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Volume 48 Number 10, April 14, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Cold War Provocations to Justify Aggression

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Cold War Provocations to Justify Aggression

Drum Beats of War against Russia:
Portonblimp Down - A Tale By Boris Johnson

For Your Information:
Security Council Fails to Adopt Three Resolutions on Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

For Your Information:
Western Threats to Attack Syria Will Not Dissuade It from Confronting Any Aggression Regardless of its Source

Drum Beats of War against Russia:
Condemn the Government's Warmongering!

The Crisis of Representative Democracy:
The Cambridge Analytica Affair Underscores the Need for Democratic Renewal

Workers' Forum:
What is Happening in France?

Cold War Provocations to Justify Aggression

Drum Beats of War against Russia

Many commentators have torn to shreds the assertions of the British government that Sergei Skripal[1] and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by a nerve agent called Novichok, and that the Russian government was directly involved.

Added to this are the recent allegations that the Syrian government has launched chemical warfare attacks on its citizens in the city of Douma, an area about six miles to the north-east of Damascus, which the Syrian army has just liberated from "rebel" factions. Although the imperialists are targeting Assad, as they have done for several years under their programme of "regime change" and destruction of nations, here again Russian backing of Assad is what is being portrayed as the main culprit.

This of course not the first time that the pretext of the use of chemical weapons has been used to justify missile strikes and military intervention. In April last year, Trump used the alleged targeting of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians which he blamed on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, to launch Tomahawk missiles from US destroyers in the Mediterranean against Syria, following the deployment of thousands of US ground troops. In December 2015, RAF Tornado jets also carried out their first air strikes.[2]

When the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc countries fell in the 1989-1991 years, after the period of the 1980s when the world was going through a profound turning point, there was much talk of the end of the Cold War and the "peace dividend" this was going to bring. Of course, this "peace dividend" failed to materialise, and from the 1990s onward, the forces of reaction have held the initiative. Nevertheless, the people's forces themselves have stepped up their resistance to neo-liberalism and the anti-social offensive. In particular, the people have constantly mobilised against the warmongering and militarisation of the imperialist system of states.[3] This has pointed the way forward to the necessity to establish an anti-war government, and in Britain for the working class and people to settle scores with their pro-war governments. This is what faces them now, as Theresa May and her Cabinet declare that they are ready, in tandem with France, to take their lead from the US regime in committing aggression against Syria.

How is it imagined that bombing Syria as revenge or alleged punishment will sort out any problem whatsoever? How is it that Syria is selectively chosen for air strikes? The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorisation from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The strikes have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfil their declared aim of countering terrorism. In fact undeclared warfare is taking place, particularly throughout the Middle East, and the US, Britain and other big powers are colluding and contending for influence and domination. This risks an escalation into a very dangerous conflict between the big powers and Russia in particular. The European Union is also being urged to establish a "military Schengen Area", at the behest of NATO, to counter "Russian aggression". Is this the ultimate aim of this warmongering? How is this of benefit to humanity?

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorisation from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

This is what is meant by a Cold War mentality: pose those that threaten your domination as the enemy, declare that only those that share your values are worthy human beings, stage provocations that others are aggressive, allege that extremist ideology is the threat to humanity. This poses the necessity for the people to constitute themselves as a power in their own right. The apocalypse of war is not a necessity if the people constitute themselves as the power for peace. The issue is not one of taking sides for or against Russia, for example.

In the present situation, the resistance of the people, fighting against war, is characterised by doing everything possible now to stop a further attack on Syria by the US-led big powers. Of crucial importance is to build the anti-war movement, to activate the human factor. There is an important campaign spearheaded by the Stop the War Coalition for everyone to lobby their local MPs to demand that a vote be taken on any proposal to use military arms to force a regime change in Syria. Demonstrations are taking place outside Downing Street, which we call on anyone who can to participate in. On April 13, a letter is being handed in at Downing Street signed by MPs, trade unionists, celebrities and academics to urge Theresa May to refrain from joining Donald Trump in escalating the war in Syria. Protests taking place over the weekend include those in Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Cardiff, as well as street stalls in many other places.

