France was massively mobilized against yet another grand cause yesterday. The streets of the biggest French cities were swarming with both leitmotivs and demands. There weren’t any altercations, apart from a few unimportant fights. Paris’ police still announced 300 people taken in custody – and most of them were underage.
It was supposed to be a true revolution. Another one. Just like January 29th. Or just like May 1968, this blessed time every decent marcher regrets. But Daniel Cohn Bendit and the other heroes of the cause aren’t walking in the front line anymore, and we’re not throwing stones to the CRS anymore. Instead, we’re drinking beer.
Don’t underestimate the federating virtues of hops: there were three million people in the streets. Or only a little more than one million, according to the police, who can’t agree with the labor forces. Who cares in the end? It’s the thought that counts.
And the result is…nothing. No new governmental plan, no new government either; the workers are still not holding the power and Continental is still going to close their Clairoix factory. Our prime minister, François Fillon, was quite clear about it that evening on a private TV channel. “I hear the French,” he underlined, just before stating that it wouldn’t change a thing. He hears but he’s not listening, obviously, but our government masters the deaf ear to an extent that can only be explained through centuries of intense practice.
The feeling is mutual, though, because those who march are having a hard time being coherent. The leitmotivs are about recession, factories closing, war, and hunger in the third world. The messages are so different that even if Mr Fillon had been listening, he probably wouldn’t have understood anyway.
And let’s not forget that a few fights occurred, too, because those great defenders of the cause are up against…their own allies. Around 3pm at Bastille, a CFDT (labor force union) path was crossed by that of a CGT (other labor force union) group. They spent about 20 minutes screaming at each other. When they realized that they should just march because the true enemy was the evil government, they left…each on their own way. The atmosphere was rather confused, to say the least.
But the true stars of the party were Nicolas Sarkozy and Laurence Parisot (head of the bosses’ labor union). Their names were brandished like bloody heads pinned to a fork. Jacobines, don’t worry, Dédé, his wife and the kids are marching. The children shine from the pleasure of being allowed, for the first time, to play with the grown-ups. They’re marching on La Bastille, like their ancestors during La Révolution Française. With a short stop at the Kébab truck, because you can’t save the world on an empty stomach. No revolution deserves ignoring their digestion.
The tourists understood it perfectly: marching in France is a way of life, an ancient tradition, one of the higher renditions of our culture. In the manifestation, wearing sunglasses, shorts and digital camera, I could find some Dutch, a few Germans, and a lot of Americans. They’ll bring back a few pictures from their journey. Funny yet useless things, like the Eiffel Tower, Vélib’, and March 19th’s march.