'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The French Resist Cuts in Pension Benefits (Part 1) 

UPDATE 2: Photo gallery of protests across France

UPDATE 1: About 2000 youths are roaming the streets in an insurrectional climate of urban guerrilla combat.

INITIAL POST: Despite the admirable qualities of this mobilization, it remains, by and large, an example of what Zizek has described, another instance of the left limiting itself to the preservation of social democracy, with the possible exception of the Black Bloc youth that have appeared on the streets of Paris, Nanterre and, possibly, Lyon. As noted in the update, the protests in Lyon have been riotous, with widespread looting and property destruction, so much so that the French government called upon counter-terrorist and hostage taking specialist teams to restore order.

A close reading of the remarks toward the end of video by a trade unionist, Patrick Sciruca, suggest that the unions are playing their historic role, serving as a release of anger in advance of an inevitable adverse outcome. Note, for example, how he characterizes the conflict as one centered around Sarkozy's refusal to negotiate. And what, one wonders, would the unions concede in such negotiations? John Mullen of the New Anti-Capitalist Party in Paris explains the ambivalence of the unions:

You might think that with such levels of public support, union leaders would pull out all the stops for a general strike, but professional negotiators don't think like that. The main trade union confederations have so far been united about the need for one-day mass strikes, which has made impossible the standard government tactic of luring one confederation to their side with minor concessions, and using this fact in propaganda to reduce public support for the strikers.

But union leaders aren't pushing for renewable strikes and are calling for negotiations, not for the simple defeat of Sarkozy's pension law. The union leaders' banner at the head of Saturday's demonstration read Pensions, jobs and wages are important to society when it should have read General strike to beat Sarkozy.

Please consider reading Mullen's article in its entirety, as it provides a thorough presentation of the current political situation in France in relation to the strikes and protests. Meanwhile, in the US, the public passively awaits cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

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