Archive for the ‘France’ Category

by René Gimpel

And so it came to pass – the prodigal obtained his majority. Emmanuel Macron, youngest French president and elected to public office for the first time, last year conjured up ex nihilo a political party, La République en Marche (LRM) and has seen it obtain a solid majority in the general election. Half his new national assembly members had never been in politics before, half are women, all owe their appointment to Macron personally and all have signed a pledge to carry out the president’s programme, which Macron claims is synonymous with a ‘programme for France’. In the 17th century, the absolutist king, Louis XIV, proclaimed: “The state is myself” – something of this claim adheres to Emmanuel Macron.

LRM has 308 of the 577 seats and its close ally, Mouvement Démocrate, a further 42. The two parties are in lockstep. Meanwhile, the conservatives, Les Républicains, drop from 199 seats to 113 – they may split into pro- and anti-Macron factions, as the president tries to woo more to come into his big tent. Most dramatic of all, the Socialists, who held 284 seats, are reduced to a rump of (more…)

Philippe Poutou

by Marisela Trevin
April 10, 2017

It was as if an unspoken, mutually protective code of silence had been established among the candidates leading the polls in this year’s French presidential debates. Despite their scandal-ridden campaigns, against the backdrop of the collapse of the traditional French party system, neither Fillon, of the right-wing party The Republicans, nor Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, had been asked to answer to the multiple accusations against them regarding the misappropriation of public funds.

Piercing the bubble

Unlike the first debate, in which only five of the eleven presidential candidates had participated, the second debate on April 4 featured all of the candidates, including the New Anti-Capitalist Party’s Philippe Poutou, who made it a point to pierce the French political establishment’s bubble before millions of viewers, while expressing the need for a radical change in French politics and society.

Protest against the French social democratic government’s attacks on workers and youth rights (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Fillon smiled rigidly, then affected outrage and threatened to sue as Poutou exposed his hypocrisy. “Fillon says he’s worried about the debt, but he thinks less about the matter when he’s dipping into the public treasury,” he quipped. “These guys tell us that we need austerity and then they misappropriate public funds.”

Marine Le Pen was rendered speechless when Poutou addressed her own scandals, which had been widely covered by the media, like those of Fillon, but for which she had not been held accountable in the debates until then. “Then we have Le Pen. (…) She takes money from the public treasury as well. Not here, but in Europe. She’s anti-European, so she doesn’t mind taking money from Europe. And what’s worse, the National Front, which claims to be against the system, doesn’t mind seeking protection from the system’s laws. So she’s refused to appear before the court when she was summoned by the police.” When Le Pen replied “So in this case, you’re in favor of the police,” Poutou retorted “When we get summoned by the police, we don’t have workers’ immunity.” The audience burst into applause.

Contrast

The contrast could not be starker. On one hand, the political establishment’s rigid, highly-groomed candidates, stuck to their tired playbooks. On the other, a factory worker dressed in a (more…)

But only if the masses choose to use that potential power. . .

But only if the masses choose to use that potential power. . .

One of our biggest concerns at Redline is that, while workers’ rights, living standards and general conditions of life have been made worse over the past 30 years, workers’ resistance has declined to negligible levels.  Moreover, the rare tussle that does take place is a defensive one.  Workers in this country, with the possible exception of the early days of Unite union when it was organising new workplaces and fighting to get contracts for new union members, haven’t been going on the offensive for several decades now.

imagesSometimes it seems that two generations of workers got defeated – through the 1980s and 1990s – and the next generation therefore hasn’t had a fighting spirit and class consciousness passed on to it nor developed these through its own experiences.

But if workers here have forgotten or, in the case of the new generation, not yet learned what resistance is let alone what going on the offensive is, there is no shortage of examples of powerful workers’ upsurges and of workers’ workers_power_lets_organize_against_capitalismresistance pointing to, or at least offering a glimpse of the potential for, alternative ways of organising economic, social and political life.

The really big stuff: dress rehearsals for workers’ emancipation
France, May-June 1968: the glimmer of revolution
Forms of popular power in Chile, 1970-1973
The grandeur of workers’ revolution: Portugal, 1974

History’s biggest general strike (2013)
History’s biggest strike: Indian workers show us how

Recent Workplace Occupations (and one from 1989)
Workers occupy Paris Bakery, Moore St, Dublin
When workers occupied – the Cockatoo Island occupation of 1989

Portugal 1974

Portugal 1974

Factory takeover in Argentina sees discussions on workers power, women’s liberation
Greek lessons: workers occupy factory, continue production
Video on the Vio.me struggle
Greek factory: “the machines of self-management have been turned on”
Workers’ self-management only solution: interview with spokesperson for the Vio.me occupation

Resisting austerity and taking on the state in Ireland
Working class resists water tax in south of Ireland

Working class community organising against Class A drug pushers
Standing up for ourselves: a brief history of the IWCA’s campaign against Class A drug dealers in Blackbird Leys

What about New Zealand?
When workers had class
Which way forward for workers and unions?

Further reading:
Whatever happened to workers’ resistance?

