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About Sarkozy and Sarkozysm : questions and answers (2007)

vendredi 9 octobre 2009

This text was written in 2007 and was the fruit of several discussions with French and foreign comrades. It has not been changed, so the reader will be able to check which analyses were wrong... (Y.C.)

Sarkozy’s personality

What are the biographical elements which can help us to understand its rapid ascension to the head of the main party of the Right and its success at the presidential elections ?

Even if he does not from a capitalist family, and he did not study in one of the elite universities which prepare the sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie to manage the State and its public enterprises (Sciences Po, ENA, etc.), he is nevertheless the son of a female lawyer who was rich enough to bring up alone four boys, send them to a Catholic private school (a Catholic school costs at least 3 000 euros per year and per child ; multiplied by four it means she spent 12 000 euros per year during 12 years, that’s a more than a minimum wage invested in education alone) and then to the university (that is at least 5 more years to finance for the four Sarkozy boys). Very soon Sarkozy was in close contact either through his Catholic schoolmates or through his holiday’s friends (his mother chose trendy places to spend her summer holidays) with some proeminent elements of the old and new French bourgeoisie. People who had inherited their factories from their parents, or who had managed to create and develop new big businesses.

When Sarkozy studied business law he enlarged his circle of relationships even more.

We are talking of the managers of biggest French multinationals ou groups

1) Arnaud Lagardère, CEO of the Hachette-Matra-Lagardère group. The group is divided into several division : Lagardère Sports, Lagardère Services (distribution), EADS* (15 % of the shares), Lagardère publishing and Lagardère Active (press and audiovisual). The Lagardère Group is the third consumer books publisher world wide. Distribution services : 3 800 retail outlets in 19 countries (phone cards, food and beverages, liquor, perfumes, cosmetics, music, video, books, tobacco and press. Sports : world leader in football TV rights trading (250 clubs) and marketing (32 clubs). Medias : daily newspapers, magazines, radios and TV channels. On a world scale : 260 magazines and 1 billion copies sold per year. 2) * In July 2000 EADS was created by merging Aerospatiale Matra of France, DASA of Germany (DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG excluding MTU Triebwerke) and CASA of Spain(Construcciones Aeronauticas SA).

2) Bernard Arnault : (LVMH group). The seventh richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine. Activities : luxury goods, high fashion, perfumes, jewels, watches. Several magazines and a radio. 59 840 employees. Acording to Forbes : « LVMH is thriving thanks in part to demand in such markets as China, India and Russia. »

3) Serge and Oliver Dassault. Activities : civilian and military aeronautics ; electric cars ; several newspapers and magazines. Among the world’s billionnaires Serge Dassault holds the 62nd rank.

3) Martin Bouygues. Activities : building industry, civil works, electricity, roads, telecommunications. Medias : 3 TV chanels including the main (private) one. 117 400 employees, including 10 900 in the communication branch of the group. Among the world’s billionnaires he holds the177th rank. 4) 5) Jean-Claude Decault. 8100 employees. The second largest outdoor advertising corporation in the world, rooted in 48 countries. Bus shelters advertising systems, billboards, street furniture, public toilets (Sanisette), etc. Present in 1 700 towns and 41 countries. JC Decaux has signage in malls, subways and airports. 6) 5) Vincent Bolloré. 32 808 employees on a world scale. Among the world’s billionnaires he holds the 458th rank. Very active in Africa (Senegal, Gabon). Group’s principal activities :

TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS : freight forwarding by sea, land and air, port, handling and shipping services, operation of shipping lines ;

PLASTIC FILM & SPECIAL PAPERS : polypropylene film for capacitors and packaging, special papers and cigarette paper packs ;

ENERGY DISTRIBUTION : distribution of petroleum and coal products ;

SPECIAL TERMINALS : design, production, integration and distribution of intelligent systems and terminals for access control ;

OTHER INTERESTS : real estate and banking sectors,

MEDIA AND ADVERTISING : owns 28% of group Havas, the worlds 4th largest media and communications company.

7) François Pinault.

Pinault-Printemps-La Redoute group. Specialities : distribution, retail sales. Medias : several weeklies and monthlies

As the group’s website says : « As one of the most diverse retailing groups in Europe, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) offers a unique business mix. Consumer retailing (department stores, leisure good stores, home furnishings outlets, home shopping) ; credit and financial services ; business-to-business wholesale (building materials and wood, office supplies and furniture, electrical goods and distribution) ; and luxury goods (apparel, leather goods, fragrances, jewellery, timepieces and accessories). »

Among the world’s billionnaires François Pinault holds the 34th rank.

