France: youth takes center stage and protests are radicalized

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The revolt has entered another stage with the entry of the youth, mainly because the demand to withdraw the reform has become a channel for questioning an entire social reality, the fight for a right to the future.

This Tuesday France was going through the tenth general strike in the last two months since President Emmanuel Macron promoted the two-year increase in the retirement age.

Despite the fact that the process of protests and strikes has been going on for several weeks, a new stage of the conflict began on March 17, when the president decided to pass the reform through article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows pass a law bypassing the vote of the National Assembly.

Since then, things have taken another turn: the mobilizations no longer only demand the withdrawal of the reform, but also denounce Macron’s authoritarian and “Bonapartist” blow. The process then began to question the very continuity of the government.

In line with the anti-democratic decision to pass the reform despite widespread popular rejection, Macron also opted to push back the mobilizations by deploying an immense repressive operation at the national level, which this Tuesday involved 13,000 police officers, an unprecedented deployment according to the government itself.

In this new stage of the process, one of the most relevant data is the full entry of the combative student and youth movement, which joins the actions promoted by the unions and in some cases leads the resistance against police repression.

Despite the official media operation to denounce the “vandalism” and “violence” of the mobilizations, the truth is that it is the youth that is taking the lead in confronting the violence exercised by the State itself.

But beyond the worn-out official discourse, the revolt has entered another stage with the entry of the youth, mainly because the claim to withdraw the reform has become a channel for questioning an entire social reality, the fight for a right to the future.

For this reason, many analysts and a part of society were surprised that young people, so temporarily “remote” from old age, are so committed to a pension reform. But the revolt went beyond the question of reform and questions the living conditions that French capitalism imposes on young people and workers. This was reflected by the correspondent of the Spanish newspaper El País in Paris: “now they have joined the protests en masse, adolescents and university students who come out to demonstrate for the distant pension, but also for a more abstract and at the same time powerful aspiration: a future better”.

These “more powerful aspirations” are projected to the working majorities as a whole: “There is more. Teachers ask for better salaries. There are booksellers in the marches who remember the physical exhaustion that their profession represents. The other day a listener was speaking on France Inter radio to explain that he was a small-town merchant and complain that Macron had awarded the Legion of Honor to Jeff Bezos, head of the giant retail company Amazon. Each one, claiming it. »

In another chronicle also written by that medium, a 22-year-old university student reflected well the climate of general questioning that opened the process: «What I feel, in addition to precariousness, is an enormous lack of confidence in the institutions, in the figure of the President of the Republic, for example. And it’s not just me: my peers my age feel the same way.

While the protests raise the complaints to more general issues, the unions try to maintain a “schedule” of mobilizations that does not break with the routine of trying to reach an agreement, with a government that has amply shown that it has nothing to agree on.

Surely, this logic of “calendar” mobilizations is ordered based on what may be a next key date, April 21, when the Constitutional Court approves or not Macron’s decree. But with the dynamics that the French situation has acquired, things could get even more out of hand long before then.

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