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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une heure de vérité

by Michel Guilloux

A Moment of Truth

Translated Saturday 15 December 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Derek Hanson

Is the handling of the ArcelorMittal Florange affair indicative of the respective and novel roles that the government and “social dialogue” are supposed to play in François Hollande’s program, as orchestrated by the Prime Minister?

The situation is incontestably novel: The government signs an agreement with a boss whose eyes are riveted on his profit and dividend curves; then it deigns to receive the trade unions from the plant so that they can have a look at the agreement. Move along, there’s nothing to see! Hands off the content. The arrogant financier triumphs with a steamroller victory. Mittal even goes so far as to weaken jobs at, and the future of, its Loire-Atlantique plant, which is in Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s political stronghold. The impotence of the politicians, which brings to mind the Michelin episode of pre-2002… Today’s capitulation does not go down as well as yesterday’s resignation, which, by making some desperate, opens onto the rise of others, in particular that of the National Front.

As concerns Lorraine, many workers, young people, unemployed people and retirees placed their hopes, here as in other parts of the country, in change, following five years of ultra-right wing policies and lies shared by Nicolas Sarkozy and by Lakshmi Mittal in Gandrange. The coming days will reveal how the people of the forges will react to the affront and to the sacrifice planned for present and future generations. Within the Socialist Party itself, ministers and deputies are ill at ease. On the left, the national secretary of the French Communist Party has summed up the question that is put to the new government: “Does the government commit itself, by nationalization or any other form of public control, to ensuring the industrial future of Florange and of Arcelor in France? Is the answer yes or no?” “The future of people who are courageously fighting for the survival of their jobs, for France’s independence in steel-making” depends on the answer.

Is it the job of the government to defend the general interest in strategic economic sectors, which today are being sacrificed by the attitude of coupon-clipping financiers? Are medicines, water, steel, and the banking sector to be considered as common goods necessary to the country’s development and recovery? How can they be managed differently? And what new rights are to be granted to workers – all the workers? This is what a lot of people on the left are expecting, and it is high time to express this loudly, in the face of the brutality of one lot and the climb-downs of the other lot.

The coming days will reveal how the people of the forges will react to the affront and to the sacrifice planned for present and future generations.

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