After the mass marches in France – what comes next?


More than three-and-a-half million people took to the streets of France on Sunday. They were the biggest demonstrations seen in the country since the World War II liberation of France in 1944. Those who marched did so with a variety of different hopes but with one single demand: to raise the level of public debate in this country. It is now down to the government to pick up the theme, argues Mediapart's editor François Bonnet, even if, since his election in 2012, President François Hollande, and also his prime minister Manuel Valls, have shown themselves to be deaf to the idea.

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The country has not mobilised in this way since the Liberation in 1944. For 48 hours French society, in its infinite diversity, took hold of the streets, and, in a symbolic sense, took power. At least three million, and possible three-and-a-half million or even four million people demonstrated on Sunday, in Paris and the rest of the country too. Even before that some 800,000 had already taken part in spontaneous gatherings.

At this stage one can only make some hasty conclusions about this almost unprecedented civic awakening, this giant democratic wave that has just swept through the nation's towns. Yes, some people demonstrated for very different, even opposing reasons. Yes, simply being together in no way means being in agreement. Yes, this apparent national unity can in no way be equated to the “sacred union” wanted by some politicians. Any attempt to hijack this demonstration, any desire to reduce this civic outpouring to a handful of political slogans will be doomed to failure and ridiculed.