The Socialist Unity Network

Dispatches from the French election

John Mullen, LCR

Just a week before the European elections, France  has had a weekend of major demonstrations. On Saturday afternoon about 250,000 people around the country demonstrated to defend the present system of health care. The government has proposed very recently to charge one euro for every visit to the doctor ( obviously just the thin end of a wedge) and to increase the cost of staying in hospital to fourteen euros a night, among other reforms, all of them bad. These attacks were milder than had been expected, after the government parties fared very badly in recent regional elections, but nevertheless are a serious challenge to the workers movement. On other issues ( entertainment workers, research workers) the government has climbed down recently , making major concessions, even if only involving these particular sections. A more significant government setback was their decision to raise the minimum wage by five per cent this summer - it is clear that they are scared.

The future of the movement to defend the health system, and the results of the European elections will be key elements deciding whether or not the attacks will deepen or not.

On the Saturday evening about thirty thousand people marched through Paris to protest at the visit or George Bush and Poutine to France. The anti-war movement in France is generally very small, and this successful demo was very encouraging to those of us who would like to build a permanent anti-war organisation of some kind in France.

June 2004


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