France: protests against new labour law

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jef costello
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May 26 2016 10:19

Schmoopie you are absolutely correct, if they don't manage to move across borders then it will be limited to France.
The CGT is heavily involved, but at least part of that will be a power grab as they have lost influence within the socialist party both through the diminution of the French Communist Party and in general. (The Socialists won as much by targeting communist votes as by taking them from the opposition, lots of the communist red crown was taken by the SP or by 'left lists'.)

As we're coming towards the end of term the involvement of school students will change, I don't know if they will strike during the holidays and for some, during the exams.

There's certainly a perception that the government is weak, but there's also exasperation. Teachers haven't had any salary increase since 2010 and unlike other civil servants they don't get a bonus so they haven't had any compensation that way either, the 1.2% he gave to all civil servants a month or two was not only a transparent bribe but a pretty feeble one, given that it doesn't even cover cost of living increases. (although teachers can still get council houses here, wish I'd managed to get one. )

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May 26 2016 15:45

From the BBC today:

Quote:
Dozens of people broke away from a demonstration in Paris on Thursday and set about smashing shop windows and parked cars in a side street. Masked youths hurled bottles at police, who responded with tear gas.

Elsewhere in France on Thursday:
—Clashes broke out in the eastern city Lyon after a march by at least 3,300 protesters;
—In the port city of Le Havre, in Normandy, hundreds of workers took to the streets after blocking off a major bridge;
—Riot police held back protesters in the central city of Tours;
—Demonstrators invaded high-speed railway lines in the western city of Rennes;
—Protest marches were reported in the southern cities of Marseille, Montpellier and Bordeaux.

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May 26 2016 15:48

Building on Schmoopie's point: he could well be right (probably is, tbh).. but it may also be worth noting that Belgium is also currently undergoing its own protest movement against its own labour reforms..

Over 60,000 union workers protest labor reform plans in Brussels
Rail Workers Strike Paralyzes Southern Belgium

From over here in the UK I'm hoping for the best..

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May 26 2016 15:56

Video coverage of the manifestation on may 26. The cops had occupied a part of Place de la Nation and ordered the crowd to leave. The result was, what in France is called « des incidents ».

https://www.periscope.tv/pibzedog/1eaKbwRvNWdGX

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May 26 2016 16:06

jef:

Quote:
Schmoopie you are absolutely correct, if they don't manage to move across borders then it will be limited to France.

Not my words Mr Costello.

Quote:
...action will be contained within French borders and the whole affair will have blown over in time for the footie! Unless the working class can break out from the constraints imposed upon it by the unions.

Today we witnessed many countermeasures by the working class to break free of the national constraints imposed upon it (see post #94).

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May 26 2016 16:43

This is starting to get some coverage in English language news, today Sky News was covering it, focussing almost exclusively on potential fuel shortages thanks to refinery strikes.

And the BBC radio news service is covering, focussing on the opposition to the labour reform laws. Still not much from the mainstream.

Oh and the Morning Star's given it some coverage

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May 26 2016 17:13
robot wrote:
Video coverage of the manifestation on may 26. The cops had occupied a part of Place de la Nation and ordered the crowd to leave. The result was, what in France is called « des incidents ».

https://www.periscope.tv/pibzedog/1eaKbwRvNWdGX

Cops look pretty nervous in that video and their snatch squads are often pretty poorly organised. But they still hurt a lot of people.

IT's good that people are filming because generally the police are far worse than anyone else and that we need to publicise things, but you do sometimes get the feeling that too many people think the whole point of a demo is to get a good photo. Each time someone started blowing bubbles they got swarmed by people with cameras.

It might be a good idea to use camera phones a bit like body cameras. MAke it harder for the cops to snatch and break them too. Also make sure your phone is password protected and saves to the phone memory, not a card, otherwise they can view / delete things.

In Rennes last night a police station was paint bombed and someone had painted AC on the front. I'm guessing they got interrupted.

1800- 3000 marching in Cherboug, gas supplies to 650 homes cut off. The communist mayor killed and a CGT militant severely injured in a car accident near to the march.

18-19000 in PAris according to police, an increase on the last marches, 100000 according to Union Force Ouvrière

Caen a case of 'self-defence' by a police officer.
https://youtu.be/S69HPswDhbE
At least three arrests

PRime Minister MAnuel Valls has said that the law might be subject to revisions or improvements.

Belgian Rail workers have voted to continue their strike until Friday at least.

