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Paris Report on French Strikes and Protests October 2010

Update footage on you tube:

Ed. On 18 October 2010 I received a short email from Prof Francis Ronsin, in Paris, headed “Strikes”. He wrote: “Social war has broken out in France. It is a long time since I had reason to be proud to be French!” So I wrote back to ask for a few paragraphs about the strikes that are paralyzing business as usual and liberating French society, which I have translated here -- Sheila Newman See also "1.3-2.5m French demonstrate against raising retirement age" and "French General Strike on Retirement Age takes to highways of France 13 October"

A surprise for everyone

What is happening in France today comes as a surprise to everyone. A pleasant one for some, an unpleasant one for others.

For several months there have been calls to strike – often with little response – and big demonstrations – with totals of several million people involved, each time, throughout France. The government insisted continually that it would not give in and it seemed possible that the strikers and the demonstrators would finish up becoming discouraged.

Involvement of school children

The first change in these trends occurred last week. High school children (15-18 years old) then middle school children (12-15 years old) began barricading their school entrances and confronting the police in the streets. They were protesting: many young people are unemployed and if the elderly are made to work longer … It was also a game, a party.

Domestic Petrol supply blocked

Another change in trends occurred over the weekend. Protesters blocked access to petrol depots. Truck drivers were asked to form roadblocks. Police were running everywhere. As they unblocked roads in one place, roadblocks would go up somewhere else. Petrol has now run out in many towns and even throughout regions. Little demonstrations are occurring everywhere, involving a few dozen or a few hundred people.

Why in France and not elsewhere?

Today (Tuesday) is a day of strikes and demonstrations throughout France. It’s likely to be risky! Sheila Newman asks the question: “Why in France and not elsewhere?” Do the French have a more conflictual temperament? Is it because of historical tradition? Difficult to say. What is certain, is that there is a link between opposition to a law which most French people do not want and a very strong anger, even hatred, towards the government, above all, towards President Sarkozy.

Francis Ronsin
(Translated by Sheila Newman)

Francis Ronsin was Professor, Department of Contemporary History, at the Université de Bourgogne (Dijon). He has published several books and numerous articles that focus on the relationship between political struggles and private life: La Grève des ventres - Propagande néo-malthusienne et baisse de la natalité en France 19ème-20ème siècles (Aubier, Paris, 1980); Le Contrat sentimental - Débats sur le mariage, l'amour, le divorce, de l'Ancien Régime à la Restauration (Aubier, Paris, 1990) ; Les Divorciaires - Affrontements politiques et conceptions du mariage dans la France du XIXème siècle. (Aubier, Paris, 1992); Le Sexe apprivoisé -Jeanne Humbert et la lutte pour le contrôle des naissances (La Découverte, Paris, 1990) ; and La population de la France de 1789 à nos jours. Données démographiques et affrontements idéologiques (Le Seuil, Paris, 1997); La Guerre et l’oseille (Syllepse, Paris, 2003). He is also the principal organizer of the international research seminar Socialism and Sexuality.

Rights of partial or full reproduction of this article are forbidden without permission from Francis Ronsin.