UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 3, 2009

CRASH TALK

Guardian, UK- When the former prime minister Dominique de Villepin warned that there was a risk of revolution in France, it was not just because he wanted to make life difficult for his arch-rival Nicolas Sarkozy. It was also because social unrest is genuinely on the rise. Yesterday thousands of protesters took to the streets - not as many as the millions who protested in March, but this was a respectable turnout, considering that it was the third national protest at the government's handling of the global downturn in four months.

They are not just marching: universities have ground to a halt for three months over attempts to rewrite the terms of employment contracts for lecturers. There has been a wave of "bossnappings", where chief executives arriving at plants to announce layoffs found themselves barred from leaving. There have been commando-style "picnics" in supermarkets, where people feast from shelves shouting "we will not pay for your crisis". The protests are local and apparently spontaneous. Union officials find themselves not so much leading the action as trying to head it off. In five out of seven cases, bossnapping was used against foreign-owned companies (Sony, Caterpillar, 3M) which are reputed to be more cavalier about laying off workers than their French counterparts. Nor are strikes mere stunts. They represent a widespread feeling that if the president can pay billions to preserve the boss class, and their shares, he should do the same to protect workers. . .

France has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the developed world, with about one quarter of its 2.5 million unemployed under the age of 25.

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