France: Pre-Summit protest in Le Havre

‘G8 Dégage (get out)’!

About 10,000 protesters gathered in Le Havre on Saturday, 21 May, to fight against the policies of the G8. Trade unions, social organisations and political parties all called this international demonstration under the slogan: ‘People First, not Finance; G8 Get Out (Dégage)!’

This demonstration was important in a period when Sarkozy and the G8 big powers are strengthening the interventions in Libya, continuing to sow chaos in Afghanistan or in the Ivory Coast and are implementing tough austerity policies to make working people and youth across the world pay for the crisis of their system.

It was also important to develop international opposition to the G8, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, for the workers and youth of every country to follow these examples against their own governments. These eight governments representing the most powerful ruling classes of the world will discuss how to stop the wave of revolt and revolutions that has now crossed over the sea and is affecting Spain. We have to defend this wave of revolt.

Strong propaganda against the mobilisation

10,000 people against the G8, coming from all across the world, is not a big success. This is 10 times less than the demonstrations in the same city against the pension reform in October. Le Havre is a big industrial town, first port of France in terms of container traffic and was one of the most mobilised towns last Autumn.

We could have expected a bigger turn-out of the workers and youth of Le Havre for this mobilisation, but it did not happen. The town administration, the police and the media succeeded in sowing a climate of fear. They worked together to make the people believe that the demonstration would be some kind of violent riot, that would invade Le Havre, destroy all the small shops and finish in a terrible battle against the police force.

A week before the demonstration, the town was already full of anti-riot police. There were lots of car check-points and the police even kicked out all the homeless people from the squats. There was a feeling as if Le Havre was besieged. This propaganda had a strong impact, and it was clear that no big section of workers or young people of Le Havre were present on the protest.

In fact, in the event, the demonstration was really quiet. Apart from the smashing of one window of a bank and some trash cans being burned by a little group of about 20 hooded people, the demonstration took place very peacefully.

The French and the Belgian sections of the CWI organised a contingent in the demonstration under the banner «Dégageons Sarkozy et les capitalistes!» (“Let’s kick out Sarkozy and the capitalists!”) (see pictures below). This young and dynamic procession put forward the need for a generalised fight against the policies of austerity in Europe, against the imperialist interventions all around the world and for a future and decent jobs for youth. We mentioned the need to prepare ourselves to fight as in Tunisia and Egypt. This was a success for the CWI.