What were the three million French protestors’ demands?

Up to three million people took to the streets today in France to protest against the government’s response to the crisis. It was the second major strike after over a million gathered on 29th January. Below are translations of some of the literature distributed by the organisations participating, with some of the commentary made afterwards.

Olivier Besancenot’s new and increasingly popular Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste made a specific list of demands, drawing inspiration from the successful and sustained protest in Guadeloupe:

Measures of self-defence include forbidding redundancies, with material penalties for those who fire staff, and reducing overtime, with corresponding staff appointments to absorb unemployment. An immediate increase in salary of €300 with a minimum wage of €1500 for workers, the retired and the unemployed. Pay equality between men and women, 100% pay for those in short-term unemployment, it’s just taking back what was stolen by shareholders for speculation.

Faced with their crisis, we not not less but ,uch more social protections – full retirement at 60 and 55 for labour-intensive work, medical care and medicine 100% reimbursed. The billions offered to the wealthiest and the executive directors must be taken back to fund a million new jobs in public services. The banks need to be nationalised, without compensation nor takeover, to build a single public banking service.

A strong programme is not enough; we need strategic tactics to win. A movement like this doesn’t present itself, it has to be built by uniting the efforts made by workers and by teams of activists from trade unions, NGOs, political parties, all those who wish to act together to build a general strike.”

The European Greens party of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, MEP and May ’68 student leader in Paris was also making clear demands:

  1. European ‘ecological conversion’ contracts for large production sectors

From the bleak car industry to agriculture, machinery to construction and chemical production, we can’t protect workers without conversion of activity. We learned from the steel industry in the 80s that without foresight, the battle for jobs is lost. At the time, billions of francs could only postpone the failure. We don’t want that kind of future. We have to change the direction of the economy towards different ways of production, a different transport system, different land management and agriculture.

  1. Ten million ‘green’ jobs created in the next five years

Millions of highly-qualified, durable and non-outsourceable jobs can be created across Europe – 500,000 in France in the short-term – in ecological and carbon-neutral disciplines. Renewable energy, small-scale rural organic farming, efficient energy consumption, eco-construction, transport, environmental repair, crafts, recycling, personal assistance, ecological and environmental protection.

  1. An EU Directive on working hours: work for a better life

Sharing work around rather than increasing working hours or at-risk appointments: the crisis puts the spotlight back on the working week in Europe. This provides a pool of jobs and a means of harmonising upwards EU social policy.

Finally the Attac association, which works against economic inequality, combined the protest with another being held across Europe on the 28th March against the meeting of the G20, to take place on the 2nd April in London. It too makes specific policy proposals:

Bringing finance into line

Attac calls for the repeal of the clauses forbidding any restriction f capital movements (article 63 of the Lisbon treaty) and the creation of a tax on all financial transactions. We urgently need to get rid of tax havens and ban hedge funds that destabilise the markets. We call for the creation of European centre of finance covering the entire banking sectors under citizen control.

Immediate measures against poverty

A minimum wage allowing everyone: unemployed, working or retired, a decent living with access to housing, health and to a balanced diet.

Social justice and fiscal harmony

Low and medium salaries must be increased and the highest directed towards financing social protections: insurance against health, retirement, unemployment. Europe must harmonise upwards corporation tax.

The response from the Prime Minister, as expected, stated the firm intention to stick to the measures in place, including those announced after the last protest at the end of January. He rejected a “new recovery plan”, while respecting the “legitimate concerns faced with an extremely serious global crisis. The presidential candidate defeated by Sarkozy, Segolene Royal, called the government “disdainful, incompetent and obstinate.” Her party’s leader called for the budget to be replaced.

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