(Eng) France - pour plaire a tout le monde

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Sun, 10 Dec 1995 03:31:44 +0100


A million took to the streets in France on Thursday. Even the French state
has admitted that is might not be able to hold out if the figure doubles and
was making much of the fact that in Paris only (sic) 50,000 turned out.

In fact this figure represents the success of the actions taken so far which
largely started and still continue in the transport sector preventing not
only the economy from functioning but also, to a degree, stopping people
from getting to the demonstrations. There is still no rail service in France
and in Paris there is no public transport system. Bus and Metro services are
also at a standstill in Bordeaux, Greenoble and Limoges and are severly
disrupted in most other provincial cities. The airports are also severly
affected operating at about half capacity in the capital where also any
attempt to move on the roads will be prevented by up to nine mile trafic
jams... and still a million were on the streets.

The response of the French State has been predictable. One of the worst
outbreaks of violence occured in the East of France yesterday (8th December)
when striking coal miners were forced to defend themselves against the riot
police. Several were injured in events where the police used batons and tear
gas against miners who had little more than sticks with which to defend

The other attack comes from a more overt political direction. The media in
France has successfully narrowed down the scope for debate to the argument
over whether there should be 'debate' (the state wins) or 'negotiation' (the
unions win) whereas the reality would seem to be that the stakes are far
higher with the winners of losers to be either labour or capital.

Capital has tied its flag firmly to the European Union and the lure of the
single currency the mechanics of which mean 'another round' of cuts and
austerity programmes. Five years ago the 'Union' represented a market of
600,000,000 in five years time it will be 6,000,000,000 and if united in any
way by a single currency will represent the exploiters dream.

The interests of the people of Europe are other but will depend largely
within this context as to how far they can socialise the question and move
away from a simple economic framework in order to start building a society
worthy of that name. Identifying too closely with the unions will be their
downfall. The State has now announced the appointment of a 'mediator' (NB
not dialogue _or_ negotiation) in a clear move to divide the strikers. The
State has identified the railway workers as the key figures and wishes to
lure them back to work in order to break the people's resolve. The union
leaders think they have the bit between their teeth with the leader of the
Socialist Force Ouvriere, Marc Blondel, predicting bigger marches next week
strating with a day of action on Tuesday. 'The Government', says M. Blondel,
'has to find a way of pleasing everyone'.

M. Blondel surely understands the nature of government better than to
believe his own rhetoric. The only way the government will succeed in
finding a way of pleasing the people would be for it to disappear up its own