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French ruling class welcomes Euro 2016 visitors with piles of stinking trash

By David Hoskins |
June 12, 2016
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Washington, D.C. – Thousands of visiting soccer fans and players were greeted with piles of rotting garbage and severe transportation delays as they arrived in France in time for the first day of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament on June 10. The foul-odored welcome comes courtesy of the French ruling class and the country’s governing Socialist Party.

Ongoing strikes recently intensified and spread to new industries as workers protest an austerity bill that threatens to eliminate labor protections such as the 35-hour workweek, raising it up to as much as 60 hours under certain circumstances, empower employers to more easily fire workers, and undermine union strength in establishing sector-wide industry standards. Sanitation workers recently joined the strikes against the austerity labor bill proposed by the government of Francois Hollande. Air France pilots launched a multi-day strike on June 11.

Slate reports that trash collection has stopped in half of Paris districts and that Air France canceled as many as one-third of flights on the tournament’s second day. Protesting workers blocked access to Rungis, the world’s largest wholesale food market located in the suburbs of Paris, the day before the tournament began. Railway and energy workers continue to engage in strike activities that have shut down fuel deliveries and many oil refineries for weeks and cut train service from the Paris center to Charles de Gaulle airport by two-thirds as Euro 2016 kicks off, according to the Telegraph.

French government, ruling class intransigent as millions arrive for Euro 2016

ESPN FC estimates that 2.5 million fans, including 1.5 million sports tourists, are expected in France’s stadiums throughout the course of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament from June 10 to July 10. The soccer tournament, better known as a football tournament in many countries outside of the U.S., is a major international sporting event.

The Euro 2016 tournament was supposed to be a moment for the French government to shine as host of one of the world’s most popular sporting events. But the ruling politicians and capitalists in France refuse to withdraw the austerity labor bill despite its widespread rejection by that country’s working class. As a result, union-led strike activity continues to disrupt basic services as the intransigence of the French ruling class threatens to spoil the major soccer tournament for fans and players alike.

France’s government has tried to pass the buck and shift the blame to workers. France’s minister of environment, Ségolène Royal, was recently quoted in the Guardian saying, “People want things to return to normal, for the mess to end…France’s pride is at stake. Let’s not harm France’s capacity to organize global events.” The sports minister, Patrick Kanner, went further and accused the unions of guerilla tactics before saying, “They’re spoiling the party. In spoiling the party, they’re spoiling the image of France.”

It is a tactic of capitalist governments around the world to refuse to negotiate in the face of strike activity and hope that the workers will be blamed for the lack of services that can sometimes inconvenience everyday life during a strike. Workers in France reject that blame and point out that it is the ruling class that compels workers to walk off their jobs through its attacks on labor rights and living standards and it is the ruling class that puts a successful Euro 2016 at risk.

As a General Confederation of Labor (CGT) leader in Paris recently stated for BBC News with regard to the timing of the strike as France hosts a major international soccer tournament, “It’s not us who determine the calendar. We did not decide that the Euro will take place on this date. There is a social movement going on now, the re-organization [of labor] continues, the labor law continues. We want the negotiations on the collective agreements [to] be open for everybody. So yes, clearly this will disturb the Euro [tournament] and we will continue the strike.”

Solidarity enhances the French strike’s militancy and success

The militant strikes in France expose the fact that it is the working class that makes the economy operate, not the capitalists or the state. The sustained withholding of labor lays bare the myth that it is great industrialists, enabled by free-market governments, which produce all of the goods and services of modern capitalist economies.

Solidarity has been a key to maintaining the militancy of the French working class during the present period of strikes disrupting that country’s economy. The Telegraph reports that the government has made a number of generous offers to important sectors on strike, such as rail workers. However, the government’s refusal to entertain the withdrawal of the austerity labor bill has thus far caused the workers and their unions in each of these sectors to reject individualized industry settlements, even generous ones, disconnected from the defeat of austerity.

This class conscious rejection of the government’s attempt to divide and conquer creates an atmosphere of solidarity where strike activity is not isolated. By stopping production in a number of key industries—including air and rail transit, the energy sector and sanitation services—the strikes are able to leverage their impact on the economy. Working class solidarity and labor militancy have kept the strikes in France alive for weeks on end, even going into the Euro 2016 tournament.

In doing so, the strikes demonstrate the important role of the working class in any progressive struggle and keep alive the possibility of defeating the proposed austerity labor bill that threatens French workers. Until then, the French ruling class seems intent on welcoming visitors to that country with piles of rotting garbage and other severe service interruptions.