Friday, December 7, 2018

France: Social justice, climate justice: this is a change of course that we need to impose

By a collective of political and civilian personalities
6 December 2018

At the initiative of ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and for Citizens' Action) and the Foundation Copernic, trade unionists, community and political leaders, researchers, university staff and artists call to protest peacefully on the street en masse on December 8, the day of mobilizations for international climate justice, in convergence with the fourth day of mobilization of the Yellow Vests.

Social justice, climate justice: this is a change of course that we need to impose

Tribune. The movement of the Yellow Vests puts the whole of the social policy of the Government in the public debate. More broadly they are neoliberal policies implemented by successive Governments for decades. More difficult months, always increased casualisation of labour, unfair taxes, living conditions deteriorate, this is the situation suffered by the majority of the population. In particular, with regard to women, many to get involved in this movement. At the same time, tax evasion has never been as important and wealthiest were offered multiple tax breaks: abolition of the wealth tax, the  flat tax of 30% of income from the capital who are no longer subject to progressive tax, reduction in the corporate income tax... In these conditions, the increase in taxes on fuels appeared as "the drop of water that makes the vase overflow."

Despite an attempted takeover of the movement by the far right on, it is characterized by its horizontal self-organization and poses the requirement of real democracy against a Presidency bossy and contemptuous. At a time where the COP 24 in Poland and where the fight against global warming is urgent, this movement also highlights the link between social issues and the environment: the biggest polluters are exempt from any effort. the main causes of global warming are not processed, the case of public services and local shops and urban sprawl continues, alternatives for public transit are not developed. The model of social housing in France is put at risk by its commodification in favour of large private groups. In these circumstances, is certainly not the responsibility of the middle and working classes to pay for the ecological transition.

The policy of the Government responds to social anger or ecological imperatives. The Government let multinationals and productivist lobbyists make their own ideas emphasizing their own interests and that of their shareholders at the expense of the many, and the future of the planet. For days, the Government has camped on an uncompromising posture, refusing the slightest gesture and claiming that it was maintaining the cap and this, despite the fact that a huge majority of the population supported this movement. This attitude has led to a growing exasperation that led to acts of violence which the Government could hope to take advantage. This was not the case and the support of the population remained solid.

The Government has announced, among other things, gel, then the cancellation of the increase in fuel taxes. It is a first step but it's too little, too late their entire social policy and it's economic and environmental consequences that need to be discussed. Even though the youth decided to move to challenge the educational choices of power, it is a change of course that we need to impose. For starters, must respond to Union demands to increase the minimum wage and reverse the cap of 0.3% on pension increases, restore the wealth tax and tax multinational companies, including Total, the Gafa and the banks that finance the fossil fuels to invest massively in the thermal insulation of buildings and renewable energy.

This is why, the undersigned trade unionists, associations and political organisations, researchers, university staff and artists, etc., support the claims of fiscal and social justice litters by the movement of the Yellow Vests. They call the population to mobilize to impose a policy that allows to live better and to protest peacefully on the street en masse on December 8, the day of international mobilization for climate justice, in convergence with the fourth day of mobilization of the Yellow Vests.


