The one-day strike in France has come to an end, and despite some predictions, it didn't shut down the country. Yet for anyone who wanted to dismiss this simply as the French being French, there were signs today that this wasn't your average French protest.
The nation-wide industrial action severely disrupted air, rail and commuter service across the country. Air France stopped its flights, and hospitals had to operate at reduced capacity. Even journalists didn't show up for work today.
Industrial action is hardly unusual in France, but one thing was significantly different about today's strike: the protest wasn't against a specific issue, but rather at the government's handling of the entire global economic crisis. The French public is furious at the perceived unfairness of government bailouts going to the bankers and investors who caused the crisis in the first place. The protests turned violent this evening, with riots and fires erupting throughout the city and clashes with riot police.
Sarkozy recently said that a country like France will be hard to govern during this global economic crisis. He seemed today to be quite rattled by the strike. And with the dismal views coming out of Davos this week, things clearly are only going to get worse. As these protests keep occurring with increasing frequency in Europe, it's looking more and more likely that 2009 will be a year of discontent on the streets of Europe's capitals.