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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Sarkozy ne chôme pas

by Patrick Apel Muller

Sarkozy has been keeping busy.

Translated Sunday 18 May 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Only one year down, and four still to go! Nicolas Sarkozy went to strut in front of the workers at a company in southern France, on whom he inflicted a presentation of his anti-unemployed plan.

You read right: “anti-unemployed” and not anti-unemployment.” A kind of cherry on the cake, to celebrate the first anniversary of a presidency which has ferociously attacked workers, retirees, and young people, and has spoiled the bosses of the big corporations, who have paid him back in kind.

The president uses a double-barreled gun. The first shot is aimed at the unemployed, who soon will be forced to accept badly-paid jobs far from their homes if they don’t want to find themselves without any income at all.

The second shot hits every worker in the heart, by inciting the bosses to lower wages, since the unemployed won’t have any choice but to accept low wages. Yesterday, Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the “error” of sharing work. For his part, he prefers to divide the workers... and to force them to work longer hours. The results of the effort to do away with the 35-hour work week can be measured in the fall in buying power. It fits perfectly with a system in which the bosses pay less money to employees resigned to be more accomodating.

It isn’t so much Nicolas Sarkozy’s amorous escapades, the fabulous pay increase he granted himself, or the sumptuous free voyages that have created a gap between the government and the people.

It isn’t even his nouveau riche bad manners and his truck driver insults that have shocked those who voted for him, but his unvarying decision to privilege shareholders to the detriment of the workers, the unbearable contradiction between his speeches about honoring labor and his crushing scorn for those who live by the sweat of their brow.

He and his partner, Prime Minister François Fillon, have been flattering themselves lately at having succeeded in shifting the ideological debate onto a terrain that is more favorable to the right. Thus it was that he got himself elected on the illusion that, with him as president, those who work more will earn more. Thus he awoke the pride in not balking at the job and doing a good job. Where the socialist party did not want to talk about increasing wages or upsetting the financial markets, where the voice of left-wing change had a hard time making itself heard in the two-party presidential campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy was completely free to drape himself in the flag of change. But today, the French see plainly that the change has been for the worse.

They can clearly see that all of the coming “reforms” are destructive. They hear incantations of fairness and justice, but they don’t see any. The ministers all do lip service to “social dialogue” and every time they do, it is only to ram through measures that the trade unions oppose.

This is the reason for the collapse of Nicolas Sarkozy’s popularity, and that’s why our fellow citizens’ hearts are in their boots. Some, because what they had feared has become reality. Others, who followed the sound of the pied piper’s flute, are chewing over their disappointment and the leaden feeling that they’ve been fooled again. All have solid reasons to come together to upset an agenda that the president would like us to see as inexorable. This won’t be the first time that a French president and his prime minister have proclaimed that they’re “standing tall in their boots.” ... It hasn’t always worked.

The political barometer is pointing to stormy weather; lightning could strike if social discontent – in the form of forthcoming struggles – finds no political alternative to offer relief.

If sterile protests get the upper hand, the worst forms of populism could be reborn, or another demagogue, whether he appears on the front page of the people magazines or not, could sell the voters the same snake oil remedies. Cherry blossom time is the right time to put imagination into power.


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