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24th March 2006 |
WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! ITS YER PLUS CA CHANGE...
To Arms | Crap Arrest of the Week | Heavy
on the Mayo | SchNEWS in Brief | SIS-TEM
FAILURE | H2O Dear |
| ...and finally...
The widespread perception in French society is that the
gulf separating those inside society, even if they are
badly paid, from those outside, in particular living
in the suburbs, has become more accentuated over the past 20 years.
- Sociologist François Dubet.
France is revolting, again. Last Saturday over a million took to
the streets across the country, coming just two days after 300,000
had done the same nationally. This week 70 campuses across France
have been partially or totally shut down and some 800 high schools
are also striking. In some places the youth of the suburbs whose
rioting spread across the country last October (see SchNEWS
520) have joined forces with students.
The match which lit this fire was the CPE - (first employment contract)
a new employment law which attacks and casualises the status of
workers under 26 (see box). French Prime Minister
Dominique de Villepin unveiled this labour liberalisation package
on the 16th of January saying that urgent action was
needed to bring the French labour market into the modern era
(and we all know what that means). In response, people quickly mobilised.
The protests have gone into overdrive since March 7th, when half
of Frances universities were occupied and up to a million
students went on strike during a national day of protest. For the
second time in six months France is in the grip of mass protests
made up of movements of autonomous groups - not dominated by the
manipulations and empty posturing of the organised left.
Demonstrations last Saturday included 300,000 in Paris which was
followed by a six-hour street battle, with protesters fighting police
on the Left Bank as they tried to retake the Sorbonne - which protesters
had occupied from March 7th until they were evicted by the riot
police on the 11th - a location steeped in memories of May
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day before the eviction police fired tear gas at the Sorbonne, claiming
that the large police presence outside the university was under
students throwing books! In Marseilles, where
100,000 took to the streets on Saturday, police also attacked with
tear gas, arresting two in front of the Municipality where a large
group of anarchists and others had gathered. Spirits were lifted
when someone climbed on to the balcony and hoisted Alternative Libertaires
red and black flag in place of the French tricolour.
Also on Saturday, a postal worker, Cyril Ferez, was severely beaten
in Paris by the notorious specialist riot police, the CRS, and is
now in a coma. He was left for 50 minutes motionless on the tarmac
at Place de la Nation with police initially claiming he was drunk
and attacked by other protesters (yes, really). Back in the real
world, witnesses claim that five or six CRS laid into him with truncheons
and it was protestors who eventually managed to get him medical
These protests against the CPE are just part of a broader movement
against the US/UK-style liberalisation of the French economy, and
follow other public rejections of these policies, including the
referendum which gave a firm non to the proposed European
constitution and its raft of neo-liberalisations. Despite the mainstream
media claiming that the French are being anything from anti-free
enterprise to downright racist, a look at the real causes behind
the revolt reveals the usual plan: corporate bosses are lining politicians
pockets for a mutually beneficial carve up of the economy, and the
dumping of any regulations such as workers rights -
which stand in the way of the fat-cat feeding frenzy.
While cynical pundits say that young people are de-politicised
and assume that the French protests are the work of militant trade
union activists, the fact is this is coming from autonomous groups
in communities, workplaces and campuses, organising in a decentralised
manner. Actually the unions - just as they were in May 68
- are a force against militant resistance, and would rather people
just marched and trundled off home at 5pm.
New employment laws are part of a programme, followed by successive
governments, of introducing repressive laws as well as dragging
out old laws - to put down the civil unrest they have caused, and
using all legal tools at their disposal to push through changes,
while either ignoring protests or sending in battalions of riot
cops. The protests this month follow on from the heavily repressed
student protests last spring, and the riots late last year (see
SchNEWS 520), which were a response in
poorer suburban communities across France to harassment by racist
police and high unemployment. Youth unemployment - at 23-50% in
some Paris suburbs - is among the worst in Europe, and the states
response to the yoof of today has been repression rather
than community building.
The changes in the French economy are part of a much wider transition
from Old to New Europe, as more and more
countries are dragged into the brave neo (liberal) world. In many
ways the French are now fighting the battles we lost during the
Thatcher years. The new, cheaper, eastern European countries
are pushing jobs eastward, and on top of that, with the rise of
China and India as enormous cheap workforces, more jobs are disappearing
from Europe. Meanwhile in France, the gap between the haves
and have nots widens towards UK levels.
Momentum is still building up across France with more waves of
strikes, demonstrations and occupations of schools, campuses, workplaces,
railway stations and town centres this week. Tuesday saw a day of
action with 800 schools involved in strikes, while yesterday (Thursday)
saw 450,000 demonstrators across France. The large mass demo in
Paris ended with 100 arrested after violent clashes and tear gas
attacks by police around les Invalides. Also yesterday 2 - 3,000
blockaded the railway line at Angers, and were later cleared with
tear gas. In Lannion, 500 high school kids blocked entrances to
a shopping centre, and it kicked off in several other centres including
Rennes and Marseilles. Next Tuesday a general strike is planned.
The CPE could bring down De Villepins government, or they
could dump it or make a compromise with big unions. Either way conditions
wont really improve for those at the lower end of the job
market. The problems highlighted by last years riots
racism, unemployment and poverty - are all still there. SchNEWS
wonders how long it will take for Britains underclass to realise
what two decades of neo-liberal reform have done for them and import
some French tactics from over the channel together with their cheap
For updates see: www.libcom.org/blog
or Indymedia: www.indymedia.org.uk/en/actions/2006/france/
|The new employment contract (CPE
meaning first employment contract) which comes into
effect in April, would allow bosses to sack workers aged 15-25
years without reason or compensation during the first two years
of employment creating a generation of disposable workers
without job security. This follows the CNE, a similar law passed
last year which applies to small businesses with less than twenty
on the payroll, and other recent laws which are all about putting
profit ahead of workers rights, safety and wages. Its
the usual neo-liberal squeeze giving businesses a boost by making
it easier and cheaper to hire and fire workers.
|* Next Tuesday (28th) in France there
will be a general strike with civil disobedience across
the country bringing workers, students and the unemployed together.
* 1.5 million public sector worker in Britain will also be
on strike that day (28th) fighting attacks on pension schemes,
and plans to increase the retirement, There well be demos across
the country. To find out more see www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/03/336341.html)
ARREST OF THE WEEK
For bear faced cheek...
An animal rights activist was arrested in Singapore last week after
dressing as a bear during a visit by the Queen. Jodi Ruckley was
protesting the use of bear pelts for the ceremonial hats worn by
the Queens Guards. The thought of the Queens visit being
disrupted was obviously too grizzly for the Singapore cops and Jodi
was arrested after only five minutes outside the presidential palace.
ON THE MAYO
Rossport solidarity camp in North-West Mayo has recently reopened
in a new location along the planned route of Shells dangerous
experimental pipe-line in a beautiful windswept part of rural Mayo,
Ireland. Last year, five local men were jailed indefinitely at the
behest of Shell, who were trying to put an end to the blockading
of the construction site (see SchNEWS 506).
After three months and no drop in the spirits of the continuing
local protests, backed up by support from visiting activists, Shell
stopped work for the winter. The men were then released and campaigners
have now regrouped.
The camp is back and locals and activists are preparing for the
upcoming fight. Construction may begin any day and bodies are needed
to help out in the camp. The pipeline is proposed to run at an experimentally
high pressure, on unstable bogland with a history of landslides
and subsidence. The pipe also runs through the backyards of locals
living as close as 50 metres to the pipe-line, despite the safe
zone for the pipe-line being at least 300 metres. As one of
the campaigners told SchNEWS, If Shell thought that small
farmers in the arse-end of nowhere would be a pushover they thought
wrong. When we say this thing will be built over our dead bodies,
we mean it. The camp does however welcome visitors.
and visit www.struggle.ws/rsc
- Therell be an April fools day themed demo against the
no-protest Exclusion Zone around Parliament this Saturday.
Meet at the London Eye at 12 Noon. The demo will be followed by
an afterparty fundraiser for People In Common who are campaigning
against the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. 7pm-2am
at the Social Centre, 21 Russell Square
- Lions and other animals are bred in captivity to act
as targets for holiday hunters who pay large fees
to shoot a trophy - a talk by Chris Mercer, who campaigns
in South Africa to get canned hunting banned, on Friday, 31st
March, 7.30pm Friends Meeting House, St Helens Street, Derby
- Smash EDO are heading up to the Big Smoke on March 30th
for a demo outside Selfridge Hotel, Oxford St, London 5.30pm 30th
March for Advanced Weapons System Intergration Conference.
This Sunday is the 11th anniversary of Schengen Information System
(SIS) going live in Europe. Big deal I hear you say. And, er what
the hell is it anyway? Basically, its the Europe-wide big
brother computer system set up to link national databases and allow
different countries police to share information about undesirables.
It developed from the Schengen Convention, established during the
mid-eighties, which created a new zone of co-operative nation states
and lifted border controls within large swathes of Europe - basically
EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland excluding the
UK and Ireland.
Part of the agreement which established SIS (known as Article 96)
was that it was to protect the member countries from threatening
non-nationals from outside the region. We reported back in 2001
(See SchNEWS 312) how information was
used to arrest a Russian (listed for having been caught once with
a radical newspaper), and deny entry to a New Zealander (known as
a Greenpeace activist). Bad enough, but at least its only
used against non-Europeans
Not so. Despite a June 2005 report
from the Schengen Joint Supervisory Authority recommending that
members prevent Article 96 alerts on EU nationals, requests
made under freedom of information acts reveal that in 2003, a total
of 503 EU citizens were put into SIS.
What information about the EU subversives has been recorded is
not known, but reasons can easily found to fit the woolly criteria
needed. These include Undesirable on the territory of a participating
State, or Suspected of taking part in serious offences
and having to be the subject of checks or control. Not that
were suggesting theres been any over-political interpretations
of who constitutes a danger-to-society of course, but top of the
big-brother pops was Switzerland, with 389 people registered - which
just happens to have been the location of the Davos round of World
Economic Forums, and scene of many an anti-globalisation protest.
Could these facts be related
So, instead of passport control, we get millions of secret intelligence
computer records based on suspicion and prejudice to be used as
seen fit by the anti-terror anti-dissent, pro-corporate
brigade. And now theyre planning an updated, more powerful
SIS II we cant wait till they store photos, DNA profiling
and your video rental details. Bring on ID cards!
Although we arent claiming victory in the big water rip-off
just yet (See SchNEWS 536), some good
news this week. More companies are quitting the privatisation game
as increasing numbers of people revolt against having to pay more
and more money for less and less water. As Thames Water leaves Shanghai
for pastures new, people across the globe are wondering where their
money has gone.
Despite investments of £14bn between 1990 and 1997, most
of this cash has ended up in richer countries: thirsty Sub-Saharan
Africa has received less than 1% of all the money invested in water
supplies by private companies in the last 10 years. Last week Suez,
one of the worlds largest water Plc barons, said that it was
now impossible for it to work in Latin America because the irresponsible
and restless natives were trying to seize back control of their
water supply (all together now...ahhh!). 6,000 children die every
day as a result of poor water and sanitation.
Last Wednesday (22nd) World Water Day was marked with demos across
the world against privatisation and wastage which is sure to keep
up the pressure on the water companies. For more info on this weeks
World Water Forum in Mexico check out www.wdm.org.uk/wwf
A high court judge surprised remaining defendants in the disintegrating
EDO injunction case this week by appearing to be awake to the Brighton
bomb-makers dodgy court tactics. He blamed EDO absolutely
for delays in bringing the case to trial. EDOs solicitor and
serial law abuser Tim Lawson-Cruttenden copped a judicial slating,
along with ex-managing director David Jones, who must have
known that the case was being dragged out wilfully,
and with woeful neglect of the issues, according to
the judge. Lawson-Cruttenden, EDOs original lawyer, claims
to be the market leader in the bringing of harassment injunctions
against protest groups and works closely with Special Branch
and the National Extremist Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU),
a national police unit set up to harass animal rights activists.
As a penalty, the judge lifted the injunction against the last
remaining defendants in the case and awarded them costs. There is
now no injunction against anybody who protests against the factory.
A trial of the two protesters who refuse to settle the case will
go ahead in the summer. They will use their trial to expose EDOs
complicity in war crimes in Iraq and Palestine. Self -promoting
bore and press spokesman for Smash EDO Andrew Beckett announced
in a casually offhand manner, With EDO losing every single
battle these days, its hard to find something to feel persecuted
about. Its almost enough to renew my faith in the British
Also on Tuesday, a Crown Court case against the first protester
to be arrested for allegedly breaching the interim injunction was
dropped. Legal observer Paul Robinson spent nearly a week in HMP
Lewes on remand after his arrest last June for using a video camera
in an exclusion zone to monitor violent activity by EDOs security
guards. His case is the 23rd criminal case to be dropped against
anti EDO protesters in the last 3 months.
* See also www.smashedo.org.uk
Got yer trust fund stashed away with an ethical bank? Are your
millions being put to work helping peasant co-operatives struggle
amidst scenes of picturesque oppression? Youre with the Co-Op
right? Fair-trade, organic, vegan friendly. You must think youre
the mutts nuts, swanning about with Zac Goldsmith and George Monbiot.
Think again, cos your moneys as dirty as Rupert Murdochs.
Despite the constant trumpeting about ethical investment over the
past fifteen years, it seems that the Co-op have been caught with
their fingers in the till. Their latest tax-efficient
investment promises great returns - without harming the environment,
animals or other people. According to the bank you can enjoy strong
growth and a clear conscience by investing in companies like
Vodafone and GlaxoSmithKline!
SchNEWS encourages readers to put aside Vodafones investment
in the arms trade and Glaxos animal testing labs. After all,
Vodafones been benevolently investigating the impact of phones
on the environment (apparently a phone that takes 10,000 years to
biodegrade is OK). And despite Glaxos recent resistance to
cheap generic HIV drug production for Africa, the Co-op reckons
that company bosses should be congratulated for their discount
drugs policy for developing countries. If youve got
some spare cash to invest - rather than contacting the bank, why
not bung the SchNEWS office a few quid because, as ever, were
skint and can promise that itll go down the drain in a thoroughly
SchNEWS warns all readers... be realistic and demand the impossible.
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