The CGT’s “national strike”: French unions seek to strangle the “yellow vest” protests
9 February 2019
On February 5, the CGT trade union federation called a “national 24-hour strike” and joint day of action with “yellow vest” protests. Tens of thousands of people participated across the country.
The day of action had a contradictory character. On the one hand, the unions were not seeking to mobilize workers against Macron or the European Union. In workplaces where they had a presence, they did nothing to mobilize workers for a strike. It was, for the union apparatus, an opportunity to mobilize its base of officials and bureaucrats to meet with “yellow vest” protesters, toward whom the unions are hostile, and seek to take control of their movement.
Thousands of people nonetheless rallied in numerous cities: Lille (2,300 according to police), Rouen (3,200), Le Havre, (2,200), Caen (2,300), Nantes (2,400), Angers (1,500), Clermont-Ferrand (2,300), Strasbourg (1,500), Lyon (4,300), Avignon (2,000), Marseille (5,200), and Paris (18,000). Workers joined “yellow vest” protests on roundabouts and roadblocks throughout France.
In Paris, the head of the CGT, Philippe Martinez, as well as Unsubmissive France’s (UF) Jean-luc Melenchon and Alexis Corbière, attended the rally. The union apparatuses and their political allies hoped that all would be forgotten of their earlier denunciations of the “yellow vest” movement as right-wing and neo-fascist when it began. Corbière declared it was “logical that the unions be there with the yellow vests to tell the government: stop these policies.”
While reaffirming the pretexts for his initial denunciation of the “yellow vests,” Martinez couched them in more subtle terms: “We do not mix…