The French Protests

What do the protestors want in France? A survey of media coverage implies or explicitly claims that it’s only about economics, not “noneconomic” issues such as immigration. This line is a double distortion. Immigration is very much an issue in these protests, and, moreover, immigration is very much an economic issue.

The protest is anti-globalist and populist nationalist in character. The media will tell its audience that protestors are demanding, among other things, an end to austerity, protection of French industry by prohibiting relocation, i.e. moving French jobs overseas, a return of energy utilities to public ownership, and a prohibition on selling property belonging to France.

The protestors are also calling for prevention of migratory flows that cannot be accommodated or integrated. The French proletariat are assimilationist. They demand real integration policy be implemented. “Living in France means becoming French,” they are telling their audience. That means French language courses, a history of France course, and civic education courses with certification. They call for action to address the root causes of migration and for the French government to work with the UN to open host camps outside of France pending the outcome of the asylum application. The call for unsuccessful asylum seekers (which is between 75 and 90% of migrants claiming refugee status) to be escorted back to their country of origin.

The media is avoiding the immigration question because they don’t want to publicize the growing frustration with migration. For the same reason capitalists export production to exploit foreign labor and discipline domestic labor, capitalists import foreign labor to France. While the protestors demand humane treatment of refugees, they reject the importation of foreign labor and the deep multicultural approach to migrants who stay in France, that is, allowing them to form their own ethnic and religious enclaves with practices contrary to French law and culture. Polls show a large majority of French citizens reporting that they no longer feel at home in their own country. 

If the media continues to ignore this reality – worse, smear French and other European workers as “xenophobes” and “racists” for wanting to keep their country and their livelihoods, and if the left fails to take up this popular position, populist sentiment will continue to drift rightward  – and the right is eager to address popular suffering. The left is not merely blowing an opportunity to move the class struggle forward by taking its traditional stance on immigration, but it is risking democracy and freedom by alienating the proletariat. If the left doesn’t defend civic nationalism, then it will face ethnic nationalism. In the end, the rot of identity politics favors the right. The left was stupid to even take it up.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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