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April 8, 2006
Give Me Socialism Or Give Me ... Socialism!

The student protests and riots in France have spilled over into a third month with no end in sight, as the Chirac government refuses to withdraw its new "employment contract" law that allows French employers greater flexibility in terminating younger employees. The students refuse to compromise, demanding that French law remain the barrier to youth employment that it has been thus far:

Hall B at the Faculty of Rennes 2 University was the starting point for the mass student movement against the French government's new youth employment law which has plunged the country into crisis. On February 7, thousands of students stormed the building, closing it down and staging a "sit-in".

All classes have been stopped and the building is now run by about 5,000 students. About 200 protesters sleep in the lecture theatres each night. Almost every protest they stage in Rennes ends in clashes with the riot police. On Wednesday, a group of students wearing masks and brandishing plastic guns held a press conference in one of the blockaded lecture halls in front of a sign saying: "We will never disarm."

On Thursday, students invaded the law faculty, which remains open, and ransacked the offices of the rightwing student union that backs the government's new employment law.

What do the students want? They want the government to guarantee their jobs. They claim that the new law proposed by Jacques Chirac, which allows employers to terminate student employees for poor performace in the first two years of the job, represents an unacceptable concession to Big Business. When asked about their solution to the high levels of unemployment for younger French workers, the students reply that the government and "big business" have to make sacrifices for them:

In Rennes, up to 100 students and unemployed people have set up a "protest village" in a central square. One student, Pierre Pennamon, said the "easy hire, easy fire" law would not solve unemployment. "An Anglo-Saxon model won't work in France. It doesn't suit our way of life. Anyway, UK unemployment is not as bad as here. In France, we need big businesses to take some sort of responsibility."

It doesn't suit our way of life. Of course not; the "Anglo-Saxon model" requires that one justify their expense at a business with a consistent level of productivity. The students' "way of life" requires that they do as little work as possible in order not to become cogs in the great capitalist society from which they want a salary. In short, they want Chirac to force businesses to retain substandard workers regardless of the strain it puts on the survival of those businesses and the value of the shares to its investors who write the payroll checks.

And the alternative? The French have begun to swing farther to the left and away from the center-right coalition that Chirac heads. The protestors have demanded more socialism and intend to get it one way or the other. That means that investors will continue to pull out of the French republic and unemployment will continue to soar, while the students trying to crash the Fifth Republic torch their own house, figuratively if not yet literally.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 8, 2006 9:05 AM

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