Fight Macron's Labor Bill: Time to shake France to its very foundations!

Statement of the European Bureau of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 28th August 2017,




1.            After both the French Senate and the National Assembly approved Macron’s new labor bill, the massive attack by the new president against the French working class became visible for the first time. It was clear from the very beginning that the French president Emmanuel Macron and his newly-founded, bourgeois party La République En Marche! represent a severe threat for the workers and oppressed in France. The labor bill is the first, but surely not the last, attack against workers’ rights that the new government intends to implement. The bill is scheduled to take effect by the end of September. On behalf of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), it's European Bureau calls the workers and oppressed in France to organize massive protests, including a general strike to bring down the new bill.


2.            The new labor bill was introduced by Macron with the goal of “liberalising and freeing up the labour market.“ This is nothing but bourgeois talk for “increasing the misery of the workers to increase the profits of the bosses.“ No wonder the labor bill includes the complete flexibilisation of working time. It gives nearly all power to the negotiations at individual workplaces, thereby weakening the influence of the negotiations accross industries. The bill offers workers who are discharged without cause less compensation than before. Various organs of the labor movement will be fused together thereby making it far more difficult for more radical factions of the trade unions to operate successfully in concrete workplaces. Although not formally eliminated, the new labor bill opens the end of the 35-hour workweek.


3.            Consequently, it is extremely important and urgent that the labor movement successfully fight back against this first huge attack, and put the full force of its resistance against the new government. We therefore support the nationwide day of strike planned by the militant trade union CGT for 12 September and call upon all other trade unions and labor organizations to participate and mobilize for it. The RCIT and its European Bureau condems the refusal of the largest French labor union, CFDT, and the third largest, Force Ouvriere (FO), to participate in the protests. No worker should forget that the CFTD opposed the mobilisation for the impressive and militant protests against the last reactionary labor law (El Khomri Law) implemented by the Hollande government in 2016. We call upon trade union activists inside the CFDT and FO to act against the intent of the bureaucrats and to mobilize for the planned day of action. However, the Macron government will not take back the new labor bill due to one day of mass strikes. Indeed, only an indefinite general strike has the potential to bring down the new bill. Such a indefinite general strike opens the way to bringing down the new government. However such a strike must be well prepared, well organized and adhered to by the working class.


4.            The permanent state of emergency is already being used in France against strikes and demonstrations and its use can now be expected to take off. Macron has seamlessly adopted the emergency measures of the predecessor government of François Hollande to include restrictions on strikes and assemblies. What were still exceptional measures under Holland have become permanent and normal features of the Macron presidency. The police have been granted extraordinary powers under the state of emergency, and these are also being used in the context of house searches and other violations of civil rights. The state of emergency has been extended five times since the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015. Macron won a further extension until 1 November this year. Therefore, it is vitally urgent that workers in the trade unions and workplaces begin preparing to protect and defend the 12 September mass strike by forming self-defense committees. We call upon all revolutionaries, all progressive organizations, as well as all militants from the labor movement to join forces in creating such self-defense units.


5.            Aside from giving verbal support for the 12 September strike, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his party France Insoumise have organized a day of action for 23 September. The programmatic base of France Insoumise cannot be characterized as anti-capitalist, but rather as social-imperialist, petty bourgeois, and populist. It has a number of progressive demands, including the strengthening of the health system, an increase of the minimum wage, and an increase of the minimum pension. France Insoumise also rejected the El Khomri Law of 2016, which is a progressive stance. However, its strategy for the labor movement is to include the latter into a new form of the French imperialist state, a “VIe République.“ This party fantasizes about a 6th Republic with Mélenchon as its new president. Aside from some progressive demands, France Insoumise is awash in French nationalism, which in the end makes it awash in the sea of imperialism. No wonder that they call for a separate day of action. While France Insoumise was founded by reformist-bureaucratic forces inside the labor movement, it is rapidly transforming itself into a left-wing petty bourgeois populist force outside of the labor movement.


