Paris: December 11, 199518th day without a train, 15th without a subway.
People from the suburbs get up earlier and earlier, so the first traffic jam on the main highways leading to Paris start earlier.The peak was reached this Monday morning at 7 instead of 9.
You want a free ride on the "bateau-mouche" ? (boat offering rides on the Seine river, a must, when you visit Paris as a tourist). May be you should hurry, though, the strike might end by the end of the week.
Situation De Crise
The transportation I used this week-end have been my feet and my bicycle.
It's really great to ride a bicycle at 12 PM in Paris on a Sunday night, it gives you a great sense of freedom, if you can ignore the pollution you're inhaling.You better be in an urban guerilla mood if you want to ride your bike at rush hours during the week days, though.
As every morning since the beginning of the strike, I watched the French equivalent to CNN this morning. This morning's usual story (let's see how the strike affect ordinary day life of ordinary people) was about a normal nucleus family (2 parents, 2 kids) in their normal dream house in a normal far-away suburb (25 miles), the unlucky wife/mother commuting to Paris had been spending 8 hours a day in transportation every day! She looked a mess and said she was exhausted and didn't think she could keep the pace for a long time. You bet ! But what keeps astonishing me is that she was not even angry, nor uttering bitter things about the whole situation. As if there was a very strong need of social revenge, bypassing the obvious acrymony between "privileged" civil servants and the middle classes from the private sector. (according to the ex-budget Minister, Sarkosi, " the middle class are the people that are too poor to be rich and too rich to be poor".). This is the most amazing thing about this strike, and what makes it quite frightening for the governement, I suppose.
So Juppé delivered a speech on TV last night (he probably took a crash course in "how to communicate with the masses", I even saw a smile on his face) and I heard Blondel, the leader of Force OuvriĆre, one of the major unions, he just looks like a priest who renounced his wows, commenting it on radio. Juppé and him are still arguing about what they said or not said previously, like 2 pathetic kids on ego trips arguing and both wanting to be right and none of them wanting to give up his toys. And both accusing each other of being responsible for the terrible economical crisis it's creating and both rejecting it. Blondel said : "The prime Minister wants to turn France into an Anglo-Saxon country, and we don't want that". An illustration of the Castro syndrom, still very vivid in France. Indeed, French people see in Castro the man who had the guts to stand against and fight the evil American capitalism. ...
I checked out the Internet websites dedicated to the strike, and I almost had a heart attack. First, it's extremely difficult to get connected to one of these sites, they got instant fame and shutdowns after newspapers and TV networks had stories about them. I finally got connected to one of the students sites, hosted by a group, NoPasaran (the motto of the people who fought Franco and fascists during the Spain civil war in 1936).
No Pasaran ! is an antifascist and radical network. It a coordination of self organised groups who exchange news, analysis, and practices on several topics (social exclusion, repression, morality conservatism, authoritarianism) which are the roots of the development of extreme right and authoritative policy in France, in Europe and in several countries in the world.
Every month, you can find in the monthly news paper No Pasaran ! information and analysis on the fight against racists, fascists, antiabortionist, sexism, cops harassment... and known more about local initiatives in France and in Europe. You also can find two pages about Internet
December 8, 1995
Now, something very interesting regarding the Internet is happening : according to Internet providers, the number of subscribers to Internet is skyrocketing, newsgroups have started discussions about it, and more over, students and professionals are using it for very real reasons, that is, a meeting place at a time where the total paralysis of the transportation system doesn't allow people to commute. Definetely something more intesteing than Chirac's summit in Cotonou (Benin, Africa, last week) where he was debating about the importance of having French-speaking webs. Well, he has them now, and he should be careful about their efficiency !
15th day without a train, 12th day without a subway
Juppé, the Prime Minister, announced at the beginning of the conflict that, as long as there are not 2 millions people demonstrating on the streets against his new social security plan, he wouldn't not consider negociating it . What a provocative statement ! Well, yesterday, 1 million people were on the streets throughout France. If he's lucky, by the end of next week, he's going to get his 2 millions people ! Poor Juppé, may be he's going to soon experience unemployement. And still 59 % of French people approve the continuation of the strike, and 62 % people think Juppé is not convincing and definitely not the man of the situation. Scary !
