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 Upon a Dwarfish Thief"

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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La robe sur le faussaire

by Maurice Ulrich

"A Giant’s Robe
 Upon a Dwarfish Thief"

Translated Saturday 23 October 2010, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Isabelle Métral

Macbeth, in the tragedy by Shakespeare, doesn’t believe that the forest will march on his castle. The forest starts to march.

It is in Macbeth that Ariane Mouchkine’sThéâtre du Soleil, present in all the demonstrations in Paris, found this magnificent phrase: "Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach:/ Those he commands move only in command, /Nothing in love: now does he feel his title/ Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe /Upon a dwarfish thief." (V, ii,18-22)

The government has been meddling with the figures, lying about the risk of a fuel shortage, plays the clock, waiting for the vacation period to start, opts for a strategy of tension, tear gas, exploits images of confrontations that only go to prove that the problems of the working-class suburbs have never been solved, it is now faced with an unavoidable reality. It doesn’t wash! Of course no one can predict what is going to happen in coming days. We can worry that provocations will be multiplied, but they will change nothing. The country does not want this reform, and 79% of the French people want Nicolas Sarkozy to reopen dialogue with the unions.

This is without precedent. Among those voting for the UMP [2], almost a third want to reopen dialogue. In the media, the timorous must face the facts. Libération, which has not always had this tone, observed yesterday, “Public opinion should have tired of this, but it is holding firm.” In the Figaro, that firebrand of ultra-liberalism, Yves de Kerdrel, who proclaims his love for the rich, is reduced to insulting the strikers “who belong to the favored professions”, who are the “coupon-clippers of the public service” or the “aristocrats of public assistance”. It’s not even revolting any more, it’s pitiful and vain.

So come see what’s happening in the streets. Listen to the songs of revolt.
Measure this thirst for justice. The public opinion is not fooled. What is being played out there, on this dividing line between capital and labor, is the age of retirement, it’s a battle between the people and the financial markets. The billionaire Warren Buffet, some weeks ago, believed he could assert that, yes, there is a class struggle, and that “our class is in the process of winning it.” Well, France has joined that battle, and has no intention of losing it. Nicolas Sarkozy and his government make themselves more ridiculous by talking pedagogy while they maneuver, they still try to tell the youth that pretty story that the reform is made for them. But you have to say it in what language? Public opinion as a whole has understood that this reform is not made for the country, for the youth, or in order to respond to a demographic evolution. It is made for the financial markets and the bond-rating agencies. Have you noticed, in recent times, the multiplication of advertisements, on the air-waves and television screens, for complementary retirement schemes, offers of investment schemes, claimed to be sure winners, but which will be reduced to worthless scraps of paper by the next financial crisis?

Nicolas Sarkozy and François Fillon believe they can lean on the vote in the Senate, which is on hold, and of which the senators of the Left have demanded a suspension in order to debate its democratic legitimacy. They pretend to forget that in a parliamentary regime those elected are the representatives of the people, not the foot soldiers of Capital. They were not elected to put in question a major acquisition, a turning point in the history of modern France, one which the head of state himself declared he would never touch. They stand facing the nation.

[1In context:

 What does the tyrant?


 Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies:
Some say he’s mad; others that lesser hate him |

Do call it valiant fury: but, for certain, |

He cannot buckle his distemper’d cause |

Within the belt of rule.


Now does he feel
His secret murders sticking on his hands; |
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach; | 
Those he commands move only in command,
| Nothing in love: now does he feel his title
| Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
| Upon a dwarfish thief.

Macbeth, Act V, scene 2

[2The president’s own party

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