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May 26 2016 23:47

iexist, you are right, my statement was a little hackneyed. I am ashamed to say the BBC got the upper hand on this one:

Quote:
Dozens of people broke away from a demonstration in Paris on Thursday and set about smashing shop windows and parked cars in a side street. Masked youths hurled bottles at police, who responded with tear gas.
Elsewhere in France on Thursday:
—Clashes broke out in the eastern city Lyon after a march by at least 3,300 protesters;
—In the port city of Le Havre, in Normandy, hundreds of workers took to the streets after blocking off a major bridge;
—Riot police held back protesters in the central city of Tours;
—Demonstrators invaded high-speed railway lines in the western city of Rennes;
—Protest marches were reported in the southern cities of Marseille, Montpellier and Bordeaux.

Yesterday's news from the BBC

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May 26 2016 23:54

ITV 6.30 news was weird... seemed to be mainly about how people in France are "very very angry" about having to wait ages for their petrol. Fucking bobbins.

baboon
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May 27 2016 14:08

It appears to me that the union's tactics of divide and rule have succeeded in exhausting an already weakened working class. Here's an English translation from the ICC's French section that I mentioned earlier: http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201605/13953/what-real-nature-n...

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May 27 2016 16:09

iexist:

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Your the person who gives us left coms a bad name!

Defeat of our struggles is hard to stomach but scapegoating one communist will not ease the burden. However, if we can learn from our defeats we may eventually reach a point where they are no longer repeated; if not we are lost.

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May 27 2016 16:47

There are numerous reasons to be extremely cautious about what is happening in France and not to get carried away by the appearance of a massive movement. The article baboon links to confirms earlier assessments (eg in the Mouvement Communiste statement) that the Nuit Debout 'assembly' was planned well in advance by the new left coalitions arising in France in parallel with the likes of Syriza, Podemos, Corbynism, Sanders etc etc. And the current situation, dominated by the blockades of oil and power stations by the CGT, should give further pause for thought, since the French Stalinists have used this tactic before to create images of paralysis and radicalism, for example in 2010 in the protests against pension 'reforms'(which also, in retrospect were less radical than we ourselves thought at the time). But in reality these blockades are not the action of a class that is taking control of its own struggles on a massive scale, and that is why the Stalinists are very adept in using them.
We could be wrong of course, but it would be unwise to dismiss the possibility that the French bourgeoisie, which confronts a fraction of the world working class that has a very evident and real revolutionary tradition, is being obliged to employ a division of labour, a series of feints and manoeuvres, both to distort the lessons of real movements like the one against the CPE in 2006 or the Indignados in 2011, and to derail a mounting discontent which lacks any real perspective or even a sense of class identity.

S. Artesian
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May 27 2016 19:32
Alf wrote:
There are numerous reasons to be extremely cautious about what is happening in France and not to get carried away by the appearance of a massive movement. The article baboon links to confirms earlier assessments (eg in the Mouvement Communiste statement) that the Nuit Debout 'assembly' was planned well in advance by the new left coalitions arising in France in parallel with the likes of Syriza, Podemos, Corbynism, Sanders etc etc. And the current situation, dominated by the blockades of oil and power stations by the CGT, should give further pause for thought, since the French Stalinists have used this tactic before to create images of paralysis and radicalism, for example in 2010 in the protests against pension 'reforms'(which also, in retrospect were less radical than we ourselves thought at the time). But in reality these blockades are not the action of a class that is taking control of its own struggles on a massive scale, and that is why the Stalinists are very adept in using them.

You could be wrong. And worse, you could be missing the point entirely. Which you are. The point being that there's no other way for the movement to develop other than "being planned well in advance by new left coalitions," or "blockades of oil and power stations by the CGT." If there already was an independent autonomous class-for-itself, we wouldn't be discussing this would we? We'd be discussing the success of the French revolution as the opening round of world revolution.

This is how struggles develop, springing forth from, and carrying the baggage of all the institutionalized failures that have preceded it. That's the history in the historical materialism. After all, who dominated the soviets in April 1917; and who replaced the Czar? Not the soviets, that's for sure.

The origins of the struggle are not the slightest reason in the world to hesitate or "be cautious." It's all the more reason to develop the demands, the organizations, the institutions, that break the domination of the archaic clusters of power-- including the CGT bureaucracy, the new left coalitions-- and clearly this movement contains exactly that potential-- particularly with the almost universal acceptance of the demand to "open the borders"-- to cease the distinction between documented and undocumented workers.

The key, as others have pointed out, is how quickly, clearly, and class consciously the French workers and students can link up with those in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Germany, etc. etc.

Thrasybulus
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May 27 2016 19:59

There seems to be some talk in the media and perhaps sections of the government to try and find a possible way out by making some changes to the text. Assuming that the government and CGT negotiate at some point it would seem mostly likely to be along these lines; a modified law.

