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Posts Tagged ‘Trade Unions

Massive Turn-out for Protests Against New Labour Law.

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LOI TRAVAIL MOBILISATION

1,2 million demonstrators across France according to the CGT and  390 000 according to the Police.

Huffington Post announces,

Un million de personnes ont défilé mardi 14 juin à Paris contre la loi Travail, actuellement débattue du Sénat, ont indiqué trois syndicats organisateurs (CGT, FO, Solidaires).

Libération reports,

Violents heurts à Paris lors de la manif contre la loi travail.

Violent clashes during the demonstration against the Labour Law.

French PM Valls calls on unions to stop protesting in Paris after new violence.

Says France 24.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday urged the hardline CGT union to stop organising mass rallies in Paris against a contested labour reform after fresh clashes between masked youths and riot police at a demo.

On the sidelines of a CGT-led march on Tuesday, gangs of black-clad youths hurled makeshift firebombs at police and broke windows, including at Paris’ main children’s hospital.

“When you cannot organise a demo and take responsibility, leaving thugs in the middle of the march … then you don’t organise this sort of demonstration that can degenerate,” Valls said on France Inter radio.

Police fired dozens of rounds of teargas and used water cannons to disperse the groups of youths during the rally, which police said had a turnout of 75,000-80,000 in Paris alone, roughly three times more than at recent big demos.

The Paris police department reported 58 arrests, including many foreigners, with 24 police and 17 protesters injured.

“We cannot have a general ban (on demos), but we will take our responsibilities. We can no longer have this disgraceful show with things getting out of control,” Valls said before visiting the Necker children’s hospitable to inspect the damage.

As next year’s Presidential election draw near the left looks increasingly likely to be eliminated in the first round, reports the Nouvel Obs.

In a number of opinion polls and different scenarios – all including Marine Le Pen –  left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon would obtain from 14% to 15% of the votes against 14%  to 15% for a Parti Socialiste candidacy by François Hollande.

 

In all cases the far-right would be beaten in the second round by a candidate of Les Républicains (right-wing). 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2016 at 12:41 pm

‘Trade Unionists Against the EU’ defends “Indigenous workers” against “Cheap Foreign Labour”.

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Local Workers Excluded from Being Able to Provide for Families by EU ‘shunting’ people around Europe. 

The Daily Express (May 25th) reports.

…hitting back today campaign group Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU) nailed the “delusion being promoted by some that we should remain in the EU to transform it”.

Director Enrico Tortolano said: “One of the bizarre features of the pro-EU campaign is its spreading of the lie that the EU can be reformed and transformed into paradise on earth. The reality is that the EU is reform proof.

“As these states lurch to the right and the EU gives itself up further to the demands of the corporations, the delusion of reformability looks even more ridiculous and flies in the face of the brutal realities being challenged by trade unionists forced to take the streets in Belgium, France and Greece this week.”

Patriotic trade unionists have launched a campaign to get Britain out of the EU and are urging ordinary workers to look at the “constitutional reality” of the 28-nation bloc rather than believing Mr Cameron’s spin doctors.

This is what campaign leader Enrico Tortolono  says about the free movement of labour (Trade Unionists Against the EU):

Moreover EU rules demanding the complete free movement of labour have had a profound impact on all trade unions operating within the EU.

Following the accession of eastern European states to the EU, migrant labour has been rapidly moving west while capital and manufacturing jobs are moving east.

While western European countries experiencing a large influx of migrant labour, eastern European states are suffering population falls and an inevitable brain drain, leading to a loss of skilled labour and young people as well as an uncertain future of underdevelopment.

In more developed member states, wages have been under pressure in many sectors in a process known as ‘social dumping’, as cheap foreign labour replaces the indigenous workforce and trade union bargaining power is severely weakened.

A campaign to Leave the EU based on the defence of the “indigenous workforce” against “cheap foreign labour” is no doubt welcomed by the Daily Express.

