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by Maurice Ulrich, editorial

Upside down thinking

Translated Thursday 5 June 2008, by Edward Lamb

Much ado about nothing. More than ninety minutes of made-to-measure television only to repeat that nothing is going to change. One got the feeling, last week, that this show of presidential self-complacency was a damp firecracker in comparison with the French people’s expectations. Which, indeed, proved to be the case. Six French people out of ten, according to an opinion poll taken after the broadcast disapprove the economic policy of the government. The tale, according to which the disapproval was due to the President’s style, and not to the policies themselves, failed to convince.

Besides which, for the first time, the popularity ratings of Nicolas Sarkozy and of the Prime Minister both fell, by some eight per cent.

This is a social crisis and tomorrow’s Labour Day processions will echo that. This is a political crisis. Never, in such a short span of time, a President elected, remember, with a comfortable majority, will have been so strongly disavowed. And this criticism is based primarily on an issue which from now on is at the very heart of the French people’s concerns and a major point for the last few weeks: their anger at buying power and wages. Are Sarkozy’s arguments still being heard, even ever so slightly ? It would appear not. Work longer to earn more ? Who still believes in that ?

I believe in capitalism and global economy, Nicolas Sarkozy has said, paradoxically, while pretending to be at odds with a certain "upside down" concept of capitalism which favours the financial world. How’s that ? By giving more and more "tax breaks" to the rich and to business ventures ? By relentlessly putting pressure on the cost of labour, by encouraging part time jobs, by "reforming" the retirement system, by insidiously bringing to issue the minimum wage laws (SMIC) and the 35 hour/work week, as would appeal to the employers’ unions (MEDEF) ? The truth is that, in France, as in all the great nations, the proportion of wages in the distribution of created wealth has done nothing but diminish while profits are soaring. This is not only an injustice; it’s also the fundamental cause of the present economic crisis.

Enormous volumes of massive capital are circulating around the planet in search of profits like as many predators. The sub-prime crisis is not over, it has taken its toll on millions of victims thrown out into the street, thousands of jobs lost, yet already capitalistic riches are preying on food stuff. Riots caused by famine are not Divine punishment, they are due to capitalism. In the temples of the World Market, the Golden Boys have received orders to gamble with Death. That is no vain metaphor.

Nicolas Sakozy repeats, over and over again, that he wants to re-enhance the value of work — albeit by putting contraints on men and women to accept a job 200 kilometres from their homes, for less and less pay.

The government wants to make people guilty for being poor. « Justice » Baudelaire once wrote, « will find a way to banish those citizens who never learned how to strike it rich. »

He was right. To really re-enhance the value of work, is to give back to those men and women who create wealth with their hands and their minds that which is their due. Which means to raise wages. La Redoute, Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Oréal, the BNP — in such varying financial sectors, thousands of employees are damanding just that, with the force and the determination of strikes. This is true throughout Europe. Tomorrow, May 1st, that demand will be heard. The French people’s confidence in the future, according to INSEE (Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques ), or the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, is at its lowest. They are corcerned about consumerism, the real estate business is out of control. Raise wages to slow down the financial rat race is to encourage consumers to buy and thus create incentative to financial growth. Which is to put the economy back on its feet, at the service of mankind, not dividends.

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