The demonstrations while spaced out a bit in time, roughly one major demonstration every week, don't seem to be declining in energy. The numbers attending have been steady, or have even grown, as well for the last couple of weeks. The various groupings-autonomous/random, black bloc, etc- that make up the front of the demonstrations has increased over time. The police struggle to control this each time and kind of keep a distance while a march is in progress and just try to stop blocs of people leaving a contained area. This ability of the blocs to defend themselves and keep the police back to some extent is increasing the confidence of the demonstrators each time.

The pictures on this article from Paris yesterday give some idea of the level of tension: http://www.liberation.fr/france/2016/05/27/le-policier-a-adopte-une-atti...

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May 27 2016 20:11

There is a balance of forces between the classes in every social movement, and this will greatly influence whether or not the organs of capitalist control can be outflanked by an upsurge from below. This will also determine what is possible for revolutionaries and others who are in favour of the movement going beyond these organs; it will be the key element in deciding what kind of influence they can have on the movement. It also shapes the content of their intervention. At certain moments it is perfectly valid to focus on pushing forward the immediate potential of the struggle by raising practical proposals for extension and self-organisation. At other moments, when the ruling class and its institutions are not in danger of losing their grip, it is more appropriate to focus on the dangers and traps facing the struggle. I think that we are in the latter situation with this current movement in France, and that the possibilities of immediately linking up with with workers and students in all the other countries of Europe, who are also experiencing major difficulties in developing a resistance to the crisis of the system, are very limited at this juncture.

S. Artesian
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May 28 2016 02:45

Deleted. Hate repeating the same arguments.

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May 28 2016 05:28

I'm not going to talk myself into reading ten-year-old articles from the ICC but I do not remember that analysis at all from them at the time.
The information about the Nuit Debout is interesting. I wouldn't say it's disappointing as I didn't think it was particularly good in many ways. But the fact that people did get up and speak is good, even if it was set up for a purpose.

And it looks like my work is going out on strike so I'm going to have to properly read the bloody law.

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May 28 2016 05:36
Thrasybulus wrote:
There seems to be some talk in the media and perhaps sections of the government to try and find a possible way out by making some changes to the text. Assuming that the government and CGT negotiate at some point it would seem mostly likely to be along these lines; a modified law.

The demonstrations while spaced out a bit in time, roughly one major demonstration every week, don't seem to be declining in energy. The numbers attending have been steady, or have even grown, as well for the last couple of weeks. The various groupings-autonomous/random, black bloc, etc- that make up the front of the demonstrations has increased over time. The police struggle to control this each time and kind of keep a distance while a march is in progress and just try to stop blocs of people leaving a contained area. This ability of the blocs to defend themselves and keep the police back to some extent is increasing the confidence of the demonstrators each time.

The pictures on this article from Paris yesterday give some idea of the level of tension: http://www.liberation.fr/france/2016/05/27/le-policier-a-adopte-une-atti...

The CPE struggle also started out slowly and as I remember it the militancy of students, then workers pushed the union bureaucracy into confrontation. As always union members were usually solid althought then, as know, CGT members were accused of turning people over to the police.
That article about the policeman is interesting, I think it also shows the police mentality. They don't police by consent, they think their authority comes from the use of violence, which is why it's so funny when they complain about being 'targeted' like most bulies they can't take a fraction of what they dish out.

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May 28 2016 06:24

jef costello:

Quote:
The CPE struggle also started out slowly and as I remember it the militancy of students, then workers pushed the union bureaucracy into confrontation.

I bow to your more intimate knowledge of the situation and my hope is that I was wrong to view this current struggle as already defeated.

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May 28 2016 06:44

Alf:

Quote:
There are numerous reasons to be extremely cautious about what is happening in France and not to get carried away by the appearance of a massive movement. The article baboon links to confirms earlier assessments (eg in the Mouvement Communiste statement) that the Nuit Debout 'assembly' was planned well in advance by the new left coalitions arising in France in parallel with the likes of Syriza, Podemos, Corbynism, Sanders etc etc. And the current situation, dominated by the blockades of oil and power stations by the CGT, should give further pause for thought, since the French Stalinists have used this tactic before to create images of paralysis and radicalism, for example in 2010 in the protests against pension 'reforms'(which also, in retrospect were less radical than we ourselves thought at the time). But in reality these blockades are not the action of a class that is taking control of its own struggles on a massive scale, and that is why the Stalinists are very adept in using them.
We could be wrong of course, but it would be unwise to dismiss the possibility that the French bourgeoisie, which confronts a fraction of the world working class that has a very evident and real revolutionary tradition, is being obliged to employ a division of labour, a series of feints and manoeuvres, both to distort the lessons of real movements like the one against the CPE in 2006 or the Indignados in 2011, and to derail a mounting discontent which lacks any real perspective or even a sense of class identity.

