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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un mur de lucidité…

by Jean-Emmanuel Ducoin

A Wall of Lucidity …

Translated Saturday 30 October 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The long labor of ultra-free trade propaganda will, from now on, come up against a wall of lucidity.

“When there’s a strike in France, nobody even notices.” It may be a facile reminder, but the solemnity of certain phrases sometimes comes back to haunt the author. Nobody has forgotten – or will forget – those words of Nicolas Sarkozy, uttered on July 5, 2008. So carried away was the elected monarch by the show of his own glory that he did not imagine that a sound-byte inspired by a well-known speechwriter would turn itself into an illusion, weighing tons, on his back – if not on his conscience. Although he knew it was imprudent to predict the future of the labor conflict that is churning France down to the country’s very guts, and is sowing fertile hopes, we at least know one thing on the eve of the All Saints’ Day holidays – the government’s authoritarian rush from Scylla to Charybdis has done nothing to bridle the energy of the movement. Quite the contrary.

Despite the repeated attacks on the right to strike, as at the Grandpuits refinery, which was requisitioned forcibly, and despite the anti-parliamentary attacks, as at the Senate, where the denial of democracy has reached Caesarian heights, the solidity of the inter-trade union committee and its spirit of responsibility compel respect. The calls to participate in the two new days of mobilization are still widening, all the more so as – whether the autocratic editorialists of Saint-Germain-des-Prés like it or not – the masses of employees who are mobilizing together with young people do not base their struggle only upon the unjust character of this emblematic reform. No, it is also the whole of the government’s language and behavior which, progressively, has fueled the revolts and the depth of a discontent that is more ideological than is generally imagined. Although no one engaged in this struggle should lose sight of the retirement question, the cutting edge of social destruction, we must today recognize that the dissidence goes well beyond it. The present climate provides us with a strategic indication: Most of the French reject the idea that a generalized social regression can be forced upon us. We dreamed of this, and now, here we are.

For it is truly a question of “social regression.” Up until now, the members of the government admitted this in private, and not without delectation. One of them, an obscure junior minister for housing, Benoist Apparu, has just done so publicly and nobody knows if his over-sincerity is due to his courage or his naivety. The said Mr. Apparu has indeed just stated that raising the legal minimum retirement age to 62 was “a form of social regression” and that it had to be “accepted.” At least we know what to expect when the language of defiance and scorn is added to that of cynicism. The only hitch is that the citizens are saying “no.” Yesterday, a BVA opinion poll confirmed the trend. Overall support for the labor movement is still massive (69%), as is approval of the public transport strikes, backed by 52% (up two percentage points). And there’s no mistake in those figures!

Without fantasizing about some sort of popular revolution, we can at least suggest that the long labor of ultra-free trade propaganda will, from now on, come up against a front of rejection. Having been thrown up, this wall of lucidity is causing many a belief to falter. Not only has Nicolas Sarkozy definitely lost out in the arena of public opinion, but he may have lost the battle of ideas. Yesterday, Jean-François Pillard, the head of the bosses’ association in the metal trades, the all-powerful UIMM, dared kick up the traces: “There’s a methodological problem: dialogue is not ‘I say what I want and I get what I want.’” These days, fear is no longer the attribute solely of the dominated classes.

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