So, among the above mentioned friends of the new French President, all, except one (Vincent Bolloré) are part of 15 richest families of France and all of them are part of the richest people on this planet.

Later, through his activities inside the main Rightwing party Sarkozy got also in friendly terms with the presidents of several banks (Caisses d’Epargne, Crédit agricole and BNP Paribas) and the leaders of bosses unions (Croissance Plus and the MEDEF)

Is Sarkozy a politician who is only able to perform skilled maneuvers or does he represent an expanding socio-political current ?

Well it may be a bit too early to answer the question. The first and most important thing is to get rid of all these nationalist myths put forward by the Left, Far Left and even some of the Libertarians. To present Sarkozy as a representative of the Foreigners Party (an old accusation against the Right since… 1789), a kind of Bush (for his religious beliefs), a Berlusconi (for his ties with the medias), a Le Pen (for his capacity to attract the electors of this extreme rightwing party), etc.

I would tend to think Sarkozy’s rhetoric answers to the same needs as the SP party leader Segolene Royal, his competitor during the presidential elections. Both used the theme of « security », both were against free migration, both hailed the merits of hard « work », both condemned May 68, even if it was for slightly different reasons.

Sarkozy because he puts the blame on everything « wrong » which happened since 40 years on May 68 : the lack of will of the youth to work, the lack of values of the youth, the lack of authority of the parents, the lack of respect for the teachers and for the cops, etc.

Ségolène Royal because May 68 « blocked » the country and because social dialogue and participative democracy should today prevent workers and bosses from confronting eachother as they did 40 years ago.

What role did the top managers of the main medias play ?

It’s obvious they played a leading role, as Sarkozy was one of their personal friends. But the journalists also had a golden subject : a guy (Sarkozy) who was everyday making the news for all sorts of important or secondary events when he was minister of the Interior. À guy who was all the time leaking informations to the press. À guy who was inviting them all the time to eat, to chat, who used them in his political battles against other leaders of the Right and other presidential candidates.

More precisely how did the medias contribute to make of Sarkozy what he is today ?

I’m not sure they made him, as he had the ambition of becoming president of the Republic since 1982. At that time he contacted one of the main councellors (Jacques Attali) of President Mitterrand asking for advices for becoming a president one day. Since then, they have been great friends (they live in the same bourgeois suburb : Neuilly and Sarkozy has been the mayor of this town for more than 20 years) and probably that’s one of the reasons Sarkozy has so many contacts with Socialist Party and trade union leaders. Actually the development of his career looks quite planned and rational : he started as a simple rank and file militant of the Right Wing Party (which was called the RPR when he adhered in 1974 and then changed its name for the UMP) and he climbed quite quickly both inside the apparatus of the Party and the apparatus of the State. In the Party he was treasurer of a local section, delegate at the departmental level, membre of the Central Committee (after 3 years only), national delegate of the party youth, national secretary of the party youth, national secretary of the local federations (a key post to know personnally all the important cadres in every town), member of the Political Bureau, general secretary and president of the Party. So it took him 27 years to become the head of the Party.

In the State apparatus he was successively municipal councellor, mayor (after 6 years of activism), regional councellar, vice-president of the regional council, deputy, European MP, minister of the Budget, minister of the Interior and president. It took him 30 years to realize his dreams. So if you see this very progressive evolution, you have the impression that the medias were much more used by him, than they used him.

Sarkozysm ?

The Left and part of the libertarians have tried their best to present either Sarkozy as a fascist, either more commonly as an imitator of the American Christian Right. In both cases, the comparisons are absurd. Basically those who compare Sarkozy’s strategy with the strategy of the American Christian Right try to make everybody believe (and first of all the electors) that Sarkozy’s ideas come from America. This is quite obvious in the monthly Le Monde diplomatique whose ideology is a form of Left Gaullism disguised in a more radical language. Therefore the journalists or the groups which present Sarkozy as pro-American hide that all the basic values of the French Right for the last 200 years are the same : importance of law and order, importance of religion, cult of work and responsibility, defence of the family, hostility towards the migrants, will to deny the daily realities of the class struggle, etc.

To take only one example, I doubt that Bush or anybody in the Christian Right can promote the merits and sincerity of homosexual love as Sarkozy does in two of his books. Or that Bush or anybody in the Christian Right recognizes the positive role of Stalinist controlled trade unions as Sarkozy does or the positive role of the Communist Party in French resistance, or the importance of the State in the economy to help high tech industries and new small and medium businesses.

