As French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, under new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, moves ever further to the right, a radical mass movement is again shaking the country. Last year, the biggest workers’ movement for decades mobilised millions across the country in an attempt to defend retirement pensions. This year it is the turn of the farmers to revolt. Six thousand tractors were present at 120 blockades, and at least 16 motorways were brought to a standstill on January 30. Regional government headquarters have been covered with manure, and hypermarket distribution centres — as well as Toulouse airport — paralysed.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that French will remove its troops and ambassador from Niger, as the military junta that took over the country in July wants French forces out. “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron said on French TV, according to AP. “And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities.” The comments show France is backing down from its hardline position on the military junta that ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum.
What is it about France these days? La republique seems to be ever on the brink of exploding over one or another social question. Twice in the past four months the French have erupted in protests and all too often rioting. In March they took to the streets, burned buildings, burned tires, built barricades, lit bonfires, and made impassioned references to the guillotine in reaction to the Macron government’s plans to neoliberalize the pension system. For a week beginning last Tuesday, cities from Lille to Marseille were set ablaze after the police shot and killed a 17–year-old citizen named Nahel, who was of North African descent.
As he had threatened days earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to cut internet access in different locations on the outskirts of Paris starting on Monday, July 3. The French Ministry of the Interior explained via a statement that the restrictions are implemented in order to “prevent the abusive use of social media platforms to coordinate illegal actions and incite violence.” Previously, Macron had said that the protests originated from false publications on social media, violent video games and a lack of parental responsibility. He stated that on social media, there has been “unacceptable exploitation of the death of a teenager.
Spontaneous protests broke out in France on April 14, Friday, after the country’s Constitutional Council ratified the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64, the most controversial aspect of the pension reforms pushed by the Emmanuel Macron-led government. Macron signed the bill into law early on Saturday. Even though the Council struck down certain provisions of the bill, it also rejected the first version of the Referendum of Shared Initiative (RIP) on the implementation of the reforms. The proposal for the referendum was submitted by the MPs from the left-wing New Ecologic and Social Peoples Union’s (NUPES) coalition. The Constitutional Council will decide on a second RIP on May 3.
On March 16, the French government invoked the emergency provision Article 49.3 of the Constitution in the parliament and passed a controversial pension reform, bypassing the parliamentary vote. The decision announced by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to avoid voting on the pension reforms envisaged in the ‘law of amending financing of Social Security for 2023’, provoked ire from progressive legislators of the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) coalition as well as large sections of civil society. Spontaneous protests have already broken out across the country condemning the forced approval of the bill.
So far, after weeks of targeted strikes by workers opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the national retirement age and reform the country’s beloved pension system, the French government has refused to change course. That is why unions across different industries raised the ante last week, launching an indefinite strike until workers’ demands are met. As Eric Challal of the Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques (SUD) Railway Union put it, “We have no choice, we must make Macron back down, make the employers back down. There is no lack of money in this society… Wages are too low, prices are exploding, the high cost of living, the threat of war… We have this opportunity to fight, all the workers together.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Russia’s security concerns when it comes to NATO expansion need to be taken into account in any future peace talks and that the West needs to be prepared to give Moscow guarantees. “We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table,” the French leader said in an interview that aired Saturday. “One of the essential points we must address — as President Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron added. Any future peace deal between Russia and Ukraine would require a guarantee that Kyiv will remain neutral and won’t join NATO.
French riot police went on a fascistic rampage Monday evening, brutally assaulting a peaceful tent camp of some 500 refugees at the Place de la République in central Paris. Police used teargas, kicked and beat migrants with batons, tipped refugees out of their tents and assaulted them on the ground. Journalists filming the crackdown were also assaulted. The riot officers threw dozens of confiscated tents into trucks and drove them away. After the square was cleared, a group of several hundred homeless refugees were forced to march north until they reached the outer suburbs around the city, pursued by police throwing teargas canisters as they went.
Protesters took to the streets of Paris on Monday and clashed with riot police as the pension reform bill reached the French National Assembly for debate. Tensions between the demonstrators and riot police were visible, as the police tried to keep protesters at bay with batons, before arresting a few. Yellow Vests and unionist with flares could also be seen joining in with the rally. “Sixty per cent of the French are against this reform and against a certain number of measures which have been taken before. We are under attack from all sides on social justice, in a country that prides itself on its freedom, its fraternity,” said a protester. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a two-year-extension of the working period necessary to earn a full pension in December, triggering the anger of workers and trade unions.
The people of France continue to protest against President Macron's neoliberal policies and the cutting of French pensions. France has seen months of protests, starting with the Yellow Vests over a year ago and joined by the unions to become a general strike. Firefighters, teachers, railroad workers, electrical workers, lawyers, dancers -- across multiple professions people are in the streets sometimes speaking in front of guillotines or carrying Macron's head on a stick. They remind Macron what happened to King Louis XVI, call for revolution and say 'we can begin again.' Torchlit protests occurred in major cities across the country tonight with people dancing, singing, chanting and releasing Chinese lanterns in vivid displays against Macron's neoliberal policies for the wealthy.
In a brief, perfunctory speech on New Year’s Eve, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to impose his pension cuts despite mass strikes and overwhelming popular opposition, which he derided as “pessimism” and “motionlessness.” On January 2, the rail and transport strike against Macron’s pension “reform,” at 29 days, became the longest-running continuous national strike in France since the May 1968 general strike. Over two-thirds of the population opposes the pension cuts, and strikes continue to break out affecting wider layers of the working population...
The situation in France may be reaching a showdown between the Macron government, which is now considering using the Army against the Yellow Vests, and the social movement, to whose demands the regime continues to turn a deaf ear. The showdown is likely to happen tomorrow, Saturday, and frankly, I have no idea what will happen if the government uses total military might to crush the still-popular Yellow Vests, who are unlikely to back down but may change their tactics.