Workers’ action forces French climbdown

FRENCH prime minister and presidential candidate Edouard Balladur was this week embroiled in a phone tapping scandal. However much this may turn out to damage his chances in this spring’s election, it is clear that he has already suffered a second major defeat in a year over the question of education cuts.

In January 1994 100,000 workers and students demonstrated against his proposals to switch more government funding away from the state sector into private education, and the proposals were hurriedly withdrawn.

Throughout 1994 the government attempted piecemeal changes, but matters came to a head at the start of this year as the government threatened the implementation of the Laurent Report, which included large scale cuts and huge rises in student registration fees.

On February 7 a strike led by the FSU teachers’ union met with an enthusiastic response at all levels of the education system and that, combined with big student strikes and demonstrations, forced Balladur to retreat again.

Leading FSU militant René Barthes told us: “The bourgeoisie needs to adapt the education system to the present requirements of the monopolies. But the working class has shown it is not prepared to to submit to the government’s call for a more ‘realist’ attitude.”

French workers have shown that mass action can force retreats, particularly when the government itself is under pressure.

Peter Manson