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Better to lose a saddle than a horse: Trump’s Syria pullout

Turkey announced on December 19, 2016 its intention to take in 7-year-old Bana Alabed, who captured the world’s attention by sending tweets from Syria’s war-ravaged city of Aleppo, according to Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Describing Bana as the girl “who announced the Aleppo massacre to the world on social media”, Cavusoglu told state-run Anadolu that she and her family would be brought to Turkey.
Selen Öztürk- Süleyman M. Agdag
 
U.S. President Donald Trump declared on Dec. 19, absolute victory over Daesh and publicly disclosed the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, which were initially sent there to fight against Daesh via the Global Coalition against Daesh. U.S. forces, however, made a controversial Marxist-Communist ally in the process, namely the Democratic Union Party (PYD), stirring up the conflict in northern part of the country and escalating tension with Turkey. Now that the U.S. is preparing for a well-conducted pullout that is likely to increase cooperation with Turkey, an anti-withdrawal camp is taking over Washington with gripping assumptions to reverse the course of the case in Syria.
 
Trump’s phone call with President Erdogan
Following Trump’s Twitter announcement, many have taken to speculating that his unsolicited decision to withdraw from Syria was a result of a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. In reality, however, Trump made it very clear that the U.S. was “knocking the hell out of Daesh” and would bring American troops home “very soon” at an event held in Ohio on March 29 – back when Turkish-American relations were going downhill. Now, due to a few recent promising steps toward rapprochement between Ankara and Washington, it does not make much sense to tie the withdrawal decision to a single phone call, mainly because Turkey has long been pushing the U.S. to reconsider its pro-PYD strategy in Syria, and never really succeeded before.
Whether we praise or disapprove of Trump, his withdrawal decision has factual and realistic ground, one that complies with international law. Organizing one terrorist group to fight against another, at the expense of a failed state’s territorial integrity and hindering a 67-year-old NATO alliance, is by far the worst counterterrorism strategy the U.S. has relied on in the Middle East. While many in American bureaucracy condemn Trump’s withdrawal decision with the claim that the U.S. is leaving allies, mainly the PYD, behind, it must be kept in mind that Congress has never really approved this involvement in the first place, and it is illegal.
The U.S. involvement in Syria solely aimed to defeat Daesh, not to “protect Kurds” or help them cede territory from Syria for the PYD. A particular camp in American politics, currently seeming to be led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, should consider the NATO allies and partners the U.S. has already upset first instead of shedding tears for the PYD, a group with organic ties to the PKK – a terrorist organization recognized as such by the U.S. After all, U.S. cooperation with the PYD is an unconventional partnership, and the PYD fought against Daesh for no one but its own agenda. In fact, for the U.S., the PYD constituted nothing more than a mere instrument that could easily be mobilized against Daesh and Iran.The horrible fact Humanitarian consequences.
Those who are concerned about the so-called humanitarian consequences of an American military withdrawal should check their facts first. Take Mosul and Raqqa for instance, where the U.S.-led coalition conducted numerous airstrikes against Daesh resulting in a terrifying death toll of approximately 5,000 civilians, which is almost the same as the total number of civilians killed by Daesh since 2011.It should be noted that official coalition reports often undermine the scale of the humanitarian disaster, and the exact number of civilian deaths might actually be much higher.
So to speak, the U.S. presence in Syria has not done anything to truly protect anyone, but instead has caused a great deal of destruction and turned a blind eye to those who really need help and support, including over 300,000 Syrian Kurds who have fled from Daesh’s violence and PYD oppression to Turkey and northern Iraq. Hence, it is debatable whether the U.S. intervention has been grounded on humanitarian concerns.Today, even if Daesh is not completely defeated and still poses a threat, keeping American troops in Syria will not bring an ultimate solution to this terrorist group, mainly because violent ideologies as such demand profound long-term political solutions. If worse comes to worst, the U.S. is still perfectly capable of conducting airstrikes through its bases located in Iraq and carrying out the fight via the Global Coalition against Daesh.
 
