This is no ordinary industrial impasse. What is at stake is the very meaning of democracy and a worldwide struggle against the bankrupt, warmongering economic system known as “capitalism”.
© AFP 2016/ FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI
French workers and the wider French public should be lauded for their defiant fight-back against this vile system, which not only impoverishes the vast majority but which is also concurrently rail-roading the world towards another war, in the form of US-led NATO aggression against Russia and China.France depends on nuclear power for about 75 per cent of its national electricity supply. That these workers are mobilizing to turn out the lights is heightening a sense of crisis gripping the country, which has seen weeks of nationwide protests against deeply unpopular labour “reforms” being pushed through by the government of President Francois Hollande.
Industrial stoppages have already hit sea ports, airports, fuel refineries and petrol stations, with reports of French transport being brought to a standstill.
The immediate issue of resentment are changes to France’s labour code. The Hollande government – avowedly a “socialist” administration, and what a misnomer that is! – wants to amend decades-old legal protections for French workers.
Hollande and his overbearing “tough-guy” prime minister Manuel Valls claim that making it easier for businesses to “hire and fire” workers will reduce the country’s unemployment problem and thereby give a boost to a flagging national economy.
© AFP 2016/ ERIC FEFERBERG
These are basic rights that workers have struggled to gain over centuries of protest against greedy bosses and their rapacious profit-making. If French workers have relatively more of such rights compared with other industrial countries then that should be celebrated, not gutted.
Workers should not give up any of these rights. Instead, they should be consolidated and extended to all countries, not rolled back. Rolling back labour protections is “a race to the bottom” whereby workers around the world are pitted against one another to erode all rights.
Take some of the most oppressive economies in Asia and North America. So-called “in-work poverty” has reached epidemic proportions as wages and other basic rights such as weekend rest periods and paid holidays become erased.
This is why the French government is using draconian state emergency powers – under the guise of anti-terrorism measures – to send in riot-police squads to break up strikes. The right to strike is supposedly a legal right under the French constitution, yet the reactionary Hollande and his charlatan “socialists” are ripping up the constitution with a sinister gusto.
Polls show that the vast majority of French citizens are vehemently opposed to the new “hire and fire” laws that Hollande is pushing through without even a vote in the French parliament.
Notwithstanding this authoritarian, anti-democratic assault on workers and their families, Hollande and his thunder-faced premier Valls have the brass neck to claim that the country is being dictated to by workers, students, pensioners and the wider public.
The people of France are incensed by years of economic austerity forced down their throats since the global collapse of capitalism that ensued from the international financial crisis in 2008. Not just in France, but across Europe, North America and beyond.
Essential public services and entitlements have been relentlessly slashed and poverty has exploded while a tiny elite become ever-more obscenely rich.
Not satisfied with record levels of inequality, the global elite and their politician-puppets in governments are pushing for even deeper cuts against workers and the greater public.
The strikes, demonstrations and protests erupting across France are a harbinger that people have at last reached a critical mass for revolt against the anti-democratic dictate of a bankrupt economic system. A system that not only is destroying societies, but which is also driving countries towards fascist despotism and war.
It is no coincidence that in the socially imploding Western countries led by the United States and its European NATO partners there is also an insane march by the elites towards war with Russia and China.
© AFP 2016/ JUSTIN TALLIS
However, the defiance of French workers along with steadfast public support is having a notable effect. Hollande and Valls appear now to be partially backing down in their assault on labour rights. Valls this week suddenly come out to say that the putative “reforms” may be softened.
Football fan Valls is no doubt alarmed by reports that the 2016 Euro Soccer Championship due to kick off in two weeks in France could be jeopardized by the nationwide strikes. Last year, the French prime minister was embroiled in an embarrassing scandal when he used a private jet in order to make a hurried attendance at a soccer final in Paris.
French workers should not stop their defense of democratic rights by being fobbed off with token “softening” by Valls. They should push all the way to give Valls, Hollande and their rotten government the red card.
In doing so, all workers across Europe and the world should cheer on their French comrades. And likewise take up this new international fight back for democracy.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do notnecessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.