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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

France rising!: Red Review #91 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from France, the UK, Peru, Brazil, the USA, Israel and elsewhere.

France rising! -- Image via Twitter


March 18:



On March 18, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, over 2,500 people representing over 200 organizations gathered in front of the White House to protest the latest war drive: the escalation and prolongation of the war in Ukraine.


The Iraq invasion and the US’s central role as an aggressor on the world stage could not be more related to the Russia–Ukraine war, speakers argued.


“[The warmongers] want you to somehow think that it’s progressive, that it’s good, that it’s morally right to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to fight to the last Ukrainian,” said Eugene Puryear of BreakThrough News, opening the rally. “For what? Just for the ability of the United States government to control the whole world!”


March 20:



The Brazilian government officially launched on Monday, March 20, the new version of the More Doctors (Mais Médicos, in Portuguese) program—now formally called More Doctors for Brazil (Mais Médicos para o Brasil, in Portuguese). There will be 15,000 new vacancies for professionals with a degree in Medicine, which should raise the number of people hired by the program to 28,000 by the end of this year.


The hiring will take place mainly to meet the demand in places of extreme poverty. According to government estimates, more than 96 million people will have guaranteed primary care, especially in Basic Health Units, fundamental for disease prevention and damage reduction in serious situations.


March 21:



Several French refineries were still blocked from delivering products on Tuesday after two weeks of strikes, disrupting production and power supply, while attempts to requisition workers at the Fos depot sparked scuffles with police.


The industrial action is part of a nationwide movement against pension system changes including an increase to the retirement age in France by two years to 64, which was forced through parliament without a vote.


March 22:





The national Starbucks strike on March 22, at more than 115 stores from Anchorage and Arkansas to Seattle and Phoenix, preceded the showdown at the firm’s annual meeting over whether its union-busting is hurting the so-called progressive coffee chain’s brand.


The baristas and their allies walked out to protest the firm’s rampant labor law-breaking, orchestrated and directed by longtime CEO Howard Schultz.


The labor law-breaking prompted union pension funds and pro-stockholder investors to demand an independent audit of the impact of the law-breaking, which also defies the firm’s proclaimed standards. The proposal came up at its Zoomed annual meeting on March 23.



Stepping up their pressure against Starbucks, a multinational company currently worth $113 billion, workers at 113 of its U.S. outlets went on strike March 22. In Seattle, the company was finally forced to the bargaining table in earnest with some workers, a major step forward, according to representatives of Starbucks Workers United (SBWU).


The strikes were organized by SBWU, a barista network attached to Workers United, an affiliate in turn of SEIU, one of the biggest unions in the country. But the barista movement’s young, diverse, LGBTQ+-heavy workforce and their momentum have lent it a vibrancy that established unions have struggled to achieve in recent decades.



On Tuesday March 21, 22-year-old Rosalino Florez Valverde, who had been shot with at least 36 lead pellets on January 11 during an anti-government demonstration in Cusco, Peru, was pronounced dead. According to reports, the young man died of multiple organ failure, caused by pellet injuries in his thorax.


On Wednesday March 22, during his funeral in the capital Lima, Florez’s family members demanded justice for him after his agonizing death. In a press conference later that day, Florez’s mother Leonarda Valverde said that she does not want any type of compensation from the government, but justice for her son and conviction for the policeman who shot him. In the evening, several dozen people accompanying Florez’s relatives held a vigil outside the Supreme Court, demanding justice for all victims who had been killed at the hands of security forces in the past three and a half months of social protests.


March 24:




At Paris’s Gare de Lyon train station, hundreds of workers blocked the tracks, brandishing flares and chanting: “We will continue until it’s withdrawn.”


Striker Fabien Villedieu of the SUD-rail union said the strikes on the SNCF rail operator would be open-ended, with “actions every day everywhere, in all the small and big cities of France.” He asked, “What do we need to do to make the government listen?”


Striking bus driver Nadia Belhoum said: “The president of the republic is not a king. He should listen to the people.”


Tens of thousands rallied in Paris’s Bastille Square, waving union flags and chanting: “We are here, even if Macron doesn’t want it, we are here.”


Clashes between police and demonstrators took place in many cities, with police unleashing water cannons at protesters in Rennes and violence breaking out in Lorient, also in Brittany, resulting in damage to a police station.


The CGT also warned that it had instructed its members working in Mobilier National, which provides furniture and protocol items for public buildings, not to help prepare reception rooms for Britain’s King Charles III, who was due to begin a state visit on Sunday.


“We will not provide furnishings, red carpets, or flags,” the union federation said.


French analysts say the timing of the long-planned visit, with the president appearing alongside the unelected king as Paris remains piled high with uncollected garbage, would be a public relations disaster for the Elysee Palace.


It was announced Friday that the British monarch has canceled his visit.


March 25:



Solidarity with the French working class!


As France is in open revolt against reactionary pension "reforms", expressions of solidarity from Communist parties in Greece, Venezuela and the Netherlands. Updated with a statement from the Communist Party of Ireland.


March 27:



Signed, so far, by 26 Communist and Workers' parties globally the following joint statement has been issued about the first anniversary of the start of the imperialist war in Ukraine.


JOINT STATEMENT OF THE COMMUNIST AND WORKERS’ PARTIES


ON THE ONE YEAR SINCE THE IMPERIALIST WAR IN UKRAINE


We must strengthen the struggle against the monopolies and the bourgeois classes, for the overthrow of capitalism, for the strengthening of the class struggle against the imperialist war, for socialism!



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition plunged into chaos on Monday, after mass overnight protests over the sacking of his defence chief piled pressure on the government to halt its bitterly contested plans to overhaul the judiciary.


Amid reports his nationalist-religious coalition risked breaking apart, Israel faced one of the biggest waves of industrial action seen in years after the Histadrut union called for a general strike.


March 28:







THE Louvre Museum in Paris was closed to the public today after workers took part in the wave of French protest strikes against the government’s unpopular pension reform plans.


Dozens of Louvre employees blocked the entrance, prompting the museum to announce it would be temporarily closed.


The demonstrators carried banners and flags in front of the Louvre’s famed pyramid demanding the repeal of the new pension law that raises the retirement age from 62 to 64.



PROTESTS and strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension reforms brought France to a standstill again today.


Police were out in force following violent clashes between officers and demonstrators at previous rallies against Mr Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64.


The French president used a special constitutional power earlier this month to ram the reform past legislators without allowing a vote.


But the draconian move has galvanised the protest movement. Violence has flared and thousands of tons of stinking garbage have piled up on Paris’s streets as sanitation workers strike.





It is impossible — as union leaders frequently point out — to address the the crisis in the NHS, the rigged energy market or the causes of disputes from mail to rail without looking at the longer-term causes in privatisation, marketisation and outsourcing.


Corbyn is being exorcised for having demonstrated how popular these solutions are.


If our movement is serious about changing this country and the rotten deal it forces on workers, Starmer’s attacks on Corbyn are not an unfortunate aside. They are part of the class war being waged against us.


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