French workers against Macron’s anti-labour policies

This 12 September 2017 video from Paris shows a big demonstration against the anti-worker plans of French President Macron.

By Alex Lantier and Anthony Torres in France:

Hundreds of thousands march against Macron’s austerity measures in France

13 September 2017

Around 400,000 people protested yesterday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to rip up France’s Labor Code, which would open the way for mass layoffs, pay and benefit cuts, and speedups. Macron’s labor “reforms” are the centerpiece of a massive campaign of austerity, including plans to slash state pension funds and unemployment benefits.

There were large protests in Paris (60,000 according to the unions), Marseille (60,000), Toulouse (16,000), Nantes (15,000), Bordeaux (12,000), Lyon (10,000), Rennes (10,000) Nice (5,000), and Le Havre, the home city of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (3,400). It was the first protest organized by the trade union bureaucracy since Macron’s election in May. Police used water cannons in Paris to attack protesters in the 13th district, while youth and police also clashed in Lyon and Nantes.

The ruling classes throughout the world, including in the United States and Germany, see Macron’s “labor reforms” as the spearhead of a new round of international attacks on the working class. The New York Times hailed Macron’s measures as upending “the notion of the worker in permanent need of protection against rapacious capitalists,” bemoaning the fact that “Every effort at fundamental reform for at least a quarter of a century has foundered on giant and sometimes violent” popular demonstrations.

Macron’s approval ratings are plunging, and the great majority of workers and youth oppose his plans to impose a social counter-revolution by extra-parliamentary decree. Macron won the presidency after defeating the neo-fascist Marine Le Pen in the second-round runoff of an election that saw mass abstention and an electoral debacle for France’s traditional political parties.

The demonstrations took place against the background of France’s state of emergency which provide the presidency with “extraordinary powers,” including subjection of people to house arrest without trial. These powers, which have been in effect since November 2015, have been used to persecute opponents of the labor law reforms under both Macron and his predecessor, Socialist Party President Francois Hollande.

WSWS correspondents attended protests in Paris, Marseille, and in the north of France. Protesters stressed their hostility not only to the destruction of the Labor Code, but also the drive to war and dictatorship. Many expressed their distrust of the trade unions and existing parties. After the elections, which provided a choice between a neo-fascist and a free-market ideologue, youth said they were disgusted with the political system.

In Paris, Nathanaël said: “This is the only way we have left to struggle: to show our discontent. The representative institutions of the Fifth Republic have failed, they have been failing for years. I am a high school student. … This is not how social protection works, this is not how the rule of law works. … We are forced now to go into the streets and protest in order to make ourselves heard.”

Nathanaël pointed to the French general strike of May 1968: “It is the only thing to do, to mobilize the working class. We are not in a trade union but a political struggle. … We’re close to a struggle like May ’68.”

He also denounced Macron’s plan to write France’s repressive state of emergency into common law: “That is the ultimate violation of the rule of law,” he said. “I see it very clearly in my high school, every day they search our bags, demand our papers. Teaching people to submit from high school or junior high on, that’s neither liberty nor the rule of law.”

He raised the Korean crisis to stress the concern of the youth faced with the danger of war: “For me, the threat comes not so much from North Korea as from the relationship between North Korea and the United States. Trump is impulsive, egocentric and obsessive, in fact this person does not even deserve the terms we use to describe him.”

Nathanaël also opposed law-and-order denunciations of protesters in the media: “I’m not a wrecker, I am not going to throw paving stones in storefront windows. … There is an entire type of rhetoric and language of the far right that is taking over the media coverage.”

The WSWS also spoke to Sarah, another student, who criticized growing social inequality and the turn to repression in France under Macron: “I find it intolerable to pass laws this way. I was not necessarily for Macron, especially on labor issues. In him, we’re dealing with a person who knows nothing. What he wants to do with contracts, where you can have a five-year temp contract, that is extraordinary.”

She added, “I am studying to work in Human Resources. I was a bit naïve. I thought that the work would be simple, there you have to help the workers. And now, time is going by, and I’m young but I am realizing that in the working world, relations are really vicious. And Macron is just piling on the viciousness.”

