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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French imperialism finds a safe pair of hands

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Since the election of Emmanuel Macron on 7 May 2017 the new President has moved quickly to approach the problems faced by French imperialism, which is not recovering well from the crash of 2007-08, especially compared to its major European partner, Germany. Since the introduction of the euro in 1999, the profitability of French capital has plummeted by 27% compared to Germany’s 21% rise. Investment has stagnated, leading to low productivity growth and an unemployment rate of around 10%. French imperialism also faces intensifying rivalries between imperialist blocs, expressed by Brexit, Trump, and calls for greater European integration. Macron has two main tasks: regenerating French capitalism by attacking the working class, and shoring up the future of the eurozone and France’s relationship with its major partner, Germany.

 

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French election: banker beats racist

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On Sunday 7 May France went to the polls for the second and final round of the presidential election. The country faced a choice between the two highest scoring candidates from the first round: Marine Le Pen of the racist, right-wing populist Front National (FN) and Emmanuel Macron of the neoliberal ‘centrist’ party En Marche! Macron, a former investment banker won by a landslide with 66.1% of votes cast (excluding spoilt ballots).

 

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French election: ‘The banker’ and ‘the racist’ through to run-off

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On 23 April France went to the polls for the first round of the presidential election. No candidate secured a majority and the second round will take place on 7 May between the two highest scoring candidates: Marine Le Pen of the right-wing populist Front National (FN); and Emmanuel Macron, a former banker and economy minister in Manuel Valls’ Parti Socialiste (PS) government. This will be the first time in 60 years that the second round has not included either of the main two parliamentary parties.

 

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French election exposes splits in the ruling class

The French economy is not recovering well from the crash of 2007/8, especially compared to its major European partner, Germany. The French economy only grew by 1.1% in 2016, compared to Germany’s 1.9%. Since the introduction of the Euro in 1999, the profitability of French capital has plummeted by 27%, compared to Germany’s 21% rise. Investment has therefore stagnated, leading to low productivity growth and an unemployment rate of around 10%. The French ruling class has found itself unable to rule in the old way, and so social democracy has collapsed. The Socialist Party presided over the end of France’s famously short working week (see FRFI 251, ‘France: Working class battles ruling Socialist Party’) and has struggled to contain mass unrest among black, Arab and Muslim people. The superprofits of les trentes glorieuses (the thirty ‘golden years’ after 1945) are no longer available to sustain a large labour aristocracy and so its political vehicle, the Socialist Party, is becoming historically obsolete.

Into this gap have stepped two political forces: the Front National (FN) which is drawing votes from the most reactionary elements of the labour aristocracy, and the neoliberal Emmanuel Macron, who is claiming the middle class votes that in 2012 were cast for François Hollande, now the most unpopular president in French history with a 4% approval rating.

 

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French youth fight back against police racism

Against a background of years of racist police brutality, France has again experienced an uprising among black, Arab and Muslim youth. On 2 February 2017 four police officers arrived on a housing estate in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a Parisian ‘banlieue’ (suburban working class district) and started asking youths for identity papers. When one youth, identified subsequently only as ‘Théo’ refused, he was forced to the ground. He was then beaten while he had racist abuse hurled at him, and finally he was sodomised with a baton to such an extent that he had to have emergency surgery and stay in hospital for 60 days. The officer accused of rape claims that it was an ‘accident’ and all four contend that they stopped Théo because they thought he might be an illegal immigrant.

 

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France – secularism becomes racism

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On 28 July David Lisnard, the mayor of Cannes, issued a temporary ban on the wearing of ‘ostentatious’ religious clothing at the beach. The order read that access to the beach would, up until 31 August, be prohibited to anyone dressed ‘incorrectly’, not ‘respectful of good manners and secularism’ and not ‘respectful of the health and safety rules of the public beach.’ Another 30 or so coastal towns swiftly introduced similar orders, now generally referred to as ‘burkini bans’. One such town was Nice, where on 14 July 86 people had been killed and 434 injured in a terrorist attack. This attack, along with those in Paris in January and July, has been seized upon by the French state to justify increasing violence and racism against French Muslims.

On 26 August, ruling against a decision of the resort town of Villeneuve-Loubet, the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, effectively set a precedent that the ‘burkini ban’ is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, many mayors who have issued such bans are refusing to lift them. In Corsica, the local Bastia court has upheld the ban at Sisco, despite the Council of State ruling. Sisco was the third town to issue a ban, following anti-Muslim violence over the weekend of 13 August.