Chirac was visiting yesterday the German Chanceller Kohl in Baden-Baden to get his approval about French politics regarding the European community. Ironically, in mai 1968, de Gaulle went to Baden-Baden as well, but not for the same reasons, since he packed his family and suitcases with him, and he seeking help from the army based there. But he army General Massu told him to go back to France immediately and face the crisis. He faced it so well that he was gone a few months later. Chirac, a faithfull "Gaulliste", should ponder over one of his guru's famous phrases, that is " how can one govern a country that has more than 350 kinds of cheeses".
All you need is love :
Charles Pasqua, ex- Minister of the Interior and President of Hauts de Seine region (one of the most populated and wealthiest regions of France) gave an interview in a major magazine yesterday and stated that "Les FranŹais ont besoin qu'on leur parle d'amour, et pas seulement de taux d'intérÉt et de déficits". I'm telling you he's the right person to talk about love, since during the French-Algerian independance war, he was part of some extreme-rights movements who massacred hundreds of people, and one of the most frightening Minister of the Interior we ever had, only recently, when Balladur was Prime Minister. And as a President of the Hauts de Seine, he recently had a private University built in Nanterre, who opened this past fall. Well, Nanterre has another university, which is definetely the most popular in France, since May 68 started there. And you know the reason why : because male students weren't allowed to visits female students in their dormitories at night ! I'm not joking, this is really the truth, the government was overthrown because some students wanted to discover the mistery of amore with their female friends. Now you have to consider that this 1995 social movement started with students demanding more money and professors, (not dreams nor love), that the old Nanterre university is dramatically lacking space and professors, and that Pasqua's university is considered as a true provocation in front of their eyes, and it is. The entrance fees to this university is so high that only 20 % of expected students registered there, and that the governement is paying for its huge deficits.
The strike must go on : Juppé totally backed away on the plan contract with the SNCF, which is what the SNCF unions wanted. You should logically think this means the beginning of the end of the conflict. In fact, no : Today, records are being broken in terms of amount of people demonstrationg on the streets, and the strike goes on tomorrow. As I said before, this crisis situation is very intricate. So, I wrote a little glossary of the most recurrent concepts and phrases I've heard since it begun.
Liberalism : For unions, and a commonplace in France : Typically, the American society, unfair, Big Brother, wild, every man for himself, no justice, no welfare, a society where rich people get richer and poor people poorer. For me : My profession, as an independant translator, is registered in the "Profession Libérale" category.
Sombre désespoir/Gloomy despair : Acording to intellectuals, what French society is suffering from right now. For twenty years, people have been suffering from a latent crisis, except for the beginning of the eighties, and they now realise that their children's way of life will be worse thant theirs. For me : No Future for 2 generations !
Solidarity : definitely the winner in all categories. People have discovered they can talk to each other and help each other. Solidarity of non strikers from the private sector with strikers from the public sector, solidarity among strikers, solidarity of students with their parent's demands, (welfare and retirement pensions for all) . For me : I turned my apartment into a B&B for friends who live too far to commute and work in my neighborhood.
Records : May be it's gonna be broken today with the amount of demonstrators on the street. In Marseille, 100 000 people were on the street today, breaking the last record from 1947. Paris seems no to be doing bad either. May be the fateful 2 millions peple are going to be reached today. Undoubtly, today is the day of records : in the morning TV usual ordinary day life' story, they interviewed a woman who spends 8 1/2 hours a day to go to work. And she was asking for a minumum service to be provided in case of strike, since the SNCF is a monopoly and no alternative public transportation exists. For me : walk from my place to Bastille in 1 hour and 15 mins.
Internet : A few websites on the strike, the most striking (yes) being Situation de Crise. . One of my favorite work tools, especially since the beginning of the strike. Ironically, thanks to Internet, I was able to subcontract a translation to a Californian translator, my customer being the SNCF (the french transportation system currently on strike). But the people from the SNCF I was dealing with were not on the Internet.
Figures : Not easy to understand. Very few people from the middle classes working in private sectors are registered as union members in France, which has of the lowest levels of all Europe, and yet this social crisis has been mainly sustained by 3 main unions and their leaders (CGT with Louis Viannet, Force OuvriĆre with Marc Blondel and CFDT with Nicole Notat, who was much criticized after she said she agreed with part of Juppé's reform of the welfare system). I had never talked to my next door neighbor until about a year after he moved in next door.He rang my bell one night at 2 AM because we was locked out. He saw my Macintosh, and since he happens to be a great Apple developer, independent worker as well, he immediately solved the problems I was experiencing at that time with Internet (I had chosen a bad provider) while we were waiting for the locksmith. And now we communicate most of the time viae: mail. My friends think I'm crazy, but I like the idea.