People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 23, 2006
& Workers Defeat French Law
- Policies - Politics’. When politics decide your future; you decide what kind
of politics should be there. The French student community has turned this
exhortation into a reality.
to insurmountable pressure from the students and trade unions, French president
Jacques Chirac has repealed the CPE law
(Contract Premiere Embauche). The CPE was to allow a two-year trial period for
employees aged under 26, during which bosses could end a contract without
explanation. This law has to be seen as part of a whole series of
neo-liberal attacks in France and right across Europe. With high levels of
unemployment prevailing in France, the youth and the workers are much affected
by these attacks on their rights. In the face of such increasing neo-liberal
attacks, the heartening feature has been the growing struggles against this
system of exploitation and oppression. The French students have won a major
victory in the great moral struggle of our generation: taming global capitalism.
students won because they put together an extraordinary protest movement. A
powerful alliance of high-school and university students and of organised
working class achieved this victory against the government's law. They refused
to inherit a society of savage capitalism in which worker's rights are
constantly undermined in the name of efficiency.
the past two months, millions of students and union activists filled the streets
of France's major cities in some of the largest protests since the 1968 student
uprising. Students forced the closure of more than half of the nation's
universities including the Sorbonne which the police raided following a student
sit-in. The protests had begun on February 7, 2006 when students stormed the
Rennes University and shut down the school.
analysts say prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who championed this
legislation, has suffered the most by these protests. His approval rating is
today below 30 per cent. The
French education minister Gilles de Robien had ordered to reopen the
blockaded high schools by issuing an instruction on March 29 to head teachers
that they should do so by using police force if necessary. With the teachers'
unions making it clear that they would strike if the police were called in, the
schools remained closed. Almost all head teachers refused to budge and continued
some cities, like Lille, there are now “workers’ assemblies”, linking
different groups of workers who have taken strike action with student activists.
The Lille student assembly declared: “Because job insecurity is not just the
CPE, we commit ourselves to support all the demands which may be defined by the
workers in struggle, such as wage rises and the conversion of all insecure jobs
into permanent ones, for example."
student movement did not start with a single blow. At first it was just the
students of Rennes who were confident that their strike would snowball, and who
shut down their university, on their own for a week. So
resolved the 300 university and high-school student delegates who met in Lille
on April 1-2, 2006 to plan the way forward for the struggle in France.
Lille student assembly gave a call for students to go to factories and offices,
as they have often done in some areas over the last two months, and try to get
workers’ meetings to discuss the future steps of the agitation including
blockades of the main rail lines — again, something the students have already
done in many areas. They also called on the unions to co-organise worker and
demonstrations started getting bigger as days passed by. The mobilisation of
university and high school students was increasing, and a larger number of
workers, especially from the private sector, took part in the demonstrations.
action expanded into a general revolt against neo-liberalism. Already its
demands have spread beyond the defeat of the CPE to others: the withdrawal of
on Equal Opportunity”
(of which the CPE is part, but also includes the legalisation of night work for
15 year olds) and of the CNE (another government measure which allows workers in
places with less than 20 employees to be sacked without the employer having to
justify a reason). These measures had previously passed through the French
parliament with little fuss.
is the whole system called “neo-liberalism”
the capitalism of today —
that the French students and workers are rebelling against. The whole system in
which each year, more and more is privatised. More and more is given over to the
free market. Jobs become less secure. Pensions dwindle. Workers have to adapt
to the demands of employers. Profits spiral.
of the workers, in the public sector and big private-sector enterprises, who
have struck, are not directly affected at all by the CPE or the CNE. But they
know about “neo
and about solidarity. France’s
main unions threw their weight behind the struggle, organising mass
demonstrations, and then calling two days of national strikes that mobilised
millions of people for demonstrations across the country.
protests shook French society like no event since 1968 – prompting former
French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing
to warn that the “normal
functioning of institutions must be re-established”
by scrapping the law.
is a victory that builds confidence. Like the French students and workers, we
also must resist our government's efforts to mould our futures without
consulting us at all. It's our future, and we must play a role in defining it.
The French students and workers showed us that this is possible.