MayDay in Paris

Thousands of voices chanting slogans, ongoing pops and cracks of ‘petards’ and Molotov cocktails, invade pdv’s room. An hour ago I was down there in the street flooded by tense mixture of anger and joy.  Wherever people turn up in balaclavas (see photo) you might just anticipate trouble. Amazing though, all these baby carriages and broad smiles, as if a demo likely to turn violent works as a family outing.


Melenchon passed us within six feet. The crowd went wild. A rock star! When the first explosives went off, both the crowd and rushing patrols of armored police buffeted and crushed from every direction. No air. No way to move. A sudden gut understanding of how  mindlessly a crowd can kill.  And the girls wearing gas masks, smashed up beside me? Better dressed for today’s weather.



The raging ‘Ni-Ni’ cortege (militating for abstention next Sunday) was followed by a smaller group warning against LePen and urging people to vote.



There’s no going back in there now, even if one wanted to. The Bastille and all surrounding streets are cordoned off. News reports of three officers wounded.  Which explains the wail of ambulances.


Ni-Ni.  ‘No to the banks and bosses, no to fascism.’  Left and right are sclerotic, but class warfare is roaring back with a vengeance, so say pundits.  Most of these marchers don’t look exactly down and out.  Do they know what they are asking for?  For how many is it just a big liberating joke, a fart in the face of ‘the system’?  For how many is it fear and hatred of Others?  For how many is it real despair, preference for the devil they don’t yet know?

A metaphor worth contemplating, six days from Day Zero, comes from Harry Bernas, a retired physicist and Mélenchon supporter in the first round. (As quoted in The Guardian.)

“The danger of abstaining is too great….

Whatever happens next Sunday, the crisis is so bad, so deep and the need for change so great that the country is at boiling point. It’s what we physicists call first order transition; when you heat water there’s a change you hardly see just before it turns into vapour, that fluctuation, the agitation around the edge, we’re at that stage, and I think there’s very little chance it will be a subtle, kind or friendly transition.”

Le Pen is gaining points, thanks to an intelligent campaign and no fear of gross self-contradiction. Yesterday, in contrast to the central point drummed throughout her campaign, she has announced that ‘maybe France won’t leave the euro after all, it’s up to voters, we can renegotiate from strength’— Really?

Slogans and Lies.

Protectionism and racism are the two cornerstones of the FN’s policy, and their win would plunge France into major economic disaster.

Or not? For that was the prediction made regarding Trump.

But POTUS has reneged (or fumbled) up to now on his promises to overturn the system. Whereas Marine le Pen is, as her devoted admirer Donald would say, one smart cookie.


  1. A wonderfully first-hand account of a terrifying week. What I have yet to see explained is the rationale of abstention. It’s not as if the voters are being asked to choose between Hitler and Stalin. Looks more like a well-advised novice vs a mash-up of Franco and Peron.

    Believe me, we’re holding our breath in New York. Waaay too much like 1937.

  2. Mike- The depth of your history. Hitler and Stalin sell in Hollywood, but how many know these last two names today?

  3. Bonnie Waltz · · Reply

    Here’s hoping that France’s outcome is better than ours😱

  4. […] via MayDay in Paris — POINT de VUE: PARIS […]

  5. margot livesey · · Reply

    Thank you for this vivid portrait of May day. I am on the edge of the sofa about May 7th.

  6. First order transition? I like that. (So you are a physicist? My wife is a chemist. Chimiste?) But is that not also the first step to sublimation? (I shouldn’t try my luck with an expert).
    At a distance, I don’t think the French are ready for a Revolution. They’ve become too comfy.
    And at a distance, I am getting bored at the appalling level of those last days’ campaign.
    All putting flowers on all possible victims…
    It’s what in Marketing we call segmentation. Divide consumers (I mean voters) into different segments: women, the young, the old – no not those, they have no clout – the victims of the holocaust, the victims of racism, etc. The victims of this or that. So much “suffering” in France. (Not in Bangladesh or Mexico, or Venezuela, right?)
    Segmented communication for segmented people. And on the fringe, molotov cocktails.
    I will vote Macron on Saturday (The Americas and Outre-mer vote on Saturday). I don’t think i trust him much, but Le Pen cannot win. And shall not. (Crossing myself!) 😉
    Be good, and avoid “les manifs”.
    (And as usual, thank you for post. I love your perspective.)

  7. Monché
    Agreed about first world rush to be the victim– may this fad be on the wane already. Be of good cheer. The debate last night changed my view of Macron, raised him in my esteem. Intelligent. Stamina. Some cards finally on the table. Pas a croquer. Thank you for voting!

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