France: Mass protests sweep France

The massive 7 March demonstrations, when at least half a million protested, marked a turning point.

Hundreds of thousands of students, workers, the unemployed and young people have taken to the streets all over France.

They are protesting against a law (CPE) which will allow bosses to sack young people under the age of 26 at any time, for any reason.

On Saturday 11 March police stormed Sorbonne University in Paris to break up an occupation by students there. Further mass protests have been called for 16, 18 and 23 March. Alex Rouillard of Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI France) explains.

Mass protests sweep France

The violent repression of the Sorbonne occupation showed the government is frightened that the strikes will broaden. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin thinks we are idiots and has shown his contempt for young people and workers.

Soon the strikes will have affected all universities, they are gaining ground in secondary schools and more and more workers are saying ’why don’t we strike as well?’

The CPE will allow young people to be sacked at any time in the first two years that they’re taken on. Everyone understands that after young people, all workers will be subject to the same kind of contract. That’s why a large majority of the population reject the CPE.

All the deep discontent which people have is coalescing around this issue. We’ve had enough of policies that serve the rich.

The situation is beginning to change because of the determination of the striking students. What is needed now is for everyone to come out on strike together. We have to hit the government and the capitalists where it will really make them tremble – in the economy. It’s the workers that can do this by going on strike and halting production.

More and more people are thinking this way. The national student coordinating body, in a declaration adopted on 11 March stated: "We ask the trade unions to make 23 March a general strike day with a central demonstration in Paris".

The unions in Bouches du Rhone have also launched a common statement saying: "the next stage in the mobilisation must be a united appeal for a national general strike together with the youth".

Unfortunately, the national trade union leaders (notably the CGT and CFDT) refuse to clearly call for a general strike.

Hundreds of university and school students are available to participate in and organise the struggles. We need committees of mobilisation everywhere that allow real democratic control over the strikes by the people who are on strike themselves. Without such structures it will be the same people who take decisions between mass meetings and demonstrations.

The PS (Socialist Party) is trying to take advantage of the anger against the government in order to be re-elected in 2007. But it doesn’t have a programme in the interests of workers and young people. The PCF (Communist Party) sounds more radical but will not break its ties with the PS because it wants to keep its MPs’ seats in parliament.

Gauche Revolutionnaire believes that we need a real alternative, a new party to lead struggles and get rid of capitalism which is the root cause of insecurity, poverty and exploitation. Such a party can come out of these strikes. The mobilisation and strike committees, while building for the struggles, are beginning to raise demands that are against capitalism.

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March 2006