the right-wing offensive in france: sarkozy’s record so far

by Noé le Blanc

Ten years ago, Nicolas Sarkozy seemed to have lost much of his political credit and clout. Indeed, in the late nineties two major political defeats interrupted his previously steady rise among the ranks of French right-wing politicians. First, Sarkozy made the mistake of supporting Edouard Balladur in the 1995 French presidential race. Balladur was running as a right-wing challenger to the more “traditional” candidate of the right, Jacques Chirac, and he failed to make it to the second round of the election, which Chirac ultimately won.

Second, as leader of the RPR (the dominant right-wing party at the time), Sarkozy suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1999 European elections, his party reaping a mere 12% of the votes, less than the right-wing dissident “sovereignist” coalition, a group of (non-Front National) anti-EU politicians. Resigning from his position as head of the RPR, Sarkozy in fact disappeared entirely from the national political scene after this setback. Continue reading “the right-wing offensive in france: sarkozy’s record so far”

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french resistance movement shakes sarkozy

Adam Ford writes on the unrest in France

On Wednesday 20th October UK Chancellor George Osborne launched unprecedented social cuts, as part of the new Coalition government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Spending was slashed by an average of 19% across all government departments, and unemployment is expected to rise by around a million as a result. That the cuts had been demanded by the same financial institutions that got a trillion pound bailout from the previous government was underscored by confident predictions that UK PLC would now keep its ‘AAA’ credit rating. Meanwhile millions of working class people in Britain and Northern Ireland are today counting the cost, and worrying about their uncertain futures.

But they need only look across the Channel for an example of determined opposition to government austerity measures. France is currently convulsed by a wave of protests, strikes, blockades and occupations, as President Nicolas Sarkozy seeks to implement two year increases in the state pension age. Continue reading “french resistance movement shakes sarkozy”

french workers fight for their futures

On 7th and 23rd September there were mass demonstrations across France in protest at planned attacks on pensions. The government wants to increase the retirement age by two years. The cross-union days of action involved as many as 3 million people, and were accompanied with strike action in public transport, municipal services, schools, post and utilities. This article from Rebetiko explains the public anger at the government’s attacks.

“French people’s tolerance of the crisis is over”. Public opinion watchers could make their predictions a few days before the 7th September strike without having to stick their necks out too much.

But this was not without risk of being exploited for a sort of subversive propaganda: the “French people” can be allowed a little moan from time to time, some gaps in that great French value of “tolerance”, but the important thing is that the alarm bells rung by the opinion surveys are quickly calmed with the necessary medicine. A dose of strike action, once every three months. If the symptoms persist, organise a national day of action without a strike call. Continue reading “french workers fight for their futures”

french workers en masse against pension ‘reforms’

by David Broder

Early September in France means la rentrée, not just back to school but also the end of the holidays and no more long evenings in the sun. But in 2010 it also means a return to pitched battles between the right wing government of Nicolas Sarkozy and the working class.

This Saturday l’Humanité, semi-official daily of the French Communist Party, reported on the ‘summer school’ of the MEDEF, a bosses’ federation akin to our ‘own’ CBI. The rhetoric was of Thatcher, and the need to disenfranchise the ‘no longer
useful’ trade unions. Continue reading “french workers en masse against pension ‘reforms’”

solidarity, power, direction: lessons of france’s 19th march strike

Pete Jones reports from Paris on the 19th March strike day

Three hundred and fifty thousand people (according to organisers) marched on Paris on Thursday March 19th to vent their frustration at Nicolas Sarkozy’s mismanagement of and complicity in the current economic malaise. Paris factory workers also used the day to picket their workplaces, hoping to put further pressure on the government following a month of factory closures thanks to industrial action.

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The march from République to Nation in the unseasonably warm sunshine was very pleasant but its final relevance is up for debate. In contrast, the day’s demonstrations finished with limited but significant rioting at Place de la Nation. Following a series of seemingly arbitrary arrests around five or six hundred youths confronted police chanting ‘Release our comrades!’ and throwing bottles and metal grills. The police responded by firing tear gas to clear the packed Place, eventually arresting around 300 people of whom just 49 will be charged. Continue reading “solidarity, power, direction: lessons of france’s 19th march strike”

hugo chávez the maoist and nicolas sarkozy the socialist

chavezsarko

by David Broder

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who during his ten years in power has introduced extensive state-capitalist measures based on the country’s oil wealth, has embarrassed his international fan club in recent weeks with a series of gaffes when on diplomatic business.

Chávez has long entertained close relations with such “anti-imperialists” as Colonel Gaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Belarussian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko, but his recent speeches have offered a particularly useful insight into the real content of his “21st century socialism” and “Bolivarian revolution”. Once again it is clear that “21st century socialism” is nothing but classic “20th century style state ownership and bureaucracy”.

First came his trip to China in late September, organised in order to sign an arms deal. Upon touching down in the emerging superpower he commented that China “has shown the world that one doesn’t have to attack anyone to become a great power… we are offering tribute in the land of Mao. I am a Maoist.” This was embarrassing not only for the grey Stalinist bureaucrats accompanying him, who have largely eschewed Mao’s ideas in favour of a free-market ideology, but also those such as Socialist Appeal who have for the last two years gushed over an off-hand comment made by Chávez that he is a Trotskyist.

And two weeks ago, after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chávez welcomed Sarkozy’s bank nationalisations in a TV address: “Sarkozy, you are coming closer to socialism, welcome to the club: your ideas are interesting… we must create a new system. With differences here and there, but at least it must be something new. We of course call it socialism, you call it nationalism, but hey, we can discuss that.” Chávez, who has used the police to break up steel workers’ picket lines, clearly does not see the working class as the agent of revolutionary change, but rather, himself.

Was Chávez joking? If his own project were something other than nationalism and state ownership, you might have thought so.