Analysis. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of France Insoumise and failed candidate for prime minister, is taking on Macron with protests against the labor reform law.

Mélenchon’s strength test against Macron

The five pillars of the labor reform were published Saturday in France’s official gazette, the Journal Officiel and some provisions come into force immediately, before the vote in parliament, while others require application decrees to be enforced.

France Insoumise (FI), the organization that intends to embody the main opposition party, responded with a major event in Paris. It was a success for leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon: 150,000 people (30,000 for the Prefecture) on the March against Immanuel Macron’s “social coup.”

Despite the Journal Officiel, the fight continues for Mélenchon. FI announced the possibility for another demonstration on Saturday, with clanging pots, modeled on the South American “cacerolazo,” and then a great event “in millions on the Champs Elysées” that could take place in second half of October. In any case, there are already protests of truck drivers scheduled for today, and public employees will go down to the square on Oct. 10 (though the labor reform will not affect them) followed by pensioners on Oct. 28.

“The battle is not over, it’s only beginning!” concluded Mélenchon, in a one-hour speech in front of the crowded Place de la République. “For the measures to have the force of law, they have to be approved by Parliament,” Mélenchon reminded them, promising a battle with its 11 representatives.

The goal is a “convergence of struggles”: not just against the (accelerated) ordinances of labor reform, which affects the 18 million private sector workers, but also against the announced tax policy, against the €5 euro cut from the APL (personalized home subsidy), against the E.U.-Canada trade pact (CETA), against the “prerequisites” for enrollment at the university (which are a prelude to a form of preferential selection) — all of which are considered as Macron’s “Thatcher-style policy.”

Mélenchon appealed to young people who were present in the Paris parade on Saturday, but not in large numbers: “It is your turn to go into action.”

Macron’s new and unfortunate statement in response to the protests (from New York a few days ago, on CNN, on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting): “Democracy is not the square.” Mélenchon responded: But it is “the square that draws the aspirations of the French,” “the square that struck Nazism, the Juppé plan, the CPE.”

The procession tried to show a unified face of the opposition. Saturday’s event was inserted in a sequence, starting with the two protests led by the CGT on Sept. 12 and 21. Mélenchon addressed “a fervent greeting to trade unionists who opened the way,” with the goal of building a united front, which has so far failed, but “we are ready to deploy behind them.”

The unions’ positions are somewhat scattered. The CFDT criticizes certain content of the reform, but it does not make a statement. Force ouvrière, which was alongside CGT in the battle against Hollande’s Labor Law, now is seeking mediation. On Saturday, several organizations joined France Insoumise for the event, like ATTAC, the former opponent in the presidential election. The Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon was in the lead next to Mélenchon and the FI Representatives, as well as Pierre Laurent, the PCF Secretary, who has had tensions with the FI leader.

Mélenchon says “the battle is republican, not social.” His main objective is to bring down the government, to force Macron to go back to the polls, accusing him of “illegitimacy” for being elected not based on the popularity of his program, but as a means of beating Marine Le Pen (Macron has however obtained the majority of the legislature). CGT, meanwhile, is focused on the battle against labor reform.

The demonstration was peaceful. There was only a brief moment of tension before Mélenchon’s speech when a group from the Independent Inter-struggle Movement tried to climb on stage to the cry of “neither god nor master nor Mélenchon,” and were then pushed away by the crowd’s response: “fascists!”

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