“We’re angry railway workers, and we won’t get pushed around!” chanted the Parisian strikers who had gathered, on May 7th, in two Paris train stations. These demonstrations, which lasted the whole afternoon, despite the cops’ attacks with batons and tear gas, sent a clear message: railway workers are not fooled by the prime minister manoeuvres and they continue the strike against the “railway reform”. At the beginning of May, none of the fights that were started against the president’s pro-boss policy has petered out, quite the contrary.
You don’t negotiate social regression
Prior to meeting with the unions on May 7th, Edouard Philippe said he “extended a friendly, but firm hand.” The meeting was simply a courtesy toward union leaders who rushed to this meeting, from which nothing good could come out for the railway workers. The strikers had realised this, and repeated their demand in general assembly: that the railway reform be withdrawn.
Before each action day, SNCF management declares that the movement is weakening. But autosuggestion can only go so far, and everyone can see that there aren’t many trains running, in any case far less than planned. After 16 days of strike, the movement is strong. Railway workers are not happy with pseudo-negotiations about implementation details. Instead, they rely on the strength of their strike to force the government to back down.
We all face Macron, we’re all in the same fight
This railway strike is a big thorn in the government’s side, because it is an example for other sectors. May Day demonstrations were larger than in 2016, when the movement against the Work Law was going on. And the tens of thousands of people demonstrating on May 5th confirmed the rebellious mood, regardless of political calculations from Mélanchon and other organisers. No doubt that many workers want to show Macron and his bosses what they think, and not just on Saturdays!
Just like Air France employees, on strike for wages, showed their CEO who thought he was unstoppable. All the media watchdogs thought the employees would vote in favour of the CEO’s proposal except for the pilots, which should be the only ones to vote for excessive demands. But his plan failed and now he’s out!
All together against the bosses’ attacks
Macron pretends to ignore the protests and go as far away as possible, Australia or New Caledonia. From there, he repeats there is no “crystallisation of the fights.” At the same time, since he’s afraid of said crystallisation, he sends cops into the streets against demonstrators, into railway stations against the strikers, and into universities against students. But swat teams can’t run trains or mark exams. And they can’t find a spot in university for the 10,000 students who will be left out by the new selection process.
There is more and more reason for the anger, so protests could still ramp up, specially with the railway workers’ strike as encouragement. Now is the time to extend the movement and take on Macron and the bosses, to upset the balance of power. There are plenty of opportunities: May 14th, a “day with no railway workers”; May 15th, a “white tide” in the health sector; May 16th, a call for a strike of university staff; May 22nd, a general strike in the public sector… The unions’ agenda is full, but spread out. Mass participation of workers from all sectors, public or private, gathered on strike and in the streets, could put a lot of order in this agenda!