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To strike against the future

In 1968, the students demonstrated for social change. Today they will preserve the old.


[31. March 2006] When Norwegian teachers went into illegal political strikes yesterday, they joined the ranks of workers fighting across Europe for their hard-earned rights. This week, 1,5 million British municipal employees went on strike against the deterioration of the pension schemes for municipal employees. In Germany, metalworkers are striving to push employers to triple their wage offer. And in France, the people showed that they are still world champions on strike. There, several millions demonstrated against the government's proposal for a new labor law. The nostalgics have drawn the line from today's street games back to the student demonstrations in 1968. But the rebellion has changed character.

Today, it is radical to be conservative, says Young Høyres Torbjørn Røe Isaksen and dresses in left-side uniform with buttons and hollowed-out jeans. In many ways he is right. While the student revolt and the rights struggle in the 1970s revolved around the possibility of change, much of the struggle that the traditional left-wing side and the trade union movement are fighting today is about preserving the old.

Today, the labor market is changing dramatically, partly as a result of the division of labor and migration flows becoming global. In Germany and France, the crisis is acute. When French authorities now want to introduce two years of probation for young workers, it is a desperate attempt to lower unemployment in a group where 20 percent are unemployed. Authorities hope the measure will make it easier to hire minority youth who recently set fire to cars. In France, the right-wing nationalists also support the strike.

It is easy to understand that the trade union movement refuses to give up rights without a fight. The problem is that they offer no alternative. It is important to maintain good rules for working life, but it is not enough to fight for old solutions in response to the challenges we now face. It's time to think again.

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