The signataries

Christophe Aguiton, member of ATTAC; Verveine Angeli, Solidaires; Cathy Apourceau-Poly, senator PCF, Pas-de-Calais; Eliane Assassi, senator, president of Communist, Republican, Citizen and Ecologist (CRCE) group; Antoine Atthalin, militant alter globalisationist; Didier Aubé, Solidaires; Clémentine Autain, deputy France Insoumise (LFI); Geneviève Azam, économist, former spokesperson of ATTAC; Emmanuel Aze, spokesperson Peasant Confederation 47; Albena Azmanova, University of Kent, Brussels; Marinette Bache, councilor of Paris, president of Résistance Sociale; Daniel Bachet, sociologist; Sebastien Bailleul, executive officer of the Research and Information Centre for Development (CRID); Jacqueline Balsan, president of National Movement of Unemployed and Precarious (MNCP); Louis-Marie Barnier, sociologist of work, scientific council of ATTAC; Francine Bavay, social ecology; Emmanuelle Becker, councilor of Paris PCF; Esther Benbassa, senator of Paris Europe Ecology The Greens (EELV); Nicolas Béniès, economiste; Ugo Bernalicis, deputy LFI; Sophie Béroud, political scientist; Eric Berr, aggrieved economist; Jacques Berthelot, economist; Olivier Besancenot, spokesperson of the NPA; Eric Beynel, co-executive officer Solidaires; Jacques Bidet, philosopherr; Martine Billard, former deputy Greens, national speaker LFI; Philippe Blanchet, academic, Rennes; Catherine Bloch-London, sociologist; Eric Bocquet, senator of Nord, PCF; Frédéric Bodin, Solidaires; Julien Boeldieu, unionist CGT; Jérôme Bonnard, Solidaires; Claire Bornais, unionist FSU; Hadrien Bortot, member of the National Council of the PCF; Nicole Borvo Cohen-Séat, honorary senator; Paul Bouffartigue, research director, National Centre for Scientific Research; Edith Boulanger spokesperson of Mouvement de la Paix; Ali Boulayoune, sociologist; Philippe Boursier, professor of economics and social sciences, member of the Copernic Foundation; Omar Brixi, doctor and teacher in public health; Ian Brossat, deputy of Paris, PCF; Céline Brulin, senator of seine maritime, PCF; Alain Bruneel, deputy of Nord, PCF; Mireille Bruyère, aggrieved economist; Marie-George Buffet, deputy of Seine-Saint-Denis, PCF; Laurent Cadreils, unionist FSU; Claude Calame, historian, scientific council of ATTAC; Sílvia Capanema, departmental councilor vice president of Seine-Saint-Denis, historian; Jean-Claude Chailley, secretary general of Résistance Sociale; Patrick Chamoiseau, writer; Vincent Charbonnier, unionist SNESUP-FSU; Léo Charles, economist; André Chassaigne, deputy Puy de Dôme, president of Democratic and Left Republican group; Pascal Cherki, councilor of Paris, Generation.s; Stéphanie Chevrier, publisher; Patrick Cingolani, sociologist; Laurence de Cock, historian, Fondation Copernic; Laurence Cohen, senator Val de Marne, PCF; Patrice Cohen-Séat, honorary president of Espaces-Marx; Pierre-Yves Collombat, senator of Var; Maxime Combes, member of ATTAC; Eric Coquerel, deputy LFI and co-coordinator of the Left Party; Alexis Corbière, deputy LFI; Sergio Coronado, militant ecologist; Jacques Cossart, economist; Eric Coquerel, deputy LFI and co-coordinator of the Left Party; Alain Couderc, militant Act Together Against Unemployment (AC!); Annick Coupé, general secretary of ATTAC; Pierre Cours-Salies, sociologist; Thomas Coutrot, economist, former spokesperson of ATTAC; Robert Crémieux, shared review; Alexis Cukier, philosopherr, University of Poitiers; Cécile Cukierman, senator of la Loire, PCF; Alain Damasio, writer; Christian De Montlibert, sociologist; Christian Delarue, civil servant, unionist CGT; Christine Delphy, sociologist; Pierre Dhareville, deputy of Bouche du Rhône, PCF; Cyril Dion, author, director; Emmanuel Dockes, professor of law; Jean-Michel Drevon, research institute of the FSU; Clémence Dubois – spokesperson of France; Vincent Dubois, professor of political science, University of Strasbourg; François Dubreuil, EELV, United for the Climate; Olivier Dubuquoy, geographer, militant ecologist; Jean-Paul Dufregne, deputy of l’Allier, PCF; Cédric Durand, economist; Simon Duteil, Solidaires; Stéphane Enjalran, Solidaires; Jean Baptiste Eyraud, spokesperson of Right to Housing; Colin Falconer, militant of Ensemble; Patrick Farbiaz, social ecologist; Didier Fassin, professor of social sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton; Elsa Faucillon, deputy of Hauts-de-Seine, PCF; Sélyne Ferrero, militant féminist; Caroline Fiat, deputy LFI; Gérard Filoche, member of the Democratic Left; Social; David Flacher, économist, spokesperson of Utopia Movement; Fabrice Flipo, member scientific council of ATTAC; Fanny Gaillanne, councilor of Paris; Nicolas Galepides, secretary general Sud PTT; Yves-Jean Gallas, Mouvement de la Paix; Jean-Louis Galmiche, Solidaires; Isabelle Garo, teacher; Pascal Gassiot, activist; Alain Gaulon, academic, president of the federation CNL of Val-de-Marne; Fabien Gay, senator Seine-Saint-Denis, PCF; Vincent Gay, unionist Snesup-FSu; Bertrand Geay, sociologist; Didier Gelot, economiste, Fondation Copernic; Frédérick Genevée, historian; Susan George, honorary president of ATTAC; Karl Ghazi, unionist CGT; Vanessa Ghiati, regional councilor Ile-de-France, PCF – Left Front; Jérome Gleizes, university teacher Paris-XIII, EELV; Cécile Gondard-Lalanne, co general-delegate Solidaires; Guillaume Gontard, senator of  Isère, EELV; Pierre-Henri Gouyon, professor at the National Museum of Natural History; Michelle Greaume, senator of Nord, PCF; Murielle Guilbert, Solidaires; Victoire Guillonneau – organizer at France; Janette Habel, political scientist, co-president of Fondation Copernic; Jean-Marie Harribey, co-president of the scientific council of ATTAC and aggrieved economist; Marie Haye, unionist FSU; Ingrid Hayes, historian; Odile Henry, sociologist; Anne Hessel, New Deal; Hervé Heurtebize, unionist FSU; Pamela Hocini, animator Space of Struggles LFI; Robert Injey, member of the national council of the PCF; Lucien Jallamion, Républic and Socialism; Kévin Jean, president of Citizen Science; Fanny Jedlicki, sociologist; Esther Jeffers, economist, co-president of the scientific council of ATTAC; Florence Johsua, political scientist, University Paris-Nanterre, member of Foundation Copernic; Anne Jollet, historian, lecturer at the University of Poitiers; Isaac Joshua, economist member of the scientific council of ATTAC and of the Foundation Copernic; Samy Joshua, academic; Marianne Journiac, Republic and Socialism; Sébastien Jumel, deputy of Seine-Maritime, PCF; Philippe Juraver, national speaker LFI, co-coordinator Space of Struggles LFI; Emma Justum, Democracy in Europe Movement 2025; Fadi Kassem, for the Pole of Communist Revival in France; Pierre Khalfa, economist, Foundation Copernic; Michel Kokoreff, sociologist; Isabelle Krzywkowski, academic; L’1consolable, singer; Bastien Lachaud, deputy LFI; Marie Lacoste, secretary of MNCP; Bernard Lacroix, political scientist; Romain Ladent, community activist; Jean Lafont, green movement; Rose-Marie Lagrave, sociologist; Elie Lambert, Solidaires; Sandra Laugier, professor of philosophy, Paris 1, University Institute of France; Pierre Laurent, senator of Paris, PCF; Michel Larive, deputy LFI; Mathilde Larrère, historian, member of the Foundation Copernic; Hervé Le Crosnier, editor; Patrick Le Hyaric, Director of Humanity, MEP, PCF- GUE; Yann Le Lann, president of Espaces Marx; Serge Le Quéau, member of the scientific council of ATTAC; Catherine Leclercq, sociologist; Jean-Paul Lecoq, deputy of Seine-Maritime, PCF; Clément Lefevre, unionist FSU; Remi Lefebvre, political scientist; Sarah Legrain, national secretary of the PG and member of the Foundation Copernic; Arnaud Lelache, co-president New Deal; Paul Lemonnier, FSU; Elliot Lepers, director of the Movement NGO; Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, senator of Paris; Daniel Linhart, sociologist; Pierre Lucot, member of the national bureau of the Utopia movement; Frédéric Lordon, economist; Elise Lowy, sociologist, green  movement; Nicole Lozano, co-president New Deal; Laurence Lyonnais, Ensemble LFI, candidate for the list Europe Insoumise; Pascal Maillard, unionist FSU; Jean Malifaud, unionist SNESUP-FSU; Jean-Claude Mamet, Ensemble!; Marc Mangenot, economist, community leader; Sophia Mappa, honorary professor, psychoanalyst and international consultant; Jean-Christophe Marcel, sociologist; Myriam Martin, Ensemble, elected regional LFI; Gaëlle Martinez, Solidaires; Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the CGT; Christiane Marty, feminist, researcher; Gustave Massiah, member of the scientific council of ATTAC; Sonia Masson, actress; Jean-Luc Mélenchon, deputy LFI; Marilza de Melo Foucher, economist and journalist; Georges Menahem, member of the scientific council of ATTAC; Roland Mérieux, Ensemble!; Julian Mischi, sociologist; Claire Monod, national coordinator Generation.s; Bénédicte Monville, regional councilor Ile-de-France; Corinne Morel-Darleux, militant ecosocialist, regional councilor Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes; Frank Mouly, member of the directorate of the PCF; Émilie Moutsis, visual artist; Erik Neveu, political scientist; Evelyne Ngo, Solidaires; Roland Nivet, spokesperson of the Mouvement de la Paix; Gérard Noiriel, historian; Alain Obadia, president of the foundation Gabriel Péri; Danièle Obono, deputy LFI; Pierre Ouzoulias, sénator of Hauts-de-Seine, PCF; Ugo Palheta, sociologist and lecturer at the University of Lille; Guillaume Pastureau, member of the scientific council of ATTAC; Mathilde Panot, deputy LFI; Sébastien Peigney, Solidaires; Willy Pelletier, sociologist, member of the Foundation Copernic; Stephane Peu, deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, PCF; Guillaume Pigeard de Gurbert, professor of philosophy; Michel Pinçon, sociologist; Monique Pinçon-Charlot, sociologist; Carl Pivet, militant AC!; Dominique Plihon, spokesperson ATTAC; Emmanuel Poilane, president of CRID; Matthieu Ponchel, collective Social Climate; Jean-François Ponsot, aggrieved economist, professor the University of Grenoble; Véronique Ponvert, unionist FSU; Thomas Porcher, economist; Véronique Poulain, Solidaires; Christine Poupin, spokesperson of the NPA; Philippe Poutou, spokesperson of the NPA; Raphaël Pradeau, spokesperson of ATTAC; Loïc Prud’homme, deputy LFI; Christine Prunaud, senator Côtes-d’Armor, PCF; Romain Pudal, sociologist; Serge Quadruppani, writer; Adrien Quatennens, deputy LFI; Guillaume Quintin, animateur Space of Struggles LFI; Josep Rafanell i Orra, psychologist and psychotherapist; Christophe Ramaux, economist; Jean-Hugues Ratenon, deputy LFI; Philippe Reig, Republic and Socialism; Emmanuel Renault, teacher of  philosophy, University Paris Nanterre; Muriel Ressiguier, deputy LFI; Michelle Riot-Sarcey, historian; Jean Rochard, music producer; Daniel Rome, teacher, militant alterglobalist; Roberto Romero, National Manager of the international sector of Generation.s; Cécile Ropiteaux, unionist FSU; Sabine Rosset, director of BLOOM; Fabien Roussel, national secretary of the PCF, deputy du Nord; Sabine Rubin, deputy LFI; François Ruffin, deputy LFI; Jean-Michel Ruiz, regional councilor Ile-de-France, PCF - FG; Gilles Sabatier, member of ATTAC; Jean-Claude Salomon, member of the scientific council of ATTAC; Catherine Samary, economist alterglobalist; Diogo Sardinha, philosopher, past president of the International College of Philosophy; Pascal Savoldelli, senator for Val-de-Marne, PCF; Luc Schaffauser, unionist CGT, Republique and Socialism; Jean-Christophe Sellin, national secretary of the PG and regional councilor for Occitanie; Nicolas Sembel, sociologist; Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, University professor, Paris 8; Denis Sieffert, Politis; Corine Siergé, Association for employment, information and solidarity of unemployed and precarious (APEIS); Cécile Sihouette, Ensemble!; Johanna Silva, member of the collective The Fête of Macron; Patrick Simon, demographer; Danielle Simonnet, co-coordinator of the PG and councillor of Paris; Yves Sintomer, member of the scientific council of ATTAC; Francis Sitel, Ensemble!; Philippe Sultan, member of the Foundation Copernic; Bénédicte Taurine, deputy LFI; Jacques Testart, honorary director of research at Inserm; Michel Thomas, honorary professor of internal medicine; Eric Thouzeau, regional councilor of the Democratic and Social Left; Jean Tosti, professor of letters; Eric Toussaint, historian, political scientist, international spokesperson for Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt; Aurélie Trouvé, spokesperson of ATTAC; Christophe Ventura, Editor-in-Chief of Mémoire des luttes and Researcher in International Relations; Marie-Pierre Vieu, European deputy PCF, United European Left; Philippe Villechalane, APEIS; Emmanuel Vire, secretary general of SNJ-CGT; Christophe Voillot, unionist Snesup-FSU; Louis Weber, unionist, editor; Hubert Wulfranc, deputy de la Seine-Maritime; Youlie Yamamoto, member of the collective The Fête of Macron; Sophie Zafari, unionist, FSU; Laurent Zappi, unionist, FSU; Malika Zediri, militant.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Against all religious exemptions

Lisbeth Latham

Religious exemptions to various anti-discrimination laws within Australian jurisdictions have come to the fore of public consciousness since the portions of the Phillip Rudock led the Expert Panel’s Review of Religious Freedom was leaked on October 9. Whilst much of the focus has been on the report’s recommendations regarding exemptions it has generated a broader discussion re religious freedom and how Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation works.

