Sophie Binet and François Ruffin: “We must walk together”

Sophie Binet and François Ruffin speak the same language, but not from the same place. 263, rue de Paris, in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis), where this meeting took place (1), has been her home for six months and the historic home of the 660,000 members of the confederation. The elected official from the Somme knows this well. He must deal with finesse with that which has had great success: from the petition against the labor law, in 2016, which had collected more than a million signatures in two weeks, to the unprecedented mobilization of this year . Ten years of navigating within the CGT bodies before becoming the first woman to the position of general secretary. Certainly, the reform has passed. You have to work until age 64 to be able to retire. But the text came into force with 49.3. And the unions, CFDT and CGT in the lead, are on the rise, both having attracted tens of thousands of new recruits.

So, for those who have headed towards the Élysée from their chosen Picardy, the moment dictates it: we must think about taking a part of the journey together. “The Amiens charter is not the Tables of the Law,” says the deputy-reporter, suggesting the idea that strategic alliances between the CGT and the left would be very useful. “The CGT is at a moment of maturity,” Sophie Binet responds soberly, who does not forget the damage of former dependencies on the Communist Party. She was very clear, on September 23, by speaking directly to Jean-Luc Mélenchon to reaffirm the “independence” of trade union organizations. Today, while Sophie Binet and François Ruffin note a very strong criticism of the wanderings of neoliberalism in society and share the same objective, “to make the progressive camp win against the extreme right”, for the first, it is clear: everyone keeps their own ship. But one thing is certain: the millions of people in the streets against pension reform will have to be part of the crew.

On September 23, 6,000 people marched in Langres, a town of 7,700 inhabitants, for better access to care, at the call of a collective, Equality and Health. In the demonstration, neither CGT nor left-wing politics, but the National Rally (RN) deputy Christophe Bentz. Is this example a form of failure on the part of unions and left-wing political parties as representatives of the voice of these rural and precarious populations?

François Ruffin: This demonstration is a symptom, a visible alert, but the political decline of the left in these territories comes from afar. The problem is earlier. Otherwise, people would not have voted for them! What is paradoxical is that the demands of this event focused a lot on the place of the State. But the RN does not talk about it, ever, while everywhere in the country, its social pillar, the hospital, and its republican pillar, the School, are undermined. We can fault the RN for these shortcomings: the State, work and the sharing of wealth. The words “share”, “dividend”, “shareholder”, “interim” do not exist with them. They can pretend, in a demonstration, to want the hospital to return, but this is not at all thought out in a program.

Sophie Binet: I agree with François Ruffin when he talks about these three priorities. For us, at the CGT, the far right refuses to confront capital. She refuses it because it is the fruit of neoliberal policies. Moreover, capital largely subsidizes the far right: in France, we see this with Vincent Bolloré, who leads a strategy of conquering cultural hegemony, in the United States with the action of Donald Trump on Fox News, and in Great Britain, it is authoritarian finance, made up of part of capital and employers, which had a strategic interest in leaving the European Union.

There is this observation shared between the two of you, but how, strategically, can the left and the unions ensure that it meets with the support of as many people as possible?

S. B.: These are not the same questions that are asked of politicians and unions. Today, I don’t see the distrust towards trade union organizations. Certainly, there may be a risk of institutionalization of trade unionism. But the unions remain mass organizations: there are more than 2 million members in France among all the unions, with a very local presence and an operation which is not delegated. We are emerging strengthened from the retirement sequence, where 150,000 new people joined a union. On the challenges facing the RN, politicians and unions each have their own roadmap and points to work on together.

Trade union organizations must be united, also because employees know that this is a guarantee of efficiency and combativeness.


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