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Strikes force out French Blunkett
STRIKES AND protests scored a major victory in France this week. Prime minister Lionel Jospin, who leads the French equivalent of the Labour Party in Britain, was forced to ditch two key cabinet ministers in the face of revolt. Education minister Claude All�gre has been making similar attacks on education to New Labour's.
The plan has provoked massive education strikes and demonstrations. Up to 200,000 teachers and parents demonstrationed around the country on Friday of last week, calling for All�gre to go. That came a week after a similar 800,000-strong school strike. Jospin bowed to the demands and offered up All�gre to go on Monday. He promised extra funds for education.
Jospin has also ditched finance minister Christian Sautter, after being forced to retreat on changes to the tax-gathering system in the face of strikes. Jospin would love to go along with French bosses' demands to be more like New Labour in Britain. But he is under massive pressure from the struggles which continually erupt.
A clear sign of Jospin's nervousness came with his abandonment last week of any attempt to force changes in the pension system. He referred to the fate of France's Tory government, which was broken by the massive 1995 public sector workers' strikes. Strikes and protests have also forced Jospin to increase health spending. A sign of the confidence of the movement in France came in Marseilles last week. Teachers and students wanted to travel to Paris, hundreds of miles away, to join the education demonstration. Some 3,000 people marched through the centre of Marseilles, occupied the railway station and sat on the tracks until the SNCF rail company agreed to lay on trains to Paris for them.