We will soon find out if the state of emergency measures imposed after the Paris terrorist attacks will be used for the repression of social protest. Certainly the police response to the protests against the French government’s proposed labor law was not restrained.
There have been barely any concessions to a movement calling, in no uncertain terms, for the measures to be withdrawn as protesters face police brutality against demonstrations throughout the city that continued Friday after sever several weeks.
As a result, anger and indignation are growing by the day.
One thing that seems clear by now to everyone, even to those not directly involved in the scrums, is the absolute unwillingness of European governments, social democratic or not, to mediate with regard to rights and guarantees.
The arrogance of the executive powers and the continued restriction of democratic political spaces will not allow either of two alternatives: either the resigned acceptance of the “reforms” imposed by the elites or a movement of revolt from below, strong enough to arouse serious concern about the social peace.
The situation of France, caught between an expanding right and the worst president that the European Socialists have ever produced, suggests that the latter alternative is the one to pursue. And that’s what counts, regardless of how the current battle in Paris ends up.
But the problem is not only French. The transalpine jobs act sits neatly in the wake of a widespread reduction of labor rights, of the exploitation of a precarious workforce and of contracting welfare benefits, all of which outline the dominant political attitudes across the continent. The International Monetary Fund is closing a noose around Alexis Tsipras’ neck in Athens in the name of austerity, while Berlin is about to follow the British example to deny social benefits to European nationals who have not worked in Germany for at least five years (though the proposal has become more modest thanks to the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder). That proposal comes once again from a Social Democratic minister.
The attack against the most disadvantaged sectors of the European population continues unabated, putting them in very significant proportions at the mercy of the demagoguery of the right. When the social democracy does not directly sell them out, as is happening in Austria. We will need to be aware of when and how much the management of the so-called “migrants crisis” will be maneuvered precisely against the rights and living standards of European citizens in the name of their protection: the closing of borders, the derogations of the minimum wage and social security.
It is surprising, therefore, not only the extension and intensity of the French movement, but the absence of an equally strong reaction from other European countries. This “convergence of struggles” that is being tried out in France, remains, at best, a vague statement of a principle or an assembly slogan.