Today, for the third time in a month, France goes on strike.
What for this time?
The same as last time—and the time before. They want to prevent the government raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 (if you’ve worked the requisite number of weeks) and from 65 to 67 (if you haven’t). This time, however, the French are striking to prevent something that has already happened. The first two strikes were to stop the proposed reform. But last week, and yesterday, the key clauses went through the Senate. Now nothing can stop the reform becoming law.
And the French are still going to strike?
Airports, railway stations, schools will all close again. The real issue is whether the schoolkids will come out. Sarko has admitted in private that is his nightmare. Traditionally once the lycéens (15-19 years old) get a taste for the street they can’t be bothered to go back to school. The shadow of 1968 hangs heavy over France.
But ordinary people—I mean adults—are willing to lose a day’s pay walking up and down a Boulevard shouting slogans about something that’s already history?
It is crazy, but today is a real trial of strength. Sarkozy knew the only way to get his reform through was to do it fast, without discussion. Once you ask a Frenchman his opinion you’ll be there until the bottle is empty and neither of you can remember what you’re talking about. So Sarkozy opened the formal discussions on the eve of the summer holidays—everyone was trying to calculate whether they could fit all the kids, bikes, boats into the car, what the rented house would be like, how far the beach, where the nearest two-star restaurant. When Sarkozy began the debate in parliament in early September some members were still wiping the sand off their feet – and by the time they’d dug the sun cream-smeared text out of the beach bag the bill had already passed through. Same thing last week in the Senate – we were told to expect 3 weeks’ debate, then, at the end of the second day, the main clause is voted through. None of the rest matters. Sarkozy’s plan is to make today’s strikers look irrelevant—Die-hard Socialist Dinosaurs. He’s…