Frédéric Lordon is a French philosopher and economist, director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). In recent weeks he has been the protagonist of debates at Tolbiac campuses, occupied as a result of the protest against the proposed labor market reform (Italian) and Nuit Debout Paris movement (“up all night”) that sparked the demonstrations. In 2015, he published “Capitalism: Desire and Servitude,” an essay in which Marx and Spinoza meet and explain the exploitation of contemporary capitalism.
What are the origins, the political roots and slogans of the Nuit Debout movement?
At the origin of this movement is the François Ruffin film Merci Patron! The film tells the story of a LVMH employee who had been laid off and for whom Ruffin and his team managed to extort €40,000 from [LVMH Chairman and CEO] Bernard Arnault, one of the leading French entrepreneurs, and to reinstate the worker indefinitely with the company. This film is so heartening and incites so much energy that people said, “We should do something.” That documentary was perhaps something like a detonator. The general situation seemed very ambivalent, sad and hopeless in many respects, but at the same time very promising: saturated anger, waiting for something that would make it leap out. The film was the catalyst of the groundswell.
So we organized one evening in late February to talk about what to do in film and what we could do in general. It seemed that politics was a hopelessly sclerotic institutional game. We needed a different type of movement, a movement of workers where people could meet without intermediaries, such as Occupy Wall Street and 15M in Spain. The idea came from a public screening of the film at Place de la Republique in Paris, and then spread to other places. Then the El Khomri law arrived and added momentum to our needs and initiative. The slogan has become, “after the demonstration, we don’t return home.” And we remained.