Protests in France: an escalating situation?
Tens of thousands of people, including left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux, took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to demand higher pay, price brakes, an excess profits tax and more climate protection measures. The oil refinery workers' strikes also continue unabated. The government is now resorting to measures that are usually only applied in the event of natural disasters or war to force the strikers back to work.
Freedoms in danger
A collective of lawyers and law professors warns in a guest article in Libération:
“We are familiar with the freedom-restricting implications of the state of emergency put in place by successive governments after the terrorist attacks of 2015, which used this legal instrument to monitor and repress social movements. We are also aware of the government's aberrations and abuses in managing the health emergency in 2020 and 2021. ... Under such conditions we can only warn against the danger of us losing our hard-won freedoms one by one. ... Like freedom of assembly, association and expression, the right to strike is a fundamental right that must not depend on a political agenda.”
A warning for Europe
El País sounds the alarm:
“France is the EU member state with the lowest inflation rate (6.2 percent) and is among those that have invested most in reinforcing the social cushion. ... And yet it is precisely in France that a broad social movement has mobilised for higher wages and against the rising cost of living. ... There is something typically French about these rallies and strikes. This is a country where the revolutionary myth lives on and the street is a key arena for the political struggle. ... The understandable weariness in the face of a war whose end is nowhere in sight and the suffering caused by inflation among large sections of the population could trigger more social conflicts in Europe. France is a warning.”
Real risk of general revolt
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise, sees the protests as an opportunity, La Libre Belgique warns:
“Politically Emmanuel Macron has nothing to fear from Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is on a downward slide. Nevertheless the challenge he faces is not an easy one. Pushing the budget through the National Assembly may have unforeseen consequences. In the current context of crises, the motorists' discontent and the strikers' anger must not be allowed to morph into a general revolt. The risk is real given the ingredients that are fuelling the social protest. This would be a dream come true for Mélenchon.”