When the state sleeps, people dream. A comment on Nuit Debout


When the state sleeps, people dream (Nuit debout)

After seven weeks of protest not only in Paris but almost in every city of France, the movement of Nuit Debout is getting stronger, and receiving surprisingly scant attention from the global media. The protests that started in opposition to the new labour reform known as El Khomri have developed into a massive movement that embraces more general social aspects.

Almost a month ago the student unions began to protest against the new reform. El Khomri is tailor made to a neoliberal agenda and applies wage cuts, facilitates lay offs with little compensation and tries to make the labor market more flexible‘, to the obvious advantage of employers and at the expense of workers. It is unsurprising that the union of the employers welcomed the reform and gave it their full support.

The majority of the conservative unions, political parties and the press were not only positive but asked for an even tougher reform. In protest the left unions called for a national general strike on 31/3. This rendezvous did not satisfy the youth, who believed the protests were too mild for this kind of attack on their future. Their answer was to call immediately, at the beginning of March, for protests throughout the country. More than 400,000 students protested, and at the same time general assemblies were taking place in more than 30 universities and 200 high schools. The youth were brutally repressed by the police, and responded with widespread attacks on police stations.

At the general strike of the 31/3 more than a million people demonstrated across the country. This day the brutality of the employers who locked out workers and the police invasion of universities, was answered by the further organization the protesters through general assemblies. The night of 31/3, partt of the protest decided to occupy the Place de la Republique, and similar tactics were used in 30 cities across France. Until now the squares are still occupied by Nuit debout and the movement is growing apace, and seems to resemble movements like los indignados and Occupy Wall Street. It’s important to point out that police have met the protstes with such great violence (France is still in an emergency state) that even the CGT union made a poster against police brutality.

Given the broad compass of Nuit Debout it is odd, to say the least, that the Danish media has by and large not carried news of it. The events in France deserve more attention for two reasons:

The first of it is that in the age of austerity politics, reforms to the labour market that usher in greater “flexibility” has become a doctrine in the whole of Europe. These reforms are at the very core of an attack on the working class that is deaf to criticism and tries to brush aside resistance. The austerity package is imperative not only in crisis hit economies in the South, but also in the very heart of Europe like France. In Denmark the three-part negotiations (employees/employers and state) are ongoing and we are still waiting for the outcome. Working people seem unable to properly answer and defend their rights and interests. We should not forget that ten years ago similar suggestions for labour reform were withdrawn by the Chirac government as a result of massive demonstrations. This shows that workers can effectively resist through massive protests and further organization of their struggle.

Nuit Debout self-consciously try to connect their struggles with the wave of protests that swept across the world in 2010/11, from the Arab Spring to the 15M movement, from Tahrir Square to Gezi Park, to the Place de la Republique and the plenty of other place occupied in France into the future. It seems that a new global consciousness is being born through movements of the past (even when they are seen as failures), which recognizes that it is necessary to connect struggles at a global level.

Nuit Debout thus calls for a global protest on the 15th of May. Danish working people can grasp this opportunity to show the solidarity to the French struggle and assert their own rights and interests.