More than 14,000 demonstrators in Rodez (24,000 inhabitants), 10,000 in Morlaix (25,000 inhabitants), 8,500 in Angoulême (41,000 inhabitants), 7,000 in Alès (42,000 inhabitants)… Tuesday, during the second day of mobilization against the pension reform, small and medium-sized towns have largely responded. If this so-called “peripheral” France is already seen by some as the new focus of disputes, the co-director of the Observatory of Local Experimentation and Innovation at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, and doctoral student in geography at EHESS , Achille Warnant, insists with the “Obs” on the heterogeneity of these cities.
Pension reform: why Macron wants to impose it
Is the significant mobilization of small and medium-sized towns on January 19 and 31 surprising?
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It must first be remembered that the mobilization is strong everywhere in France, not only in small and medium-sized towns. Then, for it to be surprising, it would have to be new. However, if the 2010 record is beaten, we are on the same level of mobilization as in 1995. Finally, medium-sized towns are very heterogeneous: some are mobilizing and others are not.
How to explain it?
A large number of medium-sized cities that are mobilizing are industrial or ex-industrial, with stronger trade union traditions than others, or singular political histories – possibly marked on the left, the PS or the Communist Party. They therefore have larger trade union and activist networks that facilitate mobilization. This is the case of Montluçon or Vierzon, on which I work. The fact that there is an inter-union also facilitates this mobilization.
In the demonstration in Rodez: “What strikes me is to see so many Mr. and Mrs. Everyone”
We have other medium-sized towns in which there is an overrepresentation of the civil service, such as Nevers. This is explained by the prefecture and because the biggest employers in the territory are the hospital, the town hall, the intercommunality… In general, we also know that we have more unionized people in the public service.
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Do the demonstrators in these municipalities march for the same reason as in the big cities?
I have heard a number of commentators say that there are “X” thousands of protesters for “X” thousands of inhabitants. But a mobilization in a city drains people well beyond the town! And in small and medium-sized towns, the countryside is relatively close, so it mixes extremely different populations.
“I worked until I was 62 and it was time for it to stop”: in the demonstration in Paris with these pensioners opposed to the reform
It is neither a movement of metropolises nor a movement of so-called “peripheral” France, but a movement that affects all territories. That said, some categories are more affected, such as those who started work early and who may be overrepresented in small and medium towns. Just as the managers, who are more in the big cities, do not demonstrate for the same reasons as the workers.
Finally, in rural areas – especially those losing inhabitants, the demonstrators did not simply demonstrate against the pension reform. There is a more general fed up with the place of the State and access to public services in particular. This territorial withdrawal of the state over the past twenty years may have created a feeling of resentment. It was the question of the movement of “yellow vests” and we can find this problem in these mobilizations.
Interview by Richard Godin