by George Mitralias
After four years of apathy, lethargy and inactivity of French society, which coincide with the four years (2012-2016) of the presidency of Francois Hollande, everything suggests now that the ongoing rapid awakening will lead to one of those volcanic eruptions - for many decades now - by the youth and labor movement of France! And we dare to predict that this could happen in the next few weeks, in mid April or May 2016.
So, "everything started" when the Hollande-Valls duo and the socialist-liberal government, made the most fatal mistake of an arrogant power: being sure that the French society was addicted to drink the bitter cup of their extreme neoliberal counter-reforms without reacting, they added a drop that made the glass to overflow. And because this fatal drop is fundamentally changing the "Labour Code" aimed at gnawing or even the complete elimination of the most basic labor rights been conquered in the last 100 years, we see the past two weeks an overflowing rage of the French youth and French workers on the streets of hundreds of French cities!
It started on March 9, when half a million students and workers marched throughout France demanding the withdrawal of the government bill. The second mobilization was a week later, on March 17, and this time took to the streets 150,000 pupils and students who are anxious about their future, as the bill promises a completely bad life into a nightmare job jungle. According to the organizers, both these two days of mobilization, as the one on March 24, is only a "warm-up" process of the movement in order to reach large popular mobilization, which is set for March 31, ready to impose a shift of the balance of power which will force the government and the employers to withdraw the bill permanently.
The first thing that impresses and makes these protests stand out, is the general sense that until now we had rather simple pre-earthquake vibrations that presage the upcoming major social earthquake. Almost everyone from the student unions to anonymous students and especially students who demonstrate and occupy hundreds of their high schools, all admit publicly that the rage and determination is proportional to social ruins that have accumulated the neoliberal policies by all, without exception, the French Governments, the Right and "Left", in the last 15-20 years.
The fact that we are dealing with "something big and deep" indirectly confirmed by both by the - unexpected and therefore impressive - revival of May '68 in the images of banners and slogans of the youth demonstrations, and by the fact that the protests had been imposed on the trade union leaders by the base of their organizations - from the "bottom". Specifically, even the leaders of the most active trade unions (CGT, FO, Sud) initially requested only some "changes" to the controversial bill, not its withdrawal. For that, they called for a demonstration only on 31 March, when things would had been determined, just to maintain the tradition of the struggles.
Eventually, it was the 'anonymous' autonomous initiatives, such as that of a feminist who wrote and circulated a text/complaint against the bill, for which, within days, more than one million signatures (!) have been collected. This action pushed the youth unions (UNEF for students, and FIDL for pupils) and later the labor unions to be mobilized but also to radicalize their demands.
Indicative of this radicalization, is the fact that the leaderships of most of these unions, youth and workers, are traditionally loyal to the ruling Socialist party and several of their executives are members of this party. Their current harsh confrontation with the government and the party leadership, is merely indicative of the great crisis of the French Social Democracy, which also reflected in the - historically unique - collapse of the popularity of the Hollande-Valls duo, which is now consistently below 20%!
Yet, the comic but also tragic is that in these days, the leadership of the French Communist Party has chosen to give the final blow to the Left Front (Front de Gauche), and promised the engagement with the Socialist party! How? By stating not only that it will participate with the General Secretary Pierre Laurent in the primaries of the Socialist party, for the emergence of the 'common candidate of the Left' in the presidential elections of 2017, but also, that it will support the winner of these primaries, who will be, of course, Francois Hollande, or even even worse, his successor! A minimum specious way to surrender to a Social Democracy in historical crisis, which, additionaly, demonstrates a work that would envy even Sarkozy.
In any case, the last word now belongs not to the leaders, but to those at the "bottom" who seem determined not to compromise with the small retreats of the Valls government and lead their struggle until the final victory. In other words, something is finally shaken in the French society. This is nothing but the accumulated anger of millions of citizens, led by the youth, who promise a sequel both exciting and promising. In this gray and day by day more and more gray Europe of unbearable austerity, a massive, radical movement by the French youth and workers would be exactly what we need to regain courage and optimism. Here and throughout our continent!
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