The Review of Religious Freedom has its origins in the 2017 Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey and in the subsequent process of legislating for marriage equality. At the time ultra-conservative sections of the Liberal Party pushed for dramatic expansion in the religious exemptions, which would have expanded religious exemptions to enable the denial of goods and services relating to marriage to any person holding a "religious belief" or "conscientious" belief not just about the nature of marriage, but about having children out of wedlock or the existence of trans or intersex people. At the time the LNP leadership rejected this legislative proposal but on November 22, 2017, offered a sop to the right (a section of which was in the party’s leadership) of establishing an enquiry into religious freedom.

A secret review
While any review of religious freedom established by the LNP would be a concern, per Yes Minister, you never commission unless you know the outcome beforehand, fears were escalated when it was revealed that the review would operate in secret with submissions, unlike normal enquiries, not to be made public. Which would mean that right would be able to make submissions that played up or simply fabricated without being subject to any public review or oversight. Following a public outcry, it was announced that all subsequent would be made public, but those who had already made secret submissions would be given the option of making their submission public. Following the closure of written submissions, a small number of closed hearings, where participants were promised that they would not be recorded.  The Review report was delivered to Cabinet on May 18, with no schedule for when it would be made public

Things could be worse, so its ok?
The leaked recommendations do not go as far in attacking the anti-discrimination as many feared it would, it fell far short of the objectives of in the alternative “Marriage Equality Bills” put forward by the ultra-conservative wing of the LNP. Indeed Liam Elphick, Amy MacGuire, and Anja Hilkemeijer argue that the report seeks to further constrains religious freedom in that it would require religious schools to have clearly articulated policies in order to have protection and must “act in the interest of students” when looking to discriminate against them – the fact that these religious schools would argue that acting against gay, lesbian, and trans students are in the interests of these students seeming to have escaped the authors. While at one level this is a reason for relief, the proposals are still toxic and reinforce the right of religious organisations to discriminate particularly in seeking to expand the right of religious schools to exclude students on the basis of the sexuality and gender identity, something that not all state anti-discrimination laws currently allow, and affirming the universal right of religious organisations to exclude staff based on their sexuality and gender identity.

Freedom to be bigots
Central to the logic of both the Review’s recommendations and the objectives of the religious right, is that religious beliefs give, as former attorney general George Brandis would say, a “right to be bigots” and that any impingement on this right is an impingement on religious freedom. However, as Anna Brown pointed out in response to the conservatives’ push to expand exemptions to the anti-discrimination acts in the Marriage Equality bill in 2017, whilst human rights laws internationally protect religious freedoms, these rights are not unfettered, and they do not extend to breaching the rights of others. However, for the religious right – religious freedom is not about freedom for religious minorities – indeed the religious right are happy for Australia’s Islamic community to be persecuted including mobilising polygamy as “dangerous consequence” of marriage equality which is a marriage practice which is permitted under a number religious and so they were happy to mobilise hostility to religious rights of marginalised groups as part of their campaign against the LGBTIQ+ community. Of course, our entire legal system is based on limits on the enforcement of religious doctrines

One of the ironic things about the recommendations of the Review report is that in asserting the importance of defending the right of religious organisations to discriminate on the grounds of gender and sexuality based on their doctrines, it at the same time rejects this right on other attributes, including race and intersex status, and thus accepts that it is appropriate for it to be curtailed in these circumstances. Which really begs the question how is being gay, or bisexual, trans or a woman, different from other attributes which the Review accepts that it is not ok to discriminate against? Importantly the Review, in seeking to defend and reinforce the right to discriminate creates a beachhead for an expansion in the right for religious organisations to expand their right to discriminate.

The argument that religious exemptions from sex discrimination acts are necessary to protect the religious convictions, are morally turgid but detached from reality that these exemptions do not prevent lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans workers from working for religious organisations, it just impacts on the circumstances in which they work. It means these workers will be deeply in the closet, they will have to hide significant aspects of their life from co-workers and live with anxiety when participating in activities within the LGBTIQA+ community for fear that someone with some connection to them at work seeing them. Research shows that being in the closet It means that a worker that no one has ever had any problem with regarding their performance or ability to meet the expectation associated with the organisations' doctrines could be lawfully dismissed on the grounds that their sexuality or gender if it is discovered.

In November 2017, Craig Campbell a relief teacher at a Baptist High School in Rockingham Western Australia (he had also previously studied at the school), having attended a family wedding with his partner but having to hide the relationship at the wedding because three students from the school were in attendance. Campbell told OUTInPerth “It got to this point where I was like, ‘I can’t hide this anymore.’” He also found it challenging to be a teacher who is supposed to instil values like honesty into students, while also being required to lie and cover up his own identity. In response, the school told him that he would no longer be given any work.

Roll back all religious based exemptions

The public response to the leaked report demonstrates that there is widespread opposition within Australia to discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity. This opposition has forced the Morrison government to make noises about removing exemptions which allow LGBTIQA+ students to be discriminated against by religious schools – however reports on negotiations over potential legislation to achieve this shows a desire on the part of the government not fully remove exemptions and to leave ambiguity as to what action schools will be able to take.

The public backlash has also resulted in the ALP, which had previously supported the existing religious exemptions, to join with the Greens, who have had a standing position against such exemptions, in moving a private members bill in the Senate on October 18. It remains unclear whether the opposition parties will have the numbers to pass the bill in both houses. It is important that all exemptions are removed in all Australian jurisdictions otherwise religious organisations, which employ more than 200, 000 workers across Australia, will remain free to discriminate on the grounds of gender and sexuality. This beachhead into anti-discrimination legislation would remain to be used to justify the further roll back protections should a future conservative government be willing to go against public opinions. For this reason, it is important all progressive forces commit to an ongoing campaign to rollback and overturn all religious exemptions in Australian jurisdictions.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

France: Joint Union/Student Call for Strikes and Mobilisations on October 9


Map of October 9 Mobilisations
Originally published August 30 2018 For union organisations of employees, university students and high school students – the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), Workers Force (FO), Solidarity, National Union of Students of France (UNEF) and the National Union of Secondary Students (UNL) - met on 30 August 2018, a statement is necessary and is reinforced, that of an ideological policy aimed at the destruction of our social model, promoting in particular the explosion of inequalities and the breakdown of the collective rights.

This policy as well as the measures recently announced by the government, are part of a logic of individualisation which undermines solidarity and social justice, essential values of the social cohesion and undermining once again the weakest, the most precarious and the poorest.
These include: 
  • threats to the rights of employees and job applicants to unemployment insurance; 
  • the questioning of the right of young people to a future through the introduction of selective entry to higher education and the waste that is universal national service; 
  • undermining of the public service, in particular CAP 22[1]; 
  • job destruction through deindustrialisation;
  • attacks on our health system; 
  • The destruction of our pension system; 
  • Freezing of social benefits;
The signatory organisations call on the Government to hear the multiple social expectations that have been expressed in public and the private sectors, by working people, young people, unemployed and retirees, and that it no longer be guided an obsession to decrease public spending. At a time when an explosion of dividends in France and in the world is once again being announced, it is time to pursue a policy of sharing wealth, to increase wages, pensions and the social minima.

Faced with this situation and regressive decisions in opposition to the legitimate demands of workers and youth, it is time to defend the foundations of our social model and win new rights.

That is why, the signatory organisations have decided to make October 9 a major day of day of mobilizations and strikes by unions, university and high school students.

Concerning the day of mobilization and strikes, the Trade Union Solidarity will authorise it during the meeting of its national leadership next week.

The signatory organisations invite the other trade unions and youth organisations to join them widely and be part of the mobilisation process.

Paris, 30 August 2018 

1 Public Affairs Committee 2022 report aimed at deepening the neoliberal restructuring of the French public sector with the aim of "improving" public accounts by €30 billion.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

France: Violence and sexist acts - The case which the CGT has stifled

TW: descriptions of violence, apologism
By Mathilde Goanec & Dan Israel
Originally published 27 JUNE 2018 in Mediapart

One of the members of the General Confederation of Labour’s (CGT) most powerful federations, a Parisian garbage collector, is implicated in acts of violence and for the sexist climate that persists in his union. The case could have become a positive example for the union, which is increasingly vocal about gender equality issues and awareness of violence against women. However, in 18 months, the organisation has not managed to resolve the situation, which turns into a quagmire.

Attacks at protests, sexist remarks, equivocal slogans, and even a physical confrontation: several women activists of the CGT have complained for many long months of a sexist climate tolerated within the CGT City of Paris, and the actions of one the most prominent trade union leaders of this union, a member of the Executive Board of the powerful Federation of Public Services. Despite repeated warnings, no sanctions were pronounced, according to a series of documents obtained by Mediapart and confirmed by activists at all levels of the organisation.

