Friday, June 17, 2016

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Revolution Pours Onto Streets Of France As Police Reaction Intensifies

Shane Bradley, an Education Officer with the 1916 Societies, discusses rising revolutionary sentiment in France and the emergence of ‘Comité 18 Mai’ in response to police brutality. The article first appeared on the 1916 Societies website.

Many Irish republicans and socialists are following the events currently unfolding in France, as the political left locks horns with the Hollande Government in a bid to prevent the ‘Americanisation’ of the country’s labour laws.

The French Government is attempting to demolish workers’ rights by imposing a new ‘Working Conditions Law’ (known as La loi travail or La loi El Khomri). This law was forced through the French Parliament without a vote, using special powers. If it remains on the books, workers will be subject to draconian conditions that, among other injustices, give employers the right to hire and fire at will.

Despite its name – Parti Socialiste – President François Hollande’s Socialist Party has been supported by the United States since the end of World War II, when the US decided to back the French Socialists as a ‘moderate opposition’ to counter the French Communist Party. This relationship between Washington and the Socialist Party has tempered any left trajectory in the politics of the latter in the time since.

At the present moment, French workers have succeeded in bringing France to a standstill through well-coordinated industrial action, targeting railways, ports, and power stations. There have also been sustained protests such as those at the Place de la République in Paris. Here, the ‘Nuit Debout’ movement (which has been compared to the Occupy Movement) has held the centre of one of Paris’ most prestigious squares for months. French fascists, led by Marion Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen), have organised counter-rallies along with the biggest Police union, which is known for its far-right sympathies.

Against this background, the 1916 Societies have been contacted by a number of French comrades and political groups who have asked us to help highlight the case of three young Frenchmen and an American who have been arraigned on trumped up charges of ‘attempted murder’ against police, following an incident when a police car was set alight at a protest in Paris.

The incident occurred at a protest on the Quai de Valmy in Paris on the 18th of May this year. What happened was caught on camera and beamed all round the world. A police car can be seen driving into a protest, some of the car’s windows are broken by thrown objects and, as the police officers step out, a flare is thrown into the back. Over a period of some minutes a fire catches by which time the police officers have casually walked away.

The incident looks a lot less like ‘attempted murder’ than, say, beating someone senseless with a steel baton. Plenty of video footage show police doing exactly that to protesters. The political left in France regard the ‘attempted murder’ charges as a sinister attempt by the Government to over-egg the incident in order to manufacture useful propaganda to smear the legitimacy of the protests.

Three men were arrested in their homes just hours following the burning of the police car, two others a week later and a fifth on the 9th of June. When four of them appeared in court, the prosecutor admitted that there was absolutely no evidence in his file. The judge released two on bail (with restrictions on freedom of movement) but the other two, including the youngest, who is just 18, were remanded in custody. The sixth has not been charged at the time of writing.

The four charged were well known for their left-wing activism. It looks very much like a case of rounding-up ‘the usual suspects’. The Government is hoping to use the fire in the police car as a smokescreen to obscure the just demands of the protesters. In other French towns, strikers and protesters have been charged with ‘criminal association’ for picketing railways.

Needless to say, neither police heavy-handedness nor Government dirty tricks will deter French workers from fighting for their rights. A campaign group, Comité 18 Mai, has been set up on behalf of those being framed for the so-called ‘attempted murder’ and we encourage our readers to visit their page and find out more about both the arrests themselves and the evolving protest movement in France.

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