Russia and Iran will quickly fill the vacuum
Another popular assumption is that Russia and Iran will quickly fill the vacuum created by an American withdrawal, which is misguided on multiple levels since the U.S. is by no means capable of forcing Russia out of the equation or containing Iranian influence in the region. As put forth by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, with only 2,000 troops on the ground, it is folly for the U.S. to think that it can force Iran, Syria or Russia to do anything.
Technically speaking, Trump cannot simply be handing Syria over to Russia by withdrawing troops since the U.S. never really had Syria in the first place. Syria has traditionally been a Russian ally and had a foothold in the Mediterranean.
When it comes to growing Iranian influence in northwestern Syria, it is possible to argue that the U.S. is still a significant actor for having bases in close proximity to the country and can continue its efforts to contain Iran. Moreover, Iran currently lacks the economic sources it was once able to pour into local proxies, and when making such assumptions, the hardships of furthering foreign policy goals via proxies with varying agendas in Syria must be acknowledged, as well.
The likelihood of increased cooperation between Ankara and Washington will potentially discouraging Iranian ambitions. As Turkey and the U.S. share common motivation in terms of containing the Iranian influence in Syria, Turkish-American cooperation can prove much more influential in this regard than a mere American presence to limit a single power from dominating the area. America is marked due to its never-ending engagements in the Middle East and not held in high-esteem by the public. Turkey, a long-time American ally, on the other hand, is a regional actor with cultural, religious and historical ties to the denizens of the region, which are majority Sunni Arabs.
 
Repeating the same road map?
For some, the withdrawal is bad policy because Trump’s move resembles former President Barack Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq. Yet, before we simply compare Iraq in 2011 to Syria in 2019, one should keep in mind the similarities and differences. In Iraq, the U.S. invaded the whole country, changed its regime and formed a new government with around 170,000 troops, while paying little attention to the demographic complexities of the nation-state. The U.S. was still the most capable and perhaps the only stable force in Iraq when it withdrew in 2011. As a result, the American withdrawal from Iraq directly contributed to the emergence of an environment where Daesh was able to rise. In Syria, however, there are multiple state actors, and dozens of nonstate actors with varying degrees of power. The U.S.’ only nonstate ally, the PYD, is one that has no other friends in the country and is a potential problem for all the nation-states in the region. An American withdrawal from Syria cannot possibly create the same effects in the region. Therefore, drawing misevaluated analogies between Iraq and Syria regarding the withdrawal decision generates false conclusions.
 
The Turkish goal in Syria
Turkey’s premier objective in Syria is to protect Syrian territorial integrity and to ensure the safe return of 3.5 million refugees residing on Turkish soil while facilitating the stabilization process in close cooperation with the majority Arab population. The previous U.S. strategy enabled the PYD to gain power and significance. The PYD’s territorial ambitions and a consequent disintegration of the already fragile country would bring even more instability to the region and encourage more groups like Daesh. For this reason, the U.S. withdrawal represents a strategic shift rather than a mere tactical decision. It is a grounded realignment with Turkey, which indeed contributes to the stability of the region.
The U.S. made a series of bad choices regarding Syria, but the withdrawal decision is not one of them. Trump must have realized, in the end, it is better to lose the saddle than the horse.
[The writer is a researcher at the Security Department of SETA Foundation in Ankara]

Comment

Turkey announced on December 19, 2016 its intention to take in 7-year-old Bana Alabed, who captured the world’s attention by sending tweets from Syria’s war-ravaged city of Aleppo, according to Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Describing Bana as the girl “who announced the Aleppo massacre to the world on social media”, Cavusoglu told state-run Anadolu that she and her family would be brought to Turkey.
Selen Öztürk- Süleyman M. Agdag
 
U.S. President Donald Trump declared on Dec. 19, absolute victory over Daesh and publicly disclosed the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, which were initially sent there to fight against Daesh via the Global Coalition against Daesh. U.S. forces, however, made a controversial Marxist-Communist ally in the process, namely the Democratic Union Party (PYD), stirring up the conflict in northern part of the country and escalating tension with Turkey. Now that the U.S. is preparing for a well-conducted pullout that is likely to increase cooperation with Turkey, an anti-withdrawal camp is taking over Washington with gripping assumptions to reverse the course of the case in Syria.
 