These are important actions, since although the US, Britain and other powers have been intervening in Syria for many years without authorisation from the Syrian government and with no legal authorisation from the United Nations, the recent hysteria has reached a high pitch in a short period of time. This contrasts with the events of 2003, when war criminal Tony Blair attempted to prepare the ground with fraudulent dossiers and other means to win public opinion behind armed intervention in Iraq. This has been farcically echoed by the Theresa May government with the anti-Russian accusations in the far-fetched Skripal poisoning case. Russia and chemical weapons are supposed to connect this and Syria in the public mind.

UK special forces pictured on the ground in Syria by Quentin Sommerville BBC News, 8 August 2016

Tony Blair had joined the "coalition of the willing" in invading and creating chaos and bloodshed in Iraq for which the people have been paying ever since. And this was despite the millions that took to the streets to stop the war. The lesson for the people is that these rotten scenarios of warmongering by such as Blair and May who claim to be representatives of the people in a representative democracy, but actually represent private interests in the name of the state, must be consigned to the past. As was so prominent 15 years ago, it is fundamental that in their warmongering they do not act in our name! In fighting for peace, the people must get organised with a view to the necessity of political power to bring about an anti-war government that acts for peace, eschews the use of force in international relations, and transforms society in establishing relations that favour the people.

The Stop the War Coalition has been organising a tour based on the necessity for an anti-war government. This is an important initiative. Local Stop the War committees based on the need for an anti-war government must also be built. Demands must also be raised to end the militarisation of the economy.

No to Air Strikes against Syria!
Oppose All British Military Intervention!
Not In Our Name!
All Out for an Anti-War Government!


1. Sergei Viktorovich Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for the UK's intelligence services during the 1990s and early 2000s. In December 2004, he was arrested by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and later tried, convicted of high treason, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He settled in Britain in 2010 following the Illegals Programme spy swap. On March 4, 2018, he and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting him from Moscow, were found "slipping in and out of consciousness on a public bench" near a shopping centre in Salisbury by a doctor and nurse, who were passing by.

2. Special forces from Britain have been operating in Syria since June 2016, according to a BBC report from the time. They were equipped with long range patrol vehicles, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles.

3. Summary findings given on of Coalition air and artillery strikes: August 8, 2014, to February 28, 2018

To February 28, 2018, an overall total of between 17,348 and 25,800 civilian non-combatant fatalities had been locally alleged from 2,475 separate reported Coalition incidents, in both Iraq and Syria. Of these, Airwars presently estimates that a minimum of 6,238 to 9,582 civilians are likely to have died in Coalition actions. However, some caution is needed given the significant challenges of casualty verification at present.

Article Index

Drum Beats of War against Russia

Portonblimp Down - A Tale By Boris Johnson

Posted by Craig Murray*, April 8, 2018

"Comrade Putin, we have successfully stockpiled novichoks in secret for ten years, and kept them hidden from the OPCW inspectors. We have also trained our agents in secret novichok assassination techniques. The programme has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but now we are ready. Naturally, the first time we use it we will expose our secret and suffer massive international blowback. So who should be our first target? The head of a foreign intelligence agency? A leading jihadist rebel in Syria? A key nuclear scientist? Even a Head of State?"

"No, Tovarich. There is this old retired guy I know living in Salisbury. We released him from jail years ago..."

"With respect Comrade Putin, are you sure he is the most important target to reveal a programme we have put so much resource into for ten years?"

"Yes. I sit here every day and I cannot concentrate on the affairs of Russia or the World as all the time am thinking of Sergei Skripal. I should never have let him out of jail to spend his life buying lottery tickets and eating in Zizzis. But you must make absolutely certain to kill him."

