As strikes spread in France, hundreds of thousands of people participated in demonstrations Last Thursday, the 26th, France lived its 8th consecutive day of protests since the reform of the labour code, know as “El Khomri Act”. The demonstrations are part of a growing international struggle by the working class against mass layoffs, austerity and war.
The El Khomri law is the French version of the infamous Hartz IV laws carried out by the Social Democratic-Green coalition in Germany over ten years ago. It represents a massive attack on wages and labor rights and aims to boost French competitiveness against its European and international rivals. Under the new law firms can negotiate with local trade unions on up to 46 work hours per week, and are given greater freedom to cut wages. The law also makes it easier to fire workers.
The political situation in France is currently the most conflictive one in the Old continent, specifically since March, with the entrance of the working movement on scene; together with the students’ movement, they are taking ahead a dramatic struggle against the social-liberal government of the Socialist Party. France lives under state of emergency since the recent terrorist attacks, under a wave of Islamophobia and with electoral growth of the ultra-right. Only the organized working class can change the course of events and defeat Valls and Hollande’s reform.
Flexibilization of the labour market and reduction of public deficit are EU demands to France, hypocritically presented as conditions for economic growth. The EU policy is to implement austerity policies in the main countries of Europe, and a second round of attacks among the periphery, to keep the profit rates of the Franco-German financial capital.
While the widely hated government of Socialist President François Hollande is using the state of emergency introduced shortly after the Paris terror attacks last November to crack down on opposition, popular anger is erupting. According to polls more than 70 percent of the population want the law to be withdrawn.
Though police crossed picket lines at 14 oil installations across France to try to break blockades and restart production, fuel shortages are spreading, despite the release of strategic oil reserves by the state and oil companies. As of Thursday evening, 5,000 of France’s 12,000 gas stations were missing at least one type of fuel. A CGT member on a picket line at an oil installation at Fos-sur-Mer was run over by a driver and had to be evacuated by helicopter. Two strikers blockading an industrial zone near Vitrolles were wounded when a truck tried to drive through the blockade.
As port workers, oil workers and truckers continued to take strike action in France, the country’s 19 nuclear plants went on strike, as well as the DCNS nuclear submarine works in Cherbourg, which were blockaded by employees protesting the labor law. Power cuts were reported across northern and western France, as production fell by a total of 5,000 megawatts.
After the march started from Place de la Bastille and swelled, clashes broke out when unidentified masked provocateurs appeared and launched clashes with the security forces near Chaligny Street. Again, youth protesters were placed in the front of the march, and were cut off from the main trade union delegations as they entered Nation Square, where they were violently attacked. At least one young protester was seriously wounded by a grenade fragment.
Throughout the country the security presence was massive. According to reports, the Paris police confirmed they have put 19,000 officers on the streets to confront the protestors. Reportedly at least 77 people have been arrested.
Also in other cities across France the protests turned violent with thousands of angry demonstrators confronting heavily armed antiriot police. In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, about 100 people attacked a police station and damaged a police car. In Nantes protesters smashed bank windows while security forces responded with tear gas.
In the port city of Le Havre at least 10,000 dockworkers and other protesters gathered. According to media reports, the mood in front of the city hall was heated. Protesters set off smoke bombs and shot fireworks into the air as the square reverberated with explosions.
The 26th of May, Before and After, the strike continues and grows in strength!
The National Inter-professional Inter-union calls once again for a day of strikes and protests Thursday 26th of May. The trade union Solidaires supports all workers already carrying out continuous industrial action and calls to strengthen and reinforce the movement wherever possible. The same goes for the national strike of 14th of June: for the trade union Solidaires, it is not a question of burying the movement; but rather, to extend and strengthen the strike action. Let’s give ourselves what we need to in order to ensure the withdrawal of the proposed Labour Law and ensure that our demands are included rather than those of the bosses.
The faster our actions bring the economy to a stand-still and affect the profits of the directors and shareholders, the faster we will win!