The French Yellow Vest movement and organised workers in the trade unions face a big test.
This Saturday is set to see a major national push by the Yellow Vests to turn out the biggest possible numbers in Paris. It will mark the end of president Emmanuel Macron’s fake “great debate”.
Activists call Macron’s attempt to say that he is listening the “big blah blah”.
It will also be four months since the beginning of the movement.
Those four months saw a movement that began over the price of fuel become a major confrontation with the government and with neoliberal, pro-business policies.
People have raised demands about low pay, privatisation, inequality, women’s rights and many other issues. And there has been a consistent challenge to elements of the far right who have attached themselves to the protests.
The Yellow Vests have forced Macron into concessions and pressured union leaders to show some support for a movement they initially spurned.
A national strike, called by four big union groupings and the student and school students’ unions, is set for next Tuesday.
Last Saturday, the seventeenth successive weekend of Yellow Vest mobilisations, was seen as a “warm up round” for 16 March.
Despite school holidays and poor weather, tens of thousands took part. In many areas women led the marches as a follow-up to demonstrations on International Women’s Day.
Agnes joined the Du Pain et Des Roses (Bread and Roses) section of the Toulouse march last Saturday. She told Socialist Worker, “We wanted to say that women cannot be excluded from anything and we want to make a mark on the direction of the Yellow Vests. Women are those most affected by the rise in the cost of living, the most hit by low wages.
“We fight sexism alongside other social struggles.”
On many marches there were Algerian flags in solidarity with the revolt in North Africa.
Activists on some, who have seen how police act violently towards the Yellow Vests, raised the cases of Adam Soli and Fatih Karakuss. The two were killed in a scooter accident in Grenoble recently as they were being chased by cops.
Since the beginning of the Yellow Vests movement, police and other state forces have fired 13,095 LBD rubber bullet and “flashball” shots. This was the official tally last week from Laurent Nunez, secretary of state at the ministry of the interior.
According to figures compiled by journalist Philippe Dufresne, police assaults have caused at least 202 head injuries, blinded 21 people in one eye and torn five hands apart. The large majority of these mutilations were caused by LBD shots.
Even a report from The Council of the Europe has condemned the police use of LBDs. And the United Nations human rights chief called last week for a “full investigation” into the possible excessive use of force by French police.