Trump’s phone call with President Erdogan
Following Trump’s Twitter announcement, many have taken to speculating that his unsolicited decision to withdraw from Syria was a result of a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. In reality, however, Trump made it very clear that the U.S. was “knocking the hell out of Daesh” and would bring American troops home “very soon” at an event held in Ohio on March 29 – back when Turkish-American relations were going downhill. Now, due to a few recent promising steps toward rapprochement between Ankara and Washington, it does not make much sense to tie the withdrawal decision to a single phone call, mainly because Turkey has long been pushing the U.S. to reconsider its pro-PYD strategy in Syria, and never really succeeded before.
Whether we praise or disapprove of Trump, his withdrawal decision has factual and realistic ground, one that complies with international law. Organizing one terrorist group to fight against another, at the expense of a failed state’s territorial integrity and hindering a 67-year-old NATO alliance, is by far the worst counterterrorism strategy the U.S. has relied on in the Middle East. While many in American bureaucracy condemn Trump’s withdrawal decision with the claim that the U.S. is leaving allies, mainly the PYD, behind, it must be kept in mind that Congress has never really approved this involvement in the first place, and it is illegal.
The U.S. involvement in Syria solely aimed to defeat Daesh, not to “protect Kurds” or help them cede territory from Syria for the PYD. A particular camp in American politics, currently seeming to be led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, should consider the NATO allies and partners the U.S. has already upset first instead of shedding tears for the PYD, a group with organic ties to the PKK – a terrorist organization recognized as such by the U.S. After all, U.S. cooperation with the PYD is an unconventional partnership, and the PYD fought against Daesh for no one but its own agenda. In fact, for the U.S., the PYD constituted nothing more than a mere instrument that could easily be mobilized against Daesh and Iran.The horrible fact Humanitarian consequences.
Those who are concerned about the so-called humanitarian consequences of an American military withdrawal should check their facts first. Take Mosul and Raqqa for instance, where the U.S.-led coalition conducted numerous airstrikes against Daesh resulting in a terrifying death toll of approximately 5,000 civilians, which is almost the same as the total number of civilians killed by Daesh since 2011.It should be noted that official coalition reports often undermine the scale of the humanitarian disaster, and the exact number of civilian deaths might actually be much higher.
So to speak, the U.S. presence in Syria has not done anything to truly protect anyone, but instead has caused a great deal of destruction and turned a blind eye to those who really need help and support, including over 300,000 Syrian Kurds who have fled from Daesh’s violence and PYD oppression to Turkey and northern Iraq. Hence, it is debatable whether the U.S. intervention has been grounded on humanitarian concerns.Today, even if Daesh is not completely defeated and still poses a threat, keeping American troops in Syria will not bring an ultimate solution to this terrorist group, mainly because violent ideologies as such demand profound long-term political solutions. If worse comes to worst, the U.S. is still perfectly capable of conducting airstrikes through its bases located in Iraq and carrying out the fight via the Global Coalition against Daesh.
 
Russia and Iran will quickly fill the vacuum
Another popular assumption is that Russia and Iran will quickly fill the vacuum created by an American withdrawal, which is misguided on multiple levels since the U.S. is by no means capable of forcing Russia out of the equation or containing Iranian influence in the region. As put forth by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, with only 2,000 troops on the ground, it is folly for the U.S. to think that it can force Iran, Syria or Russia to do anything.
Technically speaking, Trump cannot simply be handing Syria over to Russia by withdrawing troops since the U.S. never really had Syria in the first place. Syria has traditionally been a Russian ally and had a foothold in the Mediterranean.
When it comes to growing Iranian influence in northwestern Syria, it is possible to argue that the U.S. is still a significant actor for having bases in close proximity to the country and can continue its efforts to contain Iran. Moreover, Iran currently lacks the economic sources it was once able to pour into local proxies, and when making such assumptions, the hardships of furthering foreign policy goals via proxies with varying agendas in Syria must be acknowledged, as well.
The likelihood of increased cooperation between Ankara and Washington will potentially discouraging Iranian ambitions. As Turkey and the U.S. share common motivation in terms of containing the Iranian influence in Syria, Turkish-American cooperation can prove much more influential in this regard than a mere American presence to limit a single power from dominating the area. America is marked due to its never-ending engagements in the Middle East and not held in high-esteem by the public. Turkey, a long-time American ally, on the other hand, is a regional actor with cultural, religious and historical ties to the denizens of the region, which are majority Sunni Arabs.
 