 

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France: Working class continues the fight against ruling Socialist Party

Since we reported on the fight against the El Khomri labour law in France (see FRFI 251), resistance has not let up. On 29 August, an Île-de-France (Paris region) inter-union meeting, attended by unions including CGT, FO, FSU, SOLIDAIRES, UNEF, UNL and FIDL, decided to hold a demonstration at 2pm on 15 September at Place de la Bastille, marching to Place de la République, to fight for the repeal of the reactionary anti-labour El Khomri law, which was enacted on 8 August. People took to the streets en masse once again. 

 

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France: Working class battles ruling Socialist Party

France working class battles ruling socialist party

On 17 March 2016 a new labour bill was introduced into the French National Assembly. The El Khomri Law (nicknamed after the Labour Minister who introduced it) proposes extending the maximum working day from 10 to 12 hours, and working week from 48 to 60 hours. Currently, overtime pay begins at 35 hours per week, and is 25% for the first eight hours (up to 43) and 50% for anything more. The proposed law allows ‘collective bargaining’ agreements to reduce overtime pay to just 10% and makes it easier for employers to fire workers, and severely limit compensation available from tribunals, where there is currently no limit.

Deputies on the ‘left’ of the ruling Socialist Party offered mild resistance. On 14 April, President Hollande vowed to push ahead with the bill. On 10 May, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that the government would force the bill through the Assembly without a vote, using Article 49.3 of the constitution. On 11 May, Socialist Party deputies who opposed the law were faced with the choice of opposing the law or opposing their government in a vote of confidence. They sided with the government, allowing Valls to push the bill into the Senate, where it awaits approval.

 

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Paris killings unleash hypocrisy and repression

World leaders flocked to Paris to support 'freedom of expression'

Between 7 and 9 January three gunmen carried out a succession of high profile terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 17 people. These attacks, in the heart of one of the capital cities of western imperialism, led to an immediate reaction across Europe and beyond. Social media latched on to the solidarity message ‘Je suis Charlie’ and world leaders, including Cameron, Merkel. Rajoy, Netanyahu, and Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, flocked to Paris to be photographed marching in support of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘western values’. Nicki Jameson reports.

 

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France and the recolonisation of Mali

euFight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 11 January 2013 France attacked Mali in West Africa with helicopter gunships. Four days later the French government said it would increase its ground troops in Mali from 750 to 1,400 and then to 2,500. 50 tanks and armed trucks crossed into Mali from Côte d’Ivoire. The French government says the ‘operation will last as long as is necessary’. The recolonisation of Mali has begun. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

 

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Côte d’Ivoire: French foothold in oil-rich frontier

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On 11 April 2011, former President of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Laurent Gbagbo was apprehended by French special forces at an underground bunker in the presidential residence in Abidjan. Gbagbo, his wife Simone, son Michel and 50 close associates were handed over to the ‘rebel’ forces of presidential rival Alassane Ouattara and paraded on TV. French intelligence knew the exact location of bunker. Ouattara will be installed as president by France.

France has signalled to its fellow imperialist rivals that it intends to keep hold of its neo-colony in West Africa, a major source of oil. With Britain and the US established in Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, and with China increasing its investments in Africa as a whole, France cannot afford to give way to its rivals and is prepared to carry out atrocities to keep its foothold in this resource-rich region. Gbagbo and Ouattara are the playthings of the imperialists.

 

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France: Fight state racism

FRFI 217 October/November 2010

100,000 people marched in cities across France on 4 September and other demonstrations were held in European capitals in protest against the destruction of Roma camps in France and subsequent deportation of nearly 1,000 Roma men, women and children.

So appalling and overtly racist were the actions taken by the French government in August that they were even condemned by the European Union (EU). France now faces the unprecedented threat of prosecution by the EU, with Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding saying she had been appalled ‘by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority. This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.’

 

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French government attacks Muslim population

The French Senate has voted by an overwhelming margin, 276 votes to 20, to approve legislation banning the Islamic headscarf or hijab and other ‘conspicuous religious symbols’ from being worn in French schools. The vote repeated a similar landslide in the lower house of the French Parliament, 494 votes to 36. Almost the whole French establishment has denounced the wearing of Islamic headscarves by young girls to school, with parliamentarians vying with one another for who can espouse ‘secularism’ the loudest. Ironically, only Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, has opposed the law, on the grounds that it is a cosmetic exercise and does not sufficiently confront the problem of immigration.

Both French women’s groups and French Muslims, including women, are divided on their approach to the ban. On International Women’s Day, Muslim women marched both for and against the law.

 

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Côte d’Ivoire: French imperialism runs amok

On 4 November 2004 the Ivorian air force began bombing rebel-held positions in the centre and north of the country. On 6 November it killed nine French ‘peacekeepers’ and a US ‘aid-worker’ at a military base in Bouaké. France, with over 4,000 troops already in the country under a UN mandate, then destroyed the tiny Ivorian air force of two jets and five helicopters as they lay on the tarmac. ‘You do not kill French soldiers with impunity’, explained French prime minister Raffarin.

