France: Labor Unions Cause Chaos

Randy Black writes:As we discussed, French labor unions shut down France today in their effort to avoid working more than 35 hours per week. Here is an AP report (3/10/05):  Planes, trains and metros were canceled, and postal workers and teachers stayed home in a nationwide day of defiance Thursday against government economic policies -- notably plans to let the French work longer hours.  For Paris, where commuters crammed aboard the few trains running, the timing was unfortunate. The strikes coincided with a visit by Olympic inspectors assessing the French capital's bid to host the 2012 Summer Games. Rush-hour road traffic snaked for kilometers (miles) outside the capital; many schools were shut; and French newspapers devoted their front pages to the mess. Conservative daily Le Figaro carried the banner headline: "France Paralyzed." Paris' commuter trains were badly hit by the strike which started after rush hour Wednesday and was to last until early Friday. Up to 80 percent of suburban lines were suspended.  The Paris Metro was severely disrupted, with two of the city's 14 subway lines not running at all. Most Paris buses, specially bedecked with flags to welcome the International Olympic Committee visitors, were running but service on a dozen lines was rerouted because of street protests. Unions called for a massive demonstration through Paris to defend the 35-hour work week and to push for more jobs and pay talks.  For the full text, see

RH:This  was only one phase of the strikes. There were street protests by high-school students, teachers,  research workers, and more.  It seems an odd time for the government to promote the Marseillaise as part of the French heritage. France should change its national anthem to something more peaceful and constructive.

France being plagued with strikes and violence, I said: It seems an odd time for the government to promote the Marseillaise as part of the French heritage. France should change its national anthem to something more peaceful and constructive.  Christopher Jones says:  In the spirit of Ronald Hilton's comment,  I would suggest that Maréchal, Nous Voilà! could be an alternative to the bloodthirtsy Marseillaise.  Here is the refrain:

Maréchal, nous voilà,
Devant toi, le sauveur de la France,
Nous jurons, nous tes gars,
De servir et de suivre tes pas,
Tu nous a redonné l'espérance,
La Patrie renaîtra, Maréchal, Maréchal,
Nous voilà!

RH: This is the song with which Vichy France replaced the Marseillaise.  As for Marshal Petain, here is an account of  his role beginning with the victory of Franco in the Spanish Civil War: From 1939 to 1940 he was ambassador to Spain. Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Pétain - then 84 years old - was recalled to active military service as adviser to the minister of war. On June 16, 1940, he succeeded Paul Reynaud as premier of France and soon afterward he asked the Germans for an armistice.  With the consent of the Germans, he established his government in Vichy and  assumed the title of chief of state, ruling thereafter with dictatorial powers over that portion of France not directly under German control. Pétain and his prime minister, Pierre Laval, established a Fascist-oriented government that became notorious for its collaboration with German dictator Adolf Hitler. The Vichy government ruled with Germany's approval, appointing all government officials, controlling the press, and practicing arbitrary arrests. The government also passed anti-Semitic laws and rounded up French, Spanish, and Eastern European Jews who were deported to German concentration camps.  After the Allies landed in France in 1944, Pétain went to Germany and then to Switzerland. He returned to France after the war to stand trial for treason. In August 1945 he was found guilty of ãintelligence with the enemyä and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was moved to Ile d'Yeu, an island off the coast of Brittany, where he died. RH: The record shows that the hopes of the song were misplaced.

From the UK, George Sassoon expresses disagreement with Christopher Jones, who praised the song lauding Marshal Pétain:  I think it highly appropriate that the Marseillaise should be replaced with this song from pro-German times, in the spirit of European Union! I tried singing it to the refrain of the Marseillaise, but couldn't make it scan.  A different tune?

RH:I had the same problem trying to sing it. I assume the music was different. Christopher Jones would know.

Gordon Jackson writes: The second of Google's approximately 39,000 hits for Maréchal, nous voilà brought up the link,, along with an ad for an audio CD by André Dassary and the following reference and lyrics:
Maréchal, nous voilà !

Paroles: A.Montagard. Musique: A.Montagard, C.Courtioux   1941
© 1941 - Editions Micro
Une flamme sacrée
Monte du sol natal
Et la France enivrée
Te salue Maréchal !
Tous tes enfants qui t'aiment
Et vénèrent tes ans
A ton appel suprême
Ont répondu "Présent"

Maréchal nous voilà !
Devant toi, le sauveur de la France
Nous jurons, nous, tes gars
De servir et de suivre tes pas
Maréchal nous voilà !
Tu nous as redonné l'espérance
La Patrie renaîtra !
Maréchal, Maréchal, nous voilà !

Tu as lutté sans cesse
Pour le salut commun
On parle avec tendresse
Du héros de Verdun
En nous donnant ta vie
Ton génie et ta foi
Tu sauves la Patrie
Une seconde fois :
{au Refrain}

Quand ta voix nous répète
Afin de nous unir :
"Français levons la tête,
Regardons l'avenir !"
Nous, brandissant la toile
Du drapeau immortel,
Dans l'or de tes étoiles,
Nous voyons luire un ciel :
{au Refrain}

La guerre est inhumaine
Quel triste épouvantail !
N'écoutons plus la haine
Exaltons le travail
Et gardons confiance
Dans un nouveau destin
Car Pétain, c'est la France,
La France, c'est Pétain !
{au Refrain}

RH: There is nothing pro-German or Nazi in this song.  Indeed the reference to Verdun might irk the Germans. 39,000 hits for it is astounding.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005