Repeating the same road map?
For some, the withdrawal is bad policy because Trump’s move resembles former President Barack Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq. Yet, before we simply compare Iraq in 2011 to Syria in 2019, one should keep in mind the similarities and differences. In Iraq, the U.S. invaded the whole country, changed its regime and formed a new government with around 170,000 troops, while paying little attention to the demographic complexities of the nation-state. The U.S. was still the most capable and perhaps the only stable force in Iraq when it withdrew in 2011. As a result, the American withdrawal from Iraq directly contributed to the emergence of an environment where Daesh was able to rise. In Syria, however, there are multiple state actors, and dozens of nonstate actors with varying degrees of power. The U.S.’ only nonstate ally, the PYD, is one that has no other friends in the country and is a potential problem for all the nation-states in the region. An American withdrawal from Syria cannot possibly create the same effects in the region. Therefore, drawing misevaluated analogies between Iraq and Syria regarding the withdrawal decision generates false conclusions.
 
The Turkish goal in Syria
Turkey’s premier objective in Syria is to protect Syrian territorial integrity and to ensure the safe return of 3.5 million refugees residing on Turkish soil while facilitating the stabilization process in close cooperation with the majority Arab population. The previous U.S. strategy enabled the PYD to gain power and significance. The PYD’s territorial ambitions and a consequent disintegration of the already fragile country would bring even more instability to the region and encourage more groups like Daesh. For this reason, the U.S. withdrawal represents a strategic shift rather than a mere tactical decision. It is a grounded realignment with Turkey, which indeed contributes to the stability of the region.
The U.S. made a series of bad choices regarding Syria, but the withdrawal decision is not one of them. Trump must have realized, in the end, it is better to lose the saddle than the horse.
[The writer is a researcher at the Security Department of SETA Foundation in Ankara]

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France’s “yellow vest” protests continue

Shouts of “Macron, resign” mingled with tear gas on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was the scene of the worst rioting in Paris in decades.
Alex Lantier
 
DEMONSTRATIONS by French “yellow vest” protesters on January 12, grew again, amid rising opposition among broad layers of the population to President Emmanuel Macron. Interior Ministry sources claimed 84,000 people demonstrated in the ninth straight weekend of mass protests against Macron, compared to 50,000 the week before—figures that, as even the official press noted, seemed to be substantial underestimates.
As the “yellow vest” protesters marched, teachers who have joined “red pen” groups on social media, inspired by the “yellow vests,” to protest cuts to school funding and living standards by successive French governments, also held rallies and marched in several cities across France. The fact that sections of workers are advancing social demands in alliance with the “yellow vests” points to the growing strength of opposition and protest in France. There is also growing awareness of the mounting social struggles in Europe and America.
Protests took place in cities across France. A special protest called in the smaller city of Bourges, near the center of France, went ahead, as over 6,300 “yellow vests” defied a ban from the police prefecture, penetrating the police security perimeter around the center of town. Riot police charged the protesters and made 18 arrests. “Yellow vest” protesters also peacefully escorted BFM-TV reporters away from the city in retaliation for the channel’s attacks on the “yellow vest” movement.
 
