Lola is 16 years old and study in high school. In his hand he holds a sign with the inscription “young people against the pension reform” and says that if he demonstrates it is above all for the “contempt” by Macron for workers. Lisa she is slightly older and is also waving a poster: “Plus two years, the old ones at work. Plus two degrees, young people under water”. Jeanne she is in her first year of university and has made two white stripes under her eyes to simulate wrinkles: “Look at us Macron, this is not the life we want”. In Francethe tenth day of national mobilization against the pension reform was occupied by young people: those who in French are simply called “the youth”, those accused of deserting the polls en masse when it comes to voting and brought up by the President of the Republic as alleged beneficiaries of the increase in the retirement age. They don’t think so and, at a time when the strike seems to be weakening and social tensions are increasing, they have entered the field and they have done it en masse: 500 high schools blocked throughout France, dozens of universities voted for an indefinite strike in well-attended general assemblies. “Today is a turning point, from now on we are here too”he shouts into the megaphone Simon. “We will stand by the workers until the reform is withdrawn”. A little further back, there are art school students who have a slogan and chant it relentlessly: “We are young, precarious, the revolutionaries”. They have the most colorful signs, even a cardboard dummy of Macron coming out of a garbage can. And a papier-mâché reproduction of Elisabeth Borne. “We are young, precarious, the revolutionaries”, they shout in chorus.
It was not and it is not obvious that there were also the younger ones. It may not be decisive, but it makes it even more difficult for the government to extinguish the protests. This is demonstrated, among many others, by the demonstration in Paris: nearly half a million peoplequasi one million in all of France. These are certainly lower numbers than the previous Thursday, but still huge figures if we consider the fact that the mobilization has been going on for weeks and, at the moment, has no end. Young people then bring new themes to the table and widen the perspective. “Since Macron bypassed Parliament, real anger has broken out between us,” continues Simon, who is 23 and leads the group that brings together Parisian and suburban universities. “We mobilize against a system: against the pension reform, against precariousness, against a government that violently represses those who mobilize, against the immigration law. We aspire to another society, one that saves the planet and fights against inequality. If there are young people on the street, if we go and support the workers’ pickets, it will be much harder for Macron to keep the point”.
Lola is not the youngest to walk the runway. With her are dozens of classmates and from nearby schools. They jump and dance to the cry of “the general strike”. “If the retirement age increases,” says the 16-year-old, “it will be even more difficult for us to enter the labor market. From Macron comes only contempt for us and for those who work: for him there are people who are nothing. That’s why today I decided that I had to demonstrate”. Meanwhile Ynaé he wanders among the demonstrators with a sign on his shoulders: “The earth is burning”. AND Lisa, who waves his manifesto associating pensions and climate, claims it: “The government thinks only of profits and wants us to work harder to help big companies. All fight themes are related and there is no longer any battle that cannot take the climate emergency into account”. He thinks so too Jorge, a 29-year-old Spanish scientist who works in a laboratory in Paris: he waves a sheet for the “climatologists on strike” and the words “who could have predicted the convergence of the struggles?”. He mimics all those who deny the climate emergency and who “refuse to understand that there is no more time to think about a different world”: ‘If we don’t think about the climate soon we won’t have a pension to worry about,’ he says. “Maybe if we had the courage to protest like this in Spain and Italy, we wouldn’t find ourselves retiring so late”.
The twenty- and thirty-year-olds who parade through the streets of Paris ask Macron and everyone very specific questions. They are calling for a radical change in the system and if nothing happens, they say they will not stand idly by. “They want us to work until the end of energy, but we are not there,” he says Mathieu who is 22 years old, works as a salesman and is also the federal secretary of the young communists in Paris. “We are here to say that retirement is not the antechamber of death but a new stage in life. It is an important moment to devote oneself to the things one likes, to really engage in politics”. And then, he continues, “in France there have been tax exemptions for companies for decades. They have to pay, not the workers. Macron don’t tell us that there is no more money. He says that there is no will to resolve”. Everyone thinks and says it at the demonstration: the President of the Republic is lying. Indeed, he says Karine who is 39 years old and works as a teacher, “governs by helping the rich and now asks us for sacrifices. That she ask her friends about her. Tax the super profits and you’ll find the money right away. He can finally share the riches”.
The noisiest, most organized and most colorful are the male and female students of art schools: their contribution is not only important, but also historical because everyone remembers the role played by artists at the time of the maggio 1968. That’s why they are asked for slogans and they are asked for posters. Amelie, for example, reproduced Elisabeth Borne: “I made her old, with her glasses. Because we must see all the contradictions of a woman who should represent us and she, on the other hand, has carried out the reform that most damages female workers ”.
But there is not only the request for a break with the past. The protesters know and want to build bridges between generations. Campus students Malesherbes they have a banner that reads: “We are here for our exploited parents and our sabotaged futures”. Jeanne he says it first: “I come from Toulouse and I’m here because I had to do something. My dad is two years away from retirement and he can’t take it anymore”. Anne he is at the procession representing mum and dad who cannot be there: “I study, they couldn’t give up their jobs. And then I said that I would go and demonstrate for them too”. There is an alliance between generations, at least those who participate in the procession claim it. Greek he is 73 years old and has a past as a consultant. He’s retired, but he wanted to be there at all costs for this strike too: “We mustn’t be selfish and think only of ourselves. I manifest for young people who will have to work two years more regardless of employment. Macron had said he would fight for equality between men and women and instead is making a reform that harms all women. The crowd, as the president calls it, is very determined.” Not far away there is then Monica, who had to sit down for ten minutes in the middle of the procession to catch her breath. “I do what I can, but I couldn’t miss it”, she is 75 years old and has worked for a large insurance company. “ What Macron is doing is unworthy. But it is also incredible and beautiful to see these young people who take to the streets every time he speaks. If I were him I would be very scared because they don’t seem to have any intention of giving up. Also because at stake here are conquests obtained after years and years of battles. We can’t give up. We spent the pandemic applauding workers and this is how they are treated? A shame. I hope that something happens in Europe too. I hope that they observe us, from Italy to Germany, and that many follow us
The procession begins at 14 and for more than three hours there are only shouted slogans, songs and dances. In the lead are the young people of universities and high schools, behind the railway workers, bus drivers, teachers and health personnel. Around 6pm, everything shut down and tear gas began: a group of black blocs set two fires and the police started throwing tear gas. The climate warms up and, with each passing agent, the chorus is unanimous: “Everyone hates the police”they shout. “The whole world hates the police.” That’s why when the demonstration ends and the guerrilla war begins, no one complains, quite the contrary. But many are leaving. Clément takes the bicycle to which he has attached a red flag with the inscription “A violent desire for happiness”. “It’s the title of a film and a phrase that I love very much,” she says. “And I think that’s also the only reason why we all continue to protest.”