On the McDonald’s Occupation in Marseille, France

From Marseille, written by OPIC (Organization for the Communist International).

For two days, in Marseille, employees and workers from the 13th and 14th arrondissement have been occupying a McDonald’s on Sainte Marthe. They have turned it into a logistics centre for the delivery of free meals and other marauding goods to all the districts of Marseille. So far, more than 500 meals have been delivered.

Above all, we must say that what is happening in Marseille is not struggle, but survival. Only a few elements of organization are happening within our class. The McDonald’s Saint Marthe occupation is one of the few examples.

There is a very long story of struggles between the McDonald’s workers and the McDonald’s management. This struggle crossed the whole of France, in a series of power struggles: these workers have a real know-how of resistance at work, step by step, from the ground of lawfulness (a very precise knowledge of the law and its contradictions) to the one of direct action (occupations and blockades of McDonald’s). The McDonald’s on Sainte Marthe hosted a large number of activities in direct solidarity with the struggles, including blocking the cash registers and organizing an evening out in solidarity with the prisoners of the Yellow Vest movement, which was extended to a support for all prisoners.

Management of the confinement and the human disaster it entails in Marseilles is being managed in a humanitarian way, i.e. by both community associations and the police. There are many pathways between these two types of management.

Also, the forms of organization for the struggle which we see are internal to the relationship between community management and state management. There is a conflict around the management of legality, such as travel bans, confinement, and the use of associations.

This situation is important: the community is both a space for organization and on the verge of spontaneous expression of the revenge of our class.

So far there has not been a confiscation of goods, of food, by the workers of Saint Marthe, except, and this is the most important, the McDonald’s of Saint Marthe itself. Everything else is just donations, and this is done in collaboration with associations in the “battlefield”.

When no struggle takes place, the stocks of other associations, the means of solidarity, often themselves inherited from struggle, are mobilized and become the first immediate organization.

However remarkable the mobilization of donations by associations may be, they will never be able to feed the whole of Marseille. Marseille is the city with the most proletarians without resources in France. Concretely, this means that if 500 meals are produced at the moment, it is at the same time enormous and tiny: 500 McDonalds would be needed to meet the needs of the Marseilles region.

To sum up, the action of the workers of Sainte-Marthe is a courageous act. It remains, however, for the time being the substitute of a state which does not hesitate to manage the northern districts of Marseilles like the last of its colonies: through isolation, laissez-faire, and the provisioning of humanitarian packages in large numbers.

The foundation of this initiative of the McDonald’s workers is the struggle. It is in the face of adversity and because the McDonald’s workers will not let go of the multinational company, that they have to fight, organizing as they do today, by weaving links in the bag of snakes which is the “business of misery” in Marseilles.

In no way do we criticize these forms of collective organization. On the other hand, we claim that only the proletarians entering into struggle will be able to thwart the plans of the bourgeoisie, as the workers of Saint Marthe did by requisitioning this McDonald’s.

The “districts” of Marseilles today are the stage of quarrels among workers receiving food aid. The example of Sainte Marthe must now be used by other initiatives to take over these social centres and shops, to turn them into district organising spaces, where the inhabitants can define their own rules of organisation in response to the pandemic and the state.

For us, it is therefore clear that this situation of confinement is going to bring many challenges.

First of all, confinement worsens the situation of workers. Yet in these times of containment, waste is everywhere. State management of shortages is deleterious and unacceptable. There are plenty of food stocks. And yet, there is quarreling over flour and oil in certain districts of Marseille. There is a shocking amount of products that are today thrown away by grocery stores, supermarkets, warehouses.

Before, during, or after the confinement, there will always be proles who work hard for their survival and bourgeois who prefer wasting food rather than giving it to us for free. Gratuitousness must not be a moment that lasts for all of us. We prefer to see the emergence of the means to fight.

Secondly, the situation in our workplaces is absurd. All delivery people are being tested, often with the same machine.

McDonald’s workers who have used their right to withdraw from working are getting fired. People are being forced to work under threat of prosecution. The right to strike is being restricted. Workers are unable to enforce the rules imposed on respecting distances between one another. Workers are being sprayed by trucks to make a show of stopping the spread of the contagion. All sorts of completely absurd and often degrading methods are being used to pretend to manage the situation.

Safety standards tend to be just that: a show, and the employer is freed from their obligations or charges, while they take advantage of the situation to accuse the worker for not following the rules.

This situation can only get worse as drive-thrus are being reopened all over France, staffed by a large number of proletarians from these districts.

For all these reasons, it is impossible to return to work and daily life without asking the question of power.

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