France: Larzac: Rally shows discontent in France

30 years after the first big demonstration against the military bases in Larzac, southwest France, over 350,000 people met there again this summer, three times more than expected.

The camp was organised by José Bové’s farmers’ organisation, some trade unions, immigrant organisations and environmental activists.

This diversity was reflected in the discussions, even though the main issue was the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in Cancun, Mexico, where a debate will take place on agricultural policies. Many at the Larzac camp were part of the anti-globalisation movement but the workers’ movement was also represented, notably by the teachers and some other trade unions.

But the massive attendance was not just because of the beautiful weather or Manu Chao’s concert. The French government’s anti-social policies have led to a more radical consciousness amongst broader layers of the population. The recent demonstrations and strikes against the education reforms mobilised between 1.5 and 2 million demonstrators. Unemployment is rising and is now officially 9.6% of the active population. The new school year will lead to new actions, given the reforms that were announced by the Minister of Education. One of his last ideas was to abolish a national holiday to have extra money for the elderly!

If we look at the social movements in France and the lack of a political alternative, the need for a mass workers’ party is very obvious. But the trade unions present in Larzac didn’t use the occasion to launch an appeal in that direction. José Bové announced he was quitting as head of the Farmers Confederation in April 2004 and also said he would not take part in the coming local, national or European elections. This is while there are huge possibilities for a real left-wing opposition.

The movements need to be brought together around a clear socialist program, which could become a focal point for everyone who wants to fight the present government.

WTO summit in Mexico

Different subjects will be discussed during the WTO summit from 10-14 September. The summit is a continuation of the Doha summit and will mainly discuss agriculture. While 70% of the population in the ex-colonial world is dependant on agriculture, the US and Europe continue to support their own local agriculture by over $300 billion a year. This allows them to sell their products cheaply and is ruining the farmers in the ex-colonial world.

The summit in Cancun will see a fight between the different imperialist blocs with Pascal Lamy as main negotiator for Europe and Robert Zoellick for the US. The three points of negotiation will include a ban on subsidies on exports, a lowering of the internal subsidies and lower taxes on imports.

The imperialist blocs however want to protect their own economies. Therefore there probably won’t be many concessions for the poorer countries. At best there will be some hypocritical measures to hide the cynical logic of a system that is responsible for misery and exploitation.

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September 2003