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Protests and Strikes Spread in France Amid Economic Crisis and Climate Inaction

A transportation strike has been called for Tuesday, while trade unions have also called for a general strike next week.

Members of the anti-fascist group Jeune Garde are seen during a rally against soaring living costs and climate inaction on October 16, 2022 in Paris.

A march including tens of thousands of people in Paris on Sunday represented a “great convergence” of crises facing the French public and President Emmanuel Macron’s government, said progressive leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the head of the left-wing party France Unbowed and an organizer of the massive protest.

Demanding a greater investment in climate action, higher wages, and an emergency freeze on the prices of groceries, rent, and energy, people marched from the Place de la Nation to the Place de la Bastille in eastern Paris as the National Assembly struggles to pass a budget for next year and strikes at oil refineries are expected to spread to the transportation sector this week.

Four months after Macron lost his majority in the National Assembly and France Unbowed formed a coalition with other center-left parties, Mélenchon told the crowd that the president’s government is descending into “chaos.”

“If you are in difficulty or in misery, it is exclusively because the correlation of forces between those who have everything and those who have little, is in favor of those who have everything,” Mélenchon said, calling on protesters to “not allow themselves to be divided by their skin color, their religion, political affiliation or indifference.”

“Another life is possible, free from the spoils of profit,” he added, “Another world is possible, free from the frenzy of capitalist productivism. With what we are doing today, we are designing a new Popular Front.”

Strikes over low wages at refineries have caused gasoline shortages and long lines at gas stations, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused energy costs to soar. Inflation stands at 6% in France and has pushed grocery prices up.

The budget proposed by Macron’s government includes an end to direct subsidies for gas and does not include a large enough wage increase, according to progressive critics, or a tax on windfall profits.

While France Unbowed and the coalition it formed earlier this year is opposing the proposal on the grounds that it will bring about more austerity in a country where workers are already decrying wage stagnation, the right has accused the government of proposing too much spending. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said last week that Macron’s administration would “probably” use its constitutional powers this week to push through the budget without a vote — a possibility which prompted boos from the crowd when Mélenchon mentioned it on Sunday.

In addition to the strikes that have already begun, a transportation strike has been called for Tuesday.

The country’s largest trade unions have also called for a general strike starting next week, a demand that was repeated by Mélenchon.

“You are the strength,” he tweeted after the protest. “Popular unity is the solution to the crisis!”

The march followed mass protests across the United Kingdom earlier this month by the Enough is Enough campaign over rising energy and living costs as well as the “mini-budget” proposed by Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss’ government, which included tens of thousands of pounds in tax breaks for top-earning executives while many workers have been spending their entire monthly incomes on housing, food, and fuel.

The U.K. government reversed its plans to pass the budget on Monday.