This is another Express story (today):

Boris: Voting to stay in the EU means ‘kissing goodbye’ to controlling immigration

BRITAIN can “kiss goodbye” to any chance of controlling its borders if it stays in the EU, Brexit campaigners said yesterday.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2016 at 10:38 am

French Conflict over ‘Loi Travail’ Intensifies as Nuclear Workers join Protests.

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In Reply:  CGT Trade Unionists Face Violence Smears.

France prepares for day of strikes as nuclear workers join labour protests.

France 24.

France faced an eighth day of industrial action on Thursday after workers at nuclear power stations voted to join protests against labour reforms. Blockades of fuel depots by angry unions have forced France to dip into its fuel reserves.

CGT energy and mining federation spokeswoman Marie-Claire Cailletaud said the strike action at nuclear plants will reduce power output, but that the reactors will not stop running.

“One cannot just turn off a nuclear plant, it is not like a thermal or hydro plant,” Cailletaud said.

The union said late Wednesday that 16 of France’s 19 nuclear stations had voted to join the strike, although CGT official Jean-Luc Daganaud said the effect on power supply would depend on how many workers decided to join the action.

Workers led by the powerful CGT union have blocked oil refineries across France over the past week in protest against planned changes to France’s cherished protective labour laws, leading to fuel shortages in parts of the country and long queues of cars at near-empty petrol stations.

The Ufip oil industry federation has confirmed that around a third of the country’s 12,000 petrol stations were running dry. France has also mobilised its emergency fuel stocks for the first time since 2010 but officials said there was no risk of a shortage.

The French media is full of reports that the  Confédération générale du travail (CGT) is “using everything it’s got” in the dispute (Loi travail : « La CGT joue son va-tout »). Le Monde suggests that the leader of the left-wing federation, Phillipe Martinez, has taken on the role of the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ to the  El Khomri  law. (Le patron de la CGT se hisse au rang de chef de l’opposition à la loi travail.)

There are  daily claims, from those hostile to the union federation,  that the CGT are using the protests as a means of resolving their own – serious internal difficulties. These range from loss of membership (the result of long-term industrial decline) to the fall-out from the controversy over  expenses paid to to their former leader, Thierry Lepaon

It is the case that the CGT faces a challenge from the ‘reformist’ union federation, the Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT). This morning on France Inter Véronique Descacq,  secrétaire générale adjointe to the CFDT,  claimed to have negotiated a deal which they can live with. She asserted that the reform embodies new workers’ rights (listen here).

Against this claim – essentially that the CGT is acting purely out of its own interests – L’Humanité has pointed to the unity between the trade unionists (with the CFDT excepted), from the corporatist and (partly) Trotskyist federation, Force Ouvrière , to the radical left SUD in protests and strikes against the Loi Travail (Une grande partie du personnel qui attendait l’unité syndicale va se mettre en grève).

What is at stake is not only moves to make working practices more ‘flexible’ to the bosses’ advantage. It is the shape of French collective bargaining (covering up to 98% of employees). The ‘reforms’ weaken them  allowing local accords and which give employers the ability to go over the heads of unions by enterprise by enterprise referendums. The CFDT is equally acting in its own interests, with, it claims, strength in the  these  direct company negotiations it can by-pass the CGT which prefers to reach agreements by “branche”, that is by sector.

It would not, by contrast, be unfair to point out the CGT is using the industrial strength  that it has – in the sectors cited in the France 24 report. (Loi Travail : pourquoi la CGT durcit le mouvement).

Why should it not do so?

As the conflict intensifies there is a concerted attempt to link the CGT not only with claims of intimidation against non-strikers, but also with acts of violence against its opponents which Descacq echoed. Those in the Parti Socialiste who have backed the ‘reform’  – despite opposition within their own ranks – have, it is claimed,  been singled out.

