Macronism, and How To Fight It: A Commentary from Parti des indigènes de la République (PiR)

This commentary discusses the necessity for struggle against the labour reforms of Emmanuel Macron, acknowledging the deepening racial divisions it will exacerbate

The following text is a translation of a commentary from Parti des indigènes de la République (PiR) on the racial politics of the wave of strikes and student occupations that are now roiling France.

As PiR member Selim Nadi has explained, PiR was started in 2010 in order to “introduce into the French political field a new analysis of the racial question by analyzing it from a materialist and political point of view, leaving the “moral sphere” where most of the “analysis” of racism in France were confined.” ‘Indigènes’, though, is a rather difficult word to translate into English, less for any straightforward linguistic reason - ‘(the) indigenous’ is acceptable - than for a political one; no UK grouping has claimed, or re-claimed, the appellation ‘indigenous’.

The Macron administration’s attacks against the publicly-owned railway group, the SNFC (the Société nationale des chemins de fer français) - attacks both against workers’ terms, and the public nature of the railways, and earned warnings from union leader Bruno Poncetas that they are ‘going to destroy the public railway transit system’. Railway workers, or ‘cheminots’, began their two-day-on, three-off strike campaign on 3rd April, with the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro writing last Friday (6th April) of a ‘Black Tuesday and Wednesday for train users’.

Concurrently, the government’s attempt to change university entry requirements, according ‘to the needs of capital’, as the PiR write, has provoked students to occupy Grenoble, Lyon, Nantes, and Paris-8; over the last fortnight, both Montpellier and Strasbourg occupations were attacked by armed far-right groups. Less than a month before the half-century anniversary of May ‘68, the following text intervenes in a process, or processes, that show signs of becoming a ‘French Spring’.

UK-based readers may be aware of the University and College Union’s ongoing dispute over pensions, and of the student efforts to support the strike campaign. A hard picket around SOAS university enforced by working-class women of colour, on 22nd of March, was done, organisers said, ‘so that future students from marginalised backgrounds have access to free, quality education’ (their statement is here) - an intervention that appears to us as roughly equivalent in spirit to the PiR’s text below.

Macronism against the indigènes.
In support of the strikers.

Le macronisme contre les indigènes.
En soutien aux grévistes.

As expected, the 22 March strike has engendered a dynamic beyond the cheminots struggle, allowing a more general interrogation of the meaning of Macronism. Faced with an increasingly powerful social movement, involving college and university students with cheminots - faced with the image of white, petit-bourgeois students and privileged cheminots, as certain medias want to sell us - it’s important to capture the significance of these reforms for the indigènes.

What of the reforms which, a priori, do not target us directly - are we concerned with them?

A first response might be that the place within relations of re-production is determined, in part, by the racial order: if the lot of the entire proletariat is being attacked by Macron’s reforms, the indigènes are, often, the most affected. If, as has been demonstrated by a number of studies, the conditions of the indigènes do not mechanically improve as those of the white proletariat progress, the inverse is true: as the exploitation of whites worsens, those of non-whites collapse.

It is also essential to recall that the attacks of management towards SNCF’s non-white workers needs no further demonstration. We can congratulate the victory of the Chibanis (first-generation Maghrebian migrants) who had, in their time, been hired with a less ‘favourable’ contract than the cheminots français, and who succeeded in suing the SNFC for discrimination on the 31 January. In île de France, H. Reiner’s ONET, a sub-contractor of SNFC in charge of Parisian station maintenance, had to bend when faced with a strike of its former-colony workers.

If Macron risks, after the SNFC, to violently take from the other public services, he has already largely attacked the lycées and the universities. Reforms to the Baccalauréat (A-level equivalent) and to higher education - reforms engaged in by previous governments - aims to adapt education to the needs of capital, producing well-formed, impoverished workers, and will also in a great variety of ways blatantly penalise the indigènes.

We no longer live in 1950s: the students are no longer only the children of bourgeois whites. If we are still less numerous at the university, à fortiori in the higher stages and and streams of excellence, our number has grown over these last years, despite the fact that our social mobility remains inferior at the end of our studies, and that our place in the labour market remains very precarious. It is quite evident that the entry selection at university penalises in the first place the the children of the working classes, above all the non-whites. We recall also that amongst the pupils who stop their studies at 16 - those who are re-oriented towards leaving school - one finds a number of indigènes, who are not going to be able to establish themselves with this worsening of university selection.

What’s more, the fact that budding fascist groups across France take violent actions against, after the indigènes, the students - as we have seen at Montpellier or Strasbourg - is not mere coincidence. The actions of these groups accompany, and sometimes replace, police repression. The fact that these groups are convinced of their ability to behave with impunity is not anodyne - it is directly tied (lié) to state racism.

Whilst the government prepares a law on “asylum and immigration”, we recall that the Prime Minister cites Germany as an example to follow, a country which, at the start of the 1990s, tightened its asylum controls following various neo-nazi pogroms against refugee centres.

It is imperative that these fascist groups don’t feel themselves to be untouchable, because then we risk the government continuing to make extremely serious “concessions” to the far-right. Until their aggressions against the students, the fascists were succeeding in tipping the balance of power in their favour. Beyond its social claims, the growing movement, not least the student movement, has no other choice than to reinforce its anti-fascist and anti-racist dimensions, if it wishes to participate in the real high-stakes game.

The social movement which is starting, despite its very uncertain outcome, marks, as did the demonstrations against the loi travail and the growth of power of autonomous struggles over immigration, a recomposition of the relations of political forces. Even if he appears less aggressive (in terms of communication) than Sarkozy or Valls, Macron prepares, beyond these reforms, for an intensification of racial inequalities.

This movement of mobilisations, if it becomes established and learns from the colour-blindness of its predecessors, can participate in the construction of a collective struggle against the worsening of our conditions of exploitation, and against the racist campaigns and imperialist wars that go in-step with (aller de pair) with the neoliberal reforms of recent decades. The movement’s victories, or its defeats, will be rich in education for the battles to come.