November 8, 2010

Update from the French Barricades

Filed under: Bailouts Only Propped Up Zombies, Civil Disobedience, Corporatism — Tags: — Russ @ 3:24 am


In spite of the rogue government’s vote for further “austerity” measures, and in spite of the now manifest treachery of corrupted union leadership, the strikes and protests in France continue.
As always, “austerity” means austerity for the people, not the criminal rich who triggered the Depression in the first place. “Austerity” means further robbery from the people to further bail out the banks and prop up every other corporate welfare and welfare-for-the-rich scheme. The French people know this and are trying to fight back. Unfortunately they’ve been betrayed not only by a rogue government but a rogue “union leadership”. This proves the complete failure of all pre-existing structures under corporate neoliberalism. As we’ll see in the quotes below, the unions themselves are thoroughly corporatized.
Meanwhile the people understand the great call:
Total Austerity For the Criminals, Not One Cent More From the People.
Unfortunately they’re still not organized to successfully fight for this. That’ll remain true so long as they continue to adhere to pro-corporate structures and the neoliberal mindset. The existing unions are among these structures, the “leadership” among these corrupt or brainwashed personnel.
Here’s a recent account of the ongoing will to fight:

Though the international mainstream media presents France as having returned to peace and tranquility, with the oil depots, petrol stations, refineries and tankers all returning to normality, functioning according to the law of value, bourgeois reality is still being contested in different forms.

I shall speak of what I know from people I trust or from first hand knoweldge in some future text. For the moment, apart from a couple of things, I’ll confine myself to information gleaned from the alternative &/or mainstream media.

Yesterday, 5th November:
At least half of the lycees in Montpellier were blockaded. No national news about this (or alternative news, as far as I can tell). However, the French National Front, Le Pen’s gang, mention on their website the fact that there have been several blockades of lycees since the return from the All Saints holidays thoughout France and they call for people to create anti-blockade committees by organising through Facebook (the original blockades by lycee students were organised by Facebook messages back in September). I’ve heard of definite blockades in Sete, Flers, Paris (Montreuil), Le Mans and Perpignan, though it’s very likely there have been blockades in several other towns elsewhere too. Lyceens have been arrested in various places throughout the country, some for just throwing eggs.
In Bayonne, the Bank of France was blockaded. No mention in national news.
Striking nurses in a 3 week strike at the Tenon hospital in Paris used some complicated legal maneouvre, very rarely used, and which I don’t quite understand, to avoid being requisitioned – to be forced back to work or face a high fine or imprisonment. 2 or 3 nurses remain there, under requisition orders, to give advice in the reception area.
Mainstream news was of blockades of rail tracks by the anti-nuclear movement, with Greenpeace grabbing the limelight. This is because there’s a vast quantity of highly radioactive nuclear waste being transported across the north of France to Germany; in Germany alone there are already 30,000 protesters waiting for the train, with 16,000 cops deployed.

On November 4th:
Blockades took place at the following airports:
Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Roissy, Orly, and Clermont-Ferrand. This was in the mainstream media, as well as the alternative one. At Toulouse airport a guy said on the radio, “We’re here to mess everything up – it’s the only way to get heard”
At the same time, some incinerators continued to be blocked by striking pickets in the region round Paris.
Various universities were continuing their blockades: Paris 7 & 8, Grenobles 2 & 3, Strasbourg, Rouen, Lyon, St. Etienne, Angers, Nantes, Rennes, Limoges, Toulouse and the obsessive symbol of those nostalgic for ’68 – the Sorbonne was occupied, as well as Poitiers University. Several hundred blockading students blockaded the admin building of the University of Strasbourg, until the CRS paid a fiendly visit. A night-time occupation of Toulouse University was evicted by the CRS.
Montpellier 3 was blockaded on October 25th, when a General Assembly of 800 or so voted by at least 75% to blockade the place during the All Saints holiday. The blockade was renewed on October 28th with just a 55% vote for continuation, a vote which ended in violence on the part of some of the anti-blockaders. But on Nov.4th, a long tensely heated (during an Indian summer) debate ended with the anti-blockaders winning by 66%. They’d been summoned by emails sent out by the University President and by Facebook as well: on the second day after the end of the holidays, the anti-blockaders’ only argument , apart from the lie that the blockade was illegal, was that they wanted to continue with their degree courses, and from the very start they refused to listen to any other argument (next day – yesterday – on November 5th Montpellier 3, possibly the only university where the blockade was lifted, was the only university mentioned on national news).
In Angers cops prevented youths marching to the UMP (Sarkozy’s party) HQ.
There was an Operation Snailspace on the A1 motorway between Paris and Lille. These are becoming harder and harder to carry out, as drivers often get a fine and many lost 6 points on their driving licences (the same number of points lost is imposed for driving which causes accidental death – manslaughter).
There was a “Toll-free” blockade of the toll booth near Rennes – La Gravelle – allowing people to leave the motorway without paying the toll (this has often been part of the current movement – and is obviously very popular with motorists).

And here’s the “politics” they face:

Even though many workers remain on strike and opposition to Sarkozy’s pension law remains profound, the unions are urging the end of strike action against the cuts and moving to isolate workers who remain on strike against them.

