A completely different Labour day festival was taking place a few metro stops from Place de l’Opera and the National Front. Long haired hippies danced with sympathisers of Sri Lanka’s Tamils and Zapatsitas in Che Guevara t-shirts as an enourmous march led by the CGT union left Place de la Republique. The Turkish unions made a lot of noise protesting against imperialism, racism and many other things besides. ‘Vive le Maxisme, Leninisme,’ read one poster. Young people distributed Trotskyiste newsletters, and I bumped into my friend from Olivier Besancenot’s rally who occupying a Canadian factory to protest job cuts. Lutte Ouvriere stickers urged proletarians of all countries to unite. Communists of all colours were out in force, and capitalists were clearly not welcome.
‘Together, let’s fight neoliberalism,’ read another banner.
Banners urged the end to genetically modified foods with the marvellous phrase: ‘Les Vaches Folles du capital: Ne Soyons Pas Les Veaux.’
There was a distinct whiff of rebellion in the air, tamed only by the faint smell of cannabis. Was there anything that united this disparate and international group? Despite a deliberate lack of political direction from the unions, stickers urging ‘Stop Sarko’ decorated the bottoms of pretty girls and the chests of bearded men the length and breadth of the march.
‘Anti-Sarko, it’s in my genes,’ read one poster, a reference to his belief that homosexuality and depression are hereditary.
There is something quite charming about the other-wordliness of the march, whose slogans seemed to belong to another era. And something quite remarkable about the number of people of all ages and colours who showed up (60,000 according to the CGT, 25,000 according to the police). Being labour day, it did have one thing in common with the National Front march. Street sellers offered the same lilly-of-the-valley that decorated Le Pen’s botton hole, and marchers from both events sought sustenance in the form of barbequed sausage.