“We are worth better than this” – youth protests against the labour law in France

Benjamin Bürbaumer


The struggle against the “loi travail” (labour law) in France has been triggered by what is called the youth movement in February 2016. Traditionally, youth protests are led by the strongly institutionalized and tightly organised students' union UNEF and its satellites - all of them are more or less directly linked to the French Socialist Party. In the past, this has been both the condition for mass youth involvement in demonstrations and strikes, but also a major obstacle that kept young people from going beyond certain political limits. However, this time these organisations couldn't get hold of the protests and new conceptions of activism spread, which ultimately contributed to set the stage for the development of a radical fraction at each demonstration, willing to physically attack the police and banks. The great majority of young people involved in the struggle systematically join it during demonstrations. Yet, the appearance of this radical fraction brought along new contradictions regarding the established far-left and union strategies. This paper aims at discussing the dynamics of the emergence and the role of this radical fraction within the struggle against the labour law. Thus, it questions the issues of organisation and spontaneity, which have especially been updated by the Invisible Committee.

labor law - class struggle - social movements - France - youth