On Thursday 29 January, all of France’s main trade unions will participate in a general strike. The strike is also backed by the (‘social-liberal’ opposition) Socialist Party and has the overwhelming support of the public, according to polls.
The large trade unions are partly responding to pressure from smaller left-wing unions, in the run-up to elections in workplaces in March that will determine which unions represent the workers. The Socialist Party has just elected a new leader, Martine Aubry — she won narrowly against Ségolène Royal — after a period of internal turmoil following Royal’s failure against Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.
The strike will involve a vast range of social actors and is a protest about a number of issues, including:
• Dissatisfaction with Sarkozy’s response to the economic crisis
• A challenge to anti-union laws recently introduced to guarantee a minimum level of public services during strikes
• Continued anger among high school students at education “reform” plans, which they have succeeded in delaying through sit-ins and protests
• Rising unemployment, set to reach 10% by 2010.
The strike will reach beyond the public sector which is the usual bedrock of protest; a Guardian article (27 January) reports:
‘”It’s very rare for our bank workers to join in this kind of strike action,” said Lionel Manchin, of the SNIACAM independent union at the bank Credit Agricole. “This is about protecting jobs and protecting our purchasing power. The bosses have been well protected with their salaries, it’s now time to protect the workers.”’
The strike takes places a few days before the launch of the New Anti-capitalist Party (soon, hopefully, to settle on a new name) on 6–8 February. The new party will be formed by the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, which is dissolving itself, by some other small groups and by individuals persuaded during the recent period of social unrest to join the new party. Supporters of the AWL will attend the founding congress.