samedi 26 juillet 2008

Remarks on the class war in France

The phoney war is over. Talk of pouvior d'achat, (standard of living) 'Traivailler plus pour gagne plus.' ('Work more to earn more.') and talk of the Sarkozy being (somehow) populist have been dropped and a fresh bombardment shatters the faltering peace that has held still outright conflict for quite some time. The UMP (the right wing party in office) have recently introduced a number of reforms aimed at increasing the level of exploitation of the French working class. (Incidentally, there are no qualms about using the term 'class'. Those affected by these reforms are is the very class of people even Sarkozy acknowledged as exisitng during the 2006 Presidential campaign, when talking of 'those who have to get up early in the morning' ie those who have to work for their living).

These reforms, briefly lengthen the legal limits on the duration of the working week, "cutting unemployment compensation, changing laws governing trade unions and strikes, and giving large handouts to big business and finance." [ibid]

The latter point alludes to the fifteen (15) billion Euro tax handout to the upper 300 000 richest people in France every year, one of the first reforms the French President introduced.

The minimum wage is also under attack. A Government commission has concluded a report into the SMIC by arguing that the minimum wage keeps the poor in poverty. The government have also passed laws that will criminalise any political organisation that is deemed to threaten the state, and a round of constitutional change that concentrates power in Sarkozy's office and entourage (disgracefully Jack Lang a ghostly figure from the Socialist Party's past, asummoned up the front and voted with the UMP) and a foreign policy that has seen France join NATO (it left under De Gaul in 1966 and relations have passed well betonf the 'Freedom Fries" furore into a cooperative ally to Washington), increased rhetoric about 'Western civilisation' (a recent Le Monde Diplomatique noted that in a recnt speech, the small one who must be obeyed refered to "The West" no fewer than eighteen times in a speech in March, a major break with previous discourse), Islam and terrorism. And there has also been an attack on immigrants' right to stay in France with the Minister of the Interior setting targets of 28000 expulsions per year.

The offensive is on many front deliberately and openly, one of the government's ministers said a few weeks ago, that the aim was to disorientate and exhaust the opposition (no longer called 'social partners' as they once were so described) and to have changed the terms of the debates by Autumn when the significant number of functionaires and other workers on holiday return to work and find out things have altered. And to ensure the continuation of the upper class get rich quick scheme - currently undergoing some turbulence as we read.

The social partners (the unions) themselves? What can one say. Either they are harding working but outplayed class fighters or they are part of the establishment and actively assist the government and wider upper class political interests, which is WSWS's line.

On a subjective level as one person trying to get to grips with French and French politics it is an relatively ambiguous combination of both. Either way, those in the front line of these attacks (for that is the word, having to work harder and longer is a direct theft of a part of your life that could be spent doing something other than toil) already have enough to manage, economically. No further remarks are needed on the current economic crisis and being forced to work for more 16% more time for, essentially, less compensation can only be interpreted as the actions of someone who really wants you to make do with the minimum. This sounds Epicurean but it is not done for anyone's benefit but the upper elements of the bourgeoisie - the tax giveaway is the glistening piece of evidence in that argument.

The battle lines have been breached. The unions retreat the people move backwards, leaders betray and surrender (see above) -

The air is running out, but at least it's getting clearer.