad period.

* Faced with the consequences of this crisis, the establishment of an national inter-union coordinating committee involving the Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour), Confédération française démocratique du travail (French Democratic Federation of Labour, Force Ouvrière (Workers’ Force), Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (French Confederation of Christian Workers), Confédération générale des cadres (General Confederation of Executives), Union nationale des syndicats autonomes (National Union of Autonomous Unions), Union Syndicale Solidaires (Trade Union Solidaires), Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (United Trade Union Federation), (the Confedration Nationale du Travail – National Confederation of Workers - asked to join the inter-union, but only Solidaires responded positively).

They are obviously not the only highlights of the social events of recent months, others are more traditional: a government that increases the handouts to the bosses and the rich; employers leading class struggle without interruption and reaping benefits, and employee-resistance – many mobilizations, company by company, sector by sector, but do not extend beyond national days of action, largely for lack of direction offered by the union movement.

And the employers? They are fine, thank you.

* 360 billion made available in a few days for bankers
* 32 billion "aid to employment, each year for employers who dismiss:
* 14 billion tax package that benefits the rich
* 8 billion in business taxes that will no longer be paid,

In France, according to the National Institute of Economics and Statistics Studies, the richest 10% of households hold nearly half the total wealth. In enterprises, pay practices have increased the ratio between the bottom and highest paid, from 1 to 20 in 1960-1970 in most countries, they now frequently pass 1 to 300. Financial decision favor the concentration of wealth: the highest paid have had the greatest benefits from tax breaks.

These elements are proof that the class struggle exists, and some are the leading it very effectively themselves. The Government plays an active role, particularly in the public services, all these measures are pro-employer.
What action for Employees, unemployed, Retirees, and the young?

The situation is mixed.

* There are strikes, so many in the private sector, which calls into question the hazy discussions of the “machine”.
* There is too little commitment to coordination of individual struggles.
* Some of these movements take a more radical turn than usual (struggle is more extended, the pattern of negotiation more heated)
* Most of these actions aim to obtain better compensation, not to deny the layoffs, reflecting a deterioration in the balance of power in terms of alternative responses.
These local strikes are animated by the militants of the various unions.
Strikes sectoral and local

Education / Research, Health / Social, are among the sectors experiencing the most massive long term struggles. We have argued for a convergence in vain.
Within the sectors, there is a strong movement trade union unity – but the limits of this unity are also set within the framework of the of inter-union at the national level, the member organizations of Solidaires involvement in these movements has combined unitary practice and specific proposals in terms of claims strategy and action. This effort has been met with the same difficulties and the same dissatisfaction...

The Strikes of Undocumented workers continue. More than a year after the beginning of this movement, and despite the collective efforts of several trade union, the union movement collectively has not been equal to the challenge: by failing to afford to meet the demands, instead choosing to focus on other areas of our business association, we in fact chose to not sufficiently support this movement led by the most precarious workers.

In Energy, the movement of the spring is new: in its duration, its forms, by the strong involvement of young people. Confusion has been created by the five federations "representative" (which still reject SUD Energy) and in particular the CGT ...

The Chemical Industry is among the sectors most affected by the growth in layoffs. There have been many Strikes (Caterpillar, Continental, Lear, Goodyear, Michelin, etc..)

In the departments, there have been many unit meetings throughout the year. Often designed as mere variations of national calls, but they showed enough in many cases, a willingness to fight, explicitly affirmed by the local organizations of the CGT, FSU, FO and CFDT.

In some cases they have forced the action of the structures of the national inter-union structures. Even if this method returns a pyramidal shape of unionism, a method that we do not want to practice, and even if we are astonished by the policy choices of other unions, we must point out the positions and proposals expressed by Solidaires for months ... despite our support for the jointly formulated demands.
Appeals Unit

We have not advanced in the construction ... as there has not space for debate between units that would be likely to build momentum. Starting with Businesses on strike, we can try similar approaches to those adopted in other sectors (calling for coordination nationally those units in struggle...). The decline in the practice that encourage the self-organization of struggles does not help. We need to relaunch the debate on this subject, recalling the experience, highlighting everything that goes in that direction ...
The national inter-union ... and us.

Since the beginning, we have sort to build solidarity for the joint decisionsbelow. Bringing together the unions together was the key to to the success of January 29 and March 19. The failure to turn the pressure up a notch after March 19 marks the unwillingness of the Confederations to attempt a social confrontation with the government and MEDEF (Employers Federation).

May 26 was a non-event, and we cannot overlook because we were among the few organizations that had pushed for an event to also occur in mid-June, an event that was not expected to be called, there was something in May. The prospect of "decentralized initiatives" was not perceived as credible by activist groups, and the day passed unnoticed by the workers. The events of June 13 are obviously also a failure, compared with the relative strengths of which they were drawn from.

But never give up much to say our proposals and demands. The two are inseparable, unity to be effective and pose the united action we believe to be in the right direction.

This does not exclude taking stock of this period, a balance that leaves things simple will the strategy of action chosen be likely to permit victory? Certainly not. That's why we have during those months been proposing to build a nationwide inter-union cross sectoral strike; a proposal that flowed from our thinking on the current situation, the balance of power, but also the experiences of recent years.

We put forward our perspectives for Inter-Union, who departed on a different basis: national support each fight against each company or public service that was to be closed, along with commitment to prepare for an ongoing general strike to take the offensive around unifying demands.

Since late 2008, the question of the platform for unity has been a thorny issue. They were reworked in May with the merit of being shorter. But they remain too vague to be an inclusive point to rally support. Many friends say "it would be like in Guadeloupe." Certainly, ... but remember that the united platform consisted of 146 points. It erases the fact that the collective LKP was the culmination of years of “invisible” work and the result of a local situation where the class struggle unions were clearly in the majority ... because this has developed over the years (through the joint organization and development of struggles and battles ... )

We highlight five themes claim:

* Prohibition of layoffs in companies that make profits and establish a new employment guaranteeing salary, seniority and qualifications, with 100% compensation for partial unemployment paid exclusively by employers fund, no job cuts and reduction of working time, as employees should not pay for the crisis while companies earn profits.
* General increase in salaries, pensions, the minimum wage and minimum social, 300 € for everyone immediately, because the employees do not have to pay for the crisis, while management and shareholders reap dividends and still receive exorbitant pay. Increasing wages share of wealth.
* Stop the job cuts in public services and increase funding allocation. Confronting the General Revision of Public Policy and false reforms, we want new guidelines for public services, that the fundamental rights of employment, health, education, transportation, communication are available to all people.
* No further deterioration of our social protection (pension, health, ...), when the financial resources are available to improve them.
* Ending the tax that favors the wealthy deletion of tax shield, the tax package, the tax exemption of overtime, the VAT on basic commodities, instead we need a more progressive tax income and higher taxes for the richest households.


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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