horz line

Noir Mardi Noir

photo, leaders, manifestation, october 4

The leaders line in last Tuesday's 'Manif of the Week.'

Green Boom Boom

Paris:– Monday, 10. October 2005:– As usual, the exact results of last Tuesday's national protest against the government of France, were unclear. As usual there was an argument about the numbers of protestors. The CGT union 'provisionally' estimated that 1,147,290 demonstrators marched in 150 towns and cities. Only 470,000 was the guess of the national police.

The demonstrations were organized by all of the unions in France. All their names together come to at least 26 letters. Their members were protesting against the government's economic and employment policies, and against falling or stagnant purchasing power. Nobodyphoto, parade advancing demanded a chicken in every pot but there were other issues too. Tuesday's action followed a change of government leadership after the European Constitution got shot down and was a virtual re–play of a similar day of mobilization earlier this year on March 10.

The calm before the parade arrives.

As usual the parade in Paris began at the Place de la République. A half hour after its begin the leaders were within sight of Bastille, filling the wide boulevard, followed by hundreds of thousands rather than tens of thousands claimed by police counters. A hour later the leaders had actually reached Bastille, filled it up and marched on to Nation.

Not quite as usual, marchers carrying banners and protest signs included many private sector employees rather than just public workers.. French employees of British Airways were taking part in their first protest and they weren't alone. As an all–union affair, it appeared as if all were represented, including leftist political personalities and civil rights associations.

A BVA poll published on Tuesday indicated that 72 percent of the French thought the day's protest justified, with 25 percent opposed. The same poll found that 62 percent did not view the government's economic policies with favor, a figure actually up seven points over a similar opinion poll conducted when Jean–Pierre Raffarin was prime minister and scraping bottom.

The same poll also revealed that confidence in the economy and with the unemployment situation is low, with 75 percent of the French being doubtful about both.

Tuesday's labor action included many transport strikes in Paris and other towns and cities. Commuter passengers, in interviews with TV–news, applauded the effect of 'minimum service.' This is a measure whereby the SNCF and the RATP 'guarantee' enough service so that commuters can come and go. It also ensures that protestors can get to République in a timely fashion.

As a result some Métro lines in Paris were operating a near–normal timetable and I had to spend a ticket, but other lines were spotty. Outside of Paris bus service disappeared completely in some areas, for days.

In one way yesterday's labor actions may have been a semi–failure. Announced long in advance, during a time when employment and working conditions deteriorated, just matching last March's score for demonstrations and strikes might notphoto, local 9423, cwa have sent a forceful enough message.

Afterwards prime minister Dominique de Villepin said, 'I hear the message that the French are sending us. The whole government hears the message.'

Some union folks from the USA joined in.

The general secretary of the powerful CFDT union group, François Chérèque, reminded all that it was the fourth all–union demonstration this year, adding, 'which shows that nobody is listening.'

At today's cabinet meeting to discuss the political situation, minister of the interior Nicolas Sarkozy found it necessary to excuse himself because of a headache. UMP members who support Dominique de Villepin said they could not imagine the political significance of it. However Monsieur Sarkozy managed a noon chat with Brigitte Bardot about the dog situation before proceeding to the Senat.

On the left side of the chamber Socialists wondered if Monsieur Sarkozy desired to quit the government in order to campaign for president. They were just being silly, of course.

Meanwhile there continue to be slightly less than two million unemployed in France, while more are being laid off daily. The budget is overly creative, the estimate for growth is overly rosy, and the affair of who will own how much of the SNCM ferry service between the Côte d'Azur and Corsica is still in suspension with the conflict entering its third week.

Put Some Green Boom In Your Tank

A few weeks ago in the midst of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco gasoline prices were boosted to historic highs, in Europe as well as in America. In Europe fuel prices are always higher than across the Atlantic, possibly because cars are smaller here, countries are smaller, and government social programs are thirstier.

So motorists were getting a bit edgy and TV–news has been displaying graphic representations showing that the New York crude fixing was so much, and the government's petrol tax – a percentage of something or other – was floating on top, actuallyphoto, railway flares increasing more than the crude oil price. It looked so very like the government was getting some wind–fall profits that nearly nobody noticed the 19.6 percent value–added tax sitting on the very top, absolutely flooding the finance ministry with unearned petrol–euros.

Some of the usual fire and smoke.

In most countries motorists would merely wring the hands and hope for better times but in France there are many people who are firmly convinced that the government – despite all its so–called socialist tendencies – is really clueless when it comes to the pain of pocketbooks being squeezed without mercy. Those government guys live off government money and the government perks that they give themselves.

Besides the people who doubt the government's sincerity there are others, like farmers, who are at the bitter end of the food chain, being squeezed by distributors, Brussels and Paris. These people, on the teetery edge of survival, are not famous for going downwithout a fight.


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