Against sexist violence, all together!
At the end of 2017, a dozen women activists created the Collective Femmes-Mixité in the CGT City of Paris. In a letter sent to the secretary general of the union, Philippe Martinez, and to the leader of the Federation of Public Services, Baptiste Talbot, eight of its members denounce not only "verbal, sexual and gender-based attacks", actions according to they are "repeated and conscious", but also a case of physical violence. The letter regrets that the perpetrators implicated "continue to exercise their mandates as trade union leaders without any difficulty" and hopes that the CGT will answer, "in view of its consistent work in terms of understanding, prevention and fight against violence ".

The main events focus around the year 2016 and the beginning of 2017. They all concern the CGT union of the City of Paris (called "US", which has about fifteen unions representing different trades), and more particularly interaction between two of its organisations. On the one hand, the Paris cleaning union, which represents the city's garbage collectors, almost all men; on the other hand, the early childhood union, which brings together professionals, almost exclusively women, supporting young children. Both unions, as well as the US, are under the leadership of the Paris Departmental Union (UD) and under the authority of the Federation of Public Services, the premier federation of the CGT with 80,000 adherents claimed at the national level.

The letter of the eight women describes several problematic episodes, featuring men from the cleaning union, including its secretary general Régis Vieceli, attacking women, often from CGT Early childhood. These incidents vary in severity, ranging from oppressive remarks to violent altercations.

On March 9, 2016, during a demonstration against the labour law, a cleaner union activist yells into the microphone "Michel and Jacquie, take care of El Khomri", a direct reference to the porn site "Jacquie and Michel" and the then Minister of Labour. On May 1, 2016, the slogans are aimed this time directly at a CGT activist, who passes by the cleaning union's truck, recognisable within the thousand thanks to its red and black star and two mannequins dressed in the garb of garbage men who sit on the roof. "We'll fuck you, we'll fuck you," spits the speaker. Shortly after, at the microphone, Regis Vieceli invites women to a party organised at the Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) incinerator, then occupied by his union, and offers activists "3 condoms and 2 mojitos, and if you are not CGT, 2 condoms and 3 mojitos".

CGT Early Childhood Logo
A month later, during a major demonstration in the capital, two women complain this time of touching on the buttocks and breasts, committed by men around the cleaning union truck. "We wore our red T-shirt with the CGT Early Childhood logo," reports one of them. There were a lot of people, and men were close to us. One of them groped my chest, another put his hand on the buttocks of my young colleague. She was shocked, and since then she has never been to a protest again. For my part, it took me some time to put on a CGT T-shirt, and I took the largest size to hide the shape of my body."

"He grabbed me by the hair and pushed me violently on a table"
On December 2, 2016, in the morning, the tension rises sharply. A lively quarrel broke out between CGT officials of the City of Paris, in the premises of the Paris Labour Exchange, close to the Place de la République. At issue: a banal history of office occupation between, on the one hand, two women in charge of the CGT early childhood union of the City of Paris, and on the other, Régis Vieceli.

The stories of both parties diverge completely, except on the brutality of the incident. For Emma* and Olympe* (many witnesses have preferred to appear under aliases, see our black box), the facts are clear: it is an assault. "My back was to him when he caught me by the hair and pushed me violently on a table, said the Olympe the same day in the complaint she filed at the police station. While I was half lying on the table, I saw my colleague raise his arm as if to give me a punch. I wanted to avoid it but I still received a slight blow in the right jaw. Despite my colleague, who interposed between us, he did not let go and continued to shake me in all directions, tearing the sleeve of my T-shirt. He finally ejected me violently against a table that fell to the ground. "

The activist complains of back and neck ailments, says her body had scratch marks and a blow on her back. Her statements are confirmed by pictures taken immediately after the violent episode. After filing a complaint, she went to the North Paris medical and legal unit, which granted her three days off work. Very shocked, Olympe will then be stopped from working a further two months by her doctor.

The version of Régis Vieceli on these facts is quite different. In a letter also sent the same day to the Federal and Confederal Directorate of the CGT, he says that it was he who was "provoked and assaulted by two comrades". He assures that he no longer feels physically safe on the premises of the Labour Exchange, says he no longer wants to go alone and therefore decides to be "accompanied by my comrades from my union to ensure [his] safety" in future meetings.

Regis Vieceli, supported by written testimonies of men and women from several unions, still maintains this line. Contacted by Mediapart, he did not answer any of our questions. At the Federation of Public Services (of which he is a member of the Executive Board), Natacha Pommet, a member of the federation's national leadership, believes that doubt persists on the facts and underlines the "contradictions" in the testimony collected, encourages "caution". The complaint filed by Olympe was dismissed on 29 June 2017 by the prosecutor's office, on the grounds that the facts "could not be clearly established by the investigation" and that "the evidence is not sufficient for the case to be tried by a court".

In January 2018, Régis Vieceli was nevertheless blamed by his employer, the City of Paris. The City Executive briefing note states that "it is established that [he] has committed threatening and violent acts against his colleague and that the latter struck a piece of furniture as a result of these actions", but that it cannot "be clearly established whether he delivered a direct blow", or whether "his actions were made in response to a physical aggression" on the part of Olympe.

"If you want, I'll train you in my room"  On February 17, 2018, the secretary general of the cleaning union again crosses a line against Rosa*, a young activist of the Technicians and Executives section of the City of Paris, while she is with several male comrades in an office of the Republic Labour Scholarship to prepare a union meeting.

"Three people have arrived, someone from my management and two other men, including this activist, who I did not know," Rosa tells Mediapart. He said, "If you want, I'll train you in my room." I did not react in the first few seconds, then I told him it was humiliating and degrading. I was in an office, in the evening, the only woman facing five guys older than me, I felt unsafe. Especially since he got upset, saying that I was sexist, that it was a joke, and that we can not say anything to the women ... I told myself that if it continued, he would slap me. I went out crying from the office. "

The following week, Rosa writes to the leadership of the union, asking that the official apologise and receive a booklet on gender equality. She did not receive a response. A month later, Rosa's union officially complained to Regis Vieceli himself, as well as the federation, the US and the UD, saying that "coming from a federal official, this attitude is simply unacceptable."

"We did not communicate on this because Regis Vieceli said he apologised”, explains Natacha Pommet today, who admits that the federation did not directly meet Rosa on this subject. “He regretted having said these things after drinking alcohol. But we recognise the context: a mostly male union, sexist behaviours that unfortunately the CGT, like the rest of society, is not immune from”. Rosa, for her part, continues to affirm: she has never received an apology from Regis Vieceli.

The discomfort prevailing in the CGT City of Paris around the facts denounced by the Collective Femmes-Mixité is probably also explained because there is a serious precedent. In 2015, an activist was unable to work due to illness for several months, after being the victim, according to her, of moral and sexual abuse. The episode involves some of the actors struggling with the current issues that hang over the union. The victim, interviewed by Mediapart, confirms the facts but does not wish to comment. Yet they have remained rooted in the heads of those who are concerned about the internal atmosphere. They note that after the illness of the activist in 2015, there was a period of calm, then the incidents have resumed, reaching a crescendo.

The Collective Femmes-Mixité was received, at its request, by Confederal officials, the highest echelon of the CGT. It was March 9, 2018, more than a year after the fact. "We were there to say that under no circumstances could the CGT accept a sexist environment or physical violence against a woman," said the confederal leader Boris Plazzi. It was necessary to remove any ambiguity because the comrades can have the feeling that one does not worry about what happens to them. We took time because we had to convince everyone to sit around the table. I am an activist, a leader, who tries to understand, to recut. I understand that activists find it too long. "The second meeting with representatives of the confederation took place Thursday, June 21, without further concrete progress in the eyes of the collective and the departmental union of Paris, which supports it.

For Philippe Martinez: "Unacceptable" abuses 
Philippe Martinez leads a CGT contingent
Most of these cases, including those of Olympe and Rosa, were also reported to the watch cell against sexual and sexual violence, created by the CGT on an experimental basis at the end of 2016. This cell, supported by the general secretary Philippe Martinez, reports directly to the Confederal Executive Committee, a sort of "parliament" of the CGT. In April 2017, the cell officially alerted the Federation of Public Services on the events occurring within the CGT of the City of Paris, to denounce the cluster of events, all signalling the existence of a sexist environment within or around the federation.

Symbol of the embarrassment surrounds the file, it is only orally that the cell presented its first annual report to the Executive Board on March 6, 2018, at the CGT headquarters in Montreuil. The report largely evoked, without citing directly, the facts that occurred within the CGT Paris. Contrary to the usual procedures, no written report has been circulated, even to members of the Executive Board who were absent on 6 March. Its conclusions remain inaccessible to the vast majority of the organisation.

