COVID-19 and Class Struggle in France

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2203 ... September 29, 2020
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COVID-19 and Class Struggle in France

Susan Ram

How are French workers responding to the multiple challenges posed by a resurgent COVID-19, a neoliberal government incapable of getting to grips with the crisis, and the limitations imposed by the public health emergency on traditional forms of mass protest?

In the unprecedented situation created by the coronavirus pandemic, the ability of large sections of the French working class to take to the streets in mass protest has been visibly curtailed. And for understandable reasons: older workers, health sector employees, black and ethnic minority workers and others in frontline occupations who are particularly vulnerable to infection and hospitalization cannot afford to take the risks involved.

This helps explain the comparatively muted response to the day of action called by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and other militant union syndicates on September 17. All the same, the core protest in Paris drew an estimated 10,000 people on to the streets, and turnouts in other big cities were respectable, particularly in Toulouse, where between two and... three thousand protestors assembled. In the COVID hotspots of Bordeaux and Marseilles, however, attendance was thin when compared with previous years.

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