The banner reads, “Popular self-defence”
Mass protests and clashes with police occurred in smaller cities across France. In Nîmes, around 3,000 protesters clashed with riot police, who fired thick clouds of tear gas around the Roman arena and the police prefecture. Over 2,000 “yellow vests” mobilized in Rouen and expelled plainclothes policemen who tried to infiltrate their protest. In Caen, 4,000 protesters rallied and clashed with police around the train station, tearing up train tracks to throw material at the security forces.
In Bordeaux, 10,000 “yellow vests” protested and hundreds clashed with riot police later in the evening around Pey-Berland square. In Toulouse, riot police violently attacked at least 5,000 “yellow vests” who occupied Capitole square. In Lille, a peaceful protest of 3,000 “yellow vests” marched against Macron and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, shouting “Castaner in prison,” “Macron resign.” In Marseille, 3,000 protesters marched along La Canebière and clashed with riot police near the Old Port, while police clashed with 2,600 protesters in Nantes and arrested 15.
In Paris, at least 10,000 “yellow vest” protesters marched in four separate rallies, clashing with riot police around the Arch of Triumph, while “red pen” teachers also held protests in the capital.
WSWS reporters attended the protest at Bastille Square, where thousands of “yellow vests” were marching east into the heart of the city. Protesters shouted “Rise up, Paris,” “Macron resign” and “Release Christophe,” referring to the detention of former professional boxer Christophe Dettinger after he punched riot police attacking a female “yellow vest” protester a week ago.
Philippe, a public service worker, told the WSWS: “Like every week, we want the president to do something on taxation and to improve salaries. Getting the right to decide things via referendum is important. We vote in presidential elections and then for five years they have a green light, they do what they want and tell us to shut up and act like sheep.” He added, “It’s not right that people who paid for 40 years into Social Security get just 800 euros a month, then they’re told they will get housing benefits cut. When you see how the people in the government spend money, it’s a scandal.”
Philippe denounced the police repression of the “yellow vest” protests: “I’ve been to all the protests from the beginning, each time we go we get tear gassed. … Then you look at the number of wounded!” Recalling the “yellow vests” who have lost hands to stun grenades or eyes to rubber bullets, Philippe said: “It’s not proportionate violence at all. Rubber bullets are supposed to be fired below the waist. But it’s not legs, but torsos and eyes that have been hit.”
 
Europe is the problem now
Philippe added that it was now a matter of not just a French, but a European struggle against international support for Macron in the ruling elite: “Many people had hopes in Macron when he first came in. He said he would blow up all the political parties. And he only sank us deeper into poverty. One has to say, he worked in finance. In any case, they’re all directed by the European Union. Europe is the problem now.”
Asked about solidarity with Ford workers threatened with job losses across Europe, and US teachers going on strike, Philippe said: “We’re in solidarity with all those who are oppressed and do not have money. Across Europe we have discussions with ‘yellow vests’ abroad. This could develop into a European movement, I think, that could be more serious and get a lot more people involved. But it’s been eight weeks we’ve been in the street and we’ve gotten nothing.”
Also near Bastille Square, Manu explained to the WSWS why he was protesting: “We pay so many charges, we have nothing left at the end of the month. We’re just the 12th today, already I have nothing left, and I’m working. It’s not just me, it’s everyone, all of France.”
Asked about the role of the trade unions, Manu said he did not see them as different from the ruling parties: “No, no one helps us. We’re alone. They should all get out, that is the only thing to be done. We struggle for months for miserly salaries; they get things for themselves and their families. It’s enough.”
WSWS reporters spoke to Thibault, a physics student and “yellow vest,” on Republic Square. He said, “Our votes are used to legitimize policies we didn’t vote for. What triggered the movement, the basic issue, is that over the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of social inequality around the world. In France, dividends paid to shareholders in the companies rose 23 percent, the number of millionaires surged and the Tax on Wealth (ISF) was eliminated.”
Thibault stressed he had no hopes that Macron would change policies: “Police violence is constantly hidden, there are serious wounds, limbs torn off.”
He also refuted claims that the “yellow vests” were a right wing movement: “I’ve seen a few people with royalist flags. I would like to think it is a very minority fringe of the movement, as the demands of our movement up until now have precisely been in opposition to what the far right defends today. If people come to tell us our problems are caused by immigrants, we don’t want to hear that.”
WSWS reporters also saw “red pen” teachers protesting in Paris. Aline mocked government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux’s denunciation of “yellow vests” who broke into his ministry in protest: “I just laugh when I hear people from Griveaux’s ministry complain about their broken-down door, given what we see at our school’s door. I come from Drancy,” a working-class suburb of Paris, “and I’ll invite you to see the state of our schools, holes in the floors and broken doors.”
She added, “In education our wages have been frozen for about 20 years. We’ve lost about 20 percent of our real wages in that many years. Now you start at 1,350 euros per month if you are tenured, less if you’re a contract worker, who won’t even get paid during summers … We are seeing in education the labor relations of the private sector.”
Mélanie told the WSWS, “we will have to take the money where it is.” She added, “We have very few resources in our schools, we pay a lot out of pocket. I bring lots of my kids’ toys to school. We buy our own pens, supplies, calendars, paper, ink. We also ask parents to help with photocopying.” She added, “The ‘yellow vests’ motivated us to do something.”
Denouncing criticism of teachers’ strikes in the media, she said: “We’re not privileged, we’re not lazy. … Starting salaries are under 1400 euros.” She added, “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since elementary school. I had a fantastic teacher … Her dedication to her students stunned me. Since then I knew I wanted to teach, I wanted to help kids in trouble and help make them citizens.”
She added that she saw this as an international issue: “I’ve seen that teachers in the United States are also taking action. It’s necessary, it must be international, because it’s not just in France. Everywhere it’s basically the same, education is ignored compared to other things. At a certain point it has to stop and I am in solidarity with their struggles.” -wsws

