Socialist Worker

The youth in France are telling the government to get lost

Parisian student Gael Braibant reports from huge protests against the centre-left government’s vicious new employment law

Issue No. 2495

Some 80,000 marched in Paris alone

Some 80,000 marched in Paris alone (Pic: Sihame Assbague)

The Labour-type government of Francois Hollande has pushed neoliberalism further than any right wing government. Its new employment law takes up the bosses’ demands and gives them more power than ever.

The law works on three bases. It would make it easier to sack workers. It would increase working hours by cutting overtime rates.

And it would allow workplace agreements to override the laws and national agreements that uphold workers’ rights.

It was thus in a cry of rage that young people marched in the streets last Wednesday demanding the reform is scrapped. Some 80,000 protested in Paris and 500,000 across France. These huge numbers are the highest for any protests since Hollande was elected in 2012.

If opposition to this reform has started on campuses it’s because young people are worried about their future. The students of today are the workers of tomorrow.

Some 25 percent of young graduates are unemployed, rising to 50 percent in colonies and poorer areas.

Young people understand that they are at the heart of the government’s attack. It would push back their access to stable jobs and impose lifelong precarity.

The demonstrations’ success is even more remarkable because the two main union leaderships didn’t call strikes and are being overtaken. Self-organised delegations from universities took the lead on the march.


In universities, students take decisions about the struggle in general assemblies hundreds strong.

As of last week around 50 of these had taken place, 11 of them with more than 300 students. Out of them come mobilising committees where any student who wishes can take part in putting its decisions into practice.

We want to see students taking control of the day to day running of the movement out of the hands of the bureaucratic youth organisations.

Self-organisation is also fundamental to broadening the movement and taking it forward.

This movement can only be understood in the context of an institutional crisis for the French Republic.

After the attacks in Paris last November, the government rushed to impose a state of emergency that overturns civil liberties and democratic rights.

It took racist initiatives such as withdrawing French nationality from individuals convicted of terrorism. It has humiliated Muslims with aggressive searches and violent raids in places of worship.

More recently still, the government has dismantled the Calais “jungle” in the face of pressure from far right organisations.

Among the youth there is a real rejection of the current government. That was shown through the struggle against the building of a new airport at Notre Dame des Landes in Western France. The last demonstration there brought together 40,000 people.

This is directly linked to the government through Jean-Marc Ayrault, the current foreign minister and former prime minister who is one of the airport project’s initiators.The next demonstration against the employment law was set to take place on Thursday of this week.

The youth don’t want to stop at beating the reform.We want to get rid of Manuel Valls, Hollande’s prime minister, who is pushing the reform. Our political perspective is “Valls, get lost”.

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