Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Eiffel Tower Shut Down as 1.3 Million People Mobilize Across France

Workers across France came out to protest the pension reform in numbers not seen since Dec. 17. As French President Emmanuel Macron officially announced the reform bill to the Council of Ministers, workers coordinated actions across the country, including shutting down the Eiffel Tower and cutting power to wide sections of France’s cities.

Facebook Twitter Share

On Friday, amid massive demonstrations of workers and activists in Paris, the Eiffel Tower’s Twitter account announced: “Due to a national strike, I’m closed today.” The closing of the iconic monument in the heart of France’s largest city symbolizes the wider effect of the country’s longest strike since 1968. Eiffel Tower workers joined over a million people across France in a strike and mass mobilization against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the pension system. In Paris alone, 350,000 people took part in a massive march along the Seine. More than a million people across the country participated in Friday’s mobilizations, according to one of France’s largest unions, the CGT. Friday marked the 51st day of France’s historic national strike, confirming that the movement is far from dead despite government reports and a media blackout.

Workers in the RATP-SNCF demonstrate in Paris, chanting, “We are not tired!” They are determined to strike until the pension reform is withdrawn.

You may be interested in: Anasse Kazib: The Socialist Worker Captivating the French Media

Striking train and metro workers from the SNCF and RATP paralyzed transport in areas in and surrounding Paris on Friday, ramping up similar actions from previous days and reenergizing the strike in this sector. Meanwhile, other workers—such as sanitation workers and state employees—entered the struggle, joining work stoppages and demonstrations. While it remains to be seen whether this level of participation will continue and spark new coordinated actions to push the strike forward, this Friday’s demonstration was enough to concern the Macron government as it officially presented the details of the controversial reform bill that sparked a powerful anti-government movement—the police were out in full force to repress the protests.

This demonstration of workers’ power is still going strong, having started nearly two months ago and defied Macron’s attempt at a “Christmas truce.” Friday’s mobilizations were preceded by a three-day walkout at the Rouen shipyards, as well as a work stoppage at France’s largest electricity plant. Electrical workers cut power in over 50,000 businesses and residences across Paris on Thursday night as demonstrators participated in a torchlight parade. Similar actions were carried out in other cities.

You may be interested in: How Does the Revolutionary Left in France Intervene in the Strike?

Macron and his ministers, with the support of union leaders, are maneuvering to give the appearance that they are willing to “dialogue” and make concessions. But at the same time they are sending the police to brutally repress the demonstrations and insisting on pushing the reform through. Nevertheless, the strikers are still standing and still have the support of the majority of the population. The latest polls show that over 60% of the population believes that the government should withdraw the reform completely.

Meanwhile, the masses are losing faith in the government and its institutions. Macron continues to fall in popularity, and he is closely followed by Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer. Up until recently, Blanquer was one of the most popular figures in the government, but his schemes to cut education funding and attack teachers’ positions and wages have shown teachers his true colors. In fact, teachers were among the central actors in the Paris demonstration, arriving in huge numbers to a demonstration at the Place de la Concorde. Education workers at every level, from elementary and high school to the university level, shut down schools across the country for another day of national protest.

In a new turn in the movement, a large contingent of students marched in solidarity with their teachers and in defiance of a pension reform that would throw their futures further into precarity. Another new element in the mobilization on Friday was the participation of precarious higher-education workers.

Artistic and cultural institutions also played a significant role in Friday’s mobilizations. Workers in France’s libraries, museums and monuments, as well as members of the Opera and the Comédie Française, were all on strike. Civil servants and public sector workers in Paris also participated, in particular workers in the Ministry of Labor, as well as energy workers and the airport workers of Paris and Air France. Sanitation workers also joined the demonstrations, alongside many other sectors of workers. Many workers united under the slogan: “Louis XVI’s guillotine could be back in service by 2020”—a clear warning to Macron of the tenuousness of his position in the country.

Protesters in Angers drop a banner with the words “We are here!” from the top of Château d’Angers, a ninth-century castle and historic site.

The rank and file members of France’s unions came out in full force for the national day of action, organized in larger contingents than on the last day of mobilizations on Jan. 16, which mobilized 800,000 people. On Friday, the CGT reported 1.3 million people taking part in demonstrations across the country. Local union branches in particular brought more people out into the streets to participate in the strike, showing more organization and determination than previous mobilizations.

These actions are planned to continue until Jan. 29, the next national day of protest and mobilization. This week will test the persistence of the extraordinary radicalism being expressed by workers in Paris and other cities across the country. While the media continues to report dwindling participation in the strike, Friday’s action proved that the government is far from winning the fight. To seize on this momentum, striking workers must organize beyond national days of action to coordinated and sustained strike actions across industries in order to prevent Macron’s government from pushing through the pension reform.

Facebook Twitter Share

La Izquierda Diario Argentina

Our Argentinian sister site, part of the international network of La Izquierda Diario

Europe

Rishi Sunak: Banker to the Rescue of a Declining Empire

The United Kingdom has appointed its third prime minister in just two months, and the Conservative Party establishment seems to have regained control.

Claudia Cinatti

October 26, 2022
UK workers protest in favor of rail strikes, holding placards.

Crisis in the UK Regime: From a Summer to a Winter of Discontent?

Facing deep political and economic turmoil, Prime Minister Liz Truss has resigned after just 45 days in office. This new crisis comes as workers across the UK are preparing for a new wave of strikes against the rising cost of living.

Sou Mi

October 23, 2022

France: Oil Workers’ Strike Turns the Country Upside Down, Opens a Breach for the Workers’ Movement

As a monthlong strike in French oil refineries shakes the country, a political crisis is on its way to unleashing a major social crisis, one in which new sectors could join the oil workers and unleash open-ended strikes for wage increases.

Arthur Nicola

October 21, 2022

The “Logic of Escalation” and the War in Ukraine’s Multiple Fronts

After months of relative stagnation, recent events in the war in Ukraine have changed the dynamics and quickened the conflict’s pace — but not enough to end it. The Ukraine/NATO side is in no position to concede, but neither is Russia, which is far from having been defeated and places its hopes in the deepening fissures between the Western front backing Ukraine.

Claudia Cinatti

October 20, 2022

MOST RECENT

What Will Communism Look Like in New York City?

The new novel Everything for Everyone tells the story of a global insurrection against capitalism starting in 2052. It's not only entertaining — it's a good opportunity to think about revolutionary strategy.

Nathaniel Flakin

November 23, 2022

The Slave Labor World Cup

Qatar’s wealth and power are built on the labor power of migrant construction workers, who toil amid semislave conditions.

Santiago Montag

November 22, 2022
President Biden greets John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, after arriving Thursday at Pittsburgh International Airport

Jacobin Is Wrong: The Midterms Were Not a Socialist Wave

The 2022 midterms were not a “red wave” of socialism — we don’t win by shoehorning capitalist politicians into a leftist mold.

Otto Fors

November 20, 2022

Education Workers Have the Power to Win in Toronto

A rank-and-file educational worker who participated in the historic strike earlier this month in Toronto discusses how fellow workers can fight back against the Doug Ford administration and win their demands.

Martin Reilly

November 20, 2022