"The general secretary Philippe Martinez is publicising this watching in the media, but it is muzzled”, say the insurgent members of the Collective Femmes-Mixité of the CGT Ville de Paris. “Not only does it not help us, but it also generates real anger. One has the impression that there is a difference of treatment when it comes to punishing not a simple member, but an official. "

"It is unacceptable that such abuses occur in our organisation. But the cell is not a court," Philippe Martinez tells Mediapart. The objective of the cell is indeed to "sensitise, train and listen to the victims," he says, but then "we pass the baton" to the federations, under the autonomy of the trade union organisations vis-à-vis the confederation that oversees them. "This is the principle of federalism, insists the CGT leader. In the confederation, if I learn stories of this kind, and I have evidence, I act, it has happened to me already. We assume our responsibilities but we are not entitled to take sides for this or that organisation. "

"The cell did its job, it went to the end. It has no decision-making prerogatives of sanction, contrary to the organisations concerned”, underlines for her part Sophie Binet, member of the confederal executive commission of the CGT, in charge of the questions of equality between women and men. “The confederation must put everyone around the table to find a solution. The process is too slow and laborious, but it is engaged. "

The responsible implicated, spearhead of the CGT for elections?
In 2013, the CGT appended to its statutes a charter dealing with sexism and internal violence. It states that any activist convicted by the courts for acts contrary to the values of the union must be removed from office. "When there is a judicial conviction, our statutes are clear. The problem is that issues of gender-based violence are under-apprehended by police forces and outsourced by the courts”, notes Sophie Binet. “But without judicial support and when, as in this situation, there is a difference of interpretation between the organisations concerned, it is longer and more complicated to settle. "

Marilyn Baldeck, head of the Association Against Violence Against Women at Work (AVFT), takes a sharp view of the whole affair. Especially since her association has partnered with the CGT to train its executives and support its activists on the issue. Today, she also works with the Collective Femmes-Mixité and believes that there is no doubt about the credibility of the facts described and documented, including physical violence. "To say that the file has been closed without further action by the justice system is a good outcome for some union officials," says the lawyer. “They are sometimes able to be distant from legal processes, but this time, the closure without follow-up being the end of this story? It is not possible. "

For Marilyn Baldeck, "the fact that a CGT official is filing a complaint against another CGT official is so far removed from the traditional union culture that it requires taking this matter seriously". But for now, it is far from being heard by the Federation of Public Services or the Cleaning Union. Because Régis Vieceli, on whom the debate crystallises, is a powerful unionist, almost unanimously considered a "hero of the struggles", all the more difficult to contest that he must be one of the spearheads of the CGT in Paris for the next professional elections.

"If we had condemned the one who is considered to be the aggressor, he would have had a very heavy penalty from the mayor of Paris, but he is an important trade union figure," defends the federation. "I'm a political activist, I'm sensitised to sexism, I know it's everywhere," notes Rosa. “But such a protection system, I have never seen that. I do not understand. At work, for less than that, we would all be up in arms ... "

The Federation of Public Services claims the course of "education and pedagogy". It assures that Regis Vieceli is gradually becoming aware of these issues, like the rest of his union. "We know that some activists have been sexist, and must take ownership of the changes," says federal leader Natacha Pommet. “But between the moment we are a "big macho" and the moment we are convinced of these issues, it can take time”. On the Confederal side, Boris Plazzi agrees:" I am in favour of the policy of small steps. At first, there was no question of talking about all of this, and since then there has been an internal discussion within the federation. Between what it said a year ago and what it is saying now, there has been a real journey. You have to train, you have to do pedagogy to get out of this type of practice. "

A letter denounces those who play "frightened virgins rather than fight"
In this case, the cleaning union and the Federation of Public Services have regularly downplayed the facts or dodged the issue. In March 2016, in response to the official protests of several trade unionists, including those in charge of the Paris UD, on the slogan associating Myriam El Khomri with "Michel and Jacquie", the cleaning union issued a letter denouncing those who play "frightened virgins rather than fight". The letter assures that the slogan simply referred to "two of our retired comrades whom we had the pleasure of hosting in the demo".

At a meeting held just days after the aggression against Olympe, bringing together officials of the UD and trade unions of the City of Paris, some supporters of Regis Vieceli have also persisted, that what was described by witnesses is the sort of "fight which is normal, man or woman". As for the accusations of touching, the response was equally flippant: "When there are many demonstrators, pressed tight, it is a normal that thing that happens".

For its part, the Federation recognises the touching without spin but claims not to have been able to go further. "The touching took place in the motorcade of Paris, in the union of Regis Vieceli, it is condemned and condemnable”, insists Natacha Pommet. “But it was impossible for the women who spoke to identify their attackers and to know whether or not they were part of that union. We know how these events happen, especially in the summer, with the distribution of drinks of all kinds, it is very complicated”. The federation also recalls that it has drafted a joint statement with the UD and a number of unions, including CGT Early childhood, after a difficult discussion. "It never appeared, and today we still ask the question of why?" says the organisation.

But it was especially around the physical confrontation of December 2, 2016, that the Federation of Public Services has delayed. It collected the testimony of those involved a few days after the fact but did not return its investigation report until March 5, 2018. From the first lines of this report, the tone is clear: "Beforehand, it is necessary to note that the issues mentioned above arise in a context of strong internal conflict within the CGT City of Paris issues of power and control of trade union freedoms and finances."

For several months, the US is indeed in a state of decomposition, three unions (including that of cleaning) have jumped ship, supported by the Federation of Public Services. Soon joined by five other unions, they now form a coordination on their side, unprecedented in the history of the CGT in Paris. Officially, the disagreement is political, but personal enmities also seem to be at work.

The conclusion of the federation's report assures that "sexism must be fought" and welcomes the fact that no new sexist statements or words have been reported during the recent period, "which seems to us to demonstrate that an in consciousness has taken place ". In doing so, it ignores the "training room" proposal made to Rosa, which was denounced at the time in many letters.

The report finally warns critics of the federation: "In an era of sharpening the class struggle, as our organisation faces decisive elections, the Federation believes that those who threaten to publicly defile the CGT act in the interest of our enemies. Asked about this very controversial tone, Natacha Pommet assumes: "There was a reaction from the federation to a number of unfortunate facts, we follow this trade union very closely, and therefore we find it detestable that this kind of things can go out anyway, while professional elections are coming. We think that it is not preferable. Last time, remember, we had already had the Lepaon affair, which had not been very favourable to us ... "

A petition to denounce sexism ... of accusers
The scandal of 2014 around the then secretary general of the CGT, Thierry Lepaon, accused of having his office redecorated at a high price, remains a trauma for many union officials. To the point that some people are now cultivating the ambiguity: "It is perhaps also because this man is a militant recognised in his militant activity that he may be the target of attacks, even if he has had unacceptable behaviour, "says Natacha Pommet.

A position shared by Maria Da Costa, another supporter of Régis Vieceli. A former head of the early childhood union and one-time secretary-general of the US, the latter does not question the "gender problem" or the importance of feminist struggle. However, she denounces what she considers as a manipulation: "We use a number of things to make sure that those who have a certain vision of unionism and struggle are harmed," she says.

Armed with this suspicion, Regis Vieceli's supporters have made their positions widely known. At the end of 2016, a petition hostile to accusations against the union leader has for example circulated within the US. "The fact of taking sides for the woman without waiting to know all the versions of the facts shows that the mentality of some (s) did not change on the superiority of the men who would be the strong sex, and, on the women, who would be inferior to the man, "assured the text. "We reject this retrograde, degrading and infantilising image of women. Just like the image of the alcoholic violent worker ... ", it continued.

On the door of the premises allocated to the cleaning union on the Bourse du Travail de République, a poster exposes the local doctrine: "Here we can laugh at everything, but not with anyone! "That is to say, not with" the fascists, the collaborators, the anti-communists, the breakers of the CGT, strikebreakers", nor with" the homophobes, the sexists, the misogynists "or ..." the misandrists ". Misandry, this hostility towards men, appeared in the local vocabulary following the incident of December 2 and its aftermath.

The pressures are sometimes more direct. Three days after Rosa's sexual invitation, one of her comrades, close to Régis Vieceli, wrote to her to express his regret at not having intervened directly that day, but also to dissuade her from reporting the incident to the federation. "Your first union action would be to feed what is already dividing our organisation," he writes. During a general assembly, the same activist and a handful of supporters of the secretary general of the Cleaning Union directly call out the young woman: "They have deployed the catalogue of strategies for the defence of sexism, she recalls. Stereotypical arguments: "You want her skin", "You instrumentalise feminist issues", "He did not rape you anyway, he is ready to discuss" ...".