31 of the Governing Parti Socialiste’s offices across the country have, since December, been the target of acts of vandalism. These have mostly been minor but on Monday their Grenoble HQ was sprayed with 12 bullet shots (le Monde).

It would be extremely rash to offer any kind of judgement about the probable outcome of this conflict.

Update: The leader of the CFDT has just declared that it would be “unacceptable” to drop the ‘reform’ as that would mean losing the “new rights” which it offers.

Berger (CFDT): retirer la loi travail serait “inacceptable”

Today’s L’Humanité.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 26, 2016 at 10:48 am

Oil Refineries and Petrol Depots Blocked as French Union Protests Accelerate.

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blocaraff

Le Monde,  The day after a new day of demonstrations against the ”  El Khomri” labour ‘reforms’ the CGT “oil” section, has called for oil refineries to be blocked. (Via Solidarité Ouvrière)

French unions, students, and radical activists in groups such as Nuit Debout continue to campaign against the ‘Loi Khomri”.

The laws will undermine the ability of unions to reach collective agreements (although unions are weak and divided with only 8% members,  over 98% of French companies operate within the framework of collective bargaining, compared with under 29%, 63.7% public sector, only 16.0% in the private sector,   in the UK, (Here). The ‘reforms’ will encourage local negotiations, means to go over the head of unions, and other devices to weaken the collective system.

They will reduce hard won workers’ rights, getting  rid of the ‘red tape’ that helps the system of Inspecteurs du Travil, enforce decent working conditions.

Contrary to the falsehood being broadcast by the UK ‘Lexit’ campaign the pressure for these changes comes from the French Employers’ organisation, the MEDEF, not Brussels or the European Commission.

As can be seen in this banner which links the government, from Hollande, Valls, and Macron, to the Bosses’ federation.

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The action by the CGT is considerably more significant than the clashes between demonstrators and police which have been widely reported internationally.

French President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to stick with his controversial attempts to reform the labour market, even as a new round of violent protests broke out.

France 24.

Police fired tear gas in central Paris as an initially peaceful protest organised by unions and students was disrupted by a more radical fringe.

The labour reforms have sparked two months of protests on France’s streets, drawing 68,000 nationwide on Tuesday, authorities said, while organisers put the turnout at 220,000.

Withdraw, withdraw this law of the wealthy, it’s the law of the bosses,” was the message blasted from loudspeakers at the Paris march.

But Hollande said the battle against unemployment was not yet won and he placed the need to reform over his personal popularity, which remains at near-record lows a year ahead of a possible bid for re-election.

“I will not give way, because too many (previous) governments have backed down,” Hollande said in an hour-long interview with Europe 1 radio.

“I prefer that people have an image of a president who made reforms rather than a president who did nothing,” he said.

Police were quick to act as violence by masked youths broke out during the march in central Paris, kicking off another week of nationwide strikes and demonstrations against the package of reforms. Some 87 people were arrested.

Demonstrations were also reported in cities across the country from Marseille in the south to central Lyon and Lille in the north.

Lorry drivers blocked roads and ports in northern and western France, and there were clashes between protesters and police in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, where thousands more took to the streets.

“We have been ignored, so we will work even harder to make our voices heard,” said Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, at the Paris rally.

The government argues the changes contained in the draft law will make France’s notoriously rigid labour market more flexible, but opponents say it will erode job security and do little to bring down the unemployment rate, stuck at 10 percent and nearly 25 percent for young people.

The labour reform, which would make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, is likely the last major piece of legislation for Hollande, the least popular leader in modern French history who faces a re-election next May.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 20, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Boost for ‘Another Europe is Possible’ Remain Campaign: Varoufakis, McDonnell, Lucas and Clive Lewis Join.

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Ex-Greek finance minister will help launch nationwide campaign alongside John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will join the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Green party MP Caroline Lucas for the start of a tour to persuade leftwingers to vote to stay in the EU.

The senior figures from the political left are teaming up as part of the Another Europe is Possible campaign, in which they will make a progressive case for the UK to stay in.

