by Jean-Paul Piérot
Translated Saturday 24 January 2009, by
What is the real difference between December 31st and January 1st? Basically nothing. In a few hours, one short winter night brought us into the year 2009, which each of us sought to spend as nicely as possible, or at least not badly, with family, among friends, comrades in arms or companions in misery. We warmed ourselves at the flame of solidarity, venturing to wish good for our relatives, for our work colleagues and of course to make New Year’s resolutions ourselves. And this in a country bruised by a government policy which has consisted – after 5 years of right wing rule – of giving an extra kick on the accelerator to standardise French society and to increase the demands of financial capitalism which become ever more insatiable.
This political sequence was begun by the tax deal which diverted between 13 and 15 billion euros to the profits of the richest. And since spring 2007, it has had dire consequences on the lives of paid workers and on the organization of society. The last days of 2008 dramatically justified the warnings given by health professionals of the fundamental risks of the policy on hospitals based on the same principals of financial profit which govern merchant enterprises. Now, what did we learn from the mouth of the President of the Republic on the day of his speech of 31 December? That this mortifying reform of hospitals was going to be pursued.
It is just one example among many of Nicolas Sarkozy’s position, a position certain critics continue to describe as ’voluntarist’ but which is more like stubbornness, obsessed with using force, consenting to tactical steps backwards only when the pressure becomes too great. Without a doubt, never before has the distance between a Head of State’s speech and the lives of millions of families of modest means and the whole world of work appeared so great. What does the call to make an effort, to work harder, a call pronounced in somber tones, have in common with the fate of several shareholders in Molex of Villemur-sur-Tam, who, for the second time, spent their New Year’s eve in a factory threatened with closure next June?
Efforts? Metalworkers know how to make an effort. And as for working harder, why that’s all they ask for. What is found in all regions of France is what is active, the things that oppose the Molex workers. Boards of directors have given spiteful advice to all those men and women who are nothing more than tools to guarantee the fatness of stockholders’ wallets. It was to these people that the President of the Republic came, to demand more competition and more innovation. He talked to them of "merit", of "preaching of capitalism." Nicolas Sarkozy passes himself off as a champion of the French unions facing crisis. This is the very same man who organised his political action, constructed his presidential campaign, on division between paid workers "who rise early" and the unemployed who are necessarily state-aided, and between long-standing French citizens and immigrants who, in his mind, are inevitably trouble-makers.
The number of unemployed is snowballing, in December the greatest increase ever observed since 1993 was recorded. And suddenly, the government can do nothing about it? Month after month each drop in figures, although hotly contested by unions and economists, was put down as a credit to the government by every speaker on both radio and television. But the rise in figures comes to us from elsewhere, as our new ‘Minister for restarting’, Devedjian, (1) tries to make us believe. As for Frédéric Lefebvre, (one of the spokespersons for the UMP —French centre right party), he persisted in explaining today’s situation on France Inter television this past Wednesday as due to the 35 hour work week rule, like a gramophone record with the needle stuck in the groove. Faced with Nicolas Sarkozy’s potential speech on the state of France, perhaps France has not fallen asleep. Meetings have been announced. Perhaps the union day of action on 29 January will be the first response in 2009’s tones.
(1)Devedjian, a French politician in the UMP party, is responsible for restarting investment.