On the state of emergency, she said: “I think its main purpose is to scare the people. It scares people, obviously when you are young, when you come to Bastille Square [where the demonstration started] … We are basically under a type of dictatorship. It’s not the type of dictatorships that we know from the history books, but I think very bad things are happening, the way the president uses his power.”

See also here.

After a one-day protest strike Tuesday against French President Emmanuel Macron’s decrees aiming to destroy the Labour Code, truckers have announced that they will take strike action. However, the government has announced that it will not back down on the labour decrees that it has negotiated with the trade unions and business groups. It is insisting that the decrees will go into effect at the end of September: here.

Despite mass popular opposition and growing strikes and protests, French President Emmanuel Macron signed decrees destroying the country’s Labor Code yesterday. His government has also announced deep cuts to health, education, and unemployment insurance, while promising to spend billions of euros more on the army and cut taxes on the rich (ISF): here.

11 thoughts on “French workers against Macron’s anti-labour policies

    > ‘Macron, You’re Screwed’: Tens of Thousands March in France Against Anti-Worker Reforms
    > “My grandparents and great-grandparents fought to have social security, to get rights which are now being stripped away.”
    > As French President Emmanuel Macron seeks to ram through pro-business labor reforms that would weaken the bargaining power of workers and make it easier for companies to fire employees, tens of thousands of workers and students took to the streets across France Tuesday to express their opposition to Macron’s agenda.
    > “We’re not expecting the 12th to be a tidal wave, we see it more as a starting point.”
    > —Stéphane Enjarlan, Solidaires
    > Led by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), France’s second largest trade union, demonstrators flooded Paris and other major cities chanting : “Macron you’re screwed, the slackers are in the streets.”
    > The “slackers” label came from Macron himself, who in a recent speech vowed to not “give any ground [on his labor reforms], not to slackers, nor cynics, nor hardliners.”
    > Union leaders and France’s left opposition seized upon Macron’s comments and used them to rally workers ahead of Tuesday’s planned actions, which included around 180 protests and 4,000 strikes—the first nationwide demonstrations of Macron’s young presidency.
    > In an interview on Monday, former Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoit Hamon slammed Macron’s “slacker” remarks as “insulting ” to French workers.
    > “Lazy people are the independently wealthy, who don’t need to work for a living,” Hamon retorted. “And a lot of independently wealthy picked Emmanuel Macron as their champion.”
    > Thousands protest against Macron in France
    > @JpKphotographer @alainjocard @LoicVenance @CTriballeau @DamienMeyerAfp #AFP — AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) 8:48 AM – Sep 12, 2017
    > Many have criticized Macron’s “fast-track” approach to passing the deeply unpopular reforms, which are expected to be finalized later this month. As the Guardian noted on Tuesday, the labor law changes are being “pushed through parliament with record speed using executive orders.”
    > Jean-Luc Mélenchon, former presidential candidate and leader of the left party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), likened Macron’s reforms to “a social coup d’état,” and predicted Macron will ultimately “give way” to the opposition.
    > “My grandparents and great-grandparents fought to have social security, to get rights which are now being stripped away.”
    > —Valérie
    > “France isn’t England,” Mélenchon concluded.
    > Protestors also called attention to other pro-business elements of Macron’s agenda, including tax cuts for the wealthy , changes to unemployment insurance, and pension reform.
    > “We don’t want protections stripped away so people are forced into precarious, low-wage jobs like they are in Britain or Germany,” Valérie, a health assistant from outside Paris, told the Guardian. “My grandparents and great-grandparents fought to have social security, to get rights which are now being stripped away. This is about protecting the French social model.”
    > Overall, the demonstrations and strikes brought as many as 100,000 people into the streets in provincial France and over 60,000 in Paris, leading the CGT to declare the day of action a success .
    > But as Stéphane Enjarlan, national secretary and spokesperson for Solidaires , a group of unions that backed Tuesday’s demonstrations, said in an interview with Jacobin, the protests are only the beginning of a long struggle.
    > “We’re not expecting the 12th to be a tidal wave, we see it more as a starting point,” Enjarlan concluded. “And we know that this needs to continue in the long-term.”


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