50th anniversary: May 68

With major strike action by railworkers, and occupations, sit-ins and demonstrations at universities taking place in France in response to ‘reform’ of public universities and the public railway company SNCF (see below), comparisons are being drawn to May 1968, one of the largest uprisings in French history, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. Drastically different political conditions make these comparisons superficial. Seamus Padraic revisits the events of May 68.

 

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France: Workers under attack

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Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against Macron's reforms in Paris

Following the publication of new unemployment data, the bourgeois press in France is celebrating a reduction in unemployment, and the creation of 250,000 private sector jobs in 2017. Hidden behind the figures is increasing insecurity for millions of French workers as Macron’s République En Marche (REM) government continues its efforts to solve the crisis gripping French capitalism at the expense of the working class. Séamus Padraic reports.

 

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France and Britain reinforce racist border controls

Calais Jungle Evictions March 2016
Calais Jungle Evictions March 2016

In January a UK-France Summit at Sandhurst Military Academy agreed a series of treaties, including a new agreement to reinforce joint policing of the border against migrants attempting to cross from France to Britain. This continues on the path set by the Le Touqet treaty, signed by the Labour government in 2003. Le Touqet extended British border enforcement to northern France, and has been followed by a continuous campaign of state violence that has claimed at least 200 lives, including at least three deaths since December 2017, injuring many more and leaving thousands of people stranded indefinitely in squalid conditions.

 

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France: Macron sets out to bust unions

Since his election French president Emmanuel Macron has been busy taking advantage of the clear majority (350 out of 577) held by his party La Republique En Marche (REM) and its junior partner Mouvement Democratique (MoDem), following the collapse of the major parties after the presidential election. The REM government has set about cutting taxes and attacking the code du travail, France’s extensive set of labour protections, with the president vowing not to yield to ‘the lazy, the cynics, or the extremists’.

The five orders which make up the reforms were signed by the president on 21 September, and should go before the national assembly by 20 November. Their purpose is to gut the power of the unions, which remain relatively strong and principled by European standards. Whereas currently workplace negotiations must involve a union representative, the reform will permit businesses to negotiate with a delegated employee or a ‘committee’ of employees. It will also seriously limit tribunal payouts.

 

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France: Macron on Africa – denying French imperialism

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Fourteen African countries, including Burkina Faso (above), continue to pay colonial tax to France

On 8 July at the G20 conference in Hamburg, French President Emmanuel Macron was asked about the possibility of creating for Africa something like the Marshall Plan which was used to fund European reconstruction following the Second World War. The ‘social-liberal’ president responded by stating that the continent’s contemporary problems are ‘civilizational’ rather than developmental. A major source of the continent’s troubles, according to this ‘centrist’, was African women each having ‘seven or eight’ children. He added that a ‘simple money transfer’ is not the answer. These comments are a reactionary denial of the root of Africa’s problems – imperialism.

A 2014 report by Curtis Research, Honest Accounts? The true story of Africa’s billion dollar losses, found that 47 countries classified as ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ by the World Bank suffer a net loss of $58bn a year.1 While $134bn flows in, predominately in the form of loans, foreign investment and ‘aid’, $192bn flows out, mainly in the form of profits of neo-colonial foreign companies, tax dodging and the costs of adapting to climate change. Africa is being drained of the resources it needs for development to maintain the wealth of the imperialist powers.

 

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