France workers’ rage reveals fracturing EU & world order
Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 4:19PM
Challenge_DesafĂ­o

The Yellow Vest anti-government movement in France is driven by the rage of masses who are profoundly dissatisfied with capitalist society, its politicians, and above all, with banker-president Emmanuel Macron. But lacking revolutionary communist ideas and leadership, these working-class fighters will be funneled into dead-end political options: passivity, electoral politics, cynicism, even open fascism.  
As the rebellion continued into its fifth week, a multiracial movement of high school students has put forward some of the most anti-racist and class-conscious ideas in the movement. Little noted in the bosses’ newspapers, the students are having a multiracial fight in defense of open admissions. From what we can tell, their resistance is more integrated than the protests in Paris and other cities, where super-exploited workers from immigrant neighborhoods are mostly conspicuous by their absence.
Students in over 350 schools nationwide barricaded their schools and took to the streets, blocking roads and fighting back against the cops’ brutal attacks. Students are angry over the change in exit exams instigated last year by Macron, which makes it more difficult to graduate from high school or attend college. They are also protesting a proposal for forced national service (France 24, 12/11). Rejecting the inequality and nationalism inherent in capitalism has earned these students a brutal response. Images of dozens detained on their knees, hands laced behind their heads tore across social media last week. The pictures stoked mass outrage against Macron’s police state, where cops use tactics reminiscent of Nazi roundups of resistance fighters during World War II.
Worker-Student Alliance
The Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) take their name from the roadside hazard vests the protesters have adopted as a symbol of their class anger. In the largest and most militant protests in France since the 1968 general strike, hundreds of thousands of workers have been in the streets for over a month.
The protesters have demanded an end to the “efficiency” program Macron promised in his 2017 campaign and ruthlessly implemented after his election. The rebellion began in rural areas and the suburbs, where a heavy gas tax hurts workers chased out of the cities by gentrification and the resulting increase in the cost of living. Macron’s “solution for people who can’t afford food by the end of the month is to buy solar panels and electric cars” (Washington Post, 12/5).
The French bosses are trembling at the potential of an anti-capitalist student-worker alliance. They remember the May 1968 general strike that forced President Charles de Gaulle to flee the country. It began with students taking over universities and eventually spread to workers taking over factories. More than two-thirds of the French working class actively participated in this near-revolution. Will history repeat itself? “Worryingly for the Macron administration, there are tentative signs the unrest may also be spreading to universities, where students are angry at the government’s plans to hike fees for non-EU nationals in a bid to make French universities ‘more competitive’” (France 24, 12/11).
We want the whole baguette!
After the third week of protests, Macron attempted to pacify the Yellow Vests by repealing his hated added gas tax. He added some negligible tax cuts for pensioners and a $114-a-month bump in the minimum wage. The bosses hope to buy off workers with crumbs—far short of the whole baguette that the more militant protests have demanded.
History shows us that unless workers seize state power, the bosses will steal back reform concessions. To end the general strike of 1968, the French ruling class increased wages for industrial workers by 35 percent and for others by 10 percent. Fifty years later, most workers are again struggling to make ends meet.
Without a clear antiracist, internationalist outlook, workers will continue to be divided and vulnerable to rotten capitalist ideology. Open racists like Marine Le Pen and her fascist National Rally party are attempting to sway the Yellow Vest movement to anti-immigrant ideas. The far right “has sent its own activists to join—critics say infiltrate—the protests, pushing its line that immigration is the central problem and that Mr. Macron sold out the country by agreeing to a nonbinding United Nations pact on migration recently reached in Marrakesh, Morocco” (New York Times, 12/16).
As little fascists like Le Pen square off against big fascists like Macron and fake leftists like Jean-Luc Melenchon, workers in France have no good choices—unless they break with liberal “democracy” and are won to a movement for communism.     
This weakness in the Yellow Vest movement gives the bosses maneuverability to proceed with their top priority: preparing for inevitable world war.
Uniting native-born and foreign-born, white, Arab, and Black workers throughout France would shake the capitalist rulers to the core—and far beyond the halls of power in Paris. Working class power will come when our class realizes that we can organize the world to meet the needs of all, not for the profit of a few at our expense.
Liberal world order teeters
The liberal fascists in the European Union know they are in crisis. “While Britain’s political class is, rightly, in the spotlight for having made a mess of Brexit, the EU’s establishment is in a similar bind over its colossal failure to civilise the eurozone—with the rise of the xenophobic right the hideous result” (The Guardian, 12/13).
The EU bosses had high hopes that Macron could lead the way in forcing “economic structural reforms” to maintain the EU’s clout in its inter-imperialist competition with the U.S., China, and Russia.
If [Macron] can loosen hiring and firing rules, overhaul a deeply indebted unemployment benefit system and stick to deficit-reduction targets, he will effectively have robbed Germany of a major excuse not to press ahead with eurozone reform plans (Politico, 7/18/17).
As Macron’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, put it more recently: “France’s attractiveness for investors is at stake. That is why it is important to remain on the path of reform” (BBC.com 12/11). 
But the Yellow Vest protests have weakened Macron’s standing among bosses throughout Europe and the world. The repercussions could be severe. “Macron was the European establishment’s last hope. As a presidential candidate, he explicitly recognised that ‘if we don’t move forward, we are deciding the dismantling of the eurozone,’the penultimate step before dismantling of the EU itself” (The Guardian, 12/13).
Red vest of communism
In the absence of determined, internationalist, class-conscious leadership—in a word, communist leadership—workers in motion will be open for co-optation. Yet the working class remains the wild card that can force bosses to recalculate their plans for war and fascism. An unorganized movement to break the bosses’ laws is not enough. Our next step is to gain confidence as a class to overthrow the ruling class parasites—to trade the Yellow Vests of reform for the red vests of communist revolution.
Under communism, we will reorganize society to meet workers’ needs and end exploitation forever. National borders and imperialist war will be abolished. In each militant uprising, we see a flash of the strength we will need to accomplish such a task. While the goal of communism remains distant, the forces that will create it refuse to be extinguished. As Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “Let the ruling classes of the world tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. We have a world to win.”

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Worldwide, workers break bosses’ laws

France is far from the only country where workers are mobilizing to break the bosses’ laws. In recent months, workers fleeing capitalist chaos in Central America crossed into Mexico with no regard for the bosses’ borders.
In Haiti, tens of thousands of workers and youth, incensed by rotten PetroCaribe corruption and robbery, overcame the Haitian ruling class’s best efforts to crush them. In November, they organized the biggest demonstrations in Haiti since 2004, paralyzing the island in what amounted to a one-day nationwide general strike.
In China, meanwhile, thousands of “mass incidents” are erupting each year, threatening to derail the efforts of the capitalist Chinese “Communist” Party to pursue its program of ruthless profit-seeking and imperialist expansion (Economist, October 2018).  
The caravan movement suffers from religious pacifism and the misguided aspiration of “making it to America.” In Haiti, illusions over the possibility of an “uncorrupted” capitalism limit how far workers and youth can go. The left in China is still small and heavily repressed.
Yet, in each case, workers’ courage in the face of police terror has forced the rulers in their countries to take notice—and to fear the wrath of the working class.

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (http://www.plp.org/).
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