Mass protests shake French government

Published on WSWS, by Alex Lantier, 13 October 2010.

Over three million workers participated in a strike yesterday against the pension cuts of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with workers in several industrial sectors voting to extend strike action.

Amid widespread fears in the press of “radicalization”—that is, that the strikes could escape the control of the trade unions and the bourgeois “left” parties—a confrontation is brewing between the working class and the entire political establishment.

The protests were called by the unions against a measure to increase the retirement age on a full pension from 65 to 67. The cut also increases the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. While these key provisions have passed, the Senate is due to vote on remaining portions of the legislation this week. 

Sarkozy is insisting that the government will not back down on the reforms, which are only the first step in plans for massive austerity measures.

The demands from the government have exposed the blatant class justice of state policy. Workers face cuts while the banks and super-rich are bailed out. In particular, Labor Minister Eric Woerth, in charge of pushing through the cuts, entertained corrupt relations with billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, helping her secure multi-million-euro tax refunds.

The overwhelming majority of the population supports the strikes and opposes Sarkozy’s reforms. A CSA poll for Le Parisien found that 69 percent of the population supports the strike, and 61 percent support continuing the strikes. Another poll found that 68 percent disapprove of Sarkozy … //

… The eruption of working class opposition in France is part of a broader radicalization of workers throughout the world. For this opposition to be successful, however, it must take an independent political form, one that is directed openly at the subordination of the world economy to the profit interests of the banks and giant corporations.

The social gulf between the workers and the whole political establishment shows both the necessity and the possibility of building a new party based on the fight for socialism. The World Socialist Web Site encourages workers in France and internationally to help build the International Committee of the Fourth International as the revolutionary party of the working class. (full text).

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