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France On Strike! Nationwide Strike Action Intensifies Against the El Khomri Bill

Marjam Idriss27 May 2016

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“Riots are coming, they are already here, more are on the way, no one doubts it… In moments of shattered glass and fire, [the] riot is… the irruption of a desperate situation, immiseration at its limit, the crisis of a given community or city, of a few hours or days.” Joshua CloverRiot. Strike. Riot.

After almost two months of continuous protests against the El Khomri bill's proposed labour reforms that would allow bosses to fire workers more easily, strike actions have been stepped up in France. The BBC reports that actions are led by CGT and supported by six other unions, including Force Ouvriere and Unef and have seen oil refineries, nuclear power stations and transport hubs disrupted in the rolling nationwide strike. Yesterday CGT striking members shut off printing presses and distribution, preventing the publication of all French national newspapers, with the exception of leftwing daily L’Humanité. An opinion piece by Nuit Debout leader Philippe Martinez urging the government to withdraw its labour laws, was published in L’Humanité on the same day. 

Meanwhile riot police cracked down on protesters in Paris and other cities, with tear gas filling the air. 

These strikes follow months of mass demonstrations, occupations and protests under Nuit Debout banner. In an interview with Jacobin, Stathis Kouvelakis suggest that Nuit Debout is a response to the emergence of an authoritarian neoliberal regime.

Despite increases in police violence and numerous arrests, CGT reports in Le Monde that almost 300,000 people were assembled on the eighth day of action, with the union expecting to increase mobilisation this week. A protester avowed, “we have to put grit in the wheels, everywhere.” Frédéric Lordon, along with 300 academics, artists and activists also denounced the police violence and the abuses that have become generalized since the state of emergency came into effect in France.

In an open letter applauding the courage of Nuit Debout, Tariq Ali, Cédric Durand, Elsa Dorlin and many others celebrated the new possibilities that come with a movement like Nuit Debout.

The political forces that upheld the old world are now decomposing — first among them social democracy, which has since 2012 entered a new phase in its long process of accommodation to the existing order. (…) Crises open up the terrain of the possible, but there is a great risk that it will immediately close up again under the pressure of reactionary forces. Nuit Debout is contributing to expanding this terrain, thus allowing revolutionary forces to converge. We call on all people and organisations not resigned to the world such as it is to come to the square occupations, and take part right away in constructing another world!

At Nuit Debout’s general assembly on April 9th, Frédéric Lordon too called the movement’s supporters to action:

For too long, cracks had been appearing everywhere. You can’t hold a society together forever with the pigs, BFM, and prescription drugs. There inevitably comes the moment when people pick up their heads and discover for themselves the immemorial idea of insubordination and liberation.

This moment is ours; this moment is now.

To celebrate the publication of Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings by Joshua Clover and Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter edited by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton, both books are 40% off until Wednesday, June 1.  

Read more:
“We Are Those Lions”: 5 Strikes and Riots that Shook Modern Britain 
Baltimore Riot. Baltimore Commune?
“So many/too few”: Reflections on the 2011 riots by James Butler

- “NO CONDOM, NO PUSSY”: Housework is Real Work. Sex Work is Real Work. Under Capitalism All Work is Shit.

Filed under: nuit-debout, riots