"Don't worry Comrade Putin, we have been training in secret novichok assassination techniques for ten years. We even have an detailed manual explaining our methods. We will spread the novichok on his outside door handle (fiendish laugh)."

"Are you sure comrade? Is there not a danger it will wash off or get diluted?"

"No Comrade Putin, it never rains in England."

That is, genuinely, in every detail the official British government version of what happened in Salisbury, including the ten year programme and the secret assassination manual.

Despite this story being one of the most improbably wild conspiracy theories in human history, it is those who express any doubt at all as to its veracity who are smeared as "conspiracy theorists" or even "traitors".

* Craig Murray is an historian, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, and human rights activist.

Article Index

For Your Information

Security Council Fails to Adopt Three Resolutions
on Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

UN Security Council, April 10, 2018

Days after alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma, the United Nations Security Council failed to adopt two competing resolutions that would have established a mechanism to investigate use of such weapons in Syria, as well as another concerning a fact-finding mission in the war-torn country.

Had one of the two mechanisms proposed in the drafts been approved, it could have filled the vacuum left by the Organisation for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) when its mandate expired last November.

The first draft considered today - penned by the United States - which would have established a new investigative mechanism for one year, as well as identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons, was rejected owing to a negative vote from Russia.

The draft received 12 votes in favour, two against (Bolivia and Russia) and one abstention (China).

A negative vote - or veto - from one of the Council's five permanent members - China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States - blocks passage of a resolution.

Today's meeting marked the twelfth time Russia has used its veto to block Council action on Syria.

Similarly, a competing draft - penned by Russia - which would have established the mechanism for one year as well but would have given the Security Council the responsibility to assign accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, was also not adopted.

This draft received six Council members' vote in favour (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Russia), seven against (France, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States) and two abstentions (Cote d'Ivoire and Kuwait).

The Council rejected a third text - also proposed by Russia - which concerned the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM).

The draft received five votes in favour (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia), four against (France, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States), and six abstentions (Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, and Sweden).

Ahead of the Security Council meetings today, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had repeated his call on 15-member body to "find unity" on the issue of use of chemical weapons in Syria and ensure accountability.

"The norms against chemical weapons must be upheld. I appeal to the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility and find unity on this issue," he said.

"I also encourage the Council to redouble its efforts to agree on a dedicated mechanism for accountability."

Article Index

For Your Information

Western Threats to Attack Syria Will Not Dissuade It from
Confronting Any Aggression Regardless of its Source

SANA*, April 11, 2018

A handout photo made available by the US Navy on 10 April 2018 shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) departing Larnaca, on the southern coast of Cyprus, 9 April 2018. Handout photo/EPA/EFE

Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Bashar al-Jaafari, stressed that the threats by Western states to launch an aggression on Syria and their manoeuvres, misdirection, lies, and terrorism will not dissuade Syria from preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity and from confronting any aggression regardless of its source, adding that Syria will not allow any of the permanent or non-permanent member states to do in Syria what they have done in Iraq or Libya.

Speaking during a session of the Security Council on the situation in Syria on Tuesday, al-Jaafari said, "The US representative said that there is a single monster today which stands in the face of the whole world, and it is a monster which has armed and financed terrorists for more than seven years in Syria, and I say that this monster is the US, Britain, and France who sponsored terrorism in Syria and before it in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya."

He clarified that in a response to the campaign of allegations launched by some Western states against the Syrian Arab Republic regarding the alleged chemical attack in Douma city, the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Tuesday sent a formal invitation to the OPCW to send a team from the fact-finding mission to visit Douma and to investigate the alleged accident.

Al-Jaafari added that Syria welcomes the visit of a fact-finding team and it asserts its commitment to co-operate fully and its readiness to provide all the required help to allow this mission to do its work and to guarantee the safety of its members, stressing that Syria hopes the mission will perform its work with transparency and professionalism based on credible evidence.

He reiterated that those who proposed the US draft resolution are not seeking to uncover the truth, because the truth will prove that they are guilty along with their terrorist pawns on the ground.

"I affirm that the reality that the US, Britain, and France are the ones who caused the failure of what was called the Joint Investigative Mechanism due to their insistence on politicising its work and exerting pressure on its leaders," al-Jaafari said, stressing that what is happening in the Council during this session is similar to what happened a year ago when the US used false and fabricated excuses about the use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun to attack al-Shairat Airbase.

He called on the Security Council's member states to shoulder their responsibilities in supporting the international legitimacy and in protecting international peace and security from the terrorism which is being used by the aforementioned three permanent member states who seek to undermine the stability of the states and to decide the fate of their peoples.

Al-Jaafari reiterated that the Syrian Arab Republic strongly condemns any use of chemical weapons by anyone and under any circumstances, and that it is fully committed to co-operating with the OPCW to uncover the reality of the allegations.

He concluded by saying that the threats of some Western parties to launch an aggression and their manoeuvres, misdirection, lies, and terrorism will not dissuade Syria from preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity and from confronting any aggression regardless of its source.

In a phone call with Syrian TV, al-Jaafari described what took place at the Security Council as "being similar to a play", indicating that the West has suffered successive failures at the Security Council and it can't achieve any progress neither there nor with exploiting terrorism.

He noted that the Western states do not want the OPCW fact-finding mission to reach Douma because they don't want it to reveal the falseness of their allegations.

* Syrian Arab News Agency

Article Index

Drum Beats of War against Russia

Condemn the Government's Warmongering!

The peoples' interests demand an anti-war government

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, used the occasion of the Lord Mayor of London's Easter Banquet, normally used to set out the government's foreign policy objectives, to deliver a speech that was almost totally dedicated to attacking and belittling the government of Russia. The speech came in the wake of the alleged chemical warfare attack in Salisbury, which the British government has claimed is the deed of the government of Russia. Boris Johnson has been the most bellicose of government ministers, pointing an accusing finger at Russia even when scientists were unable to ascertain the precise nature and origin of events in Salisbury.

Johnson used his speech to once again make unsubstantiated allegations against the government of Russia, but it was perhaps most notable for the fact that he took the opportunity to individually name all the 27 countries, members and allies of the EU and NATO, which have lined up behind Britain to expel Russian diplomats following the Salisbury events. The imperialist system of states likes to label these countries "the international community". It can be pointed out that there are a total of 195 countries in the world today, 193 of which are member states of the UN. Even a number of European countries have not followed the Anglo-US lead.

According to Johnson, the 27 countries have been engaged in "kicking out those whose presence they deem is no longer conducive to the public good". For Johnson, this is evidence that Britain's allies are now willing to adopt the same warmongering approach as has long been advocated by the British government, not just in relation to the events alleged to have taken place in Salisbury, but more importantly in response to Russia's intervention in Syria and the Crimea, as well as in opposition to cyber-attacks and other activities which have for some time been alleged by the British government The expulsions and other measures are in addition to the economic sanctions that have already been imposed on Russia by Britain, the US and their allies, and the military encirclement of Russia by NATO that has been strengthened in recent years and in which British military forces have played a leading role.

According to Boris Johnson and the British government this is an illustration of how a post-Brexit Britain will continue to act in the world, defending its "values" and "our belief in the rules-based international order". Such belligerence, according to Johnson, is what is meant by "Global Britain", and he boasted of the fact that Britain would continue to interfere militarily in the Baltic States, in Nigeria, in the Sahel and particularly in Syria and other parts of western Asia where only the US has authorised more air strikes. According to Johnson, Britain has its armed forces deployed in more countries than any other European power and will in future be extending its diplomatic and other interference, especially in Africa and throughout the so-called Commonwealth. Such expansion, Johnson claimed, is "fundamentally in the interests of the British people", but it was evident that the Foreign Secretary chiefly had in mind the interests of the monopolists and financiers, those who claim that as in the past so-called "free trade" must be inextricably linked with warmongering gunboat diplomacy and is the path to make Britain great again.

