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

A march that included thousands of people in Paris on Sunday was an example of 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.

People marched from the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris to the Place de la Bastille to demand a higher level of climate action investment, higher wages, and an immediate freeze on the prices for groceries, rent, or energy. The National Assembly is struggling to pass a budget next year. Strikes at oil refineries are expected this week to spread to transportation.

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. France is experiencing 6% inflation, which has caused grocery prices to rise.

The budget proposed by Macron’s government includes an end to direct subsidiesFor gas and does NOT include a substantial wage increase according toProgressive critics or a tax for windfall profits

France Unbowed and its coalition formed earlier this year are opposed to the proposal because it will lead to more austerity in a country that already has workers complaining about wage stagnation. However, the right has accused government of proposing excessive 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.

A transportation strike was also called for Tuesday, in addition to the strikes already underway.

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 reversedIt intends to pass the budget on Monday.