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Students and workers fighting for change

Carolyn Egan

May 2, 2016

French student have taken to the streets supporting the unions in their fight against the socialist prime minister Francois Hollande’s retrograde changes to labour laws. They barricaded themselves in their universities and were attacked by the police in Strausbourg, Lyon and Paris.

Two-hundred thousand workers and students marched mid week in a show of defiance. A one day strike was called after the government made some small changes in negotiations with one union confederation but the powerful CGT is continuing to oppose the legislation. Ten years ago students defeated the government’s youth employment law and this memory is still strong.

Marches also took place on March 19 on the day for the elimination of racism in the UK, Greece, Spain and other European countries. Unions joined students, anti-racist organizations and thousands of ordinary people in standing up to the Islamophobia that is being flamed by fascist and right wing organizations. The thirst for austerity and war by governments of every stripe is still very strong and we are seeing cuts to the social safety net and labour rights in almost every country. At the same we are also seeing working people and the poor standing up and saying no. In Ireland anti-austerity forces gained real strength in the recent elections and less than a year ago the referendum on same sex marriage won overwhelmingly with the support of students and unions. It was the youth vote which put it over the top. The victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party shows the change in consciousness that is taking place and the defeat of Blairite politics.

In the United States the mass demonstration that took place in Chicago at the Trump rally shows the determination of young people—Hispanic, Black and white—to take on the racist policies of the leading Republican contender. His politics of division met their match that Friday night in the inner city when he attempted to hold a rally at a working class university where the student body mobilized to show Donald Trump that he and all that he represents was not welcome. This was their town, their school and they were not going to sit quietly by while he tried to convince the alienated and the angry that his right wing politics was the way forward.

Those students are the same people who work for minimum wage in precarious jobs and know that not much better is waiting for them when they graduate. They know very well that women and men, much like their mothers and fathers, work in Trump hotels and the other workplaces where he tries to break unions and impose the lowest possible wages and the worst working conditions. They are the young people fighting in the $15 minimum wage campaigns, Black Lives Matter, for climate justice and the right to organize. They are the heart of the struggles that are trying to change the political terrain in the United States. What happened in Chicago is being repeated on a smaller scale in cities across the country where he is trying to organize. The Bernie Sanders campaign is picking up on this profound hope for an alternative to the lives that so many are presently living in the United States. Unfortunately there is no alternative outside the Democratic Party for people to become active in. It is these movements from below which will make the difference in the end.

Around the world we are seeing young people fighting alongside the organized working class. They want something more and are not satisfied with the world as it is, with oppression and exploitation, an increasing gap between rich and poor, war and brutality. The possibility of socialism from below is on the agenda in a way we haven’t seen in years. More and more working people of every race and gender are saying no to capitalism. Socialists have to be a part of the movements for change and share the hope and possibility that a socialist vision holds for working people to control their work places and communities and create a better world for all.

Join the solidarity rally with Fresh Taste Produce workers, thursday May 5

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