Recall the Wisconsin 8

For those who’ve been following it, the situation in Wisconsin reached a new stage last night, with the “Ash Wednesday Ambush” from Republicans passing a law suspending collective bargaining rights in dubiously legal circumstances.  From Firedoglake:

the Wisconsin State Senate rushed through and passed a bill that strips collective bargaining rights from most public employees. The vote in the State Senate, entirely composed of Republicans, was 18-1; only moderate Dale Schultz voted no. The budget repair bill was split at the last minute, cleaving the “non-fiscal” anti-union piece from the fiscal components of the bill. The non-fiscal piece did not require a quorum, so the Senate was able to pass it.

I’m sure the protests in Madison will be huge, and there’s things those of us outside the country (or outside in the US entirely) can do to show support.  Governor Walker is not eligible for recall until January next year, but already efforts are underway to recall the 8 Republicans eligible for it. If you’re in Wisconsin obviously you should visit the staging stations set up for the recall effort, but even if you’re not, please donate to support.  This is looking to be a crucial battle for worker’s rights, so spread, disseminate.

The Wisconsin Democrats have, unlike their national counterparts, shown solidarity with their base and deserve the support.  As E.J Dionne points out at the Washington Post, Washington could learn from Wisconsin.

Lastly, at Global Comment Erik makes the compelling case for a general strike.  Labour in the US has very little to lose at this point, with dodgy laws being passed against the clear will of the people.

Solidarity innit.

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They hold the scissors, we hold the rock

“They hold the scissors, we hold the rock. General Strike, 15.12.2010. Workers from the book sector.”

Poster from yesterday’s general strike in Greece.

via Jodi Dean

French Strikes in Retrospect

I’m an American student (temporarily) living in France, by complete chance at the time of the (g)rève général(e) strike movement against pension reforms. I got sick of the American media either framing France as a caricature of progressive awesomeness or as a hedonistic people who would never make sense, so I wrote this up. Enjoy.

Those French –they’re at it again, storming the streets at the prospect of working another two years. As if thirty-five hour work weeks, five weeks of paid vacation per year, and hour and a half lunch breaks weren’t enough. Their retirement –the youngest retirement age in the western world, mind you, is about to be lengthened by two years. Naturally they respond by striking and protesting.

They must be a lazy, hedonistic people with an extreme case of the terrible twos. Or maybe they just really like to protest.

In reality, they are neither (actually they are a little bit of both, but that’s not the point). Like most of the world, the French labor force is being asked to make greater and greater sacrifices due to the financial crisis and globalization. As productivity increases with the demand for global competition, wages stagnate to maximize profits. Globalization becomes an addictive bourgeoisie betting game, played by investing as little money as possible while turning increasingly higher profits by treating the working class as their expendable pawns. This results in fewer jobs, greater unemployment, and a general feeling of economic despair.

Enter Nicolas Sarkozy who proceeds to announce that since France can, “no longer afford the current pension system,” it must be reformed so that workers work an extra two years, spending a total of forty-one years in the work force to realize a full pension. It is not acknowledged that it is nearly impossible to work for a solid forty-one years in the current job market. Neither is it acknowledged that in actual labor –labor that most debutante legislators could not dream of doing—working an extra two years legitimately lowers ones life expectancy. The threats of “dying before enjoying retirement” that the American media scoffed at are all too real on several levels.

France can no longer afford the current pension system because it used money intended for the people to pay off debts from globalization gone awry. Naturally the privileged classes take their cue to sit back, light another cigarette, and draft responsibility-evading legislation to have the working classes clean up their excess mess.

France is not the only country that is facing these reforms. However, unlike the rest of the world, France decided to raise Hell in the streets and try to quench the backbone of the economy that the bourgeoisie consistently takes for granted. Unlike so much of the world, France has an understanding of, and disgust for immorality in politics that is too toxic to swallow with a spoonful of cynicism. So this is why the French are carrying signs in the streets that say, “We Aren’t Carla, You Can’t Fuck Us” –not because they are particularly hedonistic, revolutionary, or anti-establishment, but because they are sane.

 

Why France Matters

Excellent post by Rick Wolff at Truthout about what the recent round of general strikes in France mean for that country, and why they should matter for those in the US too.

The French strikes and demonstrations are coalescing around some basic demands that go far beyond the rejection of Sarkozy’s demand for a two-year postponement of retirements for French workers. Contrary to so many US media reports, that particular issue was never what brought out millions of demonstrators and strikers; that was the bare tip of an iceberg. The issue that mobilizes the French is the basic question of who is to pay for (1) the collapse of global capitalism in 2008 and 2009, (2) the ongoing social and personal costs of high unemployment, loss of homes, reduction of job benefits, and the general assault on most citizens’ standards of living, and (3) the costs of ending the crisis. The French masses have already absorbed and suffered the costs of (1) and (2). They have drawn the line at (3). That they now refuse.

Instead, they demand that the costs of fixing capitalism’s crisis be borne chiefly by taxes on the banks, large corporations, and the wealthy. Those groups are declared to be (1) those most able to pay, (2) those who benefited most from speculations and stock market booms before the crisis began in 2007, (3) those whose investment and business activities were key causes of the crisis, and (4) those who got the biggest, earliest bailouts from governments subservient to them. As the Sarkozy government becomes increasingly isolated and reviled, the French capitalist elite — known there as the “patronat” — must begin to worry. That elite wants Sarkozy to preside effectively over a peaceful, docile, and profitable France, not one convulsed by such powerful oppositions.

Read the rest!

While Britain’s social net burns..

the French are continuing their rolling strikes and protests.  Get out there and protest now, while you still have a chance to pull apart this precarious coalition, before the country turns into the scorched earth capitalist nightmare that is the US….

… and you know it’s serious when even the chocolate makers are on strike!