3.5 Million On The Streets And Rising: As French Strikes Escalate, Just How Serious Is The Situation?

Even as everyone in America seems to have anywhere between 2 and 4 opinions on Fraudclosure now that the topic is firmly planted in the MSM newsflow, things in Europe are not looking any better, even though most people there shun McMansions for their grandmothers' houses. Enter France, where an ongoing national strike (into its fourth day) was just extended by another 24 hours, and 3,500,000 people seem to have no interest in returning to work with any sense of urgency. Apparently the severity and penetration of the strike is much greater than (under)reported on US media, as seen by the following email from Goldman's Natacha Valla to clients, which explains why things may soon turn much worse.

A crucial (fourth) general strike is unfolding in France today against the pensions reform. I got many emails inquiring on how things looked like on the ground down here. In short:

1. Early to tell, but at this stage, mobilisation sounds quite significant (already 500 000 in the streets at mid-day). 3 million will be, once again, the magic number.

2. A key new dimension is the participation of high schools, which increases the risk of escalation. Transportation and refineries are also significantly hit.

3. Beyond the reform itself, discontent is mounting because the government is perceived to be "forcing" the reform through the Parliament (the debate was cut short at the Assembly, and the vote on key points re. retiring age. - on Monday - was accelerated at the Senate, where the debate is still expected to last until the week-end).

4. A few "grèves reconductibles" (renewed strikes) have already been announced.

5. The government already restated it wouldn't make any further concessions...

Elsewhere, the Telegraph just released the following update:

In the fourth such protest in a little over a month, unions estimated that 3.5 million people had taken to the streets against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension bill – a 20 per cent rise from previous marches and what they called an "exceptional" figure.

Even the interior ministry conceded that turnout had reached a new high, although gave a more conservative figure of 1,230,000, compared to 997,000 on September 23.

In a symbolic act, the Eiffel Tower was closed due to striking staff. The landmark was last closed due to industrial action in April.

"Sarko, you're screwed, the young are on the streets," chanted students in the southwestern town of Toulouse, as they joined protests en masse for the first time. Secondary school pupils also took part with classes disrupted in around 400 schools.

French leaders have been notoriously wary of student protests ever since they sparked a two-week general strike in May 1968 that crippled the country and the government of President Charles de Gaulle.

In 2006, students managed to force the government to withdraw a plan to introduce more flexible short-term work contracts for the young, after paralysing the country.

Who could have possibly anticipated that removing trillions in credit money from the system, and the resulting austerity would have such a negative impact on the general feeling of (dis)content? Luckily, Europe is a fast becoming a great dress rehearsal for what will eventually happen in the soon-to-be-centrally-planned US, when the massively overdelayed domestic austerity episode is finally forced to come to the home of the not so brave and the land of the inkjets.