The bellicose speech and provocations aimed at Russia, as well as the boasts of Britain's greatness and the government's ability to intervene anywhere in the world as in the days of empire, appear to have been designed to create the conditions for further warmongering activities. The government's plans have become clearer this past week with the threat of military intervention in Syria, where it has also been alleged, without any apparent evidence, that chemical weapons have been deployed.

The government is set on a very dangerous course which must be condemned by all democratic people. So too must the intemperate language and warmongering tone employed by the Foreign Secretary. Now more than ever there is a need for all peace-loving people to redouble their efforts to create the conditions for an anti-war government.

Article Index

The Crisis of Representative Democracy

The Cambridge Analytica Affair
Underscores the Need for Democratic Renewal

Revelations about data analysis company Cambridge Analytica have been constantly in the news over the past few weeks over its use of social media data without users' informed consent.

The prevailing narrative is to present the revelations as a scandal and as an issue of personal privacy and security. The gist is that the company contracted the creation of a Facebook personality test, "This is your Digital Life". This app, downloaded by about 270,000 users, gave access, as is typical, to their own data as well as that of their friends, which multiplied up to data on some 50 million people. The Facebook users, while consenting to use of their data, were not made aware that the data would be used for political purposes. This data was then used for micro-targeting voters, particularly in the US presidential election and the British EU referendum.

This narrative depoliticises the matter by presenting it as a scandal involving bad companies and malpractice, making it an issue of increasing police powers over the internet and in the electoral process. Further, this narrative implies that, with good practice - if everything had been above board - it would not have been a problem to intervene in elections using micro-marketing techniques. By implication, by tightening regulations so that personal data is "protected" and shared with "consent", and by strengthening the powers of the police and security services, micro-targeting would be acceptable as the new norm in the political process.

Underlying this presentation is a mentality that politics is an individual matter and political parties are machines that market themselves to individuals. This is a way of thinking that reflects the nature of the political process and the role of political parties at this time.

The big parties have long since strayed from the role they are supposed to play of being the mechanism through which people participate in politics. They no longer represent different social and economic groups with definite interests, and the party system no longer reasonably accommodates these various interests. Parties no longer link the state with civil society. Rather, these parties have become parts of the state itself, and all that is left of civil society are the arbitrary powers of state. The big parties form a cartel maintaining their position, while fierce competition exists between them for the top spot. These arrangements stem from and serve the politicisation of private interests, to the extent that the parties have become private interests themselves, operating on a business-like model with the electorate as their market. The scandal narrative is told in such a way as to reinforce the conception of politics as an individual matter and block people from looking at this reality.

In fact, already the 2015 election was being called the social media election. As Workers' Weekly reported at the time[1], the Conservatives were spending over £100,000 a month on their Facebook campaign. All of the big parties had invested in big data software: Labour was using Nation Builder and Contact Creator, the Conservatives were renovating an in-house system, and the Liberal Democrats were users of the Voter Activation Network, which was used in the Obama campaign.

In fact, the $6 billion 2012 Obama campaign provided the model of the digital election. In 2015, it was reported that the Conservative and Labour parties had hired Jim Messina and David Axelrod respectively, who were both central to that campaign.

British parties in total spent £31 million in 2010, excluding individual candidate spending. Five years later, and the Conservatives alone were reported to have a £79 million campaign fund for the 2015 election. The massively-inflating amount being spent by the big parties and the increasing focus on marketing and now micro-targeting reflect further developments where the cartel-party system is itself in crisis.

This crisis is apparent in the lack of predictability surrounding elections and other votes. In one aspect, the crisis is one of legitimacy, with increased cynicism and disaffection with representative democracy. The old divisions of left and right no longer apply in any straightforward way, and the electorate is being divided differently than according to traditional party lines. Opposing factions within the governing cartel are finding it harder to mount successful electoral coups and voting is failing to resolve any problems.

