This 14 March 2017 video from France says about itself:
France: Firefighters flare up protest against austerity in Paris
Thousands of firefighters staged a demonstration in Paris, Tuesday, to protest against austerity measures and demand better recognition. Dressed in their firefighters’ uniforms, or ‘bunker gear,’ protesting firefighters marched from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation, throwing flares and coloured smoke canisters.
SOT, Francois, firefighter from Pyrenees Atlantiques (French): “We are here today because we are the most appreciated profession in France but we are also the least recognised [by authorities]. Firstly we are under territorial divisions, so each department does what they want with us. We are working 24 hours while guards get paid as much for 17 hours.”
SOT, Vincent, firefighter and union member from Christian Workers Union (CFTC) (French): “This situation for professional firefighters is precarious, and the result is that we are losing 1000 second class firefighters, who are not engaged and the winners of the professional accreditation in 2013 are without jobs. We can see that the majority of the department is engaging “Future Jobs” (special contract) or “Civic services” to replace professional firefighters.”
That was over two years ago. Then, the French government decided not to pay more than a measly 2 million euros a year on the restoration of the Paris Notre Dame cathedral. Which meant insufficient fire safety. Which meant the devastating fire of this week.
By Alex Lantier in France:
No to calls for “national unity” after the burning of Notre Dame in Paris
20 April 2019
The calls in the French media and ruling elite for national unity after a horrific fire devastated Notre Dame cathedral on Monday in Paris deserve nothing but contempt. Their goals are obvious. They aim to strangle all critical reflection on the causes and lessons of this shocking event, which has exposed the utter irresponsibility of the state machine; and to stabilize President Emmanuel Macron’s government, which is rocked by the upsurge of the class struggle, with “yellow vest” protests and mass protests against the Algerian military regime.
The cause of the devastation of Notre Dame cathedral is the lack of serious fire security in renovation work, rooted in austerity and the relentless self-enrichment of the financial aristocracy. The French state refused to foot the €100 million bill for the renovation, leaving church officials to beg for money internationally. The plan that was ultimately adopted ignored basic fire security measures, including the need to hire sufficient fire security staff. After a fire alarm, under this plan, it would take staff up to 20 minutes to reach and inspect the area.
The gaping holes in this plan—adopted amid Macron’s austerity policy that funnels hundreds of billions of euros to the army, tax cuts for the rich, and bank bailouts—had disastrous consequences. Despite two fire alarms on Monday, Notre Dame staff
who are religious employees, not fire experts
could not locate the fire until much of the roof was ablaze and the spire was collapsing.
After this disaster the major media and parties are calling for a political truce and a halt to all criticism. Macron’s Republic on the March (LRM) and the neo-fascist National Rally (RN) suspended their European campaigns. …
Europe1 radio enthused, “Deep emotion took over all the state officials who went to visit the flaming cathedral. The president, prime minister … all went to see for themselves. In one hour, a holy union was formed. There were no discordant notes in the call for national unity, except maybe Jean-Luc Mélenchon because he asked Emmanuel Macron to be quiet for a few days.”
By raising the “holy union”—historically, the name for the bourgeoisie’s union with the social democrats to wage the First World War and oppose the rising international communist movement emerging from the October 1917 Russian revolution—Europe1 perhaps said more than it intended.
The current official campaign for French “national unity” is an almost chemically pure example of the reactionary role of nationalism, which by denying the significance of the international class struggle subordinates the workers to the military-austerity diktat of the ruling class. While the major parties led the call to silence criticism of official policy in the name of national unity, they left it to the Medef business federation to specify what “national unity” means.
On Wednesday, Medef President Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux went on BFM-TV to deliver a full-throated defense of the tax cuts for the rich and exorbitantly wealthy that led to this disaster. Hailing an “incredible enthusiasm” in the nation for rebuilding Notre Dame, he denounced “pathetic debates on tax cuts”, saying: “If you tax people too much in France, they will go elsewhere. We need rich taxpayers who pay their taxes in France.”
Roux de Bézieux then hailed the billionaire Arnault and Pinault families, who refused to fund the renovation but are now giving a few hundred million euros to towards the multi-billion-euro project of rebuilding the cathedral. He said, “If the state paid 100 percent, who would pay? It’s you and me, everyone, the taxpayers. … So I think it’s great that there are people who agree to pay out of pocket to help. It’s a real moment of national unity.”
The fate of Notre Dame cathedral and the Medef’s ignorant lust for money are a warning to workers not only in France but around the world. The only way forward for workers is to expropriate the irresponsible and parasitic ruling class that dominates official public life. Class struggle, rejecting nationalist appeals for unity with the super-rich and fought through to its conclusion, is the only way to resolve the urgent problems created by the destructive operations of the financial aristocracy.
Mélenchon’s pretense that the great divide in French society is between atheists and believers is just as false … One recent poll found that only 4.5 percent of French people attend mass at least once a month. The great divide is class—the line separating the overwhelming majority of workers forced to sell their ability to labor to an employer, and the parasites of the financial aristocracy.
Belgian pro-climate school strike activist Anuna De Wever: now suddenly billions for Notre Dame. How about the climate?
Macron government intended to break environmental and historical heritage rules in reconstructing Notre Dame: here.
Last week, French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the CEO and leading shareholder of luxury fashion retail group LVMH, became the third person in history to surpass the US$100 billion mark in personal wealth. Only Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (worth $157 billion) and Microsoft head Bill Gates ($102.9 billion) are richer: here.
In the more than three months since the April 15 fire that devastated and came close to destroying Paris’ historic Notre Dame cathedral, evidence has continued to mount that the fire was the outcome of systematic cutbacks and negligence on the part of the French government. At the same time, Paris authorities are covering up the health dangers posed to the local population, particularly children. The fire caused almost 400 tons of lead roofing to be carried away by smoke onto nearby schools, maternity centers, houses and sidewalks: here.