The tour will start with an event in London with Varoufakis, who was severely critical of the EU’s dealings with Greece’s debts when he was finance minister but has recently warned that Brexit could plunge Europe into a 1930s-style depression.

Other rallies will involve trade unionists, as well as the Labour MP Clive Lewis, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.

Lewis said: “This referendum will define relationship to the world for decades, and we will be joining together with progressives across Britain and Europe, not just to make the case that we are better off in Europe, but also to talk about the kind of society we need to build.

“Capital long ago fled national borders. In order to build a society which is fair for everyone, we need an international response to austerity and the financial crisis. That’s why we are campaigning on an unapologetically progressive platform – for social justice, the environment and freedom of movement.”.

This follows last week’s decision by the Fire Brigades Union,

Fire Brigades Union conference says, ‘Stay in Europe to change Europe’

National conference agrees to support campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. But brilliant speech from General Secretary Matt Wrack rejects status quo Europe and calls for alternative

Delegates at FBU conference debated EU membership at length both in a fringe meeting on Wednesday and in a plenary debate today, but ultimately decided by some margin to remain and campaign for change with trade unionists across Europe.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, gave a fiery speech, critical of the current EU but strongly in favour of staying in to defend workers’ rights and change the union from within.

In particular, Wrack passionately defended the free movement of workers, saying that problems such as unemployment and housing crisis were caused by banks and the failure of markets, and not by migrants.

Kieron Merrett, trade union officer for Another Europe Is Possible , who spoke at a conference fringe meeting the evening before the vote, said:

“It’s terrific to see one of Britain’s best organised trade unions back the workers’ case for ‘In’ with an explicit ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’ line. It was an excellent debate that we were delighted to participate in. But the message must now go out, not only to every firefighter, but also every trade unionist in the UK. There is only one way to vote in this referendum to defend the vital interests of working people. That’s to vote to remain inside the European Union.”

Supporters of leaving the Union are also holding a rally this week.

Lexit: London left leave rally WEDNESDAY

All London meeting this Wednesday 18 May – 7pm:

The Internationalist Case against the EU – Friends Meeting House (Small Hall) 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ.

Speakers: Philippe Cordat (CGT union confederation France), Brid Smith (TD (member of parliament for People Before Profit, Ireland), Quim Arrufat (international secretary of the left wing Catalan party CUP), Lindsey German (Counterfire), Argyri Erotokitou (Greek doctor and leading member of Antarsya, Alex Callinicos (Socialist Workers Party) and Rob Griffiths (Communist Party).

In the Morning Star today Alex Gordon Lexit convener on the Left Leave Campaign writes on the present conflicts about new labour laws in France.

French Trade Unions Fight EU Attacks on Workers’ Rights.

Startled by this link between the EU and the El Khomri Law?

It’s backed by the following extraordinary claim.

LAST week France’s Socialist government issued an emergency decree to weaken workers’ rights at the behest of the European Commission.

Last Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls imposed the hated “El Khomri” law — named after Minister of Labour Myriam El Khomri — using an emergency constitutional mechanism (Article 49.3) to prevent a debate or vote that his government would lose in the French parliament.

Gordon repeats this assertion,

President Hollande’s decision to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to comply with radical measures the European Commission demanded in November 2015 brutally exposes his own government’s weakness.

Article 49.3 of the Fifth Republic was designed to prevent repetition of the chronic instability that characterised France’s Fourth Republic (1946-58), which famously saw 22 governments come and go in a mere 12 years.

In other words, it’s French Sovereignty which is is being used to……obey Brussels.