As with last month’s port and oil workers strike and high-school protest movement, the unions are moving to isolate strikers and discourage attendance at today’s protests—even though they themselves have organized them.

Significant sections of workers are continuing strikes in protest of the law, which was passed in the teeth of mass popular hostility: over 70 percent of the population opposed the cuts.

Garbage workers in suburbs of Paris remain on strike. The incinerator in Saint-Ouen, near Paris, has been occupied since Wednesday—joining the garbage incineration facility at Ivry-sur-Seine, which has been on strike since October 21.

Since yesterday morning, workers have blockaded a logistics platform in PACA region, supplying fresh goods to Carrefour stores. They are protesting against poor working conditions and the elimination of benefits by their employers.

Strike is also planned next week at the Jobs Pole national employment center, whose management announced recently 1,800 jobs cuts by the end of 2011. The nationwide strike has been called to protest against deteriorating working conditions and rising workloads.

In Lyon, employees of the city council working in school canteens have been on strike for three weeks, protesting against bad working conditions and low wages. They are also calling for additional staff.

Universities in several cities, including Toulouse and Lyon, remain blockaded.

Far from seeking to build on this opposition to appeal for broader working-class support, however, the unions are abandoning protests and opening negotiations with business leaders.

In a press statement released late Thursday, the unions pledged to “pursue joint work on jobs, wages, purchasing power, and working conditions.” At the same time, several unions—the French Democratic Labor Confederation (CFDT), the French Christian Workers Confederation (CFTC), and Workers Force (FO)—have already scheduled talks with the business federation Medef (Movement of French Enterprises). Such negotiations can only produce further social cuts.

Yesterday, union officials made statements aiming to wind down ongoing protests against the pensions law.

CFDT leader François Chérèque declared, “We are going to unfortunately move away bit by bit” from the subject of pensions.

He wrote off opposition to Sarkozy as hopeless: “If I say today, ‘We’re going to get the President of the Republic to back down,’ no one would believe me. They would say, ‘That one, he’s dreaming.’” Instead, Chérèque said his goal was to “open spaces of negotiation with business leaders.”

He suggested that the only way to oppose Sarkozy’s pension cuts was by electing a government of the bourgeois “left.” Speaking of pensions, he said “we will continue to speak of them … in 2012,” the year of the next presidential election.

National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (UNSA) leader Jean Grosset warned against “methods of action that would not correspond to the situation,” and might lead the unions to “inflict a serious defeat upon themselves.”

General Confederation of Labor (CGT) rail official Didier Le Reste expressed “a bit of anger” at the unions’ decision, which he said could have been “firmer.” However, CGT leader Bernard Thibault declared that the movement was going through a “period of doubt.” He said he supported “more decentralized, polymorphic protests.”

That is, Thibault intends for the CGT to organize no broad sympathy action for workers still on strike against Sarkozy’s cuts. This is in line with Thibault’s isolation of last month’s oil and port strike, despite repeated strike-breaking by riot police, against which the CGT and other unions took no action. In other words, strikers are again to be stabbed in the back.

The unions no more want large protests or a powerful political appeal to emerge from today’s protest marches than do Sarkozy and his aides. All are hoping for a low turnout, to declare popular opposition to the cuts to be “over.”

The defeatism of the unions is not a response to any rise in popular support for Sarkozy’s policies, which remain as unpopular as ever. Sarkozy’s approval ratings stand at 31 percent, according to Le Parisien’s polls, and polls have repeatedly shown support of 65 to 70 percent for strike action against the cuts.

The unions fear that a genuine struggle against Sarkozy would be successful and would create rising expectations among the masses, producing a political movement they could not control. They are therefore signaling their hostility to demonstrations they have themselves called. According to experts interviewed by the media, the union leaders expected this outcome: they never intended to defeat Sarkozy’s cuts in the first place.

Note how these union traitors seem to be reading out of the same textbook as every other elitist traitor who posed as an advocate of the producers. American readers will ask, “Are you sure they aren’t corporatist Democrats?” Yes, they are. This type of criminal is universal, wherever corporatism has co-opted the alleged tribunes of the people. It’s why we must recognize that there’s no longer any such thing as an elite tribune of trickle-down (i.e. who thinks we can have elite monopolies on wealth and power, where who has any integrity or can be trusted at all. That’s why they used to be called “social fascists”.
It looks like the struggle is gradually being ground down. Double-crossed by those they trusted to be their leaders, but who were actually setting them up for betrayal; physically assaulted by riot police and fascist droogs; pushed down by the juggernaut of the criminal government machine; demoralized by the lack of response from the people of other countries, these loyal and self-respecting fighters for their country are trying to hang on.
That’s our same fight, you know. But we’ve been too lazy to join it.
Total Austerity For the Criminals, Not One Cent More From the People. 


  1. Update on the latest Day of Action:


    In spite of rain and police hostility, a million protesters still came out to oppose the banks. More and more are calling for a break with the treacherous neoliberal union and political “leadership”.

    Comment by Russ — November 8, 2010 @ 5:40 am

  2. A fine slogan, Russ.

    Godspeed to our French friends.

    Comment by jimmy james — November 8, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    • Thanks, Jimmy.

      Comment by Russ — November 8, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: