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Old 10-19-2010, 04:38 AM   #1 (permalink)
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French strife - why doesn't it happen in the US?

So there are problems in France.

In France, Labor Strikes Head for Showdown

Quote:
PARIS — Scores of flights were canceled, drivers lined up for fuel and tens of thousands of people, young and old, took to the streets of Paris and other cities on Tuesday as protests over President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to change France’s pension system mounted in advance of a final parliamentary vote this week.

The protests came on the sixth day of national strikes or demonstrations since early September.

Garbage workers, teachers, armored truck drivers supplying automated teller machines and an array of others planned to join the stoppage Tuesday. Protest organizations said more than 260 demonstrations were planned during the day, ratcheting up the battle of nerves between the authorities and unions demanding that the government retreat from reforms as previous administrations did in 1995 and 2006.

Young people threw up barricades of garbage cans to snarl traffic in the Place de la République in central Paris and scuffles between high school students and riot police were reported from there and from the suburb of Nanterre.

The disruption, building since the first national protest on Sept. 7, has been compounded by strikes at oil refineries now in their eighth day and blockades of fuel depots, leaving motorists scrambling to fill up their tanks.

In central Paris, drivers lined up at gas stations hoping to fill their tanks before a two-week school vacation beginning this weekend. Many waited for as long as an hour, creeping toward pumps that were not yet empty of fuel. Some drivers from the suburbs said they had tried to fill up at other stations on their way into the city, but without success. At least one fifth of France’s 12,000 service stations have run out of some products.

But Mr. Sarkozy has shown no sign of abandoning his plan to raise the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60.

“The reform is essential and France is committed to it and will go ahead with it just as our German partners did,” he told reporters late Monday in the Normandy resort of Deauville, Reuters reported.

On Tuesday he said it was his duty to enact the reforms and he promised measures to guarantee fuel supplies.

Mr. Sarkozy was speaking after talks with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. The government in Berlin resolved in 2007 to raise its retirement age from 62 to 63 by 2029, in line with a broader European trend. Overall, the continent is aging and, as people live longer with smaller families, fewer young people are available to pay for the continent’s social safety nets.

On Tuesday, police said a high school in Le Mans, southwest of Paris, was destroyed by arson in the early hours, but it was not clear if the blaze was linked to the protests. Transport authorities in Paris said commuter rail services would be cut by as much as a half.

The national railroad authority also announced cancellations of around half its high-speed and normal services on Tuesday, but said the Eurostar Paris-London link would not be affected. The authority said support for the strike among railroad workers seemed to be running at around 30 percent compared to 40 percent for the previous stoppage one week ago.

At the Gare du Nord railroad station in Paris, travelers waited on benches, then raced for trains running on a reduced schedule. “It’s absolutely absurd,” said Emmanuel de Boos, 56, a writer from the western city of Nantes. “We absolutely need to reform the retirement system as it exists today.”

“I think these strikes are more about other things,” he said, likening them to a referendum on Mr. Sarkozy. “ This is a reaction against the elite.”

Yannick Kalu, 25, a student from a northern suburb of Paris, called Mr. Sarkozy’s reforms a bad idea. “For those who began working early in life it’s going to be rough.” He agreed that the strikes were about the broader issue of Mr. Sarkozy’s rule. “I really do hope it’s going to stop,” he said, but added, “We can’t hold it against people to worry about their retirements.”

In the central Chatelet neighborhood, Marie Rodriguez, 35, a middle school teacher, said the broad response to the protests “proves that not only one group is against the reform but that everybody is concerned. I support the strike.”

At Orly airport near Paris, where half of the scheduled flights were grounded, travelers peered at departure boards recording cancellations and delays.

Martin Raggio, 31, and Alejandro Molettieri, 29, who both work at a brewery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, had come to Orly after their train to Barcelona was canceled. “I guess we will wait here, we will sleep here in Orly maybe, until we can leave,” Mr. Roggio said glumly. "We knew about the strike but we were hoping we would be okay.”

At other French airports, around a third of flights were expected to be affected as the test of wills between labor unions and the government intensified.

Presenting himself as a champion of necessary change, Mr. Sarkozy had proposed the retirement measures to help wrest France from the economic doldrums gripping many parts of Europe and to reverse years of declining fortunes before elections in 2012. With a final Senate vote on the measures expected this week and lower house approval already in hand, he believes he can bank on success.

Initially, the vote was set for Wednesday but French news reports said that it could now be held on Thursday or even as late as Sunday, extending the confrontation as the Senate plows its way through some 400 amendments introduced by the opposition. Those tactics will delay, but probably not alter, the outcome.
So clearly there is at the very least a sizeable minority that is pretty angry about the changes proposed by the administration. Sound familiar?

