A translation of a report from A.V. in Marseille. Published on lernenimkamp website in 23 November 2018
The “hi-viz” movement started with motorists protesting against the increase in fuel prices following an increase in the tax on diesel fuel.
For years diesel fuel prices in France have been low, and this led many people to buy diesel vehicles. Now the taxes on diesel fuel are going up. Calls for road blocks started on Facebook and other social networks. These began on Saturday 17 November. According to government sources, 280,000 people gathered together at 2,000 different locations on that day, blocking roads, demonstrating and occupying motorways. The road blocks have persisted since then. Continue reading
The below article is a translation of an article appearing in French on the Mediapart website:
(CGT, Force Ouvriere and CFDT are the three main and separate union congresses in France, broadly-speaking divided along political lines, SUD is the common name for some more radical independent, breakaway unions. It is difficult to really know how best to translate “gilets jaunes” (yellow waistcoats), which applies to both the fuel-tax demonstrators and their “uniform”, the hi-viz safety jacket.)
“Hi-viz vests”: Unions slow to join the dance
23 November 2018: By Mathilde Goanec and Dan Israel.
If most national trade union leaders hold their noses when the “hi-viz vests” are mentioned, activists locally are taking the plunge citing the levels of social crisis. Nevertheless, there are still raw edges, mainly because of instances of racism and some of the demands about cutting taxes.
When we called CFDT member Pierre-Gael Laveder off the cuff, he replied (hi-viz vest on his back) straight from the Magny road-block at at Montceau-les-Mines (Saone-et-Loire). Last year, this man was one of the main actors in the fight against the closure of the Allia factory at Digoin. Now “newy redundant” he is a “hi-viz vest”.
However, Laurent Berger, the national secretary of his union, has not called on his troops the join the movement. On Monday 19 November he even denounced the “totalitarian” tone of some of the meetings. Nevertheless, concerned about the movement’s increasing popularity, the leader of the CFDT on Saturday proposed to Emmanuel Macron to quickly unite unions, the employers and associations “to set up a social pact for ecological conversion”, a proposition which the government turned down flat. All this means little to Pierre-Gael Laveder, who wears no label when he goes to the “hi-viz vests” meetings, quite happy to play locally the role of go-between his national secretary hankered after. Continue reading
First beat Le Pen, then fight Macron
By Adriano Vodslon in Paris
The Fifth Republic is on its last legs, and lots of people know this or sense it. The latest illustration of this is how hard the municipal officials organising the second round of the ballot found it to even staff the polling stations.
Repeated scandals and the treachery all governments have shown toward the majority population of employed people and workers have speeded up the Fifth Republic’s decay. It was the great movement against the so-called Labour Law which caused the end of this form of bosses’ government. Even before the campaign started – a campaign which all the media described as “out of the ordinary” – it was clear there would be a political upheaval. In fact, each in their own way, all four candidates with any hope of reaching the second proclaimed a break with the Fifth Republic. Le Pen wanted to do it by making “the Nation” a constitutional priority and instituting State racism towards immigrants; Macron through ruling by decree backed by a parliamentary majority drawn from the Republicans (the rump of the former Gaullist party) the remnants of the Socialist Party (wiped out in this campaign) or from businesspeople, designed to rubber-stamp his plans to break up social provision and pass laws favourable to the bourgeoisie; Fillon for his part was weighed down by his corrupt past and more and more relied upon the more radical wing of Republicans, quite prepared to destroy their party in order to save his candidacy and get a shot at destroying workers’ legal rights; and finally Mélenchon had already spent several years calling for a Constituent Assembly to found a Sixth Republic, while carefully avoiding saying which class should prevail therein. Continue reading
By Balazs Nagy February 2013 (First published in Workers International Journal No. 1)
It would be very wrong to judge France’s military intervention in Mali on the basis of the deafening and unanimous press and television chorus. They think this act of war was inevitable and celebrate it. It galvanised them unhesitatingly and pompously to laud President Hollande as a great leader — the very same politician they used to dismiss as flabby.
But it would be even worse to put any trust this “leader’s” own pronouncements, or those of his aides and their allies in Europe and across the world. Continue reading
Not long ago, Nicolas Sarkozy was unceremoniously bundled out of office. Now he’s back on TV in all his pomp and glory. France’s second channel (chaine 2) is supposed to be a public enterprise run by the state, or successive governments, but in any case at taxpayers’ expense. Now it gives Sarkozy the red carpet treatment. The way they transformed him from a duplicitous agent of the bourgeoisie into a messianic liberator was amazing and shockingly servile. One faithful retainer, Yves Jégo, was moved to comment in astonishment, and with some justice: “It can’t be right to give 45 minutes on a current affairs TV show to a Presidential contender” (Le Monde
, 23 September 2014).
Now, it was Sarkozy who appointed the boss of this channel, and the current President, Hollande, was daft enough to keep him in the job. This man virtually prostrated himself in front of Sarkozy, and the simpering nonentity who conducted the interview like a willing stooge more or less got down on all fours. It may not make much sense, but that’s the way things go in this general political climate. Continue reading
The surprise results of the recent European elections mean all political organisations have to re-evaluate the overall situation and their own policies.
