On Tuesday, left-wing protesters took to French streets to oppose President Emmanuel Macron's labor reforms.
As Le Monde notes, while fewer people attended than organizers had hoped, they were largely peaceful. Any peaceful protest is worth noting because the French far-left has a penchant for violent disorder.
Still, judged against the relatively low-turnout, the absence of violence suggests that many French leftists have accepted that the introduction of Macron's reforms is inevitable.
As such, Macron won the day. His reforms have been passed by parliamentary decree so face no real prospect of defeat before entering force. And that's good news in that the president's plan represents a long overdue effort to unburden France's economy of its insane regulations and subjugation to union power.
The battle, however, is not over. Strike organizers are now calling for further action on Sept. 21 to pressure Macron to back down. A union spokesman, Jean Brunacci, explained his rationale to Le Monde, warning that Macron must be stopped before he can attempt other reforms: "There will be pensions, unemployment insurance, vocational training. The eternal debate is how to continue the struggle? It is not necessarily with days of repetitive actions that he will be dropped from his pedestal. The role of the trade unions is to transform this discontent into a unitary spine, to sustain a front of social and democratic resistance by associating population, trade unions, parties and associations."
Leader of the far-left La France Insoumise party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, employed a familiar tactic in riling up his supporters. Macron, he said, "spoke to the powerful, and the important, [the protests are] the answer of the French people who defend their rights, their achievements. Here it is France, not England." Melenchon fears that Macron will reshape France's economy into a more free market British-style model. They do so in spite of the fact that Britain's unemployment rate is 4.4 percent to France's 9.5 percent, and Britain's youth unemployment rate is 12.1 percent to France's 23.4 percent.
Of course, the French far-left don't care about the statistics (they create their own), they care only about maintaining a status quo that benefits union interests and professional barriers to entry. It's pathetic but unyielding.
What comes next?
Well, if we take Brunacci at his word, "It is the prospect of a general strike, such as December 1995, that must be discussed now through the paralysis of key sectors of the economy."
Brunacci is referring to a nearly month long strike that paralyzed the French transport network and other public services.
That said, there is an important difference between then and now: In 1995, President Chirac and his Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, lacked popular support. But today, while Macron's personal approval rating has recently declined, the people still broadly support his reform package. Moreover, having openly staked his political life on reform, if the unions now attempt to shut down "key sectors of the economy", Macron will use his huge parliamentary majority to counter them.
He will be right to do so. France is a great nation of well-educated and patriotic citizens, but like Britain in the 1970s, its economy is in a state of serious disrepair. Like British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, Macron must not buckle.