French workers’ mass anti-austerity fight

This video from the USA says about itself:

French Labor Protests Shut Down Eiffel Tower – Newsy

31 March 2016


The Eiffel Tower was shut down Thursday as a national strike against labor reforms reportedly left the monument with too little staff.

The new labor proposals don’t aim to completely undo the current 35-hour work week. However, the new legislation would let companies schedule workers up to 48 hours a week, and allow for 60-hour weeks in extreme circumstances.

Two hundred demonstrations were expected to occur across the country. The protests follow smaller union and student protests that erupted in violence last week.

As of mid-March, more than 3.5 million people in France were unemployed.

A recent poll found more than half of French citizens said reform is needed. But another poll found 58 percent of French citizens oppose the reforms currently offered.

These proposals are even more dramatic, considering the prime minister and president who are pushing them are a part of the Socialist party that originally mandated the 35-hour work week.

By Alex Lantier in France:

The working class in France mobilizes against austerity

4 April 2016

French youth and workers have carried out mass demonstrations to protest Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri’s reactionary labour law reform. They have done so in defiance of the state of emergency imposed by the Socialist Party (PS) government after the November 13 Paris terror attacks. These initial mobilizations mark a new stage in the international class struggle, with implications well beyond the borders of France.

The attempt to promote hysteria over terrorism to suppress popular opposition is failing in the face of a growing radicalization of workers and youth. The working class has not been intimidated by the state of emergency and is entering into struggle against the social counterrevolution being carried out by the PS government and the European Union as a whole.

University students are organizing on-going protests and meetings, hundreds of high schools are being blockaded by students, and growing sections of workers are taking strike action. Last Thursday, port workers, Air France employees and transit workers struck across France, while workers walked out at steel and auto plants in various cities.

The El Khomri Law would lengthen the workday by up to two hours, increase the precariousness of employment for young workers, and allow the unions, in violation of France’s Labour Code, to work out contracts with employers at the level of individual firms.

The fact that this regressive and unpopular proposal would violate existing law testifies to its illegitimate character. …

An explosive political dynamic is developing. Despite the relentless promotion of fear and national chauvinism in connection with the terror attacks, a deeply rooted mood of social militancy is developing among workers and youth. …

Something of 1968 is in the air. …

On Thursday, as over a million people across France marched against the El Khomri Law, Hollande withdrew a proposed amendment enshrining in the Constitution the state of emergency as well as a policy of depriving terrorists of French nationality. Though the Senate and the National Assembly had both passed versions of the amendment, Hollande did not attempt to reconcile the differences between the two measures.

The reversal provoked consternation in sections of the media close to the PS, which fear that it marks the end of any hope of the PS avoiding a wipeout in next year’s presidential election. Le Monde called it a “major political disaster,” warning that “after this calamitous episode, Mr Hollande leaves behind him a field of ruins.”

Libération wrote: “François Hollande wanted to build national unity above the parties… He succeeded only in earning the opprobrium of his own camp and creating the spectacle of a petty political game, which citizens, even the most favourably disposed, did not understand and in many cases totally rejected.”

The entire reactionary strategy pursued by the administration of Prime Minister Manuel Valls since it emerged from the governmental crisis of the autumn of 2014 is threatened with disintegration.

At its heart, this strategy relied on using the terror attacks carried out in Europe by Islamist forces mobilized by French imperialism and its allies for their war in Syria to present Hollande as a “war president” and promote the neo-fascist National Front (FN). The PS responded to each attack by seeking to create a right-wing, nationalist atmosphere and incite Islamophobia to divide the workers and suppress social opposition to its austerity agenda.

After the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shootings, Hollande invited FN leader Marine Le Pen to the Elysée Presidential Palace. After the November 13 attacks, he promoted two policies linked to the far right: the state of emergency first implemented in 1955 to wage the Algerian war, and deprivation of nationality, forever associated with its use to launch the deportation of Jews from Occupied France during the Holocaust.

As the passage of versions of the constitutional amendment by both houses of parliament make clear, there is no opposition in ruling circles to the rehabilitation of the bloodiest crimes of French imperialism in the 20th century. This is a serious warning to the working class.

In the face of rising social opposition, however, the PS did not feel the current political climate allowed it to proceed with negotiating a compromise version of its reactionary amendment.

These events signify that workers entering into battle against the El Khomri Law are facing a historic struggle. The attempt to rehabilitate the legacy of the French far right and the attack on workers’ social rights in the El Khomri Law are rooted not in the personal cynicism and corruption of the PS and its political and trade union accomplices, but in an objective global crisis of capitalism.

Amid an escalating spiral of economic collapse and war, every imperialist power is driven into ruthless competition for profits and strategic advantage. French capitalism, deindustrialized by decades of reactionary governments of all stripes and crumbling under a worn-out infrastructure and a mountain of debt, sees no way out other than wars of plunder from Mali to Syria, and a policy of plunder against workers within France itself. To create a suitable political climate for the economic policies they are driven to carry out, all of the bourgeois parties, including the PS and its satellites, fall in line with the rehabilitation of fascism and militarism.

Above all, the struggle must be liberated from the national straitjacket these forces seek to impose upon it. In the fight against the reactionary policies of Hollande, the main allies of the French workers and youth are the workers of all other countries, mobilized in a united struggle for socialism in opposition to austerity, war and attacks on democratic rights.

10 thoughts on “French workers’ mass anti-austerity fight

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