France on fire: down with racist French police

On 27 June, a French policeman shot dead Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old of Algerian descent, in Nanterre, west of Paris. The police claimed they had exercised ‘legitimate self-defence’ after Nahel refused to comply with a traffic stop. They also lied when they claimed he had a criminal record and was a ‘dangerous individual’. But video footage of events and testimonies from other witnesses told a completely different story, one that showed, instead, an excessive use of police force. The police inspectorate has reported that one of the two police officers clearly menaced Nahel before he was shot, saying: ‘You’re gonna take a bullet in the head’, despite Nahel posing no immediate threat.


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Pension reform: France fights back

Protesters in Nantes oppose the pension reform

Since January 2023, protests against government pension reforms have swept across France, at times paralysing the country. A new nationwide day of protest has been announced for 6 June as the government of Emmanuel Macron remains under sustained pressure to revoke the legislation. SARAH GUEBRE-EGZIABHER reports.


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The French presidential election: nothing changes

A supporter of Jean-Luc Melenchon defaces campaign posters of Emmanuel Macron

On 24 April, Emmanuel Macron was re-elected President after beating his far-right rival Marine Le Pen of the National Rally in the second round of the French presidential election. Macron won with 58.6% of the votes against Le Pen’s 41.4%. The outcome was more or less a repeat of the 2017 election, when Macron also beat Le Pen, but by a larger margin, 66.1% to 33.9%. The French bourgeoisie was quick to claim victory, as its champion Macron will now occupy office for an additional five-year term. But for the French working class and victims of French imperialism there is nothing to cheer. Whichever candidate won would maintain the pressure on the living standards of the working class and poor.


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Interview: fight the French imperialist ban of Collectif Palestine Vaincra!

Collectif Palestine Vaincra protest in solidarity with Georges Abdallah (photo: Samidoun)

On 9 March 2022 the French imperialist government of Emmanuel Macron announced the banning of Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a leading anti-imperialist campaign whose activities in Toulouse and other cities form part of the Samidoun Palestinian prisoner solidarity network. Claims by French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin that the movement is based on ‘hatred, violence and discrimination’ are in fact a smokescreen for an attack on anti-Zionist, pro-Palestine organising.


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French imperialism tightens its grip on Africa

On 21 December 2019, at a summit in the Ivory Coast, French president Emmanuel Macron labelled French colonialism a ‘profound mistake’, and announced the end of the West African CFA currency union. This neocolonial arrangement gives France significant control over the monetary policy of eight West African nations – Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Togo and Guinea-Bissau. For Le Monde (23 December 2019) the change is ‘more than a symbol’; while the Financial Times (1 January) praises ‘a revolution in Africa’s relations with France.’ The reality, however, is that French imperialism has no intention of surrendering its deadly grip on Africa.


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France: attack on pensions sparks nationwide strikes

On 5 December 2019, a nationwide series of transport strikes began in France, sparked by the announcement of a government attack on pensions. What has become the longest general strike in French history is posing a determined challenge to the reactionary programme of the government of ex-banker President Emmanuel Macron. Liam Khalem and Séamus Padraic report.


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Gilets noirs: anti-imperialism the path to unity

'Gilets Noirs' protest at the Pantheon, Paris

On 19 May, around 500 undoc­umented migrants occupied Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport – the largest international airport in France and the second-busiest airport in Europe. They were there to protest against Air France’s involvement in deportations and the airport’s violence against those being deported, demanding an end to their ‘material, financial, political and logistical participation’, as well as an end to the horrendous treatment of undocumented migrants by the French state. There were two people they wanted to speak to in particular: the CEO of Air France, and Edouard Philippe, the Prime Minister of France. They remained there for roughly two hours, facing violence and tear gas by the French police.


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Brutal assaults by French police fail to batter Gilets Jaunes into submission

Police aim their weapons at Gilets Jaunes protesters

Saturday 20 April 2019 was the 23rd occasion on which Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) anti-austerity protesters took to the streets of Paris and other French cities. Coming the week after the fire at Notre Dame cathedral and as billions of dollars were being pledged for its reconstruction, some demonstrators carried placards with slogans such as: ‘Millions for Notre-Dame, what about the poor?’ and ‘Tout pour Notre-Dame, rien pour les misérables.’


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Gilets Jaunes: the fight goes on

Gilets jaunes protest in France in solidarity with students persecuted by the police

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

Since 17 November 2018, hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in anti-government protests across France. The movement of ‘gilets jaunes’, named after the hi-vis jackets that have become their uniform, began in response to planned rises in fuel duty (TICPE). Its roots, however, are much deeper and based in deteriorating living standards for the working and middle classes. As the movement has developed its demands have broadened to include reintroducing the ISF wealth tax (abolished in 2017) to developing systems of direct democracy. It has no clear leadership and its political character is being contested by different political forces (see ‘Gilets Jaunes: A contradictory movement’ on our website). However, the French state recognises it as a threat and is committed to breaking the movement using a three-pronged approach: the granting of token concessions; diversion into harmless official channels; and state repression.


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‘Gilets Jaunes’: a contradictory movement

Protestors at the Champs Elysee, Paris 24 November 2018


Since Saturday 17 November, hundreds of thousands of people across France have taken part in anti-government protests. The protestors have dubbed themselves the ‘gilets jaunes’, after the hi-vis jackets that French motorists are required by law to carry in their cars. The spark was a planned rise in fuel duty (TICPE) on both petrol and diesel, but many demonstrators are airing much broader complaints against the government of Emmanuel Macron, who they call ‘president of the rich’. Cross-class and organised through social media, the movement contains many different and contradictory political elements, ranging from racists protesting the presence of Muslims in Europe to anti-racist students fighting against rises in tuition fees for migrants. Socialists must participate, and relate to the progressive elements, in order to forge an independent, working class way forward. SEAMUS PADRAIC reports.


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Free Georges Abdallah!

Samidoun: freedom for Georges Abdallah and Ahmad Sadat

Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is the longest serving political prisoner in Europe, approaching his 35th year in prison; for comparison, Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years. Abdallah was arrested in Lyon, France on 24 October 1984 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for the assassinations of a US military attaché and an Israeli diplomat in Paris in January and April 1982. Georges is a Lebanese revolutionary communist who has dedicated his life to the struggle against imperialism and Zionism, becoming a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) before in 1979 helping form the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions (LARF) which claimed the two assassinations.


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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

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

burkinia faso frnace
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


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


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

french election

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

burkini racism

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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Imperialists foster climate of fear after Paris attacks

On the evening of Friday 13 November 2015 a series of co-ordinated bomb and machine-gun attacks ripped through Paris, resulting in 130 deaths; another 350 people were admitted to hospital, many with serious injuries. The main targets were a football match and a rock concert, with additional shootings in restaurants, cafes and the street. Seven perpetrators died at the scene, apparently by detonating suicide vests they were wearing. Others allegedly involved died or were arrested during a police raid in St Denis on 18 November. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed in a communiqué purportedly issued by Islamic State (IS). Nicki Jameson reports.

This was an overt act of terror against the people of Paris and there was an immediate outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from across the world. The day after the attack the General Command for the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), fighting against Islamic State in Rojava, Syria, sent condolences and solidarity to the ‘families of the victims and all French people’. On the same day, in northern France, migrants living in the Calais ‘jungle’ camp staged a solidarity vigil, holding a banner which read ‘The refugees are crying with the French people’.


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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


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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