The same author used the same arguments to blame Flora* for having signed the common letter alerting to the sexist climate in the US. Following the release of the letter, the young woman said she had "a difficult week". The activist calls her for 45 minutes to discuss disagreements between activists, and ask her to justify her signature of the letter. "He reproached me for attacking a super activist, destroying the CGT, making him want to leave" the organisation ", he told me that during all his years of activism, he never had was arrested on harassment issues ... "During the week, the young woman receives at least one call per day, together with an email or an SMS.

Trade union solidarity, therefore, plays a full role, acting as a protective barrier around the responsible party. "We know this type of strategy, they have been deployed in other types of organisations, including political”, Sophie Binet notes. “And that's what you have to work on. We must succeed in dissociating the militant collective from an aggressive leader. It is to that end that I keep saying that you cannot be a good union activist and an abuser. It's incompatible. "

"It still seems crazy to us that it happens in our organisations"
Benoît Martin, head of the departmental union of Paris, has been advocating feminist issues for several years and has taken a firm stance on the matter with the federation, the confederation, and two CGT publications. "I have been very exposed since. I am criticised for talking about these issues that would only be internal disputes. I believe that there continues to be a macho solidarity in my trade union organisation, obviously. But this may not be essential: there are clearly issues surrounding the preservation of the organisation. And to preserve is to be silent, even where it would be necessary to listen, to repair, to prevent and to sanction. "

Suffering is all the greater as union loyalty is strong. "We must read the resolution number 5 from the last Congress, in April 2016, underlines Benoit Martin. There is a formal commitment to combat sexism outside and in the CGT and to combat violence against women in the workplace and in the union. Some consider me "over-committed", but I simply exercise my responsibility to the CGT, which clearly claims to be a feminist union. "The departmental manager is proof of the exemplary fight led by his union within the International Labor Organisation (ILO) just recently. The CGT represents all French employees in the negotiation of new binding rules against violence against women.

For the confederal leader Boris Plazzi, however, we must understand that the union is living a new situation. "All this is very new at home, it falls on us, he testifies. If you ask us to talk about everything else, employment, social justice, etc., we will be inexhaustible. But before this kind of business, we are a little like a chicken in front of a knife. We are not seasoned, it seems to us insane that it happens in our organisations. "

The birth of the collective has been experienced by the activists who have constituted it as a lifeline, the opportunity to lead "a trade union struggle, noble and beautiful", bringing together women who sometimes come from different pathways and trades. "It has changed my life a lot, and this is the case for all of us because this aggression triggered our setting in motion, our personal and collective development," says Angela*. “Our story is also about stopping feeling guilty about what can happen to comrades, it is to tell us that the CGT means as much to us at it does to them. If we do not unite in a common struggle, it will never stop."

This new solidarity does not prevent either bitterness or sometimes the desire to slam the door. "I know that real values are carried by my union and it is this orientation that makes me want to stay, Rosa insists. For a year, I see a lot of evolution, the speeches are not quite the same, there is an awareness among some men and women. But what is tiring is to live sexism both outside, in the street, and in my union, which should be a space that protects us from all this. Today we spend a lot of time fighting around this issue when there are many other fights we would like to see."


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"Why don't you just punch the dickhead?" - violence as a response to sexual harassment

This article was sent to a group I'm involved with last week with a request that it be published anonymously. When I approach the topic of sexual harassment I am aware that almost every woman I talk to has already had a lifetime of experiencing this problem, and that they have a lot of feelings that come along with that. I'm aware that it is a shared problem, not an individual experience. I'm aware that most women that I talk to are angry – furious – about this problem. I’m aware that many people, of multiple genders, are drawn to the idea of violence as a response. That due to being offered a range of solutions that don't seem to help – from not leaving their house at night, to dressing differently, to engaging with an unsympathetic legal system – violence starts to look attractive.

I have been harassed by a man in a fairly large left-wing community organisation for a number of years. No-one has ever really doubted that this man was harassing me, at least not to my face, and I now have evidence that it's true. I have tried a number of strategies to deal with his behaviour. Over this time many people, who represent a broad cross-section of left-wing political ideology, have asked me why I don't just punch him.

I am so sympathetic to this suggestion, and the urge that underlies it. It is born out of frustration. It would be extremely satisfying to pummel every single man who has made women feel unsafe. This article will explore why I haven't gone down this path.

I'm no stranger to violence. I grew up in a world where violence was completely normal. People were violent to me, and I was violent to the other children. None of this seemed unusual to anyone or a cause for concern. Only once in my primary school years did I get a detention for kicking someone, when I was hurting other children all the time. I thought the boy who "told on me" was "soft" for doing so. I now reflect that he was new to the school and didn't really understand the culture of the place. This wasn't just my experience. I remember standing in line and the boy whose last name alphabetically came next to mine would tell these glorious stories about the latest outrageous thing he had done. His stories always ended with a belting from his Dad, which got a good laugh out of all the kids.  I remember having a laugh at Homer Simpson on the TV throttling his son week after week and thinking that he was like my Dad. "Why you little...!"

At the beginning of high school, I left that world. My parents sent me to a posh all-girls high school in the big city that they could barely afford. A one-hour train journey took me to a place where people had other (not better) ways of resolving their disputes. The violence I displayed in my early years of high school didn't go down well with my peers and that had a real effect on me. I distinctly remember the last time I violently attacked anyone. I was fourteen years old. We were playing netball at school in a bright, airy hall. I can still hear the shoes squeaking against the shiny gym floor and see the beams of sunshine lighting up the dust in the air. My good friend hit me in the head, probably intentionally. That action flipped a switch inside me. I gave out an animalistic scream of rage, then ran at her intending to take a leap that would see me take her down by the neck. In the milliseconds after I had started running at her I had an epiphany. I could seriously hurt her. She was my friend. I managed to trip myself and ended up on the floor. People teased me for it because it must have looked a bit silly, but I was secretly very glad that I had changed my mind. Even though I didn't really fit into that high school I am glad that I had the opportunity to be exposed to a different world and new ideas.

In the present day, the road I have taken to deal with the ongoing sexual harassment at this organisation is much harder than punching the perpetrator would have been. I have lost time and energy, I have left the organisation, and it has affected many of my personal and professional relationships. I definitely wouldn't condemn somebody who decided on violence in this situation. But, I think my choice of a non-violent route is worth explaining, as it brings in factors other than simple retaliation.

Sexual violence can take many forms and it can be complicated by many factors.

Oftentimes it's the perpetrator themselves bringing in as many factors as they can so that the person they're targeting feels confused, or like there's no clear course of action ahead. This is basic stuff.

In my case, the perpetrator is a good mate of a well-known activist who is very important to the organisation and to social justice causes. This was probably my main motivation for a long time for not taking more decisive action. Another motivation was my personal experience of people on the left being unwilling and unable to deal with this kind of situation in a good way. It seemed easier to put up with it. Another reason was that due to previous life experiences I didn't have a particularly strong expectation that I would feel safe. Another reason was the sympathy that I felt for this person as someone who has led a particularly hard life. I hope this gives you some insight into the complexity of the problem.

However, the whole time the option of being violent towards this man was open to me. It was suggested to me by a number of people. I even had such a conversation with a person from the organisation whose responsibility it was to take action to resolve this problem. In this case I said that I was seriously concerned that if this problem wasn't resolved then I would end up losing my temper and punching the perpetrator, but I didn't want to go down this route. They said that punching the perpetrator would be a good idea. Most other times it has been brought up without my input. The influential activist who is this man's good friend is often talking about people he doesn't like and making punching motions in the air. This doesn't mean that he necessarily would be fine with me punching his mate, but this and other factors have led me to believe that it's a tactic that he generally supports. This is an interesting point, that I will return to shortly.

The idea of hurting this man was is very appealing. It would certainly make me feel a lot better. It might also give him the message that I'm not a person he can bully anymore.

This man is smaller than me. He's frail, old and his hands are injured. It seems reasonably likely that if we were to have a physical fight then I would win.

Here are some complicating factors.

The first thing is that I'm not trained in martial arts. Maybe this is my failing. I am worried that if I released my rage and started trying to hurt this man that actually I could seriously injure him. This would not be a good outcome. Maybe in the course of the years this has been going on I could have started martial arts training and gotten to a point where I could reasonably safely injure him, but for various reasons including time and money I didn't.

If I did seriously injure this man, I would probably feel really bad. Regardless of the success of the tactic of violence in achieving my aims, there are probably people in the community who would condemn me for using violence, even if they had advised it in the first place. This is especially the case against a frail, old man. This is a man who habitually makes himself small. He shuffles, he fumbles and apologises. Among the creases and wrinkles you can see that he is marked by a long and hard life. I am imagining people's reaction as he looks up at them with a sorrowful expression and a black eye. Obviously not every perpetrator fits this description, but this is the situation that I am faced with. It's one thing to recommend violence to someone, it's quite another to look in the face of an old man with a black eye. It's a hard thing to look in the face of anyone who has been seriously injured and not feel something. This is violence. This is what people are advising me to do.

