The French Dilema

Leon Crémieux

By announcing, barely a month after the start of the social movement throughout France, 10 billion following spontaneous demonstrations and the offensive demonstrations of 1 December 2018, a breath of fresh air has blown through the social movement. A social movement that does not feel that it has reached the end of its demands. All categories of hospital workers, particularly in emergency services, have also mobilised massively and over the past year, without the government being able to extinguish a movement that is still present today, with numerous demonstrations on 14 November, with 10,000 people in Paris. In recent weeks, in many high schools and faculties, students have also mobilised against the precariousness of their situation—dramatically manifested in the attempt of immolation by fire of a student from Lyon, Anas K. on 8 November.

On several occasions, the convergence of climate mobilisations and those against violence against women has also been expressed. On 23 November, demonstrations against gender violence brought together more man 100,000 people. Over the months, new generations have mobilised, crossed paths, with many young people and especially young women. Thus, over the past year, the protean social movement has shown a political dynamism that can also remind the elders of the 1990s, when struggles for women's rights, against racism, for the right to housing and the rights of the unemployed coexisted, it was at the dawn of the anti-globalisation movement.

The notable difference today, not only in France, is the great difficulty of bringing these social movements together with common and offensive political perspectives.

The Socialist Party (SP) and the Republicans react with maximum silence to the current movement. They hope will Macron would fail, but at the same time, his project obviously meets with their approval. The National Rally (RN—Rassemblement National, formerly FN—Front National) proceeds with the same attempt to ride two horses as during the yellow jacket movement: wanting to garner popular discontent while trying to hide that their programme is in accord with Macron's.

To the left of the SP, forces have gathered several times in recent months in calls against security policies to denounce Islamophobia and support the movement against pension reform. The NPA has been at the heart of all these unitary initiatives.

But the people of France are still far from a common anti-capitalist response that is forged in the heat of social movements and is not the reconstruction of an electoral mechanic. There may be an opportunity to move forward in this direction in many local initiatives within the current social movement, which is at the heart of the mobilisation. The pension movement directly raises the question of the society in which the French want to live, free from exploitation and oppression, democratically organised to meet social needs. Advancing this perspective will depend in the coming days on the strength of the social movement.

[Lean Crémieux is an activist of the Solidaires trade-union federation and of the New Anti-Capitalist Party, France.]

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Vol. 52, No. 31, Feb 2 - 8, 2020