Socialist Worker

Nightly mass meetings in Paris organise resistance to new law

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2499

A meeting at the Place de la Republique in Paris

A meeting at the Place de la Republique in Paris (Pic: Meyer Flou)


A new movement is blooming in France out of the Place de la Republique square in Paris.

It has been occupied by nightly general assemblies since a demonstration against the Labour-type government’s attack on workers’ rights last month.

Student activist Gael Braibant told Socialist Worker, “Depending on the weather there’s usually a few thousand people there every night, mostly young people in precarious jobs.

“We discuss everything—not just the functioning of the occupation but really political debates about the system, the police and the role of violence. And we elected a committee that plans actions.

“It can be chaotic but it allows for a lot of discussion with a lot of people, with the aim of bringing all the struggles together.”

Last Saturday more than 100,000 people marched in Paris as part of a day of action called by unions against the proposed Work Law.

That evening up to 2,000 people from the occupation marched to link up with refugees and migrants camping out on the streets of Paris.

Stalingrad

Migrants face frequent police repression. Cops recently cleared them out of the area under the elevated Metro line at Stalingrad station and put up fences to stop them returning.

So occupiers and migrants together went there and took the barriers down. This was followed by a spontaneous march on a police station and then the home of prime minister Manuel Valls.

More than a million people have protested or struck against the Work Law.

Despite school and college holidays, last week saw road barricades in many towns as well as university walkouts on Tuesday and union demonstrations on Saturday.

But there is a question about the movement’s leadership.

Main student union Unef held talks with Valls on Monday. Those unions opposing the Work Law have called a second day of strikes and protests on 28 April, too slow for many activists.

Occupation

The occupation represents an alternative vision of the struggle—and its objectives.

Gael said, “This absolutely isn’t a movement that’s against political parties or unions. It made a call on them to come down to the square and join in. But it has come about largely outside the existing organisations. Many of the workers here are from sectors with no union organisation.

“One supermarket checkout worker brought people from the occupation to go down to her workplace to convince her colleagues to join a union. About 30 people went down to the St Lazare station to talk to train workers and build for Saturday’s demonstration.”

On Sunday the economist Frederic Lordon, one of the figureheads of the movement, argued that the only way to win was through a general strike.

Cops broke up the occupation early on Monday morning. Activists returned in force that evening.

Denis Godard is a member of the occupation’s action committee. In the New Anticapitalist Party’s newspaper l’Anticapitaliste he wrote, “The occupations give the movement a direction, a questioning of the whole logic of the system, a possibility of bringing together the different fronts of struggle.

“This cannot last and develop without linking the movement of the squares to the struggle in every workplace, every university and college, every neighbourhood.

“The constitution of a new world won’t be written by the thousands but by the millions. And not just by talking but by attacking the citadels of power—and by scoring victories starting with the withdrawal of the Work Law.”


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