 

Comment

Shouts of “Macron, resign” mingled with tear gas on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was the scene of the worst rioting in Paris in decades.
Alex Lantier
 
DEMONSTRATIONS by French “yellow vest” protesters on January 12, grew again, amid rising opposition among broad layers of the population to President Emmanuel Macron. Interior Ministry sources claimed 84,000 people demonstrated in the ninth straight weekend of mass protests against Macron, compared to 50,000 the week before—figures that, as even the official press noted, seemed to be substantial underestimates.
As the “yellow vest” protesters marched, teachers who have joined “red pen” groups on social media, inspired by the “yellow vests,” to protest cuts to school funding and living standards by successive French governments, also held rallies and marched in several cities across France. The fact that sections of workers are advancing social demands in alliance with the “yellow vests” points to the growing strength of opposition and protest in France. There is also growing awareness of the mounting social struggles in Europe and America.
Protests took place in cities across France. A special protest called in the smaller city of Bourges, near the center of France, went ahead, as over 6,300 “yellow vests” defied a ban from the police prefecture, penetrating the police security perimeter around the center of town. Riot police charged the protesters and made 18 arrests. “Yellow vest” protesters also peacefully escorted BFM-TV reporters away from the city in retaliation for the channel’s attacks on the “yellow vest” movement.
 
The banner reads, “Popular self-defence”
Mass protests and clashes with police occurred in smaller cities across France. In Nîmes, around 3,000 protesters clashed with riot police, who fired thick clouds of tear gas around the Roman arena and the police prefecture. Over 2,000 “yellow vests” mobilized in Rouen and expelled plainclothes policemen who tried to infiltrate their protest. In Caen, 4,000 protesters rallied and clashed with police around the train station, tearing up train tracks to throw material at the security forces.
In Bordeaux, 10,000 “yellow vests” protested and hundreds clashed with riot police later in the evening around Pey-Berland square. In Toulouse, riot police violently attacked at least 5,000 “yellow vests” who occupied Capitole square. In Lille, a peaceful protest of 3,000 “yellow vests” marched against Macron and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, shouting “Castaner in prison,” “Macron resign.” In Marseille, 3,000 protesters marched along La Canebière and clashed with riot police near the Old Port, while police clashed with 2,600 protesters in Nantes and arrested 15.
In Paris, at least 10,000 “yellow vest” protesters marched in four separate rallies, clashing with riot police around the Arch of Triumph, while “red pen” teachers also held protests in the capital.
WSWS reporters attended the protest at Bastille Square, where thousands of “yellow vests” were marching east into the heart of the city. Protesters shouted “Rise up, Paris,” “Macron resign” and “Release Christophe,” referring to the detention of former professional boxer Christophe Dettinger after he punched riot police attacking a female “yellow vest” protester a week ago.
Philippe, a public service worker, told the WSWS: “Like every week, we want the president to do something on taxation and to improve salaries. Getting the right to decide things via referendum is important. We vote in presidential elections and then for five years they have a green light, they do what they want and tell us to shut up and act like sheep.” He added, “It’s not right that people who paid for 40 years into Social Security get just 800 euros a month, then they’re told they will get housing benefits cut. When you see how the people in the government spend money, it’s a scandal.”
Philippe denounced the police repression of the “yellow vest” protests: “I’ve been to all the protests from the beginning, each time we go we get tear gassed. … Then you look at the number of wounded!” Recalling the “yellow vests” who have lost hands to stun grenades or eyes to rubber bullets, Philippe said: “It’s not proportionate violence at all. Rubber bullets are supposed to be fired below the waist. But it’s not legs, but torsos and eyes that have been hit.”
 