French military seized the airport and deployed 50 armoured vehicles in the vicinity of the President Laurent Gbagbo’s Abidjan residence. French soldiers fired into the air, surrounded the presidential mansion and placed barbed wire between them and thousands of Ivorian people who heeded radio appeals to protect their head of state. Strategic bridges were seized and armoured vehicles protected roadblocks from military bases to the airport. At the Hotel Ivoire, commandeered as a military base, French officials held talks with Ivorian army chief of staff, General Doue, while outside French helicopters continued to bomb Abidjan.

 

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France: the fire this time

On the night of 27 October, over 400 youth, mainly of north African origin, clashed with police on the streets of Clichy-sous-Bois, a north-eastern suburb of Paris; police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Within days riots had erupted all over France, from Rouen in the north to Avignon in the south. Over the next 18 days and nights nearly 9,000 cars were torched and schools, buses and shops set alight as young people fought running battles against the hated police. On 5 November there were 1,400 arson attacks in a single night. On the night of 9 November, vandalism at two power stations caused widespread blackouts in Lyon, France’s second largest city. The unrest even spilled over the border into Belgium.

Police responded with brute force and mass arrests and on 9 November, President Chirac imposed a state of emergency throughout France, giving cities sweeping powers to impose curfews, limit the movement of people and vehicles, close public spaces where ‘gangs gather’ and place those identified as trouble-makers under house arrest. These special powers, which date back to the Algerian war of independence and have never before been used in France itself, are now in force across 40 cities and suburbs of France. At the same time the scale of the revolt has forced France to confront the issue of the appalling poverty, ghettoisation and discrimination faced by its immigrant community. In this there are parallels with the uprising by mainly black working class youth that erupted in Britain in 1981.

 

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France: no to casualisation!

Hundreds of thousands of young people have been demonstrating and occupying universities and sixth-forms throughout France in protest at a new law passed on 9 March which significantly reduces employment rights for those under the age of 26.

The government forced the Law for Equality of Opportunities through parliament using a special article in the French constitution to bypass the National Assembly and thus suppress any debate. The new law creates a ‘First Employment Contract’ (CPE) which will allow an employer to fire an employee under the age of 26 during the first two years of employment without having to give any reason. The law has been billed as a solution to high youth unemployment, which at over 20% (and 50% in the poor suburbs) is twice the national average. The government says that rigid labour laws are a disincentive for employers to hire young people as they cannot afford the risk in the new economic climate. Increased flexibility will increase employment. In other words, workers’ rights are harming profits. This new First Employment Contract is part of a broader ruling class strategy of stripping workers’ rights. It follows an almost identical contract established in August 2005 that can be used by small businesses. In 1994 the Balladur government tried to impose the CIP or ‘Beginning Work Contract’ which lowered the minimum wage for those aged 25 and under in order to make them more employable. On that occasion mass action forced the government to repeal the law.

Resistance to this casualisation of labour has mushroomed, taking the form of demonstrations, strikes and occupations as well as direct action against the state. As FRFI went to press, 21 universities were being occupied and 46 more disrupted. The movement has also spread to the secondary schools, with 814 lycées participating in some sort of strike action. In some schools and universities teachers have joined the students in occupying the buildings.

 

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Resistance to racist repression in France

An inspirational new anti-racist movement is developing in France, taking on both the state and the opportunist trade unions and aid organisations. France has introduced four new anti-immigrant laws since 2004, leading to increased repression of migrant workers. In response, hunger strikes, demonstrations, workplace occupations and strikes accelerated with thousands marching to demand the legalisation of some 400,000 sans-papiers (undocumented migrants). CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

Since 2 May 2008 the Bourse du Travail, building of the Confederation General du Travail (CGT) trade union federation, in Paris, has been occupied by around 800 men, women and children from the Coordination des sans-papiers 75 (CSP75), in direct challenge to the CGT’s attempts to stifle and control the movement. The CGT is closely allied with the social democratic French Communist Party. CSP75 is an umbrella group for all the self-organised sans-papiers collectives in the Paris region (the postcode for Paris is 75).

 

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Massive protests in France

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

The crisis of international capitalism is provoking mass protests across Europe from Iceland to Greece and Latvia to France. On 29 January at least 2.5 million people protested at 200 marches and rallies in towns and cities across France against the French government, its attacks on the public sector and working conditions and against rising unemployment. The protests were called by eight trade union groups and accompanied by a 24-hour nationwide strike; rail and bus services, airports, schools and postal services were closed down. The Paris demonstration was even joined by stock exchange workers. Univers­ity and high school occupations are continuing.

 

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