Deepening class struggle in France
As the self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ government of France wages war on the workers of that country by attacking and trying severely to weaken/dismantle the labour laws to assist the French bourgeoisie during the present world-wide crisis of overproduction that threatens the maximisation of profits of the rich and drags us all towards a third world war, the French workers and youth are out on the streets protesting where they can and fighting riot police where they are stopped.
Amidst the leftist groups and parties, the trades unions and student unions and organisations of the young, a movement akin to the Occupy movement of America has come to the fore. The Nuit Debout, roughly translated as ‘Up All Night,’ movement, don’t call a halt to their protests and go home but stay on the streets in protest, blocking streets and buildings and defending themselves against a state that desperately needs to place much more of the burden of this crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of the working class. For weeks now, since 9 March, not only in Paris but in all major French cities, hundreds of thousands of protesters have made their feelings known regarding the proposed smashing of worker’s legal protection by President Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Indeed France seems to be the new focus of a battle raging across Europe designed to emasculate the French workers and bring them down to the level that British workers have been at for the last thirty years, where any labour laws are completely anti-worker, while our defence organisations (the trades unions) are mainly led by those infected with class pacifism, who are more afraid of workers standing up for themselves than any amount of repression and pauperisation of the working class.
The government argues that its proposed reforms are aimed at making France’s rigid labour market more flexible, which is necessary to bring about financial recovery. French Labour Minister Myriam El-Khomri has said that; ” the reforms will encourage businesses to hire more workers by deregulating many aspects of France’s notoriously rigid labour laws.” This deregulation will include allowing more freedom for employers to sack workers and ‘letting’ employees work much longer hours – neither of which is particularly good for job creation from any point of view, let alone the point of view of the worker.
On Saturday 9 April at least 120,000 people marched in Paris and across France, for a sixth time, to protest against the hated labour ‘reforms’ while Nuit Debout have kept protests across the country going night after night. The main group of protesters in Paris rallied at Place de la République in the early afternoon before marching to Place de la Nation. Reporters all agree that, although there was a lot of noise, the atmosphere was almost festive. However, police in riot gear attacked demonstrators near the Place de la Bastille, and other police officers used pepper spray to clear people from Boulevard Beaumarchais. Violence against protesting workers and students, including young schoolchildren, by police also took place on that Saturday in the cities of Rennes and Nantes.
During previous night protests in Paris and other cities, the police have also resorted to using both violence and arrests in an attempt to intimidate and weaken the protesters. They had as well obviously been watching what happened to the American Occupy movement.
The French government is trying to use the standard bourgeois tactic of dividing workers by blaming violence onto one small group within the worker’s ranks while inviting the others to then distance themselves from this targeted group, adding that gallant policemen have been injured by these ‘militants’. Thus Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, rushed out strongly to condemn the ‘unrest,’ which he blamed on the ‘usual’ small number of ‘fringe protesters’ saying: “These ultra-radical elements behind the violence have nothing to do with the vast majority of demonstrators,” while adding in the same statement that “at least seven police officers were injured overall.”
In response to weeks of protests against the proposed reforms to the labour laws, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also tried to divide the French working class by unveiling measures, which, he claims, would help young people into work. These measures aimed at sweetening a very bitter pill, are claimed by Valls to be worth up to ” 500 million euros a year and will include an initiative to encourage employers to hire young workers on full-time contracts rather than on a part-time basis .” Of course, ‘initiatives’ and ‘encouragement’ don’t look too good against the legal rights that workers are being asked to give away. An obvious bribe enclosed in the proposal for new graduates of modest means to receive a four-month extension to their study grants to tide them over until they find work doesn’t seem to be working for the beleaguered ‘socialist’ government either: a recent poll found that a massive 58% of people asked were still staunchly against the proposed changes. Youth unemployment in France is around 25 percent. Hollande’s government must have a very low opinion of the French youth to have thought that a bribe of 4 months’ extra education grant in return for fewer jobs and less security of employment would work!
There will be another big strike on April 28 and it is expected that there will be particularly large marches against the reform on Labour Day on May 1 while the Nuit Debout keep up the pressure in many cities with nightly protests, marches, sit-ins and disruptions. Paris police said there were no plans to break up the nightly protests at this stage, although a state of emergency does remain in effect following November’s terror attacks. The state of emergency gives the government the power to break up gatherings, but an increasingly unpopular Hollande would be wise not to confirm the real intention behind that ‘state of emergency’ just ahead of elections next year. Nevertheless, however, if it is in the interests of the bourgeoisie to do it, it will be done and he will take the hit for the class he truly represents. We watch with great interest and wish our French brothers and sisters nothing short of victory in this struggle, leading, hopefully to a marked increase in militancy and a desire to create real change by overthrowing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and proceeding with a glorious march towards the dictatorship of, and true democracy for, the proletariat.