A World-Wide French Connection

Finian Cunningham
ision this week by French workers at the country’s nuclear power stations to join in nationwide industrial strikes is a welcome blow for democracy. Not just in France, but across the world.

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”.

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.

The French government is premising its arguments entirely on the viewpoint of capitalist enterprise, which makes the pursuit of financial profit the sole, sacrosanct criterion for everything. What about the rights of workers, their families and the public at large?Why should workers be forced to toil longer hours for less pay? Why should elderly workers be obliged to forego pensions, retirement and spend more of their lives in a factory?

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.

French labour rights are something therefore that should be staunchly defended in the interests of all workers around the world. What is happening in France has crucial significance internationally. The so-called “reforms” that Hollande’s government is forcing through are being egged on by international capital and its cheerleaders in Wall Street, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. If the Paris vassals-in-office succeed, it will be henceforth open season on all workers across Europe and elsewhere.

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.

This is an audacious, fundamental attack on the meaning of democracy. If citizens are opposed to dictates from a government and its faceless foreign allies among global banks, then that is the people’s prerogative. That is democracy. But Hollande and his ruling cronies turn reality on its head, by claiming that this democratic principle is null and void.The protests in France are about much more than technical “reforms” to the labour code. It’s about the very existence of democracy.

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.

Historically, when capitalism goes into its recurring systemic seizures from chronic poverty and inequality it always seeks to break out of its impasse through war. We saw this before in the death throes towards the First and Second World Wars. We are seeing the same systemic failure again driving a US-led war with Russia and China.It really is contemptible when incompetent, fatuous politicians like France’s Hollande and Valls tell their people that they must accept attacks on their rights and inevitably more poverty, while at the same time these same Washington-minions endorse more militarism and aggression towards Russia.

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.


All French Aviation Unions to Strike June 3-5 Against Labor Reform
France on Fire: Transit Workers Riot Over EU-Backed Labor Reforms
French Unions Announce Strikes Against Labor Reform in May, June
Up to 400,000 Took Part in Labor Reform Rallies Across France on Thursday
trade union, nuclear power plants, labor reform, strike, protest, European Union, Francois Hollande, Europe, France


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