As a result, parties are more interested than ever in targeting marginal seats. Electoral tactics have moved towards targeted advertising of a political party to the particular individuals in the particular constituencies thought likely to make a difference. Parties can tailor message to types of people or even individuals, if this will give them an edge over their rivals. We see then a development of the party-political system increasingly as a kind of business model, a marketing, product-selling model. Politics itself is becoming depoliticised as it is reduced to a matter of personal values, a matter of taste. The parties are appealing to emotional and other aspects, whatever might work, simply to get a vote. Politics as such isn't even part of that picture; it is all kinds of motivating factors, representing a step further in the role of electorate purely as voting stock. Elections are becoming through these means much more socially-engineered with outright manipulation of the electorate.

How to appeal to this electoral market has become a large and sophisticated global industry in itself, and this is where companies such as Cambridge Analytica enter the picture, alongside the giants like Facebook. Twitter involved itself in the 2015 election with its announcement that advertisers, including political parties, could target adverts to its then 15 million British users based on their postcode via geo-location.

The general method is to collect large quantities of data, typically through social media alongside searching habits, tracking cookies and the like and the passing-on of data between companies and organisations - the same methods employed for online commercial advertising - and using this data to attempt to create statistical pictures of voting intentions correlated to address, lifestyle, and other characteristics. The aim is to guide electoral strategy, and in particular, to target the right messages to receptive individuals. The aim is also to automate this personal targeting.

People need to look beyond the presentation of the Cambridge Analytica affair and draw the warranted conclusions about the need for democratic renewal. Politics, which is about how the interests of individuals, collectives and society as a whole relate to each other, is by definition a public matter. Rather than being a case of legitimising micro-targeting of individuals through regulations, the revelations expose how deep the crisis of the political process is becoming. The political process should not be a matter of marketing to individuals for the purpose of extracting votes. This profoundly marginalises people from politics. The process should instead enable the whole polity to fully participate, including setting the agenda for discussion and selecting candidates for election, free of the disinformation that disorients people and wrecks public opinion.


[1] See Big Data and the "Social Media" Election

Article Index

Workers' Forum

What is Happening in France?

British workers are looking on with great internationalist interest as to what is going on in France with French workers engaged in their mammoth struggles for social justice and rights these days.

What happens across Europe also holds our attention and has been heightened by the results of the EU referendum in Britain as the contending and colluding powers try and resolve problems in their favour.

Macron, the French President, for instance is organising his "great neo-liberal reforms" programme, it seems on behalf of the European monopolies. This is in the form of an offensive against the French working class to increase austerity and productivity drives against the French working class, a proud and courageous contingent of the international organised working class. In this effort the British workers extend their solidarity to our comrades in struggle and wish them success.

It is no accident that this new confrontation is taking place marking new battle lines in the struggle of the classes. It is reminiscent of the great revolutionary struggles in France that the British bourgeoisie have always tried to keep secret or brush under the carpet. They have always said that this is not our way, "the French are the French, they always do things differently". We all know the traditions of the French workers, but we also know that we are no longer in thrall to the traditions' chains of the British ruling class either and the British workers will no longer be bound by them. Recent history has shown the significant contribution made to international social progress by the French workers. In 1936, around six million workers blocked and occupied factories, leading to significant wage rises and the advent of annual paid leave. The year 1968 saw France's largest modern social movement when some nine million striking workers obtained a 35 percent increase in the minimum wage and the legalisation of union representation within companies.[1]

It is also no accident that the latest upsurge of French workers' struggles is reminiscent of the memory among many of the Paris uprising of 1968, which had its effect throughout Europe and the world.  The 50th anniversary takes place in May this year. Then, demonstrations and massive general strikes, as well as the occupation of universities and factories, took place across France. It began then with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism. It spread to factories with strikes involving 11 million workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time, for two continuous weeks. Confrontation by police and the de Gaulle regime, only served to inflame the situation, leading to street battles with the police in the Latin Quarter, followed by the spread of general strikes and occupations throughout France. De Gaulle even had to flee the country at the prospect of a revolution, to Germany.[2]