Every single report indicates that the El Khomi law originates in the demands of the French employers’ organisation, the MEDEF (” le basculement idéologique dans lequel François Hollande et Manuel Valls, inspirés par le Medef. Liberation. Passim). The Communist Daily, L’Humanité noted the same in February, “le Medef est devenu extrêmement offensif pour remettre en cause le modèle social français, pour réclamer des baisses d’impôts et de cotisations sociales, pour exiger la remise en cause du droit du travail. S’appuyant sur son vaste réseau de médias et d’économistes, il prétend cogérer l’État en imposant la réduction de la protection sociale, le report de l’âge de la retraite, la baisse des dépenses publiques..).

This is the first I’ve heard of an involvement of the European Union in the El Khomri law.

But, you’ve guessed it, the news hounds of  RTRussia Today, have sniffed it out for the benefit of all, no doubt including the Morning Star,

Bruxelles, discret chef d’orchestre de la loi El Khomri.

Brussels, discrete Chief Conductor of the El Khomri law.

The author of the RT article, Pierre Lévy, is in charge of the journal Ruptures that claims to be, “progressiste et iconoclaste”. It is to say the least, a strange mixture of ‘communism’,  anti-globalisation rhetoric, and French nationalism. In other words it’s a ‘sovereigntist’ project, an assertion of French nation against the European Union. (1)

Instead of this claptrap, for a serious account of the long-standing employer pressure to get red of labour law ‘red tape’ see the Blog de Gérard Filoche

Or this article by Filoche, an expert in French labour law, from his experience as an Inspecteur du travail: Un nouveau bouquet de lois sur le travail en janvier 2014.

Meanwhile in the UK a ‘sovereigntist’ connection runs through Alex Gordon’s ‘Lexit’ rally.

Amongst the speakers we note Philippe Cordat  Cordat is “Secrétaire du Comité Régional de la Cgt Centre, that is a region of the French trade union federation, not the national CGT. He appears to have conflicts with the CGT union leadership –  as outlined in this Front Syndical de Classe.

Cordat has strong opinions on the ‘super-national’ forces at work in the European Union.

The« idée européenne » a été historiquement portée par deux forces : la social-démocratie et le Vatican.”

The European ideal has historically been carried by two forces, social democracy and the Vatican. (Here)

Cordat also has views on the activities of the Socialist Party, the NPA and other far-left groups, as well as Freemasons and religious networks not to mention bosses’ influence inside his union ,

A bien y regarder la déferlante anti-communiste qui marque le débat public dans le pays depuis plus de quarante ans a conduit de nombreux syndicalistes à faire une fixation sur « la mainmise de Moscou » sur la CGT sans ouvrir les yeux sur les pratiques du PS, de la LCR devenu NPA, des autres structures de l’extrême-gauche des réseaux maçonniques et religieux, du patronat qui s’activent dans et autour la plus importante organisation syndicale française.

The successive waves of anti-Communism that have marked public debate in this country over the last 40 years, we can see,  has led many trade unionists to be fixated by the ‘hand of Moscow’ in the CGT, without opening their eyes to the activities of the Socialist Party, the LCR which has become the NPA, and other far-left  structures, Freemasons and religious networks, as well as the bosses, operating in and around the most important trade union body in France.

Réflexions d’un syndicaliste de la CGT  Philippe Cordat. (2011)

These opinions form part of Cordat’s wider complaints against the the CGT’s own version of Another Europe is Possible (whose details are too similar to the UK campaign to need repeating).

He stated in 2012 (Front Syndical de Classe) that this strategy is completely wrong.

Elle ne remet en cause ni les fondements, ni même les principes pour lesquels l’UE agit en ce moment : effacement des souverainetés, remboursement des dettes au profit des marchés …

It does  not question the foundations and the principles which drive the present EU: the iblteration of soveriegnties, the payment of debts to the profit of the markets…..

This emphasis on the importance of national sovereignty is shared by the Communist Party of Britain as one can see here: Why the EU is a negation of parliamentary sovereignty and democracy. argues Robert Griffiths.

It is to be wondered if the ‘revolutionary’ speakers at the Lexit meeting, from Counterfire and the SWP, not to mention Antarsya, or even the ‘municipalists’ of the Catalan CUP, share this sovereigntist vision.

