France has 60 million inhabitants. Yesterday between one million (police figure) and three million (trade union figure) of them took to the streets in protest marches against the government’s youth employment bill (CPE). The bill, which was approved by a large parliamentary majority, allows small companies to fire workers under 26 without cause during the first two years on the job while paying them only 8% of their salary in damages. The bill applies only to young people in their first job. Nevertheless, the French trade unions joined the student protests out of principle. In France a job is virtually owned by the employee and cannot be taken from him unless the employer pays heavy damages.
Yesterday’s demonstrations were the biggest in 30 years. The current wave of student protests is often compared to the May 1968 student rebellion. The difference between then and now, however, is that then the economy was growing, while today it is contracting. Then the students were baby-boomers, who had had it better than any previous generation in Europe’s history, and who were demanding to be liberated from society’s moral constraints. Today the students are an amoral generation unwilling to make sacrifices to help the economy to grow again.
In yesterday’s article on this website Fjordman reported on the violence of immigrant thugs against native Swedes. He pointed out that this violence results from a breakdown of the welfare state system. With the money lacking to “grease” the increasing tensions between immigrants and native Europeans, the immigrants have started to grab what they consider they are entitled to.
The same thing is happening in France. Groups of immigrant youths – so-called casseurs – mugged demonstrators on the edges of the marches and stole their cash, mobile phones and other valuables. Their mentality does not differ much from that of the student protestors, who went on a rampage themselves last week. An American reader described the mentality of the French students in an email as that of serfs:
“The new serfs have sold their freedom and futures for a guaranteed bowl of porridge from the State. This is how far these young intellectuals can see – to the end of their spoons and no farther. They will take their paychecks by force, even if their economy dies.”
Today’s French (as well as Swedes and other West Europeans for that matter) feel entitled to secure 35 hour working week jobs until their retirement at age 55. In fact those retiring at 55 today were the rioting students of 1968. They set their children the bad example of egotism and of grabbing whatever you can, even to the detriment of the next generation. This brings us to another difference between then and now. Then, the older generation looked scornfully upon the rioting students. Following the May 1968 revolt, Charles De Gaulle won the French elections with the Right’s largest election victory ever. Today, it is doubtful whether this will happen again.
The French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told his party, the UMP, that there is “no question of withdrawing” the CPE bill. However, Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister and UMP party president, at once undermined Villepin’s statement by suggesting that the recently approved bill should be put on hold.
Villepin and Sarkozy are political rivals. Both men hope to become the candidate of the Right in next year’s presidential elections. Villepin is a man of the establishment, Sarkozy is an outsider. Last year President Jacques Chirac appointed Villepin as Prime Minister in order to thwart Sarkozy’s presidential ambitions. Now, however, Sarkozy is behaving just like Villepin did last November: During the November riots, when immigrant youths went on the rampage for several weeks in the French suburbs, Sarkozy proposed a hardline “law and order” approach, while Villepin took the position of trying to “appease” the thugs. This time the two antagonists have switched roles.
France: Pity the Students, 21 March 2006
Unemployment in France: Something to Cry About, 16 March 2006