May Day 2018: Right United, Left Disorganized in France
May Day is a traditional day for union demonstrations in France, but this year many feel that they are disunited in comparison to their far-right counterparts.
Known as La Fête du Travail (roughly, Labor Day) in France, May 1st is most notably the anniversary of a series of mass demonstrations that took place in 1968. As a result, it has become customary for unions to get together and have demonstrations on this day.
The last really big gathering took place in 2002, to protest the far-right National Front and the fact that its leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, managed to reach the second round of the nation's presidential election.
Last year saw his daughter, Marine Le Pen, achieve the same goal, and some truly worried that she could have won; instead, the election went to Emmanuel Macron, a centrist who is likewise unpopular with many on the left. Macron has also announced reform plans that many leftists disapprove of.
However, while these grievances have given birth to various actions, it has not resulted in unity for Le Pen or Macron's opponents, who seem to have different ideas of the best course of action in light of Macron's plans.
The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) has called for a “convergence of struggles” as employees at the SNCF railroad and Air France are undergoing rolling protests, and while university students are setting up blockades to object to plans to change the admissions process. However, its May 1st protest at the Place de la Bastille had only a few other unions take part.
Meanwhile, the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), referring to the CGT protest as “not the CFDT’s cup of tea," has instead decided to promote "protest and culture" with its chosen activity, screenings of the movie 7 Minuti by Michele Placido.
Hervé Garnier, the group's National Secretary, said that this was their own attempt to promote unity, which the movie emphasizes.
“This is all the more pertinent at a moment when social dialogue has been called into question and come in for attack,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen is in Nice, meeting with the far-right leaders of other European nations to promote their shared ideals. The meeting will include Harald Vilimsky (Austria) and Geert Wilders (Holland). Matteo Salvini of Italy will appear on video message, while other representatives will come from several other nations.
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