Sarkozysm as such is basically the good old Gaullist ideology, which has been modernised in its form (use of the medias, personal ties with the journalists, exposure of Sarkozy’s private life by himself, etc.) but quite the same in content. The main innovation is the role of the Party. De Gaulle did not trust parties. He was a Bonaparte, in the old Marxist meaning, describing Napoleon III. À politician who wanted to appear as the Voice of the Nation, without any intermediaries. The Gaullist parties (RPF in the 1940s and then RPR in the 1960s) were always submited to the Chief, even if things progressively changed as the the appetites of the leaders grew. Chirac basically used the Gaullist Party in the same way. Sarkozy is apparently trying to have a more militant structure, not just an electoral machine or a club of bosses and lobbyists. That was the role for example of the UMP’s professional federations of skills which helped him design a very precise programm in all fields of economy and society. And this precise programm was probably one of the main reasons of his electoral success. He appeared as much more pragmatic (his magical word) because he had a catalogue of precise reforms, what Leftists like to call « counter reforms ».

Does Sarkozy represent a new rightwing sensibility or/and a new style of government ?

He is trying to represent a new rightwing sensibility. The problem is that his ministers and the leaders of his party have a lot of difficulties to get rid of a Cold War kind of language. Nevertheless he imposed the presence of Leftwing ministers or Secretaries of State to his reluctant Rightwing friends.

In terms of government, it’s quite obvious he wants to control everything and let very little power both to the Prime Minister and to the Parliament even if he pretends to give more power to the MPs. He clearly wants to be reelected in 2012, and will be probably campaigning everyday for the next five years. His call to pragmatism against ideology will work as far as he can obtain concrete results : the European Mini Treaty or the liberation of Bulgarian nurses for example, which he presented as his own personal successes.

Does "sarkozysm" exist ? What are the differences with gaullism and chiraquism ?

In terms of original ideas, there no fundamental differences, at least for the moment. He met a lot of intellectuals during the 5 years preceding his election and what stroke them is that he never listened to them or only was interested by small minor details. His books clearly show he is unable to formulate sophisticated ideas. On his book about religion and hope, he basically repeats during 300 pages that people need hope, that religion brings hope, and that therefore religion is good. Further than that, it’s difficult to see any original idea in this book. And the 2 other books I read are of the same kind. Basically he repeats what the Gaullists have been saying for 50 years. Sarkozy hails those who work hard, wants class cooperation and not class struggle, defends the positive aspects of the French presence in its former colonies, attacks the « ideologies » (De Gaulle used to attack Marxism and Communism, which is basically the same). It’s true that he has thrown in the public debate some new ideas like his proposal of having about having a French kind of affirmative action, but he did not stick to this idea, and it looked more as a trick to embarrass the Left, than as a way to seriously fight racism and discrimination in France.

I. Sarkozy, representative of the ruling class

Does the fact that Sarkozy does not belong personally to a capitalist class family change the situation ?

He has « changed » in the last 2 months preceding his election as testifies his last book « Together » (Ensemble) written in May 2007. He clearly abandoned many of his socalled liberal ideas to adopt a more Gaullist, over-the-Parties, posture. As he wants to represent the Nation, he will try to do his best to evade to be too obviously linked to the big bosses who are his friends. At the same time just after his election he took a three-day holidays on luxurious a yacht property of the multi-millionnaire Vincent Bolloré ; and he imposed one of his friends at the head of the main TV private channel (TF1)…

Will his personal ties with some big bosses lead to links more similar to a "Mafia" form of representation or to a political representation of the capitalist class ? Is his programm "liberal" ?

I have never understood what the word « liberal » means effectively under private capitalism. Specially in France where the State is the main employer, has a long planning tradition (during De Gaulle’s regime the State elaborated plans for the economy and invested in certain sectors according to these Plans).

As regards the first question I’m unable to answer it.

Can one expect the birth of a French form of thatcherism ?

That’s how Sarkozy is presented in the Left press. From what I know, Thatcher has deliberately broken the power of the trade unions. Sarkozy’s project is more subtle although the MEDEF (the big companies union) and part of the Rightwing deputies are clearly in favour of a Thatcherite line, i.e. changing the Labour Code, privatizing everything which the preceding Right and Left governments have not yet privatized, etc.

Which important "reforms" can be expected ?

