Today is “International Workers Day”
a.k.a. Labor day in the U.S., May Day in England, and here in France we celebrate the same thing, la fÃªte du travail. Along with a number of pagan festivals which have always celebrated May, it’s specifically a commemoration of the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago, Ill. when the 8 hour working day was fought for.
It’s a day where the unions traditionally march in protest of the latest government policies. In England it’s the anti-capitalist movement, in France they’re out against the CNE, the special contract for young employees in their first jobs. This is considered the “brother” of the CPE which caused an outpouring of violence, protest and general unrest earlier in the year.
On that urban issue, I noticed an article about the recent unrest in France written by an old lecturer and friend of mine at Warwick University, Jim Shields. He suggests :
Ethnic minorities remain almost entirely unrepresented on French television, as in the higher echelons of business, the civil service and the professions; and there is not a black face among the 555 deputies representing mainland France in the National Assembly. In no other European country are immigrants more brutally segregated, and in none other is the political elite more loftily exclusive. At the same time, no European country has been so resolute in refusing the â€˜Anglo-Saxon modelâ€™ of multiculturalism and banishing expressions of religious difference from its schools and public sector.
So France embark on more protests against policies aimed (ostensibly) to improve youth unemployment issues. Sadly the urban issues pull much harder at my conscience on this day which we celebrate the start of summer* – and the day that is 6 months from All Saint’s Day, the start of winter*.
*There are several times of year that you can celebrate either of these events…