As I read this story I realized we have some very similar circumstances in the US, with health care reform probably being the most obvious, yet we don't have anywhere close to the same level of protest as the French. There's the obvious Tea Party response, primarily from the right (although I conceed there are centerists and leftists in the Tea Party movement), but there seems to be little else in terms of organized reaction. Is it just that Americans are so jaded by politics (see: last night's New York Gubenatorial Debate Debacle) or is there some other force at work either here or there that I'm not identifying? I refuse to believe that the US is on the verge of armed insurrection, and I have a hard time imagining any sizeable group of folks taking up arms against the government, so let's just stomp on THAT discussion now.

This is about Americans can't or won't take steps to make their voices heard. Is it just that we're sure that THEY won't hear regardless of how loud we scream?
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Old 10-19-2010, 05:40 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The only reason I'm going to touch this is because it isn't in Tilted Politics. Even though it should be. Why isn't there? Huh. Now I'm nervous.

...

You just answered your own question. It's painfully obvious that modern America is long on bitching and short on ass-off-the-couching.

All this Tea Party bullshit and your notion of an armed insurrection are hilarious. You can't start a war from your living room and you know what that means? America won't do shit if it can't do it in a La-Z-Boy with a Bud Light in their hand. I blame Middle Class White America for our problems.

Why? Because they're the group that every politician is talking about regardless of their party or issue. Everybody blows sunshine up the asses of this increasingly small slice of America because they're linked with the white-picket-fence married w/kids 'n house American Dream image bullshit. The rich don't need promises, they just want to be left alone with their Babel-height stacks of Benjis... and the poor / minorities? They're too busy trying to scrape by to really give a damn about things that might as well be happening on another planet. Socioeconomic segregation is the buzzword and it works here.

I'm disgusted every time I go to vote... I'm often one of the youngest people there and I've been the legal age to vote for over a decade.

Sure, the candidates suck. And sure, they lie. That's why I vote for the underdog who sports lies more in line with my tastes in promise-colored bullshit.

...

We ignore the French for good reason, chief. This whole uproar about them raising the retirement age to 62? Political strife? BFD. The urban French trash cars and set dumpsters on fire twice a decade for one silly reason or another. I read about it in a Western Civ class I took. They've been doing this for decades. Everybody else in the country just continues drinking snooty wine, smoking acrid cigarettes, and fucking like rabid baboons.
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Old 10-19-2010, 06:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
 
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first off, plan 9--->the main reason amuricans don't pay attention to what happens in france is because it doesn't happen in english. amuricans are too fucking parochial and smug in general to bother learning languages that aren't english. this has consequences---the best health care system in the world is the french one. the only reason that was not on the table during debates in the us about health care was that the system operates in french. parochialism. arrogant, know-nothing parochialism. that's why amuricans ignore france.....and most other places.

======


the simplest response is that the united states didn't want political trade unions because it was petrified of COMMUNISM so by the 50s had imposed sector monopolies--one union, one industrial sector---which had the effect of depoliticizing union activity. in france, you can have 3-4 unions competing in the same industry for the same constituency. they jockey and fight with each other in political language.

second there's a tradition of street actions.
1789, 1830, 1848, 1870, 1919, 1936 (popular front), the movements against the algerian war, 1968...

third, there's actually reason to believe that political action has effects. there isn't the wholesale disempowerment of people you have in the united states. people aren't so thoroughly managed. personally, i think the nature of american television has something to do with it---but that's connected to an entire model for organizing private space, another feature of which is hostility to public spaces and to the public more generally.

---------- Post added at 02:56 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:57 PM ----------

o yeah, if you want an idea of what's going on, le monde is good. and it's still getting updated (what's up with that?)

Le Monde.fr : Actualité à la Une

on today, estimates were of a half million people out to protest at noon.

http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/articl...ens_id=1305816

it runs through various sectors, particularly in transportation, and gives rates of workers who are out. there's apparently a growing gasoline shortage that's being caused by these actions.

11 of the 12 refineries in france are shut down and the 12, owned by exxon, is running on a minimum schedule. the indicators of the extent of the shortage keep changing, but it's pretty clear that this is starting to pinch.

a strike is meaningless really unless it can shut things down in a way that threatens to bring the wider system to it's knees. strikes are a way regular people have real economic power. economic power is political power. in the united states, people walk around powerless blabbing alot about how free they are. it's funny, when you think about it.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
 
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a little update.

the main french trade union, the CGT, estimated 3.5 million people turned out to protest sarkosy's plan. the ministry of the interior estimate 1.1 million. the strikes have been happening for over a week.

there contact but no movement in negociations between the government and unions.

the government is threatening to start arresting people who are involved with a blockading the oil refineries (which is why they're shut down).

Les responsables de blocus risquent la prison - LeMonde.fr

the right to strike is constitutionally protected in france, btw.
it has no such legal status in the u.s. of a., particularly not since taft-hartley.
if a strike in the states were to mess with the flow of vital petro-capitalist lifeblood, the military would be called down on it.
"national security" dontcha know.

in the states, to loop back to the o.p., protest movements are theater. the state has nothing to fear from the beyond maybe loss of legitimacy. but that's typically temporary.

the worst that can happen, really, is violent confrontations between the cops and protestors that get on tv. control over access to tv time is key--we know this from watching fox news create lay astro-turf around the tea party. anyway, protest is theater. the state of things is never threatened by them.

conservatives and police learned during the vietnam period (a) that it's better not to confront directly and (b) if you do, keep it off camera.

but that doesn't mean one gets to demonstrate just anywhere. now there are "Free Speech Zones". unless you're a tea partier, i suppose. then anything goes.

o yeah, the political geography of paris is different from that of washington d.c.: the city's smaller. traditionally you can draw a line down the center of the city--to the east is a space of political action, typically centered around republique and bastille on the right bank and around the latin quarter on the left--but the university system was reorganized after 68 so there's little likelihood of student movements taking on the same centrality.

except now, all over france, it's high school kids who are out too. and they're everywhere.

to the west of the center line are the space of power. l'assemblé nationale is in the 7th, near invalides. if protests head that way, it becomes a political problem. that's why you see those nice paramilitary crs gentlemen blocking demo routes that way.

what makes this a particularly interesting strike is first it's size second its duration third that it's all over the country and fourth that it's gone after gas production as a way of trying to force the government to capitulate.

and sarkosy's popularity ratings, which were never great, are not entirely in the toilet.




so this is fast getting to be hardball.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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the government is threatening to start arresting people who are involved with a blockading the oil refineries (which is why they're shut down).

it has no such legal status in the u.s. of a., particularly not since taft-hartley.
if a strike in the states were to mess with the flow of vital petro-capitalist lifeblood, the military would be called down on it.
"national security" dontcha know.

in the states, to loop back to the o.p., protest movements are theater. the state has nothing to fear from the beyond maybe loss of legitimacy. but that's typically temporary.

the worst that can happen, really, is violent confrontations between the cops and protestors that get on tv. control over access to tv time is key--we know this from watching fox news create lay astro-turf around the tea party. anyway, protest is theater. the state of things is never threatened by them.

'politicians' (fixed that to remove your obvious bias and replace it with truth) and police learned during the vietnam period (a) that it's better not to confront directly and (b) if you do, keep it off camera.
The reasons why governments fear little from the people is because they've spent centuries in conditioning them to accept the premise that 'non-violence is more effective', which is complete bullshit in reality. It has to be otherwise politicians wouldn't continue to support it while letting police have the monopoly on violence.

non-violence is for civilians only

The fact of the matter is that not a single nonviolent movement challenging a government has convinced said government to actually come around and adopt the philosophy and practice of nonviolence itself. Not Gandhi, not MLK, not a one. For throughout virtually all of the inhabited land on Earth, there is some form of government in place exercising authority. And for all of the governments on Earth, not a one of them practices nonviolence in the tradition of Gandhi or MLK.

But there are plenty of pacifist civilians claiming that nonviolence is “the most powerful weapon.” If this is so, wouldn’t some professional in some government, by now, have come up with the ingenious idea of using this “powerful weapon” to defend its borders or keep its citizenry in line?

Of course not, because nonviolence is for civilians only.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
 
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the strikers in france aren't violent. they're just preventing anything from getting out of any of the gas refineries in france.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:39 AM   #7 (permalink)
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french protests take violent turn

PARIS – Masked youths clashed with police and set fires in cities across France on Tuesday as protests against a proposed hike in the retirement age took an increasingly radical turn. Hundreds of flights were canceled, long lines formed at gas stations and train service in many regions was cut in half.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
 
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yeah, well that happens. i guess i kinda expect stuff like this so don't think it's remarkable.

anyway, such violence as there us is usually with the crs and usually they attack first. not nice guys, the crs. de gaulle's gift that keeps on giving.

notice though. the crs have guns but no-one else does. and they don't use them.
and the political situation is way more free than is the american.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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...if by "political situation" you mean looting. Yes, we have a lot in common.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
 
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what are you talking about?

you mean like this?