Though this is not my perspective – I see a radical base to this struggle – I do not see how his statement deserves a down vote. I am beginning to suspect that there is an agent provocateur in our midst, or someone is letting their ego get the better of them, or, at very least, someone is allowing sectarian divisions to hold sway just at the point when sectarian divisions have become defunct.

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May 28 2016 07:02
Schmoopie wrote:
I bow to your more intimate knowledge of the situation and my hope is that I was wrong to view this current struggle as already defeated.

Honestly I have no idea what wil happen. The school terms end in a few weeks so that could make things explode or it could peter out. The CGT could settle once it's reasserted it's own position. What I can say is that a lot of the demonstartions and actions are self-organised, especially amongst students, which is a good sign. The fact that as well as big marches people are separating off and staying mobile is a nightmare for the police (during the CPE there were times when the police were completely run ragged, in some towns there would be a blockade of the station and by the time the police had arrived the demonstrators would have gone and then popped up on the other side of town.

A very right-wing piece in the Guardian.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/27/france-chaos-failur...

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May 28 2016 07:08

Jef wrote: "I'm not going to talk myself into reading ten-year-old articles from the ICC but I do not remember that analysis at all from them at the time".

But that's my point: the anti-CPE in 2006 was part of a whole series of movements which culminated in 2011, with some echoes in 2013 (Turkey and Brazil), but since then we have generally been in a downward phase of the international class struggle and we think the ruling class is taking advantage of this disorientation in the class. It would be a mistake not to warn against this danger.

But let's see how things develop. It will interesting to hear from jef how things go at his workplace.

Schmoopie: thanks for your concern but I didn't have any doubts that what I posted would be unpopular...

Here's what we said in 2006 for those who can talk themselves into it: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125_france_students

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May 28 2016 07:20
Quote:
What I can say is that a lot of the demonstartions and actions are self-organised, especially amongst students, which is a good sign.

Yes, and this is the point that Alf is missing, or choosing to ignore.

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May 28 2016 07:31

Alf:

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Here's what we said in 2006 for those who can talk themselves into it.

Ah, the exclusive 'we'... Cut it out Schmoopie or you will be accused of the very sectarianism that you yourself have criticised!

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May 28 2016 11:43
Alf wrote:
Here's what we said in 2006 for those who can talk themselves into it: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125_france_students

Thanks Alf, appreciate the humour too. I did read the first half or so and that isn't what I remember the ICC saying, but it was a long time ago so my memory might be at fault.

Thrasybulus
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May 28 2016 21:04

Various reports and accounts of police violence during the last demonstrations have been filtering out. A number of videos show police attacks on detained or non-threatening demonstrators. At one point the police threw tear gas into a group they had already surrounded in a tight space. The most serious case is in the link below(in French). As I understand a man is in hospital seriously injured by a 'disencirclement' grenade. The attack happened on a smaller group after the main demonstration with the police throwing the grenade for no apparent reason. The man was severely wounded in the head and is still in a serious condition.

''tout le monde déteste encore plus la Police''

http://paris-luttes.info/la-grenade-de-desencerclement-fait-5914?lang=fr

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May 30 2016 07:35

There are so many decent images and video clips of the CGT service d'ordre with their pickaxe handles and expandable batons mixing with the CRS, I half think Libcom could have a thread named 'Union Cop Watch'.

(How do you add photos to a post?)

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May 30 2016 08:13
rat wrote:
(How do you add photos to a post?)

If you're copying from another website:

  • right click on the image and select 'Copy image address'
  • click on the 'Image' button just above comment box and paste the image address into it
  • should give you something like this: [img] IMAGE ADDRESS HERE [/img]

When you submit the comment there should be an image in it.

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May 30 2016 08:33

Alf wrote:

Quote:
Here's what we said in 2006 for those who can talk themselves into it: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/125_france_students

One feature of the counter-terrorist anti-state violence of recent events in France that betrays it's proletarian nature is that it was open to any sector of the proletariat to participate in it: students, the Mad, the maligned, the worker, the unemployed, the retired...

For anarchy!

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May 30 2016 09:03

Thanks Ed.
Here's a few snaps of some CGT stewards on the recent demos in France.

CGT stewards with pickaxes handles:

CGT steward with a blue baseball bat:

CGT stewards with expandable metal batons in front of police barricade:

CGT stewards with CRS police:

CGT stewards with CRS police:

Moments later, CGT stewards charge at demonstrators: