Blockades, strikes & protests: French workers fightback
By Robert Cosgrave
The El Khomri Law, an anti-worker law proposed by the French Minister for Labour of the “Socialist” Party (PS) government has resulted in hundreds of thousands of workers and young people taking to the streets in protest.
In the face of strikes, huge protests, mass opposition from the people and heading for a very likely defeat in the National Assembly, the PS invoked Article 49-3 of the constitution to bypass parliament and enact this legislation. This illustrates the undemocratic nature of the French Fifth Republic.
Emerging from the protest against the law is the “Nuit Debout” ( meaning rise up at night) movement, reminiscent of movements such as Occupy in the United States and the Indignados of Spain, with hundreds of thousands on the streets across France. The movement started in Paris but spread into the Banlieues (the poor housing estates along the outskirts of French cities mainly home to France’s African and Arab population ) to show their opposition to this reactionary law and their disgust at the present state of things. The movement has proven to show the hatred of French workers at this law and at the government itself, with Hollande now enjoying an approval rating of 12%, the lowest of any President in the history of the French state.
The most important part of the movement against the El Khomri law however, has been the mobilisation of large sections of workers in militant opposition to the law. Workers, showing themselves to be where the real power in society lies, through strike action, are close to crippling the power of the French state, threatening even the grand spectacle that is the European Championship, due to begin this month.
Power of the working class
Air traffic controller strikes have led to over 100 flights being cancelled on 2 June alone, half of all train services were halted on 1 June due to strike action and the majority of oil refineries and many ports being blocked, it is possible France could approach paralysis in coming weeks. All this while the government pathetically proclaims there to be no crisis. The ground must be prepared for a general strike to bring together the French working class in common struggle
The “Nuit Debout” movement and the continued militancy of workers has exposed once again the rotten and repressive nature of the French state. Francois Hollande exploited the constitution’s powers to bypass the National Assembly, showing his contempt for democracy. The police force has been used to try and viciously break up demonstrations and strikes.
All the parties of the establishment have proven themselves to be on the side of this rotten law. This includes the far-right and racist Front National, led by the millionaire Le Pen family who are showing themselves to be on the side of business and capitalism despite their anti-establishment posturing.
For a workers’ government
The movement must not end at the defeat of the El Khomri Law, the struggle must continue for a workers government based on a programme that will break with the logic of austerity and capitalism. From this new inspiring movement a new party of the working class has the potential to emerge based on an anti-capitalist and socialist programme to challenge this rotten system.