Thursday, March 23, 2006

Student Protest in France.

A few days ago, we posted about the current student demonstrations in Francefor the abolition of a new law known as the "First Employment Contract" (CPE in French - the French love acronyms!) that would allow employers to lay off young workers (26 and less) without cause for a period of two years.

Today there was yet another demonstration of students and it ended up – again - in violence (BBC). The pictures are very impressive even though one needs to be careful of impressive pictures. For all the anger yu see, this is not ‘68 all over again.

The major difference is that the movement seems to become out of control - there are few leaders, no central organization, and no real representative. Instead, the movement is based on cell phones and the internet.

As this socialist European MP members pointed out:

"Traditionally, the labor unions or political parties and organizations acted as relay systems with the powers that be, and they became the mechanisms for negotiating a way out of the crisis," says Benoit Hamon, one of the youngest members of the European Parliament. "But this time, nobody is acting as the interface."

Clearly that’s going to be the major problem for the government. Students who take the streets are hard to tame. If the government may be able to find some agreement with the unions (whom they meet tomorrow) that does not mean the students will follow through. It's the pandora box!

Besides, some small groups of political extremists (anarchists and far-left, or far right morons) as well as young criminals have used the demonstrations as an opportunity for violence and theft. Yet even though protests against the CPE have spread across France in the past few weeks, they have so ar largely remained peaceful.

That being said, this is not a sign, despite what some 'experts' may claim, that there cannot be reforms in France. It just means that this government was unwilling to make some bipartisan decision before the law was voted. As always, they opened talks with the unions AFTER they made their decision. How stupid is that?!

In fact, the word ‘bipartisan’ does not even exist in French politics. Until the current French political and union leaders get it, things will not change. Thinking about it, we might just need to wait for the whole baby-boomer generation to retire. Thank god, that is coming soon.


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