The biggest strike for a decade in France

Today, on 5 December, thousands of transport workers and workers in other industries go on strike in France, in an action that may be the biggest in a decade. Kleanthis Antoniou explains what is happening.

French firefighters on strike
‘Fire fighters Seine-Maritim. All out on 5 December. CGT – Firefighters are angry!’ Photo: Jose Filipe Rouen

The biggest strike in a decade starts in France on 5 December.

Transport leads the way with trains and subway all around the country being shut tomorrow in a day of strike with prospects to continue even further. Workers everywhere, in metallurgy, the automotive industry, cleaners, bank clerks, teachers have announced the support to the strike and their participation. University and high school students will be joining them across the country.

The central demand everywhere is a stop to the new pension scheme that will mean cuts to the benefits and postpones the pension age even further. The government has particularly targeted the workers in transport and their unions in RATP and SNCF, as their long history of battling reforms has hardened their spirits and radicalised them even further.

But this is more than a strike against these reforms, the people who strike on 5 December do so just as much for broader political reasons. Reports from the French unions show that the actual target is Macron and his government of technocrats. The Bonapartist prime minister has shed blood with police repression leading to dozens of serious injuries during the gilets jaunes protests.

5 December strike
5 December: The list of mobilisations keeps getting longer: RATP, SNCF, AirFrance, Ministry of Education, students, EDF, Justice, Interpro, higher education, health workers, journalists, radio, local government workers…

The strikes follow shortly after the anniversary of the start of the gilets jaunes: the working-class movement seems to have grown in confidence, as it openly calls for industrial action and puts the unions in the forefront.

This has been a decade of endless austerity for France. But is has also been a decade in which new movements have risen up again and again in different forms and expressions. The strikes on 5 December represent a dramatic new development. Will this be the moment when the different movements begin to coordinate and step up the struggle against Macron and the neoliberal agenda he represents?


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