Europe is the problem now
Philippe added that it was now a matter of not just a French, but a European struggle against international support for Macron in the ruling elite: “Many people had hopes in Macron when he first came in. He said he would blow up all the political parties. And he only sank us deeper into poverty. One has to say, he worked in finance. In any case, they’re all directed by the European Union. Europe is the problem now.”
Asked about solidarity with Ford workers threatened with job losses across Europe, and US teachers going on strike, Philippe said: “We’re in solidarity with all those who are oppressed and do not have money. Across Europe we have discussions with ‘yellow vests’ abroad. This could develop into a European movement, I think, that could be more serious and get a lot more people involved. But it’s been eight weeks we’ve been in the street and we’ve gotten nothing.”
Also near Bastille Square, Manu explained to the WSWS why he was protesting: “We pay so many charges, we have nothing left at the end of the month. We’re just the 12th today, already I have nothing left, and I’m working. It’s not just me, it’s everyone, all of France.”
Asked about the role of the trade unions, Manu said he did not see them as different from the ruling parties: “No, no one helps us. We’re alone. They should all get out, that is the only thing to be done. We struggle for months for miserly salaries; they get things for themselves and their families. It’s enough.”
WSWS reporters spoke to Thibault, a physics student and “yellow vest,” on Republic Square. He said, “Our votes are used to legitimize policies we didn’t vote for. What triggered the movement, the basic issue, is that over the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of social inequality around the world. In France, dividends paid to shareholders in the companies rose 23 percent, the number of millionaires surged and the Tax on Wealth (ISF) was eliminated.”
Thibault stressed he had no hopes that Macron would change policies: “Police violence is constantly hidden, there are serious wounds, limbs torn off.”
He also refuted claims that the “yellow vests” were a right wing movement: “I’ve seen a few people with royalist flags. I would like to think it is a very minority fringe of the movement, as the demands of our movement up until now have precisely been in opposition to what the far right defends today. If people come to tell us our problems are caused by immigrants, we don’t want to hear that.”
WSWS reporters also saw “red pen” teachers protesting in Paris. Aline mocked government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux’s denunciation of “yellow vests” who broke into his ministry in protest: “I just laugh when I hear people from Griveaux’s ministry complain about their broken-down door, given what we see at our school’s door. I come from Drancy,” a working-class suburb of Paris, “and I’ll invite you to see the state of our schools, holes in the floors and broken doors.”
She added, “In education our wages have been frozen for about 20 years. We’ve lost about 20 percent of our real wages in that many years. Now you start at 1,350 euros per month if you are tenured, less if you’re a contract worker, who won’t even get paid during summers … We are seeing in education the labor relations of the private sector.”
Mélanie told the WSWS, “we will have to take the money where it is.” She added, “We have very few resources in our schools, we pay a lot out of pocket. I bring lots of my kids’ toys to school. We buy our own pens, supplies, calendars, paper, ink. We also ask parents to help with photocopying.” She added, “The ‘yellow vests’ motivated us to do something.”
Denouncing criticism of teachers’ strikes in the media, she said: “We’re not privileged, we’re not lazy. … Starting salaries are under 1400 euros.” She added, “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since elementary school. I had a fantastic teacher … Her dedication to her students stunned me. Since then I knew I wanted to teach, I wanted to help kids in trouble and help make them citizens.”
She added that she saw this as an international issue: “I’ve seen that teachers in the United States are also taking action. It’s necessary, it must be international, because it’s not just in France. Everywhere it’s basically the same, education is ignored compared to other things. At a certain point it has to stop and I am in solidarity with their struggles.” -wsws

 


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