France: A week of struggle in Toulouse

We publish this report on the week of anti-CPE activities in Toulouse. The report explains the methods of the students and workers in their struggle and highlights the need for decisive action on the part of the trade unions to guarantee victory.

Once again Thursday saw protest actions on the part of French students and workers against the CPE. Throughout the country thousands of students have engaged in road blockades, occupations of train stations and actions aimed at engaging workers in significant workplaces in discussions about the CPE and the need for a general strike.

These have been in most cases massive actions, not limited to a minority of students, but decided in well-attended General Assemblies (AG) in the universities on strike. All the reports speak of a very friendly reception on the part of the workers and trade unionists, who in some cases have joined and actively supported the actions of the students. This just shows the enormous potential for a general strike, something which the trade union leaders still refuse to call for.

In Paris, thousands of students occupied the Gare de l’Est and Gare de Nord, with the support of SUD and CGT trade unionists. Everywhere the police have intervened brutally, charging at university and high school students.

Meanwhile, the government has not shown any signs of making any concessions, and the trade union and student organization leaders have come out of the talks with the ruling right-wing UMP appealing for the continuation of the movement. However they have given no clear lead as to what should be the next step of the movement. Even Bernard Thibau, national leader of the CGT, has talked of the continuation of the movement “but adopting other forms”.

Toulouse has been one of the cities that has made the news nationally. We reproduce here a report published on the site of the French Marxist paper La Riposte, on this week’s events:

Monday April 3: intersyndicale and AG of the CGT DU

At 2 pm, the Toulouse intersyndicale, composed of representatives of all unions (with the exception of the CFDT) and the delegates from the student General Assemblies (AG), confirmed the decision taken a few days earlier to organize high profile actions. The main decisions were to blockade the postal distribution centers of Toulouse on Wednesday, and to blockade the massive Airbus factory on Thursday.

At 5 pm, at the AG of the Departmental Union of the CGT, the trade union representatives came together to report on the state of the mobilization in the factories, and there was a discussion about the demonstration the following day, and also on the perspectives of the movement. Many shared their worries about the possibility of the movement becoming tired, particularly since the government had not made concessions, despite the massive demonstrations, but also because the numerous days of strike had imposed heavy financial sacrifices on a whole number of workers.

This context also explains why the issue of a general strike was mentioned in several interventions at the discussion at the AG of the CGT, particularly on the part of trade union representatives of the workers of the Paul Sabatier University (Toulouse 3), who have been on all out strike since March 14.

April 4: 90,000 demonstrators on the streets of Toulouse

The demonstration on April 4, even bigger than the one on March 28, revealed the confidence of the demonstrators. The ranks of the demonstrators were even more closely knit than the week before, and the mood more optimistic and militant. At the initiative of La Riposte, Miguel Artola, a representative of the Spanish Students’ Union, came to France to support the movement. He intervened on the lorries of the youth, the CGT and the FSU and those demonstrators who listened to him welcomed his words with an ovation. It is worth noting that although there were less workers from the public sector than on March 28, there were more from the private sector.

Wednesday, April 5: blockade of postal distribution centers

From 5 am, university and school students, as well as workers, who had come in great numbers in order to stop postal distribution, occupied the two main postal distribution centers of Toulouse. At about 10 am the lorries were allowed to go through.

Thursday April 6: blockade of an A380 convoy and blockade of Airbus

On the night of the April 5-6, at half past midnight, the convoy which transports the A380 was blocked by about one hundred students. They came out by surprise, in front of the convoy, less than one kilometer from its destination: the airbus assembly plant. The students were dispersed by the police just after 3 am.

After this high profile action the Airbus site was blockaded between 7 am and 9:30 am. This action was really impressive, since the blockade of the main entrances to the factories in Saint-Martin du Touche de Colomiers provoked massive traffic jams which paralysed almost the whole of the Toulouse circular road system until about 10 am. There are about 20,000 workers who come everyday to work at the Airbus complex. In the last ten years there has been an explosion of contracting out and casualisation of labour here. The blockade, which took place in a good humoured and calm way, was very well received by the workers, though they were surprised – most of them had never seen an action of that size at Airbus. The students lifted the blockades at about 9:30 am. Unfortunately, the only union in the factory to come out and show its support for the students at the blockades was the CGT.

After the blockade there were many discussion all over the factory, where there are about 12,000 workers, 50% of whom went on strike on March 28. A positive point must be noted: there were many constructive discussions between workers who were against the CPE and some who were against the blockades without necessarily being in favour of the CPE. This blockade seems to have had the effect of “unblocking” the tongues of the workers…

and the blockade of the train station

Finally, in the afternoon, 450 students blockaded the railway lines between 3:30 pm and 5 pm, by occupying them north of the Matabiau station. Traffic was completely paralysed in Toulouse. The students were dispersed by the police and 6 people were injured and taken to hospital – 5 students and one police officer.

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