paris undocumented workers on strike: so where next?

from Où va la CGT: see here for an interview with migrant worker reps and report on the occupation of the Pompidou centre’s restaurant

A month on strike for 5,000 undocumented workers in the Paris region: a month of mobilising people, strikes, pickets in the cold and in the rain. Their determination is unfailing, even if some are starting to tire.

But there is a problem with the direction of this massive, multi-site strike. Many reps are starting to question the manner in which the CGT union federation is guiding it.

There are no clear perspectives, apart from negotiations whose progress no-one is able to assess. Indeed, we have the very strong feeling that the CGT’s objective is simply to secure a parliamentary bill, such as the one it falsely touted at the end of the 2008 strike, which in fact never existed… For our part, the answer is clear: “parliamentary bill or not, regularisation for all!”.

They refuse to centralise and unite the action, even if only to launch a demonstration as a show of force. For the CGT leadership, apparently, “demonstrations are not struggle”… we have to pinch ourselves, when we remember the days of action following the 2008 strike, when demos were meant to be the last word in collective action! But now that the strikers are spread over 40 sites, there is a need to regroup, show collective strength, or else it will be a class struggle which shies away from unity, shies away from “all together”! The tram line strikers at Porte des Lilas did demonstrate through the district on Saturday 7th, but only because activists from the Solidaires union took the initiative.

Even the reps’ assemblies, which take place under CGT control, have no role in decision making: all decisions are taken by the small CGT committee at the helm of the union. No striking worker is participating in the negotiations, although that would evidently be possible. No consultations have taken place, for example to discuss why the union refused  to receive the Vitry undocumented workers’ collective at a general meeting, even though it is engaged in an appropriate means of action, an occupation in front of the town’s tax office. The strike belongs to undocumented workers, it is for them to lead it, and no-one else!

There has been some mumbling about extending the strike beyond the capital, but nothing put into action: displaying the CGT’s lack of desire for a real generalisation and collective struggle. If the CGT decided to really push the envelope, we would see the well-known steamroller of directives, articles, support, orders etc… to be able to build it, even if only in a few symbolic towns. There is no impulse, no real desire: even militant CGT activists on the ground are lost, not knowing how to engage and waiting for a lead…

More and more questions are being asked, and the discussions at pickets and strike meetings more agitated…for sure they will be discussing it more very soon.

Apart from that, the first strike magazine has now been released, with a large print run. What to say of this? On the one hand it is a tool which can be used to raise awareness of the strike and feed support. Class fighters will not let themselves down selling this magazine – don’t worry, it has nothing really horrific.

But the story that has been re-written here is indeed one designed to restore the image of the CGT (who obviously have directed its publication). Here we find the tale of the supposed late 2008 parliamentary bill, which no-one else has ever seen any trace of: but, you see, given this was used as  a prop to finish off the movement, it still has to be justified.

It also notes the general amnesty by the 1997-2002 left government on various previous anti-immigration measures.

They give a space for the CFDT union to speak, and there’s no real shame in that. It is however odd to see a CFDT confederal representative, from a union which has never done anything, writing about it nonetheless… Even if it would have been useful to have had their formal support, it’s another matter to give them a platform in a strike magazine to justify their inactivity. SUD-Rail had more interesting things to say, for example on the long strike by undocumented workers working in security at St Lazare station. The CGT once again lines up with the meekest variety of trade unionism.

But ultimately the real problem is if no other measure is taken to extend the strike. So if this magazine is here, it allows the growth of the movement and the reinforcement of support: so don’t hesitate to do so!