French labor reform protests ‘destined to go nowhere’

 Protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks attend a demonstration against the French labour law proposal in Paris, France, April 9, 2016. The slogan reads "The youths are not slaves". © Charles Platiau
Running out in the street and attacking police officers won’t get protesters at France’s anti-labor reform rallies very far, as the movement lacks any political program, says Gearóid Ó Colmáin, political analyst.

Violent clashes broke out on Saturday between police and protesters in Paris and in the northern city of Rennes – where at least 22 people were reportedly injured in scuffles. Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

RT: Why have these protests become so violent? Have police been too aggressive? How much provocation do officers face?

Gearóid Ó Colmáin: The first thing that needs to be said is the laws implemented against labor are causing a lot of pain and despair among French workers, who are seeing all their rights being taken away. So there is a lot of anger out there, and there is a real sense that we could have a major ‘social explosion.’ The elites are perfectly aware of that. They have been talking about the possibility of a ‘social explosion’ – the term they’ve used for many years. I think it was last year in Le Monde there were… three or four articles talking about the possibility of ‘social explosion…’

The interesting thing about that is that a lot of elite policy analysts were kind of advocating the social explosion, they were saying that the youth need to… be indignant at the state of affairs, they need to protests and they need to revive the spirit of 1968...  

Running out in the street, attacking police officers, or throwing objects at police, and so on, lighting fires in the street is the kind of thing youths tend to do in these demonstrations. But it doesn’t actually get you very far. I haven’t seen any political program in this movement yet. I haven’t seen any linkage between the class war that is happening in France, European policy in general, NATO, the foreign colonial wars, the war on terrorism – are they protesting against that as well? These are all part of the same system – the system is called capitalism… 

RT: You say that French people have a culture of going onto the streets to protest against unpopular policies in the country. But are the latest protests only about the controversial labor reforms, or is there more to it than that?

READ MORE: RT camerawoman injured amid Paris anti-labor reform protests

GC: … I get very suspicious about who is organizing these protests, who is directing [them.] They say they have no leaders, but actually there are people down on the ground, who are directing them. The thing is that what we need is a genuine movement that can link all the things that are mentioned together: the foreign wars, the austerity, the EU, and so on. That is lacking here. It is destined to go nowhere. In fact it could be a lot worse – it could create conditions for more police repression…

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.