FRANCE is fast approaching a revolutionary upheaval.
In Paris the social crisis increases as the school youth begin to hit the streets in often impromptu demonstrations and blockages of lycées.
Alongside these actions, becoming more widespread with workers taking the initiative, launching strikes and blockages especially in the fuel sector.
The trial of strength with the government, whose essence is a struggle for power, is well and truly launched.
THURSDAY: Six Total refineries were in the process of shutting down, 10-12 were said to be disabled by the action.
New strike day announced by the joint unions: Tuesday, October 19 – the eve of the senate final vote.
Five tankers off Le Havre. Petroleum depot at Fos-sur-Mer blockaded from the morning, the most important in the Bouche-de-Rhone department.
The government is trying to calm the situation saying fuel supplies can be obtained from abroad and also by releasing fuel from special reserves; it is considering using the last resort – the strategic reserves as the movement increases.
All calculations on how they will last are up in the air, as motorists set about filling up ‘just in case’ increasing normal consumption 50 per cent.
The lycéen movement grows – all the large cities have demonstrations; police truncheon youth in some clashes – A lycéen hit in the eye by a ‘flashball’ rubber projectile fired by police during a demonstration outside the Lycée Jean Jaures in Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, was hospitalised.
342-1100 lycees were affected. Establishments were blocked with makeshift barriers, likewise the roads in some places. 30 students were taken into custody in Val de Oise.
Rail network continues to be disrupted in varying degrees.
FRIDAY: ‘Ni bambins, Ni pantins!’ – Neither children nor puppets! Chanted lyceens following claims by the right-wing government’s spokespeople that they were being manipulated by the unions, the Socialist Party and the extreme left.
They were demonstrating near the Hotel Matignon, base of the prime minister, and were held back by a cordon of police and their vans.
The lycéens were answering the call of Fidl, the federation of independent democratic lyceens, to take their demands against the pensions law straight to the government.
Four fuel depots were unblocked, six blocked. At the Total depot at Lespinasse, Haute Garonne. near Toulouse the railworkers turned up with their banner to show solidarity.
Later the police moved in to shift the pickets but, as is happening all over in the fluid situation, the workers moved on to picket elsewhere.
All twelve oil refineries, on strike for varying periods, are now shut down or shutting down; the fuel pipeline supplying airports at Orly and Roissy, and the south of Paris is shut down.
Geoffrey Tidjani, the lyceen hospitalised with the flashball injury was due to be operated on during Friday afternoon.
He had fractures to his nose, sinus and cheekbone, and has a bruise behind his eye, reported his father who expects his son to be in hospital for a month.
His shooting and scenes of certain gendarmes and CRS, freely truncheoning lycéens, caused an outcry: the movement continues to grow with hundreds of lycées closed countrywide for the second day, and again demonstrations in all the main cities.
Students in Rennes got to the point demonstrating with a banner saying ‘Block the whole country until victory!’
SATURDAY: Millions took to the streets throughout France.
340,000 marched in Paris, tens of thousands marched in Marseille.
Saturday also saw the routiers, the lorry drivers, entering the lists with ‘operations escargots’ – slow-moving convoys due to bring traffic to a snail’s pace on motorways and main roads, with blockages of the distribution centres of the major supermarket chains expected.
The main union in the road transport sector, the CFDT, is calling the action. Maxime Dumont, the general secretary said on Thursday: ‘The government must take account of how the whole population is up in arms against this unjust pensions reform.
‘It’s necessary to toughen up the response with continuous actions. We are going to support our comrades in other sectors who have been on strike since Tuesday.’
Three million took to the streets on Saturday, to ramp up the struggle against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age.
France is demanding the right to retire at 60, while millions of youth are demanding jobs and condemning a later retirement age as a blow to them getting jobs and training.
The largest crowds gathered in Paris, mainly blaring music and chanting. Around 30 people were arrested in central Paris for throwing smoke grenades and clashing with the gendarmerie. In Marseille, workers blocked schools and public transport.
France’s upper house of parliament has already voted to prolong the retirement age from 60 to 62 years-old. On Monday, it approved increasing the full-pension age regardless of contribution period to 67 from the present 65.
Fuel supplies of all France’s 12 refineries were hit since refinery workers joined the nationwide demonstration called by trade unions last Tuesday and fearful motorists rushed to oil pumps.
The government asked some flights landing in France to bring with them enough fuel to return home as possible fuel shutdowns may occur in France’s main airports after this new round of mass actions.
Unions warned that the strike will affect more businesses and the sixth round of nationwide mass actions will start on Tuesday, a day before the Senate votes on the retirement bill, and will bring France to a 100 per cent halt.