The French don’t buy the idiotic language of voluntary submission anymore. The socialists’ betrayals and years of “no future” policies have brought the social pressure cooker to the point of explosion.
When the French rid themselves of Sarkozy, the most philistine croney capialist the Fifth Republic ever had as president, they had hoped that his successor, coming from the party called “socialist”, would deliver the immediate change that his campaign slogan called for. They could not have been more wrong. “Change is now” was but a lure enabling the deepening of Sarkozy’s reforms, through betrayal of the electorate. Indeed, having unequivoqually declared the financial markets his ennemy during his election campaign, François Hollande chose, upon taking office, not to disappoint the corporate world and zealously attacked France’s social welfare and employment laws. In doing so, he is taking part in a wider movement through which transnational financial capital tries to impose total deregulation of the labour market.
This project culminates today in France with the “El Khomri law”, named after the minion tasked with embodying the object of discord. Dubbed the “work law” (#LoiTravail), it actually facilitates employees dismissal and wage reduction, and bypasses swathes of employee and union rights. It also establishes the precedence of the individual contract over existing legislations in areas such as redundancy and relocation. Previously, another masterpiece of Orwellian doublethink called “Law on securing employment” had organised precariousness and job insecurity. Yet unemployment has been stubbornly worsening over the past years
Despite evidence of the inefficiency of these policies, the self-proclaimed “socialists” are pressing on with the neoliberal reform agenda. Their efforts are accompanied by customary media planning which, of course, revisits and expends the standards of newspeak. Only last week, Prime Minister Manuel Valls felt it appropriate to joke in an interview that he himself was a “temp” on a “precarious” contract. Until recently, the steady flow of drivel from the government seemed to buy social peace by producing an ersatz of debate. The French call this “drowning the fish”. As long as everyone remained confined in their dissociated struggles, tepid compromises were always going to be the “victories” to aim for. No longer.
On March 24th, students in Paris finally took to the streets against the “work law”, one of the most anti-social of the Fifth Republic. In a rare realisation of their common interests, the youth, employees and an overwhelming majority of the French population that refuses this project now have a clear understanding of what is at stake. Students and workers have united. Anything that old political guards will do or say won’t make much difference now. France’s venerable genie is out of its bottle, and that, to Hollande, Valls and Macron, looks like Pandora’s box.
This explains why riot police and agent provocateurs have been so intent on beating and discrediting the movement. Calls for general strike are echoed throughout the country. Yet what seems to have France’s neoliberal government break out in a cold sweat is that the new movement has literally no demands beyond the total repeal of the “work law”. Or rather it has one big message : We don’t want to negotiate with you any longer. The protest is not just about the new law, but against everything that has led to a situation of generalised social insecurity.
On March 25th, protesting against police brutalities, the students tried to prevent the most troublesome in their ranks from attacking police stations, with mixed results. March 31st promises to be a big day of action in Paris and throughout the country, with overnight occupation of a major square in the capital (#NuitDebout for night standing), at the end of a demonstration that should be the largest in Hollande’s presidency so far. No longer idle, they’ll gather, they won’t go home, they won’t demand anything specific, but they’ll unite their imagination and by the morning they’ll have figured out the extent of their strength. Our strength!
acknowledgements to http://internationalpeoplesassembly.com/2016/03/30/france-awakens/