FRANCE has risen.
After the brutal attack by the forces of the French capitalist state, led by the CRS, on demonstrators at the Place de la Nation on the night of Saturday March 18, Cyril Ferez, a postal worker in the SUD trade union federation, was reported on Monday to be in a coma, fighting for his life.
These events followed a massive protest by over 500,000 youth and workers, demanding the withdrawal of the CPE – First Job Contract – aimed at taking away the most basic employment rights of young people aged under 26.
(This is at a time when youth unemployment in many areas of France has reached 50 per cent).
The youth of France have responded to Saturday’s events by taking to the streets again, while the leaders of the French trade union federations and students organisations have called a one-day general strike for next Tuesday, March 28.
All through Saturday night, into the early hours, there was fierce fighting between youth and the state.
In the early evening, as light began to fade, police in riot gear started firing volleys of tear gas at the crowds who had gathered at Place de la Nation, where the massive anti-CPE protest ended.
Then, as darkness fell, they sealed off the boulevards leading to Nation and marched into the large square, charging at workers and youth who had defiantly refused to disperse.
Entrances to the Metro were shut as police surrounded the crowds of thousands of people.
Many angry young people courageously stood their ground and confronted the state. There were cries of ‘CRS – SS’ as the police advanced towards them, and there were reports of over 150 people being arrested and an unknown number injured when the police charged.
As the struggle developed, CRS forces in gas masks, with shields and batons, moved in – with reports that even more tear gas was being fired.
Police and their vehicles also blocked the path of anyone trying to enter back into Nation.
Fighting spread to the Latin Quarter, with another march towards police barricades surrounding the Sorbonne university, as the clashes lasted into early Sunday morning.
The atmosphere was reported to be thick with tear gas by then, with even tourists sent fleeing with streaming eyes.
Since Saturday’s events, high school youth are reported to have followed the example of university students and barricaded their school buildings.
Another big student demonstration is expected to take place in Paris today.
A week ago, on Thursday March 16, 120,000 youth took to the streets of Paris and over 500,000 youth across France demonstrated against the CPE.
The Paris march went from Place d’Italie to Sevres Babylone in the Latin Quarter, not far from the Sorbonne.
Again, squads of riot police sealed off the streets surrounding the demonstrators and fired tear gas into the crowds, before charging them.
Many people had expected that, after Saturday’s Day of Action, involving between 1.5 million and two million people in demonstrations throughout France – as trade unions joined with the youth – that the government would be forced to give in and withdraw the CPE.
Now that the French government, led by President Chirac and Prime Minister De Villepin, is making it clear that it intends to proceed with the new law – due to come into force next month – the mood of youth and workers is hardening.
In some parts of France, universities have been blockaded in opposition to the CPE for almost two months.
The movement quickly grew and on Tuesday March 7 a national Day of Action brought more than a million people onto the streets of towns and cities all over France.
Events then began to take a really revolutionary turn when riot police were sent to drive out students occupying the Sorbonne on Saturday March 11.
Since then the struggle has dramatically escalated, leading to the violent state attack on Saturday’s Paris demonstration and the decision on Monday night to call a one-day general strike.
On News Line’s visit to Paris, between March 16 and March 18, students in the Latin Quarter, who had blockaded Paris VI (Pierre et Marie Curie) and Paris VII (Denis Diderot) university buildings at Jussieu, spoke about the developing struggle.
Outside Jussieu, student Thierry Brouard said that several people were facing trial after the eviction of the Sorbonne occupation.
‘On Tuesday March 14 we demonstrated from Place d’Italie and we were going to Chatelet,’ he said.
‘We went through the Sorbonne district and there was a part of the demo that tried to get to the Sorbonne to occupy it again, but police stopped them.
‘There were thousands of university students and I saw high school people taking part.
‘Many high school students have refused to go to school today, although there are some schools still open.
‘Today high school students and university students and workers will demonstrate because workers’ unions have called on their members to join the demonstrations.
‘There will be demonstrations in other parts of France today.
‘In some parts of France university students have been on strike for five weeks.
‘Last week we asked the lycees (high school youth) to join us.
‘We were at the Assemble General (general students’ meeting) and we were joined by lycees who organised their own demo.
‘It’s getting really big: Chirac and de Villepin say they won’t retreat.
‘I know they have to say that,’ said Thierry. ‘But they won’t keep this position for long,’ he believed.
He added: ‘We will continue until they remove this law.
‘There is the CPE, but there is also “Loi Sur L’Egalite Des Chances”.
‘After the last autumn’s riots in the suburbs, the government said they would remove the help given to families with children who were arrested by police.
‘There were many young people arrested.
‘But it is not just during the riots: they will do this if they judge the children are misbehaving. They will remove any help to their parents and they will have to go to a correctional scheme run by the police or army.’