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Letter from Paris

The French do mass demonstration very well. The manif is the closest this lapsed Catholic society gets to the rapture of Mass

By Lucy Wadham   May 2009

May in France is a heady month, in which the nation embraces its dual heritage of rebellion and leisure. At least three and sometimes four of the country’s 15 public holidays fall in May and this year, the workforce can look forward to a month peppered with long weekends and industrial action. Emboldened by the success of four general strikes since January, France’s leading trade unions intend to make May day “the new crowning moment of mobilisation.”

On 1st May, the nation’s deep ambivalence towards the idea of work seems to crystallise. Legally inaugurated in 1941 as la fête du…

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