Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
-First Amendment, US Constitution
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
-Article 20, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
MANOSQUE, ALPES-DE-HAUTE-PROVENCE, FRANCE-The service stations here had no gasoline for a few days in late October, which was hard on this part of the country with little public transportation. There seemed to be enough diesel, though, for the trucks and farm machinery on which the rural population relies. Most people down here, despite being inconvenienced by strikes against raising the state pension’s full entitlement age from 65 to 67, supported the strikers rather than President Nicolas Sarkozy. The strikes and demonstrations were so pervasive that you’d think every French worker was a card-carrying union member. But you’d be mistaken. At nine percent of the workforce, France has Europe’s lowest rate of union membership. Even in the union-hating US of A, over 12 percent of workers are unionized.
At least down here in Provence, part of the explanation for the strikes’ popularity is that this is Maquis country. The Resistance fought hard here during WWII to make the Allied Invasion of France a success. Almost every political confrontation since the war has been about what you or your parents did then, much as Ireland is divided over what the Free Staters and the IRA did in the early 1920s. It makes people on both sides prefer confrontation to negotiation, strikes to discussion, and protests to lobbying. Most French résistants were socialists and communists-not exclusively, but a majority nonetheless. Proud traditions of opposition and resistance die hard, even when their cause may be wrong.
Read the rest of this article in Taki’s Magazine.