http://www.tarabradford.com/2010/10/...-generale.html




here's a map that shows the extent and magnitude of the strikes.

http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/info...97_823448.html
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Old 10-19-2010, 01:40 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Plan9's original reluctance you have clarified the reasons for, dear roachboy.
The French demonstrate because they think it makes a difference.
Americans think their common good's more important.
These things aren't mutually exclusive, but we're all scared.
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Old 10-19-2010, 10:13 PM   #12 (permalink)
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1. Martial law
2. We know how much the right wing members in the military/police forces would love to be able to freely open fire on protesters and out of control anarchists.
3. Most violence isn't good for your cause, could you imagine how much people in the US would complain if oil went away? Even if it was for a good reason like a total protest and forced closing of BP and other deep water drilling when the rig sank?
4. I would lose my job, and have other things to do.
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Old 10-20-2010, 04:22 AM   #13 (permalink)
 
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well, one big difference is taft-hartley. it's true. that's a bit of labor law the democrats, those champions of the working feller, gave to us. the idea was to prevent railroad strikes or other such actions that would "endanger national security"...what it did was circumscribe the right to strike in an unacceptable way. in an industrial context (remember those?) holders of capital and their management proxies had almost all the power---the ability of workers to shut the place down was a counterweight. in political life, the state and the oligarchy for which it stands has power---a main counterweight is the collective withdrawal of consent. the mechanism that enables withdrawal of consent is a strike---not organizing a militias and playing paintball in the woods while fantasizing about returning to the 18th century--but organized actions that are aimed at shutting down the existing system **legitimately**

i don't think folk understand what was taken in the 40s by stuff like the taft-hartley act and it's expansion of the notion of "national security" to preclude political strikes.

demonstrations aren't strikes, btw.

what's happening in france right now is a general strike. from a political viewpoint, the challenge to sarkosy's government represented by a general strike is about a serious as it gets.

in the united states, there's no meaningful way for people to register a withdrawal of consent. their "freedom" is restricted to the charade of faction rotation within the oligarchy one day every 4 years.

i say this because i don't think the common good is served by the american system.
how exactly **would** you withdraw consent?
and without such a mechanism, those in power can do anything. witness the war in iraq.
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Old 10-20-2010, 10:19 AM   #14 (permalink)
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well, one big difference is taft-hartley. it's true. that's a bit of labor law the democrats, those champions of the working feller, gave to us. the idea was to prevent railroad strikes or other such actions that would "endanger national security"...what it did was circumscribe the right to strike in an unacceptable way. in an industrial context (remember those?) holders of capital and their management proxies had almost all the power---the ability of workers to shut the place down was a counterweight. in political life, the state and the oligarchy for which it stands has power---a main counterweight is the collective withdrawal of consent. the mechanism that enables withdrawal of consent is a strike---not organizing a militias and playing paintball in the woods while fantasizing about returning to the 18th century--but organized actions that are aimed at shutting down the existing system **legitimately**

i don't think folk understand what was taken in the 40s by stuff like the taft-hartley act and it's expansion of the notion of "national security" to preclude political strikes.

demonstrations aren't strikes, btw.

what's happening in france right now is a general strike. from a political viewpoint, the challenge to sarkosy's government represented by a general strike is about a serious as it gets.

in the united states, there's no meaningful way for people to register a withdrawal of consent. their "freedom" is restricted to the charade of faction rotation within the oligarchy one day every 4 years.

i say this because i don't think the common good is served by the american system.
how exactly **would** you withdraw consent?
and without such a mechanism, those in power can do anything. witness the war in iraq.

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Old 10-20-2010, 10:54 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I love him, too, & not just because we're politically similar. The history & pride-of-place enjoyed by some has become so deniable here in America that (i think) we tend to forget that our greatness was not only the result of our natural resources. I'm guessing deeper roots allow people to respond to their situations more like...um...people?
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Old 10-20-2010, 11:08 AM   #16 (permalink)
 
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thanks. ocm: for the record, i think that the american system is not good and is certainly less free politically than is the french system simply because in france the option exists to strike. even if the strikes do not achieve their objectives, it is important that they be possible. without them, the system's legitimacy cannot really be placed into question.

and the fact that "we" cannot place system legitimacy into question in any meaningful way--by which i mean there is no action that can be taken that'd do it on our collective initiative---is an indication that "we" in the united states live in a soft authoritarian system.


---
this is not to say that anything at all is hunky dory in france. i just made off with jazz's thread for a bit to point out that there's something important about the fact of these strikes that is being entirely overlooked in the states.

meanwhile, the strikes continue. if you read french, here's a twitter stream from le monde that gives a blow by blow. even if you don't. there's clips and images throughout.