Workers march in Nantes, May 17, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Workers march in Nantes, May 17, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

While in NZ, the working class remains doggedly, if not perversely, determined not to fight, France has seen months of mobilisations of workers against the new labour law being driven through by the Socialist Party regime.  The SP is the French equivalent of the NZ Labour Party.  The Labourites in France are essentially attempting to impose a deregulation of the labour market.

by Patrick Le Moal[1]

On September 15, 2016, between 100,000 and 150,000 demonstrators participated in every major city in the fourteenth national day of action. This participation, even reduced, shows that the rejection of the labour law and its world remains intact, even after the adoption of the law on July 21, and can still mobilize in the streets teams of combative activists, against the government and the whole political system. Neither the terrorist attacks of the summer, nor the media coverage of the beginning of the presidential campaign have succeeded in preventing this resurgence after the holiday months. It appears today to be the end of the wave of mobilization that started in February by signing the online petition against the law, which registered a million signatures in two weeks. But let us not be in such a hurry to inter such a wave, which can reappear in other forms, given the magnitude of the social and political crisis. Because the radicalization is a response to the deepening of the neoliberal and authoritarian counter-reform, and to the inability of mainstream parties to offer perspectives to those below.[2]

The stakes of the labour law for the bourgeoisie

The mobilization against the labour law came up against a major project for the government and the bourgeoisie, who want to destroy most of the social advances that are still present in the labour code, acquired primarily during the half-century from 1936 to 1986. The objective is to align French labour law with that of the other European countries, something that the mobilizations of the last 30 years, although they did not lead to great victories, have prevented for the moment. They now want to impose a deregulation of the labour market similar to that which exists in the other major European countries.

So, much more than a bill, it is a central confrontation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To win, you need a massive and determined mobilization, one that can go all the way and establish a relationship of forces and balance of power such that they have no other solution than to yield, or lose much more.

Breaks with the PS

The mobilization marked a break of a part of the popular classes with the Socialist Party (PS) and its government, and the power of the movement shook (more…)

People march with labour union flags and banners at a demonstration to protest the proposed labour law reforms in Nantes, France, May 17, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

People march with labour union flags and banners at a demonstration to protest the proposed labour law reforms in Nantes, France, May 17, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

by Julien Salingue and Ugo Palheta (June 6)

France continues to be rocked by massive protests and strikes against the Socialist Party government of President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls and its plans to change longstanding labor rules that favor workers. Now targeting legislation known as the El Khomri law, the demonstrations have grown from their first stage—the Nuit Debout (Up All Night) protests that began with nightly gatherings in the Place de la République in Paris and spread to more public squares.

The French Senate is set to begin debate on the El Khomri law on June 14, and unions and social movements are ramping up strikes and protests in preparation for the most important political confrontation in Europe since the Greek anti-austerity referendum last July.

When a social movement erupts, there is a natural temptation to judge it based on the terms of movements that preceded it—for instance, by comparing its slogans and the number of people on protests. Even the new movement’s participants may contribute to this tendency by adopting the postures and even the language of past uprisings, as Karl Marx pointed out in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, his famous account of the French Revolution of 1848.

But the historical significance of a movement and its successes—be they immediate or posthumous—are never reducible to the glorious memories they revive nor to the number of individuals they mobilized. Paying too much attention to these aspects often leads one to miss new features that herald unforeseeable upheavals and may reshape the map of what is possible.

In fact, the current movement—whose decline (if not death) was declared by the corporate media immediately upon its birth—has yet to mobilize as many people as those who took to the streets in the defeated mobilizations against pension cuts pushed through by conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010.

Likewise, the victorious struggle in 2006 against the contrat première embauche (CPE, or First Employment Contract), which would have gutted employee rights for young workers, included student general assemblies and demonstrations more massive than what we have yet seen today.

So it can be argued that the movement against the new Labor Code—of which Nuit Debout is obviously an integral part—is not simply an extension of the cycle of massive struggles opened by previous victories, most critically those against neoliberal reforms proposed by conservative Prime Minister Alain Juppé in December 1995. Rather, it represents a (more…)

Game Over - the people have awakened; the atacks of the French Labour Party government (SP) on workers has provoked widespread resistance

Game Over – the people have awakened; the attacks of the French social-democrat government (SP) on workers has provoked widespread resistance

Article 49.3 of the French constitution essentially allows the government to put through legislation without a vote.  The Socialist Party government (equivalent of Labour here) used this on May 10 to put through new anti-working class legislation.  The state and government’s attack on workers has met large-scale resistance from within unions and working class communities and among youth mobilised in new currents such as the Nuit Debout movement.  The article below is from just two days ago, May 24, and looks at the assault on workers’ rights by the French Labourites and the new wave of resistance.  It’s important to keep in mind that union membership in France is very low – only about 8 percent of French workers are unionised, less than half the NZ equivalent.  But French workers are far more politicised and militant than workers in this country – the result of a revolutionary tradition in France that goes back to 1789 (and even before).  It’s politics not union density which matters most!

by Léon Crémieux

France has entered a new situation since the beginning of March. Previously it was dominated by the political polarization exerted by National Front and the parallel rise of the “national security”climate following the terrorist attacks in January and November 2015.

None of these elements has been cancelled out and you would have to be blind to think that all of that had been swept away by the present movement.

But the key political event of recent weeks is that despite these two elements, which weigh heavily on political and social life, there has developed a multifaceted mobilization which already deserves to be compared with the great mobilizations of workers and youth over the last fifteen years: those of 2003, 2006 and 2010.

In the months preceding March, we could sense the beginnings of a social confrontation. First of all with the broad current of sympathy expressed with the mobilization of Air France workers, with the episode of the shirt last October. [2] In the same period, the number of walk-outs and strikes in workplaces, especially small and medium-sized ones, increased significantly, especially on issues of wages during mandatory annual negotiations. Similarly, there was the strength of the mobilization on climate change at the time of COP21, even though the terrorist attacks in November and the introduction of the state of emergency allowed the state to break the momentum of the street mobilizations. Big demonstrations against the Notre Dame des Landes airport and the establishment of support networks for migrants were also the result of action by tens of thousands of young people and activists that were coordinated by associations and social networks.

The first lesson of these reactions and these mobilizations was that the management of capitalist interests by social democracy, weak political opposition to the left of the PS and the lethargy of the union leaderships were not synonymous with an equivalent lethargy and drift of the whole of society, starting with a large section of workers and young people, hit (more…)