On Thursday night there were riots in several French cities, including Paris, Nantes, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse. The riots came out of a movement called the Nuit debout, which loosely translates as “protest at night”. Nuit debout started big time on 31st March and the protests have been almost entirely peaceful. These protests are now happening every night in France in more than 60 towns and cities. The media frame this civil unrest as protests against new labour laws that the Hollande government are bringing in, but it goes much deeper than that.
Also on Thursday French MPs voted in favor of a resolution to lift the EU sanctions imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. When the sanctions were brought in Russia responded in kind and banned many products from the EU. The agricultural sector has been hit hardest by this and French farmers have been protesting about it since 2014. The resolution to lift sanctions on Russia is not binding. Even if President Hollande does not block the resolution it seems unlikely that the 28 EU member states will ratify it, because of course just about all the governments of these countries are bought and paid for by Washington, which was behind the coup in Ukraine. The USA forced the EU to impose sanctions on Russia. Why would EU governments have ratified the sanctions – and by doing so hurt their own citizens economically – if they were not in the pocket of the USA? This vassal state stuff is particularly disturbing with regard to France, a country which used to be proudly independent. For instance, France opposed the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq, and largely stayed out of NATO. This all changed when Nicolas Sarkozy became president in 2007, and the neo-con agenda has been carried on by the supposedly socialist François Hollande, who has become the most hated president in French history.
The EU governments might be bought and paid for but European citizens are not. A good example of this is what happened in Holland last month: a referendum was held in which the voters overwhelmingly rejected an EU partnership deal removing trade barriers with Ukraine (which would bring Ukraine more fully into the US sphere of influence and further isolate Russia). Without the deal being ratified by all the member states it can’t go through, but with breathtaking arrogance EU leaders have said that they are going to ignore the wishes of the Dutch people.
Perhaps the best example of corruption in the EU is a forthcoming trade deal with the USA called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This trade deal is being negotiated in secret and is barely ever mentioned by the mainstream media, despite the fact that it will have a profound effect on everything from national sovereignty to workers rights to digital freedoms; but ever increasing numbers of the peasants are waking up to what TTIP will mean for them. Last month there was a massive demonstration in Hannover and there’s been a large number of anti-TTIP demos all over Europe. There’s also a growing movement of local councillors in Europe who are pledging to make their councils a ‘TTIP Free Zone‘.
Despite the somewhat dubious origins of the European Union I’ve always been very much for it. However, the institution has now become so corrupt that I’m not sure if it can be fixed. Next month a referendum is being held in the UK on whether to leave the European Union. If the UK does leave its citizens will no longer have the protection of the European convention on human rights (ECHR), and with the tories in charge it will probably become some kind of Dickensian theme park (the UK does not have a proper constitution and its citizens do not have any real rights).
Today is May Day, which was started in Chicago in 1886 by a union demanding an eight-hour workday. On 1st May 2016 there’s going to be many demonstrations all around the world, and particularly here in France.
We live in totally crazy times.