Or indeed if they have the slightest concern about this project:

Iain Duncan Smith says workers’ rights should be ‘flexible’ after Brexit in epic on air tantrum.

 

(1) Fondé par Pierre Lévy, ex-journaliste à L’Humanité, ex-militant du PCF et de la CGT Métallurgie1, BRN compte ainsi dans son équipeLaurent Dauré (UPR et Acrimed)2, Dominique Guillemin (UPR)3 et surtout Bruno Drweski, militant anti-impérialiste entretenant un réseau d’amitiés et d’alliances tant à gauche qu’à l’extrême droite4. Il est à noter que le directeur de la publication de BRN, Hervé Berbille, a participé ès qualité à une réunion de l’Action française à Bordeaux en 2005 visant à promouvoir le « non » au TCE, comme le relate le compte-rendu publié sur le site de l’organisation d’extrême droite5. Confussionnisme Info. “RUPTURES, NOUVEAU MENSUEL SOUVERAINISTE.”

Democratic Socialist and Labour Movement Arguments for a “Remain” Referendum Vote – Chartist Special.

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Special Chartist Referendum Supplement (available here)

Read Chartist Magazine.

Editorial.

Remain and reform together.

An historic decision will be made on 23 June.

Labour has come out clearly for remain and reform of the European Union. Jeremy Corbyn has nailed Labour’s colours to the mast of internationalism, cooperation and worker’s rights in Europe. While the Tory Party tears itself apart, Labour is mounting an independent united campaign to secure an in vote.

The spectre of narrow nationalism, xenophobia and fascism is once again stalking Europe. Within the EU, ‘warts and all’ and working with socialists and greens across the 27 member countries is the best way to combat this menace to our rights and freedoms.

We know there are problems with the EU, largely the result of the domination of neoliberal free market privatisers and a harsh austerity agenda being pursued most viciously in Greece. But the Syriza government and left critics are determined to stay and take the fight for an alternative, democratic road to the heart of Europe. This must be the British road as well.

In this world where global capital can move across borders to divide and rule, working in stronger regional blocks to curb and regulate their tax dodging and exploitation is the only approach with a hope of success.

A Brexit could also set the clock of social progress back years. Have no doubts that the Tory opponents of the EU and UKIP stand for untrammelled capitalism and a much harsher, meaner, dirtier, inhumane and divided Britain. Cooperation with our European brothers and sisters on issues from climate change, cyber crime, terrorism, human rights and economic justice is the internationalist way.

Vote remain to continue the fight for a democratic Europe. Vote remain for a socially just Europe that will tackle corporate greed and put people before profits.

Articles:

In for social solidarity  Frances O’Grady, General  Secretary of the TUC, says the way to equality, jobs and workers’ rights lies through the EU.

Julie Ward MEP on standing up for a Social EU.

Nature needs the EU too. Anita Pollack, former MEP and author of  “New Labour in Europe: Leadership and Lost Opportunities” on the environmental case for the EU.

Owen Tudor, TUC Head of EU and International Relations, Total reversal of workers’ rights?  On Michael Ford QC s opinion about the risks of Brexit.

Don Flynn , Director, Migrant, Rights Network. False promise on migration.

Ann Pettifor, member of the Labour Party’s  Economic Advisory Committee and Director: Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME). Why I’m voting to ‘Remain’.

Mary Southcott, coordinator Friends of Cyprus  and a member of the Chartist EB. EU umbrella for peace.

Stronger in for jobs and rights. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP puts the case to vote to remain in the EU.

Essential reading!

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France: Serious May Day Clashes as Police Introduce ‘Kettling.’

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 Des policiers en civil aspergent des manifestants durant la manifestation du 1er Mai à Paris.

 Police in Civilian Dress Spray Paris Demonstrators. (le Monde)

France 24.

Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled bottles and other projectiles during a May Day rally in Paris Sunday, where controversial labour reforms were the main focus of demonstrations.

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in the march in the French capital amid a heightened police presence after several recent protests against labour reforms ended in violence.
  • There were ugly scenes as a small group of protesters in balaclavas hurled projectiles at the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas, bringing the march to a standstill.
  • Calm was later restored, however, and the majority of those taking part in the demonstration did so peacefully.
  • Police said between 16,000 and 17,000 people took part in the rally and Paris. The CGT union put the figure at 70,000.
  • Rallies in other French cities including Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille passed largely without incident earlier Sunday.

Le Monde carries a report in which demonstrators accuse the Police of having acted with the aim of stirring up trouble.

« C’est la première fois que je vois ça », commentait un manifestant d’une cinquantaine d’années, présent dimanche à Paris, alors que les forces de l’ordre avaient pris en sandwich la tête du cortège, constituée majoritairement de jeunes sans étiquette syndicale, la séparant en aval du reste du défilé et la bloquant devant par une ligne de CRS quasi inamovible. Résultat : quarante-cinq minutes à peine après le début de la manifestation, au-dessus de ce peloton de tête « nassé », les premiers gaz lacrymogènes fusaient et rencontraient les premiers pétards et autres feux d’artifice, occasionnant quelques charges sporadiques des policiers. « On appelle ça la politique de la tension », regrettait un manifestant. « La surprésence policière est une provocation », surenchérissait un autre.
 This is the first time I’ve seen that” commented on Sunday  a middle-aged demonstrator at Paris, as the police held the head of the march, largely made up of young people unaffiliated to the trade unions, and separated them at the top, by a solid line of the riot squad (CRS), from the rest of the demonstration.

As a result, a bare 45 minutes after the beginning of the demonstration, above and outside this ‘kettle’, the first tear gas grenades were thrown, and were met with bangers and other fireworks, followed by sparodic police charges. “You could call this the ‘strategy of tension” one marcher said regretfully, “The massive police presence is a provocation” forthrightly added another.

British readers will note that the Police used a tactic we are familiar with: ‘nassé ‘ means literally netted, as in fish,  but in the jargon of marches it signifies “Kettled”.

 

One demonstrator alleged that this was a deliberate “strategy of tension” to rattle up disorder.

 

Which is not to deny the existence of bands of ‘casserus’ – those who smash things up (casser) on the margins of French demonstrations.

A May Day rally held by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party was crashed by a group of topless Femen protesters.

Topless Femen activists on Sunday interrupted the French far-right National Front’s (FN) annual May Day gathering for the second year running, baring their chests and toasting “The end of the FN” before being arrested.

At midday, the Femen militants, topless and clutching bottles of champagne, burst from a red van parked outside the party’s headquarters at Porte de la Villette in northern Paris.

Their torsos were daubed with slogans including “Fascists stay in the shadows” and “Long live the end of the FN”.

Their protest was short lived as riot police controlling the gathering moved quickly to arrest them with the enthusiastic help of FN security guards.

Bystanders shouted “Put them under the wheels of your truck” and “Don’t be gentle with them”.

The official FN gathering this year, dubbed a “patriotic banquet”, took place earlier in the day at Saint Augustin in central Paris, in a break from tradition that usually sees far-right supporters march from another statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli, next to the Louvre Museum, to nearby Opéra.

However, bitter infighting that saw FN leader Marine Le Pen oust her father Jean-Marie last year meant there were two different rallies at two different Joans and more airing of the family feud.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, kicked out of the party for refusing to tone down racist and anti-Semitic comments, held court at the traditional spot in front of about 400 supporters where he woefully predicted a loss for the FN in next year’s presidential elections.

Earlier, Femen posted a picture on Twitter of its topless militants mopping the ground outside Opéra, under the slogan: “We are proud to clean our democratic and secular streets of Marine Le Pen’s dirty hatred”.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2016 at 11:49 am