The roots of the 2016 rebellion in France


Since the beginning of March there has been in France a strong protest movement against the El Khomri bill. This bill is supposed to be a complete reorganisation of our labour code. The law would encroach upon our established social rights and degrade our working conditions (increasing working hours, easier redundancy, weaker defences in case of conflict with an employer, etc).

Similarly the status of railway workers will be changed. Following the same model as the El Khomri bill regarding the private sector, railway workers (who are public servants) must also face a neoliberal offensive to dismantle their status. It is because of this upheaval of working conditions that public and private workers have taken to the streets since 9th March.

Universities are extremely active. Everywhere in France students are occupying classrooms, debating and taking action with the workers.

A fourth element has been grafted to this opposition: the Standing Night movement. It consists in occupying squares everywhere in France, discussing politics and leading agitprop operations. These occupations, which have been taking place since the beginning of the movement, have taken the protests beyond the opposition to the El Khomri bill. The people gathering at these events are left-wing, more or less radical, but want to break from the current system. The speeches heard are often revolutionary and give us hope. “No the the El Khomri bill and the world it creates” is one of their mottos that perfectly sums up the general movement.

Facing us, the government’s reaction is no different from what has been going on here since the terrorist attacks. In the midst of a state of emergency, the police are harshly repressing the protestors. They relentlessly beat demonstrators and use weapons that cause mutilations. Flash-balls have already wounded several demonstrators, one of them having lost an eye. Sting grenades thrown in people’s faces have also caused severe wounds that could be lethal.

The state of emergency enables the police to take many initiatives autonomously, as was the case when a trade union’s office was raided in Lille last month (a first in France and the state of emergency is to blame). Some of our comrades are in prison after being framed by the police accusing them of acts of violence. The COP21 and the accompanying repression (beatings, trials, house arrests, etc) were the laboratory for a repression that is now extended to the current social activism.

From abroad it is difficult to understand the intensity of this repression. The autonomy of the police force enables them to make a display of intense violence. For the past few months, the exception has been the law, the activists are confronted to it daily and is embittered by it.

But we will not be silenced by this repression. “Everyone hates the police” is a motto claimed by protesters from very different backgrounds. The opposition to the police in this movement is general and offensive. The minority of masked rioters who confront the keepers of the social order (cops, banks, luxury shops, etc) are supported by a majority of demonstrators who wish to put an end to the tepid protests from institutional organisations.

The protestors aspire to change, this is frightening to the authorities and must explain the intensity of the repression. In spite of all this, we intend to make their nightmares a reality.

A text about the current struggle in France, written by antifa action np2c from May 2016]