This entry introduces Christophe Cerniou, a compassionate and active participant in the French political and economic scene via his blog JOURNALISTE EN RESISTANCE (le clavier remplace la STEN) [JOURNALIST IN RESISTANCE (the keyboard replaces the STEN)]. To quickly learn of his commitment and passion see his posting Je Refuse.
His posting here reflects upon the background to the January 29th nationwide protest against French President Nicolas Sarkozy's government's economic policies. The protest drew more than one million demonstrators into the streets of France, described by the International Herald Tribune as "the biggest popular challenge to the president since he took office in 2007."
I'm a novice in the area of French politics, and have read quite a bit lately in order to learn more, yet French economic and political history is wide and deep, and their political parties quite a bit more subtle and, therefore, more complex than ours. I can only make some general comments by way of introduction, but to me it appears that President Sarkozy is quite boldly trying to implement in France a system of deregulated market-based economics that is presently being severely questioned nearly everywhere else. The French have fought hard to build a society that provides basic protections of nationalized health care, job security, and social security; everywhere Sarkozy and his supporters seek to reduce and deflate, to lessen the tax burden on the wealthy, and to thereby lessen basic protections for the mass of society.
The January 29th strike seems to have brought little visible change in Sarkozy's policies. Like George W. Bush, he appears bound to earlier ideologies despite the worsening economic situation in France and the general questioning of unregulated markets worldwide. Over here he'd be considered almost wingnutty in that stubbornness. Yesterday, in the blog French Politics,* Arthur Goldhammer wrote, "This is Sarkozy's error. He seems to be saying, 'I have the solution, and it is the same solution I have had all along' -- as if the detaxation of overtime, which may have made some sense in 2007, still makes sense in 2009, with offers of employment plummeting." Indeed, "French unemployment soared by 90,200 to 2.2 million in January, marking the highest one-month leap since records began, the employment ministry said Wednesday." Mr. Sarkozy's offers of assistance to the French economy track nicely with our GOP's - little for the poor, much for the wealthy.
Christophe's words below combine the passion of his presence with the history of his country. He recalls the storied Conseil National de la Résistance (CNR) [National Counsel of Resistance] and the "Trentes Glorieuses" ["The Glorius Thirty"], those years from around 1946 - 1976 when France eventually emerged from WWII as an economic power. Hopes for the Programme du Conseil National de la Résistance [in English] were never truly fulfilled, and today's struggle against the loss of those social benefit services resembles those of other times in France's history. Again, the French descendent dans la rue to march in protest to protect their gains. It's time for the The Call of Calls [Charte des l'Appel des appels]. . .
Below is Christophe's posting. (I've provided my very basic translation, but invite anyone to suggest changes; my French is deeply encased in rust . . .) Thank you, Christophe!
"En France, nous n’avons jamais vraiment retrouvé l’époque des «Trentes Glorieuses » ; le chômage à son début n’a pas assez alarmé les politiques, du moins pas assez vite ; dans les années qui ont suivi, s’est installé un dilemme, qui ressurgit aujourd’hui que se dressent nos résistants de 1939-45 pour défendre le système dont ils sont les fondateurs, du moins les ouvriers, le "Conseil National de la Résistance". Ce programme inclut la sécurité sociale, le code du travail, etc…
Les français ne peuvent pas renoncer à ce programme, alors que déjà nous avons des gens dans nos rues ; ce serait alors bien pire… comment est-il, notre système social, de travail et de santé ? archaïque, diront certains ? parce que les autres pays ne font pas pareil, nous devons forcément les suivre ? a-t-on le choix, alors que l’on n’exporte plus ? oui, nous l’avons, mais il faut pour cela que nous ayons un dirigeant en qui nous puissions avoir confiance, ce qui ne veut pas dire que nous ne devions pas l’aider ; la plaie qui ronge constamment le budget de la France, ce sont les dépenses inconsidérées du protocole et du majestueux, l’argent jeté de toutes manières par les fenêtres, comment un dirigeant peut-il demander à un français de se serrer la ceinture, alors qu’il s’augmente lui-même 2,5 fois son salaire ? le climat politique en France est devenu délétère, le peuple n’a plus confiance ; les votes ne sont plus des votes de conviction, mais des votes-sanctions ; sans compter le taux d’abstention.
Cela peut s’arranger ; la grande grève du 29 janvier a montré que les syndicats étaient bien sûr d’accord pour relancer l’économie, mais qu'en aucun cas, cela ne doit se faire en fragilisant encore plus de personnes ! les plus fragiles doivent êtres protégés, et on doit donner un peu moins de cadeaux aux boursicoteurs du libéralisme sauvage."
And here, with apologies for mistakes, my very basic translation.
In France, we never really achieved the epoch of "Trentes Glorieuses"; at its beginning unemployment did not alarm policies enough, at least not quickly enough. In the years that followed, a dilemma became established which re-emerges today - that our resistance fighters of 1939-45 of the "National Council of the Resistance” stand to defend the system they founded or worked for. This program includes French national health and pension organizations, labor laws, etc.
The French cannot abandon this program; already we have people on our streets; it would then be much worse. . . Is our social system of jobs and health care archaic? Some will say so. Because other countries are not similar, must we follow them out of necessity? Is there a choice, while they do not export more?
Yes, we have our social system, but for it it is necessary that we have a leader we can trust. This does not mean we need not help. The wound that always gnaws at the French budget are the inconsiderate expenses of custom (“du protocole”) and the hierarchy, money thrown out the windows. How can a leader ask the French to tighten while it augments its salary 2.5 times? The political climate in France has become noxious, the people do not trust anymore; votes are not votes of conviction anymore, but votes of censure; not to mention the rate of abstention from voting.
This can improve. The big strike of January 29th showed that labor unions of course agreed to restart the economy, but that under no circumstances should this be done by weakening even more people! The most fragile must be protected, and one must give fewer rewards to traders in the unregulated capitalism (“du libéralisme sauvage”).
* French Politics is an excellent blog to follow for novices, like me, who have interest in the topic.