[Marxism] News from France

Daniel Koechlin d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Thu Feb 28 17:06:27 MST 2013


OK, I've been persuaded to part with 7 euros (5 dollars ???) to watch 
Argos. I'll let you know what I think (even though you're surely not 
that interested).

This has been a dismal week in France. The so-called "socialist" 
government intends to raise the retirement age to 66 (from 64), to raise 
VAT by 2% in 2014 and not to implement the 75% tax on high-income 
earners (those who earn more than 300,000 euros). What has made it even 
more dismal is the wilingness of a few unions (CFDT and CFTC), but not 
the majority (the CGT, FO, SUD and CNT who together represent over 3 
million workers), to sign the new "Management-Employee" agreement. Under 
this new agreement, 1) bosses can decide on a severance package and 
present it to workers, without the possibility for French law courts to 
examine said compensation. Which means that workers will accept far less 
(you've been working here for 4 years as an .. um... "temporary worker" 
?... here's 17.000 euros... take it or leave it) than what they would be 
entitled to by law (even though waiting for the courts to adjudicate 
might take years) and 2) pay disputes over overtime can no longer exceed 
2 years (against 7 years in the present French Labor laws), meaning that 
workers will be too afraid to demand compensation for unpaid overtime 
while they are employed, and as soon as the two years are up, will find 
themselves unemployed AND with no legal means of redress for any number 
of unpaid working hours. Yep. France must attract investment and become 
competitive.

French bosses are really getting all they want from the "Socialist" 
French government. But then again, our President and Prime Minister have 
appeared on TV and assured us that "THERE IS NO OTHER WAY". If we want 
France to remain competitive we MUST slash the cost of labour, which 
means less pay and more working hours. "THERE IS NO OTHER WAY".

The Parti de Gauche ("Left Party", ex-French CP) led by Mélenchon has 
launched a campaign against the ratification of the NAFTA/EU trade 
agreement. "We are not Americans. We do NOT WANT TO WORK 2 JOBS, 45 
HOURS A WEEK." And then Mélenchon said something that was quite 
unexpected : "It would be better to have NO European Union, than an 
European Union that seeks to force upon its citizens existing US labor 
laws in the name of competitiveness. If you are a free citizen you will 
say NO to Yankee financial diktats." Again this strong "anti-US" 
rhetoric which is fine on its own, but gets uncomfortably close to 
chauvinism (from my own Libertarian Marxist POV) when it is associated 
with the French tricolour and the new replacement for the hammer and 
sickle. After all, French Capitalists are every bit as devious and 
sociopathic as their Yankee-doodle counterparts.

In my own hometown, a traditional "Red" bastion, I have been also 
surprised to notice the recent emergence of Neo-Nazi 
"National-Bolshevik-Catholic" groups. For the first time, Right-Wing 
demonstrations have been carried out (albeit by less than 30 
participants). "SOCIALIST PARTY = GAY RIGHTS AND LESS OPPORTUNITY FOR 
THE MASSES", "WHAT DO YOU PREFER ? SODOMY OR SOCIAL JUSTICE ?", "WE ARE 
ALL PALESTINIANS DOMINATED BY THE LOBBY THAT CANNOT BE NAMED FOR LEGAL 
REASONS",  "THE AMERICAN DREAM IS A FARCE, LONG LIVE THE FRENCH DREAM 
!", "NO MORE WARS IN THE MIDDLE EAST UNLESS IT IS AGAINST ISRAEL !", "WE 
ARE THE RABBLE !", "WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE AGAINST YOUR MASTERS : 
THE ZIONIST-YANKEE FINANCIAL WORLD ORDER".

So all in all a pretty depressing week. A record 45,000 jobs were 
destroyed in January alone in France, and the medium income of 
20-40-year-olds has fallen from 30,000 in the 1980s to 22,000 in 2012. 
The Socialist government is desperately trying to restore Capitalist 
profitability by increasing VAT, forcing down wages, and increasing 
casual and temporary employment in order to "motivate" Capitalists to 
invest in France. As usual, the Left is being even more anti-social than 
the Right (Sarkozy) because Social Democracy really believes that the 
government can make a difference by reducing the unit cost of labour. We 
must now see whether people will once again join their unions for the 
looming struggle (NO MORE TAX BREAKS FOR CORPORATIONS, NO MORE TEMPORARY 
JOBS, NO MORE MASS LAY-OFFS) or whether they will be lured away by the 
Far Right.









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