A MASSIVE wave of direct action by unemployed people demanding increases in benefits has swept France.
Since Marseille benefit offices were occupied in December, over 200 Job Centres, Town Halls, Electricity Company offices, police stations!, Chambers of Commerce, banks, Socialist Party offices, and other buildings have been taken over by unemployed demonstrators.
Some occupations have lasted several days. On 17 January alone there were 20 new occupations, including Town Halls in Grenoble, Brest, Guingamp, a Socialist Party office in Mulhouse, EDF electricity offices in Paris and Clermont-Ferrand, plus occupations in Nancy and Lyon. On 10 February protestors occupied the Police HQ at av Daumesnil, Paris.
Large groups enter supermarkets and collectively take food and other goods without paying, to distribute free. Anti-baillif actions, blockading roads and railways, mass free use of public transport, invading posh restaurants and demanding free food, opening toll gates on pay motorways are among other activities.
The government has conceded some benefit increases, but has not met the main demands, eg extending benefits to 19-25 year olds. Police have evicted many occupations. 4 demonstrators arrested at British-owned Cash Converters in Paris on 11 Feb. were jailed for 2 weeks while awaiting trial.
Some urge the struggle go beyond the reformist limits imposed by the Unemployed Associations like AC! and groups linked to the Communist Party Trade Union, the CGT.
"We have no reason to stop the struggle....It's up to us to take back the resources that those who hold political, financial and media power have stolen from us : let's take back everything!"- TCP.
Since 19 January such activists have intitiated daily general assemblies in Paris, attracting around 100 people, to bring together all involved in the struggle, and plan weekly actions.
Info Travailleurs/euses, Chomeurs/euses, Precaires en colere (TCP), 21ter, rue Voltaire, 75011 Paris. Fax 01 43 72 15 77 & CNT-AIT, 33 rue des Vignoles, 75020 Paris. Tel 01 43 72 09 54
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Independent claimants groups, run by and for claimants and based on solidarity and direct action, can spark opposition to the New Deal. The Groundswell Network is a good start which needs to grow much bigger.
The New Deal is not just a "claimants issue". Workers in jobs must get involved in opposition. The Liverpool dockers and postal workers for example have fought fierce battles recently over casualisation. Workers could insist that all New Deal jobs pay the going rate, and be permanent (not for 6 months). While this would be something, it still leaves intact the imposition of a compulsory scheme. Enforcing a boycott of all New Deal options should be the aim, difficult though workplace opposition will be - the Trade Union hierarchy completely back the scheme. The need for independent workers organisation is greater than ever.
Claimants groups, and Workers and volunteers in voluntary organisations, need to encourage/ pressurise voluntary organisations to boycott the New Deal, stressing that participation in a compulsory forced labour scheme contradicts avowed voluntary sector values.
Recent resistance to the compulsory slave labour scheme Project Work (PW) should inspire opposition to the New Deal
Bristol Claimants report that anti PW action late last year included • Musicians playing inside the Job Centre. • Job Centre and Job Club windows smashed 3 times • Deer fence and dry stone wall built by PW slave labour both destroyed • PW provider Instant Muscle suffering - an invasion by a Welsh choir - a boss covered with red dye - a dead toad in their mail. • Stencilled slogans on windows of charity shops using PW - THIS CHARITY USES SLAVE LABOUR.
In Brighton active opposition from led to 6 organisations withdrawing from PW. On 6 Feb. 30 antiPW protesters pushed past police into David Lepper MPs surgery in the Brighthelm Centre, a PW exploiter. This so worried Brighthelm that they pulled out of Project Work.
Groundswell c/o Claimants Action,, E.Oxford Community Centre, Princes St., Oxford. 01865 723750. Groups in Bristol, Oxford, Brighton, London, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester area, Blackburn, Edinburgh, etc.. Next conference 13-14 June, Oxford.
• Scottish anarchist network contacts: Solidarity news-sheet [send SAE] to c/o Box A, Fahrenheit 451 bookshop, Virginia Galleries, Virginia St., Glasgow G1 1TU. email@example.com or to The Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh / Edinburgh Claimants, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA 0131-557-6242 , [Dundee/Dunfermline/Aberdeen @s via ACE] • 5th May group POB 1681 London N8 7LE;. • Anarchist Black Cross, c/o 121 Railton Rd.,London SE24 (prisoner solidarity)• Anarchist Communist Federation, 84b Whitechapel High St,London E1 7QX • Angry People, PO Box 108,St. Peters,NSW 2044 Australia • Collective Action Notes, PO Box 22962, Balto., MD 21203, USA • Contraflow, 56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St., London SE17 "firstname.lastname@example.org" http://www.gn.apc.org/gridlock • Education Worker Network, PO Box 1681, London, N8 7LE • E. Anglia Anarchist Network, PO Box 87, Ipswich IP4 4JQ • Federation Anarchiste, 145 Rue Amelot, 75011 Paris, France • Frontline Collective and Organise both at: PO Box 505, Belfast BT11 9EE, Ireland • Haringey Solidarity Group, Box 2474, London N8. 0181 802 9804 • Industrial Workers of the World, 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1 1WB • Kate Sharpley Library, BM Hurricane, London WC1 3XX • Kommunist Kranti, Majdoor Library, Autopin Jhuggi, Faridabad-121001, India • London Anarchist Forum meet every Friday 8pm ,Conway Hall, Red Lion Sq, Holborn; London Greenpeace, 5 Caledonian Rd., London N1 • Norwich Solidarity Centre/Solidarity Fed.: Solidarity Centre, Room 13, Muspole Workshops, Norwich NR3 1QD • SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton BN2 2DX; tel/fax: 01273-685913 email@example.com (weekly news-sheet) • Sheffield Anarchist Group, PO Box 446, Sheffield S1 1NY • Solidarity Fed - IWA, PO Box 493, St. Albans, AL1 5TW • S.Bristol Anarchists, PO Box 1076,Bristol BS99 1WF Books/Pamphlets:•Active Distro, BM Active, London WCIN 3XX • AK Distro, PO Box 12766, Edinburgh, EH8 9YE, MAYDAY98 CONFERENCE Bradford 1-4 May - POBox HH57, Leeds LS8 5XG
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CI 50 went to press 6 April 1998.