Complete bankruptcy of bourgeois Europe
Two highly revealing and significant facts stand out about these elections, as a whole and in each individual country. First, and certainly foremost, is the particularly high level of abstentions (approaching 60% in France!), concentrated, moreover, in conurbations where workers and working people live. Abstentions were clearly higher, it needs to be said, in the countries of Eastern Europe (more than 70% in the great majority of them, over 80% in Slovakia and the Czech Republic). This clearly reflects their secondary position within European “unity”.
The second is the unprecedented and ubiquitous growth of fascist or semi-fascist oppositions, a far right which actually came first in certain countries (France, UK, Denmark).
Apart from anything else, the first and most obvious conclusion is that the vast majority of Europeans are turning their backs on and definitively rejecting that monstrous construct called “European union”. This central conclusion cannot be queried or challenged just by reference to the obviously broad range of views among those who abstained, or even voted for the far-right. Of course each of their various ̶ and sadly all too often reactionary, retrograde or simply backward ̶ motives is crucially significant in its own way. We should note, however, that many of those who voted for the far-right probably did so in protest against that Europe, rather than out of support for fascist ideology. Be that as it may, these results express an irrevocable verdict on the part of Europeans as a whole: They are absolutely opposed to the bourgeoisie’s pseudo-Europe, which they massively reject and will not tolerate. Continue reading
By Balazs Nagy
, April 2014
The entire French press is unanimous. Whether left or right in their traditional political colouration – the difference is actually pretty superficial – they compare the so-called socialist party’s resounding discomfiture in the municipal elections to Napoleons historic disaster on the Berezina River in Russia in 1812, the prelude to his ultimate defeat. For once the accuracy of their judgement is beyond dispute. So our first response is above all to see what we can learn. Its a perfectly straightforward and normal thing to do, although our conclusions differ noticeably from everyone else’s.
First of all it is important to emphasise that elections change absolutely nothing in the fundamentals of the capitalist social system or, therefore, in the overall situation. This view is sharply opposed to the popular belief carefully fostered by the usual politicians and organisations of the left. Even if elections do change that systems form or shape, they move within the framework it imposes and are an integral part of it. Whether municipal, parliamentary or European, they are just part of how the (most democratic!) system in place functions, while remaining profoundly bound to the way it moves and works. Continue reading
By Balazs Nagy
, April 2014
The recent local government elections and the formation of a new government are a good opportunity, indeed a direct incentive, to say more about the mean, twisted and nasty way the Hollande team running the country think. Their politico-social reasoning is very simple, not to say simplistic. It is what you might call classical social-democratic thinking of a kind well-known over the last hundred years or more.
Resolute defenders of decadent capitalism
The main thing that really marks these people out, among all those who claim to be on the side of working people, is that they present capitalism as an eternal system whose existence you just have to accept. So according to this disgrace to the name of socialist, everything we do is necessarily limited and determined by the framework of capitalism and its general rules. But as a consolation to working people, according to this conception, the capitalist system can be put right, amended and improved, and our job is to contribute to that. This cheapskate philosophy which has long been selling the mission of liberating the working class for a mess of pottage still had some limited validity when, in return for this sell-out, the bourgeoisie was still able to concede various actual reforms. But imperialism is the period of capitalisms decline – something which social democrats obstinately deny – in which, because it is exhausted, this system is organically unable to concede the slightest reform. Continue reading
By Bob Archer
Politicians and the media talked a great deal about earthquakes as the results of last months elections to the European parliament were published. This was especially true in France and the UK, where the established parties were beaten at the polls by the Front National (FN) and the UK Independence Party respectively.
Failing to assuage voters anger could mean the erosion, if not the destruction of the union in a matter of years, said veteran Austrian journalist Erhard Stackl, writing in The New York Times International Weekly. In some countries, the vote against an integrated Europe was profound.
He consoled himself with the observation that nevertheless two-thirds of the votes were cast for pro-European parties. And in Germany, the economic powerhouse of the 28-nation bloc, Chancellor Merkel and her allies still command a comfortable majority.
Smarting under a series of lost seats in the European parliament, many established bourgeois parties needed all the consolation on offer. Continue reading
By Balazs Nagy
, May 2014
The forthcoming European elections will no doubt produce unprecedented advances by the French Front National (FN). It gained considerable strength by its spectacular advances in the recent municipal elections, which have clearly given it a head-start in the European elections. So a critical examination of its programme, in particular in relation to Europe, is not only vital in itself but allows us to clarify what the essential problems for Europe are. It also allows to look at all the other parties European policies.
Now, to decode what the FN’s orientation towards Europe is and what it means, we must first of all describe its national policy. We must do this not on the basis of that party’s own deceptive slogans or what other people say about it, but on the firm basis of the only objective criterion for political evaluation, i.e. its class character.
What is the Front National’s real class character?
Actually, we need to establish clearly what the FN’s social basis is and indicate unequivocally which class’s interests are expressed in its programme and activities. This is the fundamental question which politicians and commentators either evade or completely muddle up, but it is the most important one. Continue reading