France: The historic counterattack of the workers' movement puts the political system itself in deep crisis!
By Yorgos Mitralias
What is happening in France this March 2023? What is happening is that France is now well into a - very promising - social and political crisis that is beginning to be compared only with those of May 68 and 1936! That is to say, that it is already experiencing one of those rare bouts of struggle of its people to which we have become accustomed over the last three centuries!
And we explain. Its unprecedented political crisis consists in the fact that its neoliberal government, or rather "Macronia" as the French use to call the Macron regime, is now in a situation where it is always caught between a rock and a hard place: anything it does automatically results in its abject defeat, which further exacerbates its impasse! Isolated not only in society, with disapproval rates reaching and in some cases exceeding 82% (!), but also in Parliament where she no longer has even a relative majority even when supported by the - once powerful and now disintegrating - traditional right (of Chirac, Sarkozy, etc.), Macronia is now subjected to the curses and censures of (her own) media, and of the until yesterday (very well disposed) employers, big business and other decision-making centres! The reason is simple and understandable: the "irresponsible and reckless" arrogant and egotistical Macron has done everything in his power not only to revive a workers' movement in permanent crisis and aphasia, but also to unite it and make it the major protagonist of the most central social and political developments in the country.(1)
Of course, nothing falls from the sky, and all these media and decision-making centres would now be praising Macron and his Macronia if the labour movement, which has been striking, blocking and demonstrating en masse for almost three months now, had not resisted tooth and nail to its pension (anti-)reform. And precisely because it has done and is doing all this, this militant labour movement is now managing to rally around itself broader popular masses, even going so far as to inspire and bring down to the streets and strikes social categories, such as, for example, business executives or several liberal professions, who, traditionally, flirt with the "above" while not being distinguished for their sympathy for the "below"!
The irrefutable witness to all these feats of the labour movement is the continuous public opinion polls, which now reach the extraordinary figure of 82% of French citizens opposing the use of the infamous Article 49.3 by Macron and his Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to pass their (anti)reform bill. Or the perhaps even more incredible 49% of French people who are now not only in favour of industrial action (this always exceeds 70%) but in favour of blocking the country even with actions that until yesterday were considered by them to be criminal or even almost...terrorist!
However, all this is nothing but the background of a reality which, since the use of the infamous 49.3, has tended to evolve into a situation of generalised social and political paroxysm, with historical stakes and a completely uncertain final outcome. Indeed, everyone - enemies and friends alike - agrees that we are already witnessing the passage of the crisis into a qualitatively superior phase, not only because the stakes are now much higher than the pension (anti-)reform, but also because this is what more and more of the crisis' protagonists, both anonymous and anonymous, firmly believe and are beginning to put into practice when they do not hesitate to refer to two very eloquent historical precedents: May 68 or - even more so - the revolution of 1789!
So what are the French workers, together with their supporters, doing in this qualitatively superior phase of their mobilisation? They are no longer confining themselves to striking, and are moving on to new forms of struggle more adapted to contemporary realities: having learned a lot from the "yellow vests" movement, they are blocking key economic and other centres such as: refineries, electricity and gas plants, roads and interchanges, city entrances, administrative centres, government offices, airports, railway stations, ports, waste management and incineration centres, and all kinds of facilities, including those of Macronia's leaders and Mps.
But not only that anymore. The same evening of the day that they saw Macron use the 49. 3, thousands of French people spontaneously poured into the streets of dozens of cities, and in too many cases clashed for hours with riot police when they made their (class) anger very palpable in the sanctuaries of the mega-bourgeoisie, such as in the area around the Place de la Concorde in Paris, home to the Parliament, ministries and presidential and other mansions, embassies, and perhaps the world's most expensive jewellery stores. But this was not a simple outburst. It was the same thing the following days, as the following conclusion and decision is general: after months of doing everything from strikes to the most massive peaceful demonstrations in decades, without Macron making the slightest concession, we have no choice but to harden our struggle more and more, following the example of the "yellow vests", who, after all, were the only ones who forced Macron to back down! And this is exactly what we see them doing now all over the country...
Of course, nothing has yet been definitively decided as we are only now entering the final (?) phase of the showdown and even as the powerful French far-right is lurking and can benefit even though it is conspicuously absent from the mobilisations. But one thing is certain: the French labour movement is no longer limited to defending itself but is now going on the counter-offensive, already threatening to overthrow not only the government but also the Macronia leader himself, while at the same time paving the way for the fulfilment of its even more ambitious social and political objectives, which are beginning to appear on the horizon. If anything, the days, weeks and months ahead will be particularly crucial for the continuation of this historic French class conflict. We therefore close this text with exactly the same sentence as we closed the previous one: Beware of France since it is always true that when France catches a cold, all of Europe sneezes!...
See our three previous articles on the same subject: