The French Government is Running Scared


A statement published in Libération on 17 June: Five dozen intellectuals, activists, and trade unionists call for resistance against the government and for continuing strikes, blockades and occupations. Translated by David Broder. 

So here we see it. Their great fear, and their great efforts to try and hide it by playing the tough guy who won’t give in. We’ve been expecting it for months, and here it is: they’re waving around the threat of banning demonstrations. The height of the unacceptable? With this government, something worse might always be around the corner. This is the same government that cynically commemorates the 1936 strikes of the Popular Front era. It may well defend its own interests, the interests of the powerful, the interests of profits and money. That makes sense — that’s the fight it’s waging. But if only it’d rein in its celebrations and recuperation of a past it never stops trampling underfoot.

The government’s running scared: nothing surprising, there. Given our solidarity in the face of the authorities and their armed might, the government does indeed have something to be afraid of. How much testimony is there of the demonstrators who — without a second thought — take care of the injured despite the tear gas, the truncheon blows and the sting grenades? How many images have there been of injured people whom the police continue to beat as they lie on the ground, and of the chains of people spontaneously forming to surround and protect them? How many initiatives, texts, rallies have there been, resolute in their support against people being remanded in custody, indicted and handed unjust sentences? And how many police have been charged for all the demonstrators who’ve been wounded, mutilated or had their eye put out, or those in a coma?

President Hollande, prime minister Valls and their allies want to break this enormous wave of demonstrations we have seen, with hundreds of thousands taking part. They wage their war on all fronts: through an unbound physical violence; through the judicial violence of magistrates-on-command who imprison and break lives; through a media violence made up of disinformation and defamation; through the anti-democratic violence struck by 49-3 [rule by decree used to push the Labour Law past parliament], bans on demonstrating and house arrests in the name of the state of emergency; and through the social violence inflicted on millions of women and men pushed into precarity or sacked. This government wants to do everything it can to hold back all the things it considers dangerous, and which through their convergence make up an immense power — from the working-class districts where people have been fighting police violence for years, to the migrant and undocumented people’s struggles, the mobilised trade unionists, and the students and the high-schoolers who won’t give an inch. Their determination is powerful, as is the feeling that people, collectives and organisations who never or barely spoke to each other previously are now coming together, for the first time or once again. A breakthrough has been made: and it will long be of lasting importance.


We’ll never convince those who own this world — and we’re not trying to. But as against the all-powerful ruling discourse, we can persuade those who know the everyday violence first hand. The violence of social contempt and the gulfs separating us from the propertied. The violence of the employment-blackmail that drives people to accept everything, shattering solidarity and sometimes even people’s dignity. The violence of suffering, unemployment, work, being forced to compete, management by obedience. The violence of profiling and discrimination. The forces of order: but what order? The social order of tax evaders, the stock exchange and the financial markets.

A few broken windows at the banks, insurance companies or supermarkets count for nothing compared to this violence. However appropriate you think they are, these actions are, at root, questions. What is a bank, and what is the financial tragi-comedy behind it? Brecht summed it up in one line: "What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?". We’d struggle to believe that the violence in this world is a matter of broken windows. The media are good at that, with their scoops and their loop-broadcasting of the same images, their shameful picking and choosing. But there’ll be a time when that doesn’t work any more: and it seems that this time has come.

The bosses can stop bossing us around: we don’t need them. But when the rubbish collectors, the dockers, the electricians, the railworkers, the oil refinery workers, the hospital and education personnel, the postworkers, the casual workers stop working, then everything they provide us with immediately becomes visible, more evident. Whatever this government brings, we’ll keep demonstrating — and how! But not only that. We’ll keep going with strikes, blockades and occupations. These are the weapons of those who don’t have much. But these things can strike much harder than their truncheons and their batons.

Pierre Alferi (writer), Jean-Claude Amara (spokesperson for Droits devant !!), Nathalie Astolfi (teacher), Ana Azaria (president of Femmes Egalité), Igor Babou (academic), Etienne Balibar (philosopher), Ludivine Bantigny (historian), Amal Bentounsi (Urgence Notre Police Assassine), Eric Beynel (spokesperson for Solidaires), Daniel Blondet (anti-imperialist activist), Antoine Boulangé (teacher), Claude Calame (historian), Laurent Cauwet (editor), Manuel Cervera-Marzal (sociologist), Déborah Cohen (historian), Christine Delphy (sociologist), Alain Dervin (teacher), Paul Dirkx (sociologist), Joss Dray (photographe),Julien Dufour (sociology PhD student), Jules Falquet (sociologist),Eric Fassin (sociologist), Samantha Faubert (Hispanist), Sophie Fesdjian (anthropologist, teacher), Alain Frappier (illustrator), Désirée Frappier (screenwriter), Bernard Friot (sociologist), Luc Gaffet (CGT union activist), Fanny Gallot (historian), Franck Gaudichaud (political scientist), Valérie Gérard (philosopher), Céline Gondard-Lalanne (spokesperson  for Solidaires), Nahema Hanafi (historian), Samuel Hayat (political scientist), Eric Hazan (author, editor), Catherine Jardin (editor), François Jarrige (historian),Fanny Jedlicki (sociologist), Claude Kaiser (anti-nuclear activist),Leslie Kaplan (writer), Patrice Lardeux (CGT activist),Mathilde Larrère (historian), Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison(academic), Pascal Maillard (academic and trade unionist),Philippe Marlière (political scientist), Bénédicte Monville-De Cecco (regional councillor (EELV) in the Ile-de-France), Olivier Neveux (art historian),Ugo Palheta (sociologist), Willy Pelletier (sociologist), Irène Pereira (sociologist), Roland Pfefferkorn (sociologist), Christian Pierrel (PCOF); Christine Poupin (NPA), Théo Roumier (cosignatory of trade union appeal ‘On bloque tout ì!’), Omar Slaouti (teacher),Federico Tarragoni (sociologist), Jacques Testart (biologist),Julien Théry-Astruc (historian), Michel Tort (psychoanalyst),François Tronche (CNRS research director), Marlène Tuininga (4ACG), Béatrice Turpin (activist filmmaker), Sophie Wauquier (lingust)


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