Led by several parties of the radical left, the protesters sent a message to President Francois Hollande that they had ‘enough’ of austerity and that it was time for a change in policy.
Thousands of people protested in Paris on Saturday calling for a change in the austerity policies of President Francois Hollande.
The Left Front, whose principle components are the French Communist Party and the Left Party, led the demonstration that declared “Hollande, enough!” and rallied “against austerity’ and for ‘equality and the distribution of wealth”.
At the head of the march were the leaders of the Left Front, Pierre Laurent (PCF) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and their guest of honor, Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s main opposition leader and candidate of the radical European left for the presidency of the European Commission.
Between 50,000 and 1000,000 turned out, according to the organisers, although the police estimated 25,000.
Anti cuts and privatisation campaigners and unions CGT, SUD, FSU and Solidaires also joined what was the first show of strength of the radical left since the collapse of the socialist vote in municipal elections a fortnight ago and the subsequent appointment Manuel Valls, on the right of the party, as PM.
The electoral defeat came after two years of broken promises by Hollande who dropped his progressive campaign pledges and bowed instead to the EU’s and Germany’s austerity cuts and neoliberal agenda.
Valls this week announced euros 10 billion from the health budget and euros 10 billion from local government, plus a further unspecified euros 11 billion in cuts. Employment costs for companies would be reduced by euros 30 billion while a few crumbs in the form of tax cuts were chucked at workers on low incomes.
Although neither the green EELV party, which exited the government after the appointment of Valls, nor the left wing of the Socialist Party (PS) backed the march, green flags were evident among the sea of red, and a member of the National Bureau of the PS, economist Liem Hoang Ngoc was visible in the front row.
“Holland is mistaken in his choice of Prime Minister. We need a shift that has not been discussed, there is a great unease in the left wing of the Socialist Party, we need an extraordinary congress to clarify our policies,” this outgoing MEP told journalists. He added that “austerity policies are leading nowhere”.
A number of senior figures in the socialist party have publicly expressed disquiet about the right turn of the socialist administration, including big cuts to public spending, pro business labour market deregulation.
The protest comes as the Left Front launches its campaign for the European elections on 25 May.