After the push from the extreme right in Austria and Holland, the Brexit vote in the Uk and the victory of Donald Trump in the USA, France could be the next big power to see a populist movement at the gates of power, or at least to seriously shake up the electoral machine. While the more lucid factions of the bourgeoisie, both right and left, are not at all just folding their arms faced with this objective threat to the state and the ruling class, the scenario of a victory by marine Le pen at the next presidential election is taken sufficiently seriously to mobilise the European governments and send shivers through the financial markets. Such an event, at the heart of the European motor, would pose a major danger to the EU, much greater than Brexit. It would be a disaster for Germany and all the pro-European governments, potentially menacing the imperialist balance of power at the historic centre of capitalism.
At a time when the French government has just extended the state of emergency to 2017, when an atmosphere of suspicion and fear is pressing hard on a population still feeling the shock of a series of terrorist attacks, a new and highly demagogic ‘debate’ is reinforcing the current anti-Islam campaign. It’s been in the national headlines and has had considerable international coverage. We’re referring to the ‘burkini ban’ on a number of beaches. This retrograde controversy has engaged the whole political class, from local mayors in coastal towns to the highest state authorities, all of them, right and left, plunging their hands into the whole ideological mess.
At the very heart of the great capitalist nations, barbarism is reaching unbearable levels. In a world in chaos, where more and more parts of the globe have been plunged into terrorism and war, Europe has been presented as a haven of peace since 1945. So now the fortress has to be protected by walls and barbed wire from this ‘alien’ barbarism – in reality, the effects of the murderous confrontations in which the weapons and bombs of the great democratic powers have played a particularly active role. But now, like a boomerang, the horror is returning to the historical centre of capitalism. Not only are the world conflicts penetrating the walls of Schengen, but the violence that has been accumulating and internalised in a whole part of the ‘local’ population has exploded to the surface.
“A trial of strength”! A “War of attrition”! “Rising tensions”!
These are the kind of terms the media has been using in the last few weeks to describe the apparent confrontation between the governments and the unions over the “El Khomri” labour law. The conflict has been presented in a spectacular way by the media. It even reached the point where, for a few hours, the government banned a union demo prior to allowing it after all – something that hasn’t been seen for 50 years.
A scene filmed on 24 March on a mobile phone did the rounds of social media: three police holding a schoolboy on the ground and when the young boy got up a policeman punched him violently in the face. And this is only one example among others. Police repression has in fact been ferocious throughout the movement against the El Khomri law. And with the approval of a government that pretends to be ‘Socialist’ but which has for several months been establishing a climate of extra security. Each demonstration, each blockade of school, university or refinery, was the theatre for brutality by the forces of order. The young generation has above all paid the price for these muscular interventions, beatings and provocations of all kinds. It’s as if it has become necessary to impress the children of workers with the force of bourgeois order from a very young age.
This article was written by our section in France as a response to cases of cruelty against animals exposed in French slaughter-houses. But the same horrors have also come to light in British abattoirs, for example in 2015 following the secret filming of what goes on behind closed doors at a slaughter-house in Butterton, Staffs. As the article explains, cruelty to animals is inseparable from cruelty to human beings, and both are inseparable from the capitalist mode of production, where everything is subordinated to the drive for profit.
Gatherings every evening of several thousand people, especially at the Place de la République in Paris: the Nuit Debout movement has been in the headlines since 31 March. These are meetings of people from different horizons – high school pupils and university students, workers and the precariously employed, unemployed and pensioners, all sharing a desire to get together, to discuss, to close ranks against the adversities of this system. The sincerity of many of the participants is undeniable; they are indignant about all kinds of injustice and at root they aspire to a different world, a more human world founded on solidarity. However, Nuit Debout is not developing their fight or their consciousness. On the contrary, this movement is leading them into a dead end and strengthening the most conformist outlooks. Worse than that, Nuit Debout is a vehicle for the most nauseating ideas, like the personalisation of the evils of society, blaming them on a few representatives like bankers and oligarchs. In this way Nuit Debout is not only misleading all those who are taking part for honest reasons, but is already a blow by the bourgeoisie against the consciousness of the whole working class.
The terror attacks in Paris bring the barbarity of imperialist war and the social decomposition of capitalist society, expressed in a morbid ideology worthy of Nazism, to the heart of the European proletariat. There is only one answer: "Proletarians of all lands, unite!"