There could also be legal implications for myself. What if, for example, I punched him in such a way that killed him, or put him in hospital? I don't think that he would necessarily go to the cops if I put him in hospital, but there's probably some kind of mandatory reporting in this situation. In another situation a person might be up against a bully who's young and healthy, but you don't really know how a fist fight might go down. You can seriously hurt or kill someone without using much force. I recall the Queensland government campaign "One punch can kill". Alternatively someone might fall over and hit their head. You can also do a lot of damage to a person without using much force if you get in a wrestling match and end up strangling them. In all these examples a person might even seem fine in the short term and then die a few days or weeks later.

All of this seems like a lot of responsibility to put upon a person because they happen to be the victim of bullying.

My second major consideration was this man's unknown potential for violence in retaliation. He might have had some fighting skills I was unaware of. His demeanour and injuries suggest that he has known violence. He might come back at me at a later time with a weapon or a bunch of his angry mates. He might be as poor at fighting as I am and accidentally injure me in a serious way.

These two arguments don't get to the crux of why I didn't want to go down the road of fighting him, but they are practical things to consider.

My assumption that this man's activist friend is OK with violence in certain situations, and the fact that the person who is in a position of responsibility at the organisation said that I should fight the perpetrator, are interesting points to consider in light of their response to my requests for help.

The person from the organisation who is in a position of responsibility to deal with this situation is someone who I previously had a good relationship with. We enjoyed taking the piss, and always worked well together. She suggested once that I babysit her children. She uses a light hand to balance the formal and informal aspects of the organisation, but ultimately she has a lot of responsibility. I told her about the harassment when it had been happening for some years. I asked her to talk to the old man, and that's when she said that I should punch him. It's hard for me to know if she really thought I would punch him; whether, straight-faced, she was taking the piss; or whether she was just hoping the problem would go away. When I persisted, she said that she would talk to the old man. Ultimately that was an ineffective strategy. Not long afterwards, I lodged a formal complaint. She didn't exactly try to stop me from taking formal action, but became distant towards me. She also took actions that made me wonder whether she was trying to get in the way of the process – for example she didn't give me a copy of the organisation's sexual harassment policy when I repeatedly asked for it, even though it is in that policy that when a person lodges a formal complaint that they are given it.

The influential activist who is this man's good friend refused to be a part of discussions around finding a solution to this man's behaviour. He said that it was a matter simply between this man and myself. I wonder what he meant by that. In the past when the activist has discussed disagreements with other people he's often mimed punching as a solution, but with a cheeky grin. A familiar scene at the organisation was the activist yelling in an extremely aggressive way at other people. Even me once. When he was yelling at other people I would take myself upstairs and lock myself in a room. What am I to take from this? When he tells me that I should deal with the situation myself, is he recommending a route of non-violence? This is important to me because, while he didn't have a formal position of responsibility, as this man's good friend he's a person who's in one of the best positions to help resolve this situation well. By that I mean in a way that would have met my need for safety, and the harasser's need for personal growth within his community. I think his response was coloured by the very attitude I am hoping to explore in this article.

I think that the option of me fighting this man was a solution that would have put the responsibility on me alone as an individual who was being harassed. This would have ignored the larger systemic issue. What I have been looking for is a way for the organisation and community that I am a part of to come together and take responsibility for this issue. I would like to see more community accountability for this kind of behaviour. While I won't go into too much detail in this article, what I am imagining is a serious effort to bring about change. While an individual solution might have solved my problem, I am on the left because I am an idealist.

This is why I'm glad that in the end I didn't fight him.

If, in the best case scenario, I had punched this man the right amount and he wasn't seriously injured, and he then left me alone, I don't think that he would have learnt anything. The lesson would have been that power and brute force determines social relationships. I believe that he would have just found somebody weaker to pick on. He wouldn't have learnt anything about why what he did was wrong. He wouldn't have learnt that his community takes the issue of sexual harassment seriously. He wouldn't have had the feeling that other people were watching him and were going to make him accountable. All he would have learnt is that one individual (me) was not someone he could pick on.

I think that on the left we are trying to create something bigger and better than a world where brute force determines social relationships. To me, these kinds of behaviours, from punching a fellow activist all the way up to dropping a nuclear bomb, are exactly the kind of actions we need to get away from. I would much prefer that if there was a disagreement or wrongdoing then people come together as a community and find a way through it.

In situations like mine, which is on the micro scale of one individual harassing another individual, I want the left to work on strategies for the community to support the survivor, and ideally to support behaviour change in the perpetrator. The left has a long way to go before we get to that point, but I think that is a goal worth fighting for.

Earlier in the piece I gave a range of reasons why I found it hard to take more effective action against this man. People who are witnessing such a prolonged situation as the one I experienced might feel some exasperation. I think it's important to remember that a person on the receiving end of bullying shouldn't also have to endure repeated judgement for their handling of the situation. Bullying isn't easy to deal with. Bullies aren't acting in good faith. Their actions aren't a mistake. They're probably going to do everything in their power to avoid real change. Finding help is another difficult task. The actions of a lot of people who I've asked for help have given me the impression that they just want it to go away. Actually, that they just want me to go away. In this situation, the more that it should have been a person's responsibility to help me, the more they acted like I was an imposition. There were some people who were in the thick of it who wanted to help or tried to help, and there have been many people who are less personally affected by it who have been very supportive of me. Together we have so far been unable to overcome the inertia of the culture of the organisation to reach a satisfactory solution. If there was an easy solution to bullying that didn't require a lot of people coming together to take concerted action, then it probably wouldn't be such an insidious problem throughout every part of our society. Finding a solution to bullying can't just be on the shoulders of the person who is directly experiencing the problem.

So that is why I didn't punch this man, and I am proud of my actions. I hope that this road can be a little easier for the next person who wishes to travel it.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

France: Call of the National Student Coordination

Original in French available here
6 May 2018
We mobilized from 20 universities, gathered on the 5th and 6th of May at the Faculties on Strike at the University of Nanterre, and reiterate our determination to achieve the withdrawal of the ORE law [which increases selection processes for entrance processes from the current guaranteed entrance for anyone with a 10/20 from the Baccalaureate (BAC) exams], abandonment of the student plan and the roll back the of the government's whole antisocial policy. From the rail reform to the Asylum-Immigration Act, to the increase in the CSG [General Social Contribution - a compulsory payment which helps to fund France's pension system]and the reform of the BAC, Macron, the proud representative of the interests of employers, attacks us on all fronts.

For two weeks, despite the holidays and the arrival of the mid-year exams, thousands of students, in the street and in general assembly, pursue with determination their strike movement. Everywhere, convergence is intensifying with employees, railway workers, hospital workers and high school students, with a view to ending the ongoing pro-employer project. This particularly scares the government because it is this strategy that will allow us to win against a government that seeks to break our social gains for the benefit of a minority.

Faced with the growth of the youth and employee movement, the government is trying to break the student movement by all means, as a stakeholder in interprofessional mobilization. As if the intervention of the CRS in Nancy, Censier or Clignancourt, was not enough, Minister Vidal plays on the anguish provoked by the exams to try to break the strike. Final exams are replaced by online mid-year exams, homework assignments, or relocated to stop mobilization and avoid blockages. The government and the university presidents argue that they standing in defence of the value of the diplomas and the future of the students to justify the holding of the mid-year-exams. But if the strike movement continues in the universities, it is precisely because of the desire of students to defend their conditions of study, save their future working conditions, and to ensure continued access to a degree for all.

In view of the national situation, we reaffirm our determination to continue our mobilization against the ORE law and will not allow the exams to interfere with our commitment. That's why we invite all the teaching-research academics, BIATSS (Librarians, Engineers, Administrators, Technicians, Service and Health staff) and students to take all the forms of action that seem most relevant to them. (10 améliorable (50% pass mark), partial boycott, automatic pass, etc.)

In the event that the examinations are held, we call for the holding of general assemblies at the beginning of the mid-year examinations, as done at Paris-1, to allow students to meet and decide collectively, regarding the holding or not of the examinations. These General Assemblies should thus decide on the score to be applied for all (resulting from the cancellation of the examination). They will also be a means for disrupted universities to maintain collective frameworks for discussion and decision-making as part of the strike.

We applaud and support the choice of the staff gathered in the CNU (National Council of Universities) to go on strike until the withdrawal of the law and to call for the retention of notes.

Anger at this government is expressed in many sectors: in hospitals, the SNCF, the private sector and the universities, among others. This is the response of our social camp against the all-out attacks of employers. The scale of demonstrations in early May has shown, one year after the election of Macron, that young people and employees are determined to inflict a defeat. Thus, we call to amplify the strike and the blockages underway in the universities and to descend massively in the street. We call on students to make May 9, a day of a railway strike, a national date for mobilization and local action coordinated nationally. Already, the trade unions of Education and the National Coordination of the Universities call to mobilize on May 16th, we call the students and high school students to make this date a day of strikes. We will also join the May 22 strike called by the public service, the day of publication of the first results of Parcoursup [the new website which will publish student admission into university].

