The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 [8 February 2019]
Pushback on human rights in France: “The Republic on the move”- but in the reverse gear(1)
1. For some months now, France has been the scene of turbulent upheaval. Fierce social conflict has long been a defining feature of the country’s political life. It has been a historical given in a nation constructed, for the most part, post-1789 on the basis of a revolution of universal scope that, along with the social advances won in 1936, 1945 and 1968, still exerts a strong hold on the collective memory and the country’s institutions, despite attempts to eradicate all traces of it.
Yet for nearly 40 years, France, like all the other countries of the North without exception, has found itself encased in the deadly straitjacket of devastating neoliberal policies, policies that can only be seen as an extraordinary act of social violence, an assault on labour. Their destructive effects – on individuals, society and even the environment – are propagated by a State that works hand-in-glove with whoever currently wields the most power. They are further aggravated by the constraints of the anti-social content of European Union treaties that the French rejected in the 2005 referendum but which were imposed on them in a denial of democratic process – an additional assault on an entire people. It is this particular perspective, as well as the general context of a systemic crisis of global capitalism, that explains the waves of popular uprisings of increasing intensity that have taken place in recent decades – strike in 1995, riots in the suburbs in 2005-2007, demonstrations in 2000 and 2010. There is now widespread discontent and a general feeling of malaise. The so-called “yellow vests” movement that began in October 2018 is one expression of this, but it is coming up against the worst resurgence of police violence since the Algerian war. In the face of the various protests, all demanding greater social justice, the authorities have chosen to respond with greater repression, to the extent that human rights are regressing at an alarming rate.
State of emergency: origins of the crackdown