Refugees and other migrants wanting to come to Britain congregate in the ‘Jungle’, a shanty town near Calais. For over a decade several thousand people have been living there, or prior to that in the official Sangatte camp that was destroyed in 2002 at the request of the UK. They are there in the hope of being able to get into the UK through the Channel Tunnel. This is where Britain, like so many other countries, has built a barbed wire fence to protect its borders and keep out refugees, except that it only needs to defend the entrance to the Eurotunnel and not a land border. The refugees around Calais returned to the news over the summer when striking French ferry workers blocked the entrance to the Eurotunnel, causing queues of cars and lorries that people desperate to get to the Britain tried to climb onto.
We are publishing here the resolution on the social situation in France adopted at the 21st Congress of RI. This document goes back over our analysis of the balance of forces between the classes, with the aim of arriving at a better understanding of the underlying reasons for the relative social calm which has existed since the movement against pension reforms.
Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski, among the twenty killed in the attacks in Paris on 7 and 9 January, these four were a kind of symbol. They were the priority targets. And why? Because they stood for intelligence against stupidity, reason against fanaticism, revolt against submission, courage against cowardice, sympathy against hatred, and for that specifically human quality: humour and laughter against conformism and dull self-righteousness.
The social movement in France has an impact on the workers of all countries, just as the movement across the world influence the situation in France. As we will see, this international dimension of the proletarian struggle is well known to the bourgeoisie, which in the face of its mortal enemy, the proletariat, is capable of going beyond its national divisions in order to coordinate its efforts and come to each other’s aid.
From 2007, France had a president, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose arrogance and stupidity knew no limits. His open love of money, his violent tirades against the young people of the poor suburbs and the immigrants, his provocations, his propensity for talking about nothing but himself...all this and more created a very strong feeling of exasperation throughout the population. It was thus no great surprise that the presidential elections ended in his defeat. His replacement, the ‘socialist’ François Hollande, relied almost exclusively on this anti-Sarkozyism to win. Prudently avoiding any promises of a bright tomorrow.
We are publishing here an article written by our French section in Revolution Internationale 420 in response to the very widespread debate about the tactic of the oil refinery blockades during last autumn’s struggles against pension ‘reforms’.
The movement of struggle against the pension reforms has lasted eight months so far. Workers and employees of all sectors have regularly come into the streets in their millions. Since September more or less radical strike movements have appeared here and there, expressing a profound and growing discontent. This mobilisation is the broadest in France since the crisis which shook the world financial system in 2007-8.
Published here is a translation of the statement of a witness to the police repression meted out against students, youth and workers at a demonstration last month in Lyon, France against the pension “reform” and the attacks of the French ruling class. The French police have also picked up on their British counterpart’s tactic of “kettling”, particularly using it to prevent any collective reflection on the best means of struggle that is emerging in minorities of the working class fed up with being marched up and down and then sent home by the unions.
These last few months, the French media have reported copiously on the suicides of France Telecom employees (33 in 18 months, almost two per month). It's not the first time that the news has headlined cases of suicide at work or because of work. The same thing happened two years ago at Peugeot and Renault.
Twenty-three suicides (plus 13 attempted) in eighteen months at France Telecom! Here's a new, tragic testimony to the fact that proletarians are more and more confronted by a climate of terror and unbearable pressures at work.
On 23 September, in Calais, a whole phalanx of journalists and cameramen took part in a major media carnival organised by the French government: the evacuation of the ‘Jungle' a refuge for thousands of migrants living in abject misery in tents or under trees, barely surviving thanks to a few benevolent souls.
We are publishing an article from Revolution Internationale about a strike against threatened redundancies that took place earlier this year. Even though it was only a strike in one local factory in Toulouse it has a wider significance, particularly because it shows how workers' efforts to organise themselves come up against the union obstacle in a very concrete and daily manner.
The young generation of the working class faces some of the worst attacks on its living standards, shows the tendency to search for solidarity with other workers, to organise itself in assemblies. Recent student struggles in France and Barcelona reinforce the lessons of struggles in Greece last December and against the CPE in France three years ago.
The strike that began on 20th January in Guadeloupe has made its mark in Martinique from the 5th February and threatens to spread to Reunion and Guyana, the other overseas ‘départements' of the old French empire. This is not an exotic conflict: it is truly an authentic expression of the international resurgence of class struggle.
Following May 68 new groups appeared that drew on the experience of the communist left. In fact, the elements who understood that Trotskyism had become a sort of left wing of Stalinism turned much more towards councilism than towards the Italian Left. There were several reasons for this.
In the majority of the numerous books and television programmes on May 1968 that have occupied the media recently, the international character of the student movement that affected France during the course of this month has been underlined.