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Violence in Paris: Why are demonstrations escalating in France – and not in Germany?


Burning garbage cans and tear gas: These are scenes that are hard to imagine in Germany – and have been normal in France for weeks. An expert explains why.

Burning garbage cans and tear gas: These are scenes that are hard to imagine in Germany – and have been normal in France for weeks.

An expert explains why.

France does not rest.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting in Paris and other cities for weeks.

The trigger is the pension reform of President Emmanuel Macron.

He wants to gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

It is the biggest and at the same time most sensitive project of his second term.

By Monday, protesters were hoping Macron would be stopped by a no-confidence vote.


As a result, the violence escalated.

It continues this Thursday.

Another general strike is planned, the ninth since late January.

800,000 people are expected.

Cards showing the 240 demonstrations and rallies announced were shown in French media.

The effects can be observed throughout the country: Long queues are forming in front of gas stations, rail traffic is paralyzed and garbage is piling up.

France is rehearsing the uprising – and not for the first time.

This is an important reason why the French, including violence, are rebelling violently, says political scientist Johannes Maria Becker.

Because: “In France there is a protest culture that can look back on victories.

Revolutions are celebrated there.

The national holiday is July 14th.” Becker helped set up the Center for Conflict Research at the University of Marburg.

One of his research focuses is France.

He worked in Paris for three years and has had a second residence in France for 45 years.

Protests in France: trade unions play an important role

Becker is not surprised that the protests cannot be controlled and that they come as a surprise: "In France, protests are less predictable than here.

This is partly due to the trade unions, which act much more radically.

There are political directional unions, for example a social-democratic, a communist-oriented and even a sometimes Trotskyist-Maoist union.

In Germany, on the other hand, we have a social-democratically oriented union.”

In addition to the institutional explanation, there is also a cultural justification: the soul of the people.

“The French people have - alongside the cultivation of the victorious revolutions - a collective consciousness of injustice.

Something goes wrong?

Then you tend to hold the central government responsible and take to the streets – everyone, not just those who are directly affected.

Germans tend to blame themselves, they don’t question the macro structures.”

Strike comparison: 123 days per year in France, seven days in Germany

Numbers underline the French's willingness to go on strike or the Germans' laziness to go on strike - depending on how you read it.

On average, there are 123 strike days per year for every 1,000 French workers.

In Germany it is seven days.

That was the finding of the German Economic Institute (IW) in Cologne in a study for the years 2007 to 2016.

Germany, too, is making a variety of experiences with strikes these days.

Verdi and the civil servants' association dbb are demanding 10.5 percent more income, but at least 500 euros more per month.

So far, employers have only offered 5 percent in two steps and one-off payments totaling 2,500 euros - "an unreasonable demand" for the unions, as they say.

Nevertheless, there are major differences in the form of the protests compared to the neighboring country.

France expert Becker tells a story that made it clear to him that things are different in Germany.

“When Hartz IV was introduced in 2005, there was supposed to be a demonstration here in Marburg.

It was expected that many of the approximately 500 unemployed teachers in the region would come because they had to accept massive losses as a result of the reform.

In the end six came.”

Historical reasons for a different strike culture in France

A number that would be unthinkable in France, says Becker.

The desire to go on strike is also related to a fundamental distrust in the state.

“The French say: If Macron thinks he needs to earn more money, then he should tax the super-rich more heavily or fight tax evasion more effectively.

With this attitude, people are considered envious in Germany,” says Becker.

There are also historical reasons why the strike culture in France is different.

First the right to strike was introduced, then came the unions.

Protesting comes before negotiating – this has a long tradition in France.

Since the end of the Second World War, the right to strike has even been included in the preamble to the constitution.

In principle, anyone in France can go on strike – including civil servants.

In Germany, civil servants are not allowed this right.

There are also different definitions of what counts as a strike.

In France, if at least two workers stop working, it is considered a strike.

In Germany, only trade unions are allowed to call for strikes.

Nevertheless, there is one thing in common: strikes are only permitted when it comes to demands that can be regulated within the framework of the collective agreement.

For example, it must be about salary, working conditions or protection against dismissal.

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-03-23

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