In the coming weeks, many sectors will take to the streets, especially on May 14 and 15, respectively for the railway and hospital workers. We call on students, where possible, to support these strikes and join them. However, we deplore the scattering of sectoral mobilization dates that push the isolation of our respective struggles. In the face of a government that is attacking us all the time, we are stronger when we take to the streets together, at the same time. That is why we are calling on employees and high school students to join us on May 16 and 22, with the aim of spreading the renewable strike in as many sectors as possible. It is by the total blockage of the economy that this government can be bent.

In order to expand the movement, we seek to actively connect with other sectors in struggle. Thus, we will take part in the general assemblies of railway workers, the gatherings in support of the hospital workers and we will address the striking high school students who will meet for a new National School Coordination, May 26th and 27th in Paris.

We demand:
- the repeal of the ORE law, the abandonment of the Parcoursup system and the maintenance of compensation and catch-up system [a process for determining whether a student who failed to attain a passing average for a unit (due to missing a piece of assessment) can still have the unit count towards their degree].
- a massive investment by the State to meet the needs of the universities, in order to guarantee free, critical and open education for all.
- stop the prosecution of mobilized students, stop police interventions on universities.
-the CNE affirms its unwavering support to all the sectors in struggle and their demands against the anti-social measures of the Macron government: against the cuts to public services, the general precariousness of the world of work and all the racist and xenophobic laws

We warn about the rise of reactionary acts and ideologies and condemn the attacks of fascist militia in the universities, as well as the blocking of the migrants on the border by groups the of extreme right.

We are calling for a next National Student Coordination on May 19th and 20th at Toulouse 2 Le Mirail University. We are particularly interested in universities that have not yet participated in the CNE so that they send delegations to help develop the coordination of the student movement at the national level.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

France: The UNEF condemns police violence at Paris-Nanterre University

CW Police violence

By Angela Lopez
Originally published by Union Nationale des Étudiants de France
(National Union of Students of France - UNEF)
10 April 2018

For several weeks, students and staff at Paris Nanterre University have been mobilized against the so-called Student Orientation and Success Act. In this direction, yesterday morning, the students made the choice as a mode of action to block a number of campus buildings. Following this came a general meeting where the students were able to debate the direction to be given to the movement and the next steps to be taken in protests against the reform of the Students Plan. In response to this, an administrative closure of all the buildings was ordered by the president of the university and denied to allow students to access their course buildings.

The president of Paris-Nanterre University decides to use force against students.

Faced with the mobilization of the students, the president of the University Paris Nanterre made the decision to respond with force and to send onto the campus companies of the CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité - Republican Security Companies). Once on site, the only purpose of the CRS was to dislodge by force the students who were in the social and human sciences buildings. These are students who have been gassed, hit and worse. Many of them have been wounded, one of them seriously. Added to this is the arrest of seven students, even though they did not put up any resistance, among whom is Victor Mendez, a UNEF activist.

It is unacceptable that the response of a university to students' claims to be able to mobilize is a response of force, the police have no place in our universities!

Angela Lopez is president of l'UNEF in France's Department 31


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

France: Hundreds of thousands join protests/strikes in defence of railway workers and public sector

Lisbeth Latham

On March 23, more than 500, 000 people joined 180 protests across France to oppose looming changes to both the French National Railway Corporation (SNCF) and to France's Public sector. These changes are seen as direct pushes to privatise the SNCF and to break the social mission of France's public sector. While these were the primary drivers of the mobilisations numbers were also bolstered by striking air traffic controllers calling for increased recruitment, teachers concerned that increases in teacher numbers announced for the new school year will be insufficient to enable teachers to deliver on the government's pledge to deliver additional teaching in areas of teaching priority, and university and high school students campaigning against changes to university entrance.

The largest mobilisations occurred in Paris where marches by 25, 000 rail workers linked with 40, 000 public sector workers, teachers, air traffic controllers, hospital workers and students.

The rail workers march achieved a significant mobilisation of the SNCF workforce. This was despite not all rail unions supporting the mobilisation, the CFDT did not support the mobilisations at all, although a number of its militants participated, and that there had not been a firm call by the CGT (the largest union within SNCF) for a strike with the union instead simply calling on workers to mobilise. The size of the protest had also been undermined by SNCF management cancelling services which would have brought workers from regional centres to Paris for the mobilisation - l'Humanite reported that some 6, 000 workers were unable to make the trip to Paris as a consequence and instead joined the public sector mobilisations in their cities and towns.

As a consequence of strikes, SNCF services were disrupted with some 50% of regional services,  60% of TGV high-speed trains, and 75% of intercity trains being cancelled. In addition, three-quarters of the high-speed trains between the centre of Paris and its suburbs were also cancelled. 40% of short-haul flights to and from Charles de Gaul and Orly airports were cancelled, while 30% of flights to and from France's other airports were also cancelled. Whilst the teachers' strikes were supported by 14.5% of teachers resulting in school closures across France.

The rail strikes are primarily driven by concerns over plans for the SNCF to be further broken up and privatised in line with European Union directives. Whilst union mobilisations often have a wide resonance in France - the government has been actively trying to paint rail workers as privileged and the mobilisations as aimed at protecting this privilege. This push does seem to have had some resonance with l'Monde reporting an opinion poll conducted in early March found that the rail strike was seen as unnecessary 58% of respondents.

The public sector mobilisations are driven by ongoing concerns over Macrons campaign pledges during the 2017 elections to cut the public sector by 120, 000 jobs and the government's recent decision to freeze the sectors normal wage indexation and to reintroduce a measure where public servants will not receive pay for the first day of any period of sick leave. In addition on March 7, the government began a nine-month period of consultation around "reforms" to the public service - which has generated concern over the possibility of increased reliance on contract workers rather ongoing employment and the introduction of performance pay. In addition, there is a fear that the reforms will lead to a greater corporatisation of France's public sector following the trajectory of the public sector in other countries such as Britain, the US, Australia. Despite these concerns, both the CFDT and UNSA refused to support the public sector strike with the CFDT leadership arguing it is too early to mobilise against the reforms. Despite these two unions not supporting the action, the mobilisations were only slighter smaller than the public sector strike in October 2017 which had been supported by all public sector unions.

On Thursday evening, a number of general assemblies were held across France by militants including by student activists. A number of these were attacked by armed gangs. The worst example of this was at the University of Montpellier 2 where the Dean of the Faculty of Law had invited and facilitated the gangs entrance into the Law Building where students were occupying - the widespread anger generated by this attack across the French progressive movement forced the Dean's suspension and his and another academic being charged by police. These attacks have given impetus to student organising and helping to build campus GAs - with subsequent GAs at Montpellier involving more than 2000 people.

The unions supporting the mobilisation have been clear that this is a start of a new round of mobilisation. Workers at Air France also struck on March 23, with 30% of flights cancelled as a result and their second strike on March 30 saw 25% of flights cancelled. Air France's unions have called a further four days of strike action for April 3, 7, 10, and 11.

Unions within the SNCF began three months of rolling strike action at 5 pm on April 2, workers will carry out 48-hour strikes every three days. The trade union Solidaires initially called on their members in the public service to take public action in support of the public service on that day in the form of "gathering, actions, leafleting, demonstration ... outside of train stations, hospitals, financial centres, Post offices, job centres". The CGT has also called for a national day of protest of protest for April 17. The New Anti-Capitalist Party, which last week hosted a meeting of France's left organisations to build united supported for the strikes and protests - is calling for April 17 to be transformed into a general strike. On March 28, Solidaires held an extraordinary National Council meeting to discuss "the best ways to build interprofessional convergences between the sectors mobilized ... It is up to the workers and each sector to decide what to do next". At this meeting, Solidaires resolved to issue an unlimited strike notice for the entire public sector beginning on April 3. In announcing their strike action Solidaires stated "we know that to win, we must anchor and strengthen each mobilization to make them the most massive and visible. It is also necessary to create bridges between the employees and the users. As well as it is the general assemblies of strikers who must decide the modalities of actions and the renewal of the strikes, we must associate the whole population with the defence and the improvement of the public services, our common goods". While Solidaires is a smaller union within France's public service, their notice aimed at constructing GAs will enable it to draw members and supporters of the other public sector unions and non-aligned workers into their discussions regarding ongoing action in defence of the public sector.

While there is a clear convergence of struggles within France, there remain considerable divisions with the movement - with the left unions still struggling to unify themselves and draw in the more conservative unions. As Solidaires said in their March 22 statement "union unity is essential to face a government that seeks to reduce collective rights, to oppose and divide the population thinking that it can hide that it is at the service of the rich".


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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