AN ASTONISHING crowd converged on the Larzac plateau in southern France last weekend. It was the biggest anti-capitalist event we have ever seen in this country, far bigger than anyone had expected.
The police say there were 300,000 people there over the three days. The organisers say more-just incredible for the middle of the summer holidays. There were huge numbers of people who had taken part in the mass strikes which gripped France this May and June.
Teachers, who had been the heart of that strike, and other workers were there. Actors and entertainers who have been on strike during the summer were there. The Larzac protest was incredibly young too. It was not just a music festival, as some of the media say.
It was a mass political event, with a very radical and left wing mood. People camped, and there were a series of giant marquees. From 9.30 in the morning to after 10 at night people crammed into debates, despite the incredible heat. The marquees were full all day.
Others were in constant discussions and debates in the campsites or in the refreshment areas. Speakers who were radical got the best reception. The mood against war and imperialism was reflected in the number of Palestinian flags you could see.
The Larzac plateau is famous for being the site of a struggle against the military in the 1970s. It is also where José Bové lives.
He has become a kind of symbol of the opposition to the government. He had been in prison for destroying genetically modified crops. But the Tory government didn't dare keep him in, and let him out to join the Larzac protest.
Lots of people at Larzac wanted there to be a hot 'rentrée' (return to work after the holidays) if the government pushes more attacks on welfare in September.
Bové told the crowd at Larzac, 'The month of September mustn't be merely hot. It should be scorching. Everyone must be on the streets. If there are lots of us, we will be able to make a difference. If we do nothing, France's education, its farming community, its health service and culture will also be forced into the commercial sector.'
There was a real sense at Larzac that though the movement is really diverse and full of differences everyone is united in a global struggle.