In the here and now, France 24 and Agence France Presse (AFP) reported recently that France braced itself for the start of three months of rolling rail strikes. These were the first in a series of walkouts affecting everything from energy to rubbish collection as President Emmanuel Macron's reform agenda came up against resistance.[3]

Workers at state rail operator SNCF walked off the job kicking off stoppages on two out of every five days to cause major disruption for France's 4.5 million train passengers.

The Government were intent on carrying out a major overhaul of what it called a "debt-ridden SNCF". Trains towards Spain, Italy and Switzerland have been hit by the strike. The strike became more generalised because of actions by rubbish collectors, some staff in the energy sector and Air France employees.

The rail strikes, set to last until June 28, are a big challenge to the neo-liberal Macron government. The intention is to increase capitalist competition and drastically increase productivity through exploitation.

Unions say the centrist ex-investment banker intends to "destroy the public railways through pure ideological dogmatism". Also they say the changes are a first step towards privatising the SNCF. They want to strip workers of their retirement dates and job security, hiring and firing at leisure. Macron has made moves to loosen protection for workers by breaking France's labour code; he has also planned to scrap 120,000 public sector jobs.

Macron and his neo-liberal cohorts are set about reversing gains made in the French workers' struggle for rights and empowerment. In many workplaces there are workers' councils where unions are joint managers, along with business representatives, health and social-security system representatives, and shop-floor employee representatives. In firms with over 50 staff, French law legislates that there should be union representatives on works councils and separate health-and-safety councils. These must be consulted regularly by bosses on a vast range of detailed managerial decisions. This gives trade unions a daily say in the running of companies across the private sector. The works councils' remit ranges unusually wide. The lay-off of more than ten employees must be negotiated with works councils under a tightly regulated "social plan". The EU model of Works Councils in essence is varied across the board, they are different in Britain, Germany and France, they have their own particular histories and mandates. French firms, who try to escape the system, often choose not to hire more than 49 employees, in order to avoid having to deal with a works council.[4] The neo-liberals wish to reverse the entire situation of workers' rights and empowerment in civil society by re-establishing the absolute dictatorship of monopoly property rights, excluding the workers.

Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, has called for different forces opposed to Macron's agenda, including pensioners and student groups, to "bring their fights together". Students have been protesting over university admissions.

According to The Independent, pilots, cabin crew and ground staff plan three two-day stoppages over the next two weeks. The strikes in France are now being referred to as "The Spring of discontent". Air France employees are demanding a 6 per cent pay rise, while the airline is offering 1 per cent. Unions say workers deserve to benefit from years of belt-tightening that have brought the carrier back to operating profitability, after seeing their wages effectively frozen since 2011. Air France management estimated 34 percent of pilots walked out, 26 percent of crew and 19 percent of ground staff. Additional strikes were announced for 10 and 11, 17 and 18, and 23 and 24 April. Previous stoppages caused cancellations of links from Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh to Paris.

Now is an important time for internationalism for the workers of the world and Europe. Global capitalism is waging its offensive and this being met by increasing counter-measures by the working class as it tries to turn things around. This is why British workers are looking on with great internationalist interest as to what is going on in France and all workers are looking for ways to express their commonality in struggle. The issues of big power states are everywhere showing the increase in police powers at the same time that civil authority is diminished. Workers of the world are uniting to ensure and guarantee their rights. They are looking at new ways out of their own circumstances to empower themselves. The French workers have lived under their own conditions, which are being upset by the powers that be in their country. They too are looking at the alternative to the neo-liberal agenda and offensive with new arrangements in society.


[1] Al Jazeera.

[2] Source: Wikipedia


[4] The Economist.

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