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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La lame et le manche

by Maurice Ulrich

The Blade And the Handle

Translated Sunday 9 February 2014, by Isabelle Métral

As the government was about to present another family bill to complement the first (which legitimized same-sex marriage) notably on the questions of medically assisted parenthood, including for lesbians, and of step-parenthood, another mass demonstration was staged by the Right and far-Right on Sunday, February 2nd, to which the government reacted by scrapping the bill and putting off the debate on the separate issues until more favourable times.

The government’s incredible back-pedaling may be said to be a triple disgrace, and a mistake. A disgrace first on account of Leftist voters’ expectations, a disgrace regarding ethical standards, and lastly an ideological disgrace. The family bill that was being finalized has been totally misrepresented by the Right and Far-Right to whip up that Sunday’s frantic street demonstrations. Whereas the bill was meant to ease the conflicts and tensions in thousands of families with adopted children, or in blended families, last Sunday’s demonstrators protested against the government’s alleged family-phobia and took up the insane rumour that the gender theory was to be taught in schools in order to make girls of boys - and conversely - and spread homosexuality, or even pedophilia.

François Hollande and the government’s back-pedaling denies the legitimacy of the bill, which is ethically disgraceful, while their turn-about also suggests that Sunday’s demonstrators were right, which is ideologically disgraceful. As fantasies and lies are legitimized, the government makes the victory of obscurantism complete.

Jean-Marc Ayrault would have us believe that this is sound politics, that the reasons why thousands of French people turned out into the streets just cannot be ignored. He is wrong. This is a blatant political mistake, for it is one more capitulation. True, the marriage-for-all bill was eventually passed in Parliament, but otherwise, what with the pigeons [1], the red caps [2], the president of the Republic and his prime minister have been constantly backpedalling. Their social policies –increased job flexibility, the scrapping of family allowances formerly paid by bosses (the so-called “ responsibility pact”), or the pensions reform – were the very policies proposed by the bosses’ confederation. Not to mention the anti-trade-union laws.

Here lies the cause of the discredit into which they have fallen in the eyes of leftist voters. They were not elected to carry out policies like those! And they have not even won the Right and Far-Right round. These will not lay down arms: how could they, when on each of those occasions they have proved the government weak, definitely lacking in strength. What they are after now, as if hunting with a pack of hounds in corduroy trousers and moccasins, are the quarry and the spoils. Their more and more public harassment of the government and the president on the charge of illegitimacy, even though the rightist UMP shams disapproval, is clear enough.

The government has cut itself off from the people and from leftist voters – In short from those that could give it the incontestable legitimacy and authority to carry out progressive family and social laws. And they have gained no support from the other side. Far from it. The case brings to mind that forceful image of the bladeless knife with no handle.

No doubt the hypothesis that base calculations are at play - the idea possibly that weakening the Right and rightist UMP and boosting the Far Right’s splintered groups and playing up nevertheless, when all’s told, to the National Front - would oblige the uneasy democrats to rally behind the president or such or such of his ministers. If that were the case, we would find ourselves in the lowest depths of the political sewage. But for the time being, the only way out for the Left, whatever our anger and restlessness, is to rally all those that never, never wanted this.

[1These self-styled “pigeons” were entrepreneurs that presented themselves as dupes (one meaning of the word “pigeon” in French), i.e. victims to the 2014 fiscal provision that was to tax capital like income. The government gave in to their protest.

[2Or “red bonnets” : a similar episode, involving Bretons opposed to the implementation of an ecotax voted under Sarkozy. See Time To Put On a Spurt, Citizens!

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