France wakes up with a teachers’ health strike as the topic of the day. Newspapers begin to report scenes of mobilization throughout the whole country beyond Parisian high schools. In every region and from kindergartens to universities, the request is very simple: split classes, hire additional support teachers, introduce remote learning tools and reinforce the neglected hygiene of a school system weakened by the pandemic because of endemic overcrowding and budget cuts.
At the University, where 30% of the students were already precarious workers before this pandemic. A movement of students converged with the teacher’s movement and is and is directly pushing for the closure of the teaching activity, aware of the general lack of safety conditions.
Epidemiological studies prove students right: they show that closing schools reduces the incidence peak by 40-60% and that refusing to close them would increase Covid transmission by 24%. At this point, no one disputes that if governments keep classes open throughout the education system, against all evidence and advice, it is because they prioritize the need to keep children and youths away from home so that their parents can continue to go to work without complaining.
And yet, the vast majority of teachers want to reduce class sizes, not to completely close down. The reason is that the situation in schools, high schools and universities also reflects the overwhelming and growing weight of precarization and working class poverty.
Personal hygiene materials, hydroalcoholic gel, masks… fall under the schools’ responsibility because many families cannot afford them. The teachers tell how there is a certain percentage of students who have been wearing the same mask since the beginning of the academic year.
They know that cutting classes in half means that many students will only receive half of the classes, but they are betting on taking risks and teaching on-site rather than closing because for a not insignificant percentage of students, lacking access to digital tools and with a dramatic situation at home, not going to school would mean losing the entire year… and probably being left behind in the teaching system.
Faced with the sacrificed position of the teachers, the government becomes angry, threatens sanctions, disqualifies… the nicest thing it has said about the teachers is that their movement is immoral and out of place. It’s a real warning and a portrait of what’s to come, of what is already happening. And not only in France. In all of Europe.
Faced with universal needs, nationalism; faced with protests, repression and impunity
With a media which is always careful in silencing the workers and some unions which live off staging and imposing impotence, Macron has a clear idea of how to impose himself: show and battering stick, nationalism and Brussels.
While his parliamentary supporters were promoting a French-style Gag Rule destined to make the brutal use of violence by the police go unpunished by repressing the spontaneous recordings of police violence, Macron was receiving the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the Elysée Palace. The subject: the synchronicity of terrorist attacks in both countries and the need to bring terrorism back to the forefront of the media. In the first instance, the macronite discourse wants to redirect cooperation in the repression of jihadism in order to turn it into a way to control the Muslim Brotherhood and their Turkish and Qatari patrons. Germany is already in the same position. Following the Moroccan model, the German government will take charge of the training of imams and will regulate who is allowed to preach in the mosques, closing the way for imams sent from Turkey.
But there is more. It was already hinted at when the first measure of the French state after the murders was to reinforce border security and praise the Schengen reform. As soon as Kurz was over, Macron joined a video conference with the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte. The message: the fight against terrorism from now on goes through common databases, border control and tougher criminal laws that punish membership of suspicious groups. And an especially poisonous message: you need to take a hard look, Macron said, at the ties between illegal immigration and terrorism.
Translation: the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood’s separatism threatens to turn into control and legal repression of any neighborhood separatism, a new offensive of migrant criminalization and a return to the Europe of borders and strip searches, happy to turn islands into mass prisons. We have begun some methodical work, the French president said.
And to shove it all down, a double dose of epic nationalism and heroes of the Republican homeland. Today: a great show at the Pantheon for the 50th anniversary of De Gaulle’s death.
The macronite response to the wave of strikes and its synchronization with Brussels, Germany and the Netherlands in increasing the repressive capacities of the states, comes at a time when the most basic contradictions of the system are becoming increasingly violent. It is clear to us that the rules of confrontation of the ruling class and the state are already set: against the affirmation of universal needs, use nationalism; against protests, use repression and impunity.