Revivez le suivi en direct des manifestations du 20 octobre - LeMonde.fr

sarkosy's ordered the gas refineries to be opened up by force if need be. this morning some were, but i haven't had time today to check in on reports of where things stand. the effects of the blockade continue to spread in the meantime, and it's been extended to fuel destined for airports.

if you think about it, a fundamental aspect of the legitimacy of the dominant order is compressed onto the continuity of infrastructure. that electricity flows is a kind of argument for the political order that enables it, regardless of the characteristics of that order. it's an effect of being-dominant or having-power as such. so from there, the symbolic consequences of disruption...
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Old 10-20-2010, 02:32 PM   #17 (permalink)
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thanks. ocm: for the record, i think that the american system is not good and is certainly less free politically than is the french system simply because in france the option exists to strike. even if the strikes do not achieve their objectives, it is important that they be possible. without them, the system's legitimacy cannot really be placed into question.

and the fact that "we" cannot place system legitimacy into question in any meaningful way--by which i mean there is no action that can be taken that'd do it on our collective initiative---is an indication that "we" in the united states live in a soft authoritarian system.
for what it's worth, we used to have a system in this country where one could strike without an issue. It's when those strikes affected the populace at large, then the government was able to act with impunity and not fear much political retribution.
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Old 10-20-2010, 06:04 PM   #18 (permalink)
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for what it's worth, we used to have a system in this country where one could strike without an issue. It's when those strikes affected the populace at large, then the government was able to act with impunity and not fear much political retribution.
As free of sarcasm as I can make it: exactly when was that? I can't think of a single major strike until the mid-1930's that didn't have serious violence and threatened government intervention (even if just local government).
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Old 10-20-2010, 06:44 PM   #19 (permalink)
 
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seriously, dk.
but i wonder whether this is an instance in which the history of the united states from the left viewpoint, in the context of which the violent suppression of any attempt at union organization from the colorado coalfield wars through the butchering of the obu through the wars around river rouge are important, and that which exists for other people diverge. because the triumphalist white-boy history of the u.s. of a. doesn't include the violent lunatic anti-communism that carried the day for decades here because either they agree with the politics or they are simply not informed so that reality for them never existed.

it's hard to say.
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Old 10-21-2010, 03:52 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Plan9's original reluctance you have clarified the reasons for, dear roachboy.
The French demonstrate because they think it makes a difference.
Americans think their common good's more important.
These things aren't mutually exclusive, but we're all scared.
I don't think Americans are all for the common good, or all Americans. I think Americans don't demonstrate because of the threat of violence from our government. Historically our government has had very little trouble putting down our little demonstrations with violence. I seem to recall Posse Comitatus has been overturned recently... Maybe in anticipation?
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Old 10-21-2010, 08:34 AM   #21 (permalink)
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there is a reason, after all, most other nations celebrate labor day on May 1st, but the US doesn't...
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Old 10-21-2010, 09:03 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dippin View Post
there is a reason, after all, most other nations celebrate labor day on May 1st, but the US doesn't...
Wait, really?

I knew America was generally anti-union...but seriously?

Edit; Oh, May 1st. Nevermind. But still.
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Old 10-21-2010, 09:47 AM   #23 (permalink)
 
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here's an update on the day's events in english from the guardian:

French strikes: panic-buying at petrol pumps | World news | guardian.co.uk

les echos, the french equivalent of the financial times, published yesterday a poll with 59% of respondents supporting the strike and the idea that it continues.
an inter-union committee announced this afternoon that there are to be two more waves, one beginning next tuesday and another on 6 november.

Retraitesomg: deux nouvelles journées de mobilisation, les 28 octobre et 6 novembre - RETRAITE POLITIQUE SOCIALE SYNDICAT

and while sarkosy continues trying to maintain a firm demeanor--"we won't give in to pressure" blah blah blah---in the senate he floated the idea that maybe another discussion of the retirement and pension situations could be pencilled in for 2012...

Retraites : fermeté face aux blocages, ouverture au Sénat - RETRAITE

so the situation's still pretty fluid.
and gas shortages are getting bigger.
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Old 10-22-2010, 05:49 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksuddeth View Post
for what it's worth, we used to have a system in this country where one could strike without an issue. It's when those strikes affected the populace at large, then the government was able to act with impunity and not fear much political retribution.
Isn't that the whole purpose of a strike? But, I could just imagine if some group like Greenpeace successfully blocked all the oil refineries in this country during the Gulf oil spill. Even if they had the support of a vast majority of Americans, the 10-20% who think gas for their oversized trucks and SUVs is a God given right would throw a big tantrum.
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