6.            Other forces like the NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste) are definitely taking the correct position by supporting and mobilizing for the mass strike on 12 September, while at the same time criticizing France Insoumise for not orienting themselves towards anti-capitalism, the working class, and the labor movement as such. However, all in all, the NPA has been far too uncritical of France Insoumise and has likewise failed to merge with mass elements as obviously became necessary after its weak results of the last elections. While the NPA correctly criticizes France Insoumise for their sectarianism towards organs of the labor movement, their undemocratic party system, their rejection of working class politics, and their main focus on electoral work instead of mobilizing in the street – the NPA doesn't condemn the chauvinistic, pro-imperialist stance of France Insoumise and other related core elements of the latter’s political agenda. This constitutes a fatal blindness and far too pedagogic criticism of a party in a country that is leading the imperialist European Union, that has a history as a colonial power, and that is not only exploiting and occupying a number of semi-colonial countries, but which is also over-exploiting a great number of migrants. The inconsequential, chumming-up approach of the NPA brought the party to erringly call its supports to vote for the candidates of France Insoumise (and the CPF) in the second round of the elections, as they were supposedly candidates with a “clear position against future attacks on labor law, pensions, social security and those who will support them.” Without consistent criticism of France Insoumise, the NPA’s illusions of attracting mass elements into their the ranks cannot be achieved. Rather, in light of looming onslaughts by the Macron government, the labor movement must prepare for the struggle by joining forces with the organs of the oppressed like migrant organizations and others. A incorrect approach towards social-imperialists can only put labor at the risk of breaking its neck.


7.            A very dangerous situation exists for the French working class, for the youth, for all those of an immigrant background: the parties to which the workers' movement has moved are all in bad shape, some of them will not recover from the disaster of the elections of 2017. Macron has profited from the fact that many did not want Marine Le Pen and the Front Nacional to win the elections, and thus either entirely abstained from voting or purposely voted by casting invalidated, slogan-bearing ballots. The resulting Macron government is a government of the multinational corporations and financial capital. While its form is ostensibly new, the Macron government in fact is a political continuation of the policy of the government of Hollande. After all, Macron was at one time a part of the Hollande government. The historic defeat of the Social Democratic Party at the French elections was entirely justified based on its all to blatant politics against the interests of the working class and the migrants.


8.            Directly after the presidential elections, a "Front Social" was formed by activists coming from the initiatives against the El Khomri Law, CGT trade unionists such as Goodyear and other trade union groups of the CGT, the SUD/Solidaires, NPA-related groupings and others. They were able to carry out a series of demonstrations and hold meetings around the country to discuss the formation of a mass "Front Social," but the numbers of supporters remained quite small. In Paris, between 1,000 and 3,000 activists came together. These numbers will not be enough to stop Macron's politics and his implementation of the interests of the multinational corporations and financial capital by weakening workers’ rights. However, the "Front Social" initiative was an important first step that has to prove its militancy in the upcoming mass strike of 12 September.


9.            Revolutionaries in France should argue for an indefinite general strike against the new labor bill. Such a strike is extremely threatening for the ruling class, as it has the potential to deal a death blow to the new government. It is crucial that revolutionaries apply the united front tactic in the period ahead. They should call the trade unions and various left-wing parties (e.g., PCF, France Insoumise, Front Social, NPA, LO, etc.) to form a united front to coordinate the struggle against Macron's austerity offensive. To force the government not only to take back its labor bill, but to also smash the neoliberal government, the indefinite general strike must be well-organized and protected by self-defense units of the workers and oppressed. It is most likely that the capitalist state apparatus and its forces of repression, i.e., police and probably even the military, will be mobilized rather sooner than later against an indefinite general strike.


10.          At a certain point the general strike will face a decisive phase at which revolutionaries need not only argue for the transformation of the self-defense units into armed militias of the workers and oppressed, but to rather organize this transformation. This is the only way forward to succeed while still preventing unnecessary bloodshed. An indefinite general strike, if successful, could lead to the downfall of the Macron government. Under present conditions, with no mass revolutionary party existing, socialists should call for a government based on the (mostly reformist) mass organizations of the workers’ movement like the CGT and other militant trade unions, as well as parties like the PCF, NPA and others. However, in order to end the capitalist offensive, the working class must take power and overthrow the ruling class. In other words, it must create a workers’ government based on action councils and armed popular militias which will open the way towards socialism. Only an organized uprising of the masses, a socialist revolution, can end the era of permanent exploitation and oppression of our class whether by a government of Macron or someone else. Only an armed uprising can achieve a government of the workers and oppressed that leads to a socialist society. Only such a road can end the days of oppression and exploitation. A socialist France as part of a European federation of socialist states – the United Socialist States of Europe – this is the revolutionary answer to the ideas of a “VIe République” of Mélenchon and France Insoumise! For this the formation of a revolutionary leadership inside a new workers party is vital. This is not only in the interest of the workers and oppressed in France, but also internationally.