Anti-Labor Law Protests in France
by Stephen Lendman
Small-scale protests last month grew to much larger ones – in Paris and numerous other French cities.
On some days, hundreds of thousands rallied against proposed pro-business, anti-labor reforms (sic).
The Nuit Debout (Night Stand – Rise Up at Night) movement resembles America’s failed Occupy Wall Street activism and 2010 anti-austerity protests in France, way short (at least so far) of May 1968 when weeks of disruptive activism paralyzed the country. More on it below.
Since early March, French students, other youths and workers rallied against labor law changes proposed Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri.
On top of punishing austerity, they benefit business at the expense of workers, including rules governing layoffs, capping damages for unfair dismissals, and increasing the 35-hour workweek with minimal pay for extra hours worked.
One protester likely spoke for many others, saying “(w)e are trying to create a real movement against capitalism and against Francois Hollande, who talks like a leftist, but his policy is anything but leftist. The people suffer” while France’s rich grow richer.
A Nuit Debout petition called for widespread support, saying in part “(o)ur movement is gathered every day and every night…everywhere in FRANCE, and we have supporters from all around the world.”
Peaceful protests turned violent when police interceded with tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray, baton assaults, making scores of arrests.
Numerous injuries were reported. On Saturday, protests occurred in scores of French cities. They represent pent up anger over governance serving monied interests over popular ones.
In 1968, working class eruption was the largest in Europe since the 1930s, especially in France. Small protests erupted in January, grew larger and spread from one city to another. Things culminated in May.
Millions of workers joined student protesters, went on strike, occupied factories, universities, and offices throughout the country, paralyzing it.
They nearly ousted the de Gaulle government, for days unable to counter the most profound challenge to capitalism since the 1930s and 1917 Russia.
They precipitated the largest general strike in French history under the slogan: “Be realistic, demand the impossible.”
Revolutionary change was possible. Union bosses lost control to workers. On May 20, France was entirely shut down.
On May 24, de Gaulle addressed the nation on national television, promised a referendum, offered workers and students more rights. His effort fell flat.
Had millions maintained unrelenting pressure, they might have toppled the government, making revolution change possible.
By May 30, protests peaked, continued for weeks, then waned. A historic opportunity was lost.
Modest concessions were made. Powerful interests regained full control. What might have been never happened. A near-half century later, conditions are worse than ever throughout Europe and America.
The impossible is attainable when enough committed people demand no less.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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