The Last Great Battle in France“in the midst of a democratic and social crisis”, according to trade unionists. Thousands of French marched this Maundy Thursday throughout the country for the eleventh time against the pension reform, which President Emmanuel Macron wants to impose through article 49.3, a constitutional mechanism which authorizes him not to vote for them legislatively.
This strength and mobilization tests he tries to show his power before the resolution of the Constitutional Council of April 14, which can consider the reform legal or illegal, and when the president is in China, on a state visit.
But the Paris demonstration degenerated into violence in front of the La Rotonda restaurantemblematic because President Emmanuel Macron celebrated his triumph there.
A group of Yellow Vests and Black Bloc they attacked it and set fire to the roof in one of the most famous corners of Paris in Montparnase, a few steps from the very touristic restaurant La Coupole.
In the crisis of the Yellow Vests it had been destroyed. In the French afternoon there were clashes between the police and the demonstrators, with interrupted courtship the Boulevard de Montparnase.
The fire at the Rotunda is a metaphor for this crisis, with the road enveloped in black smoke. “Macron is Bolsonaro and he is Trump. It is a danger to democracy,” denounced the leader of France Unsubmissive, Jean Luc Mélenchon.
Stay Macron inflexible and the meeting between the unions and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Wednesday was “frustrating”. It was in this climate that the march from Napoleon’s tomb to Les Invalides began in Paris. The CGT balloons ahead and an air of resistance towards the Place de la Italie.
In Lyon they marched but the demonstration was infiltrated by the Black Bloc and police were tear gassing, breaking windows, robbing and attacking banks. In Bordeaux, with some accidents, in Lille, in Marseilles, in Nantes, thousands of demonstrators marched.
Defending a lifestyle
For the French, resistance to an enlargement from retirement at age 64 is a defense of your lifestyle. They believe that after many years of work, between the ages of 60 and 64, they enjoy family, grandchildren, travel, before being hit by occupational diseases such as arthritis, back pain or knee problems or old age. They don’t want to give up.
Spring hasn’t arrived in Paris yet but the sun has come out. With 11 degrees they began marching on Les Invalides to reach the Place de la Italie. There were thousands of carnival airs and no radicals in sight. Until they got to La Rotonde and the fire brigade had to put out the fire.
“We have never had a movement of this magnitude. We deserve to be heard,” said Laurent Berger, leader of the CFDT, France’s first trade union and social democrat, before leaving for the march.
What will be the result of the social movement against the pension reform? Laurent Berger responded calmly.
“Perhaps There is no way out and this law is promulgated and applied”, indicated the general secretary of the CFDT, a moderate social democrat.
“We will continue to say what we think from this. The implementing decrees will have to be written and are extremely important. Because when you touch the decrees, touch people’s lives. If you ask if there will still be one protest a week in six months, the answer is no“, he explained.
The union leader believed that Emmanuel Macron was not in a strong position, “in a country that rejects reform so much with so much protest and such a low level of trust”. 72 percent of the French don’t trust the president.
The representative of the CFDT highlighted in particular the rate of strikers in the private sector, which has been “historically high” in the entire social movement: “I know entrepreneurs of small companies with 150 or 200 employees who have had 10-15% of i their employees who left, on certain days, for the mobilization,” Berger explained.
Laurent Berger stay optimistic on the mobilization day of this Thursday 6 April. «March 7, 16 and 23 were the three days with levels of mobilization not seen since the 1980s – he insisted – And then there are sometimes weaker moments because weighs on the purchasing power of employees”.
Workers in France are not paid on strike days. Workers’ unions have a well of solidarity for those who participate in the marches. But it is the students who have largely replaced the workers.
In France Easter is not celebrated because it is secular. The only public holiday is next Monday. This Maundy Thursday is a working day and the authorities are waiting for it at least 900,000 people on the streets of the whole country.
The Constitutional Council decides
The new modalities of the pension system could be definitively established on Friday next week. Indeed, it is April 14 when the Constitutional Council will issue its decisions. On the one hand, on the shared initiative referendum, which aims at address the French directly the postponement of the statutory retirement age over 62 years old, and, secondly, on the reform of the law on social security funding for 2023.
The Elders of the Council can then decide to censor the text, in whole or in part, or approve it in its entirety. The government had set September as the deadline for implementing the bill when it was first presented last January. More recently, Emmanuel Macron indicated in a television interview that he wants it to come into effect at the end of the year “so that things can fall into place”.
This new big day of protest will be a mobilization that amplifies and adopts something else more political and institutional contours.
In Matignon, the captains of industry, meeting at Medef, asked Prime Minister Borne to “take greater account” of the negotiations between management and the unions.
The interior minister had the intention this Thursday to deploy more than 11,000 policemen and gendarmes in France to monitor the demonstrations.
A woman from the CGT
The CGT marched in Paris with a woman as general secretary, replacing Philippe Martinez, at the helm. Sophia Binetgeneral secretary of the CGT, described the meeting with the government of Elisabeth Borne as “an affront”.
“Elisabeth Borne challenged us with a no catch finish. They live in a parallel reality. Yesterday’s meeting (for Wednesday) was a slight for the government”, said the new number 1 of the CGT. “Obviously there is a social and democratic crisis. The government is bunkered, it does not understand what is happening in the country. It is a cold rage that drives us. There is a perceived breakdown of the government in front of the country. It is his ability to govern the country that is called into question. There is no other way out the withdrawal of this reform“, He added.
Many workers agree with Sophie. “They take us for idiots. This mobilization will continue. There is a great crisis in France. Macron and his people live in a cloud,said Ronald, who works at Renault and is wrapped in a CGT red flag. His classmates applaud him.
According to data from the Ministry of Education released at noon, about 8% of teachers are on strike this Thursday. This figure reached 22% on March 23. In detail, according to the ministry, 7.97% of teachers are on strike, of which 7.87% in primary schools and 8.06% in secondary schools.
The railroad workers unite
Railway workers demonstrated at the BlackRock company headquarters in Paris, before the march, near the Gare de Lyon.
Several hundred railway workers, led by SUD Rail delegate, Fabien Villedieu, invaded the headquarters of the multinational BlackRock, former headquarters of Crédit Lyonnais, in the capital’s 2nd arrondissement shortly before noon.
“We need money to finance our pension system. There is something here,” Bérenger Cernon, delegate of CGT Cheminots, said on a megaphone. “Instead of taking two years off the worker’s life, Macron should come and bring him here.” After about fifteen minutes, under the astonished gaze of the employees BlackRock, everyone went out to demonstrate in rue du 4 Septembre, in the direction of the Opera.
A hydroelectric plant, located in Vogelgrun in the Haut-Rhin, was shut down on Wednesday night by about 30 demonstrators protesting against the pension reform, reported France 3 Grand Est. river navigation on the Rhine It was suspended this Thursday.
He He is a member of the Belgian trade union FGTB with French strikers blocking the TotalEnergies depot in Antwerp from 6am on Thursday. The target: prevent fuel deliveries to France by the French oil group.
The ultimate showdown
The mobilization in France begins to take on another character and can be dangerously amplified, without the slightest understanding or agreement between the workers and the government. You can get solidarity from European workers. There are already Spanish and Belgian delegations on the march.
Thursday evening the Intersindacale will try to announce mobilization next week, before the resolution on the legitimacy of the reform of the Constitutional Council of 14 April. It will be there ultimate showdown. But the unions will not challenge the resolution of the Constitutional Council.
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.