[Stay tuned for Friday’s special “Wealth Edition”]
The American corporate media only show the random car burnings and not the mass rallies, marches and strike actions of French workers, now joined by students, rocking that country. The revolt is huge and angry and it does not appear to be going away any time soon.
Around 3.5 million French workers have taken strike action against President Sarkozy’s attacks on pensions and retirement. France has a unionization rate similar to that of the United States, but with a far more militant tradition of labor solidarity and combativity. The French are fighting their government’s passage of legislation to raise the country’s minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, and the age at which workers can retire on full pensions to 67 from 65.
From the Paris streets, British Socialist Worker reports:
Petrol shortages were spreading across the country as all 12 oil refineries had joined a continuous strike. Some 2,700 of France’s 12,600 petrol stations had completely run out of supplies.
Blockades of oil depots continued at Caen, Reichstett, Dunkirk, and Saint-Pierre-des Corps.
Lorry drivers were also on strike, launching go-slow “Operation Escargot” (snail) protests on many major roads.
Almost 1,000 of France’s 4,300 secondary schools were on strike, with 600 of them blockaded. In several areas school students had barricaded roads and fought back against police attacks.
After years of French officials uttering stupid dares to their citizenry, you’d think they’d learn to shut up. Years ago, Prime Minister Alain Juppé said the government would be fine so long as a million workers didn’t hit the streets. Within days, million-plus street protests were festooned with placards reading, “Hey Juppé: I’m 1 million+1!”
This time it was Sarkozy who was reported to say his government would be fine so long as the youth stayed off the streets. The signs young people carried this week read, “Sarkozy, you’re screwed, the youth is on the streets!!!” I love cheeky kids.
According to polls, 71 percent of the French population supports these strikes, despite the massive “inconveniences” that appear to be the only lens through which the U.S. media care to discuss the strike. As if losing pensions and having to add years more to one’s work life are not “inconveniences.”
Hedge fund traders at Forbes think the French strikes are “The Revolt of the Pampered,” while the gaggle of Gucci-clad Economist editors speak of the “inevitability” of destroying French pensions and retirement. I find it fascinating to read sniffy condescension from men who roll out of bed at 10 to check their stock portfolios.
Below is a clip from the last week’s strike action that gives you some flavor for the massive size, solidarity and defiance of the French. Whether you speak a word of French or not, you’ll grasp the enormity of the battle unfolding in the country with the second-largest population in Europe.
[Apologies for the code below, I’m too much of a techno-dud to figure out how to delete it without deleting the video.]
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My next speaking gig will be Saturday, Oct. 23 at 1PM in Pittsburgh as part of a three-part “Socialism in Our Time” conference at the Frick Fine Arts Building, room 202. See details here.
I have signed onto the Campaign for Peace and Democracy’s Statement in solidarity with the struggles taking place inside Iran, please click on the statement to read and sign onto it yourself.