Among those who are discussed right now in Parliament : the blurring of the distinction between minors and adults for certain crimes ; the autonomy of the universities ; the restriction of the right of strike in public transports (necessity for the management to organize a « minimum service » during the rush hours in case of strike ; obligation of the strikers to announce individually their will to strike 48 hours in advance and organisation of a secret ballot vote after one week of strike in public transports) ; the « liberty » to work at a later age ; the suppression of all the « privileged » pension systems (such as of the gas and electricity companies, the railway workers or the state employees)

Has Sarkozy a "national ambition" for France ?

Well if he wants to keep his Gaullist posture, he better have one. As regards the economy it’s basically to push forward high tech industries so that France remains or becomes a leading power in certain sectors : computers, aeronautics, etc. In terms of international politics, it was quite obvious on the issue of the Mini-Treaty that he wanted France to become the co-leader of European imperialism, even if at the same time he asked the European Commission to deal with the French deficit. In his book and the UMP programm he clearly indicates that the State has to play a decisive role in innovation and he underlines that such is the case in the case in the United States, contrary to the « liberal » mythology, endlessly denounced by the anti-liberal Left.

Does his socalled "atlantism" express the interests of a ruling class which recognizes its submission to the strongest superpower and chooses to take profit of this situation (like Blairism did) . Or does it represent something more ideological ?

For the moment, I don’t see where his « atlantism » lies. Sarkozy did not oppose Chirac’s position about Irak (no one has ever quoted any proof of it even if there are many rumours circulating about it).

He said in the United States that in France he was considered as pro-American but nobody quotes the context and content of his sentence. He was meeting the leaders of the American Jewish community and he told them he was pragmatical and loved to think about solutions, rather than about problems. So this is way he thinks he was labelled « Sarkozy l’Américain ».

He said that France was a traditional ally of the United States, but De Gaulle never said the opposite even he was hypocritically opposed to NATO.

He said he was opposed to the entrance of Turkey inside the European Union, a position which is clearly not in favour of American imperialism.

He sold nuclear technology to Lybia (supposedly to transform sea water in drinkable water – a joke according to the specialists) and in so doing he clearly opposed Bush views over Lybia. And we just discovered that he signed with Khadadi several big contracts concerning weapons, not exactly a pro-Bush option.

What will Sarkozy’s strategy be in front of the European Union and its demands ?

For the moment, he seems to ask for delays and is perceived as rather « arrogant » towards the European Union leaders. Obviously there is 70 % of show off in his public declarations. Anyway he does not appear as the poodle of the European Commission. I think both the accusation of Sarkozy being pro-American or capitulating in front of the European Commission are absurd. As regards American imperialism, it’s quite obvious that French imperialism has not the means of military and economically opposing the only existing superpower. Those who always criticize the Right or the Left’s « atlantism » do it from a reactionary point of view : the defence of national interest. As regards the European Commission, there is an old division of labour in official politics : the presidents or Prime ministers of the different European States try to make the European peoples believe that all ecisions are taken by « Brussels », a mysterious body, and they hide that all these decisions are taken with the presence and participation of each government’s delegates.

II Sarkozy’s popular influence

What do electoral results tell us (signification of the vote of the different social classes and age groups) ?

Sarkozy got, on the first run of the presidential elections 17% of the blue collar-manual workers votes, 25 % of the employees, 28 % of the « medium » professions (primary school teachers, nurses, social workers, foremen, etc.) and intellectual professions (high school and university teachers, priests, foremen, technicians, eyc), 31 % of the « cadres » (executives) and 37 % of the business owners, shopkeepers and handicraftsmen.

Segolène Royal, the Socialist Party candidate, got 31% of the votes of the executives, professional and medium professions, and Sarkozy 26 % of the same categories.

Among the trade union members – who represent only 8% of all wage-earners –, Sarkozy got 11% of the votes of CGT members (the CGT was a formerly CP dominated union and mainly blue collar in all the decisive economical sectors : car industry, harbours, mines, steel industry, energy, etc. ; as most of these sectors have been deeply restructured or have disappeared, the CGT is much weaker as well as the CP’s influence which gets now less votes (2 %) than the « revolutionary » left at the presidential elections (5 %), even if it keeps around 20 MPs, and around 11 000 mayors, municipal and regional councellors) ; 20 % of the FO members (a rightwing trade union welcoming also trotskyists and anarchosyndicalists, and regrouping mainly state employees) ; 20 % of the CFDT members (former Christian and former pseudo Leftwing trade union, openly class collaborationist today as FO, mainly white collar workers) ; 20 % of the UNSA (a new trade union a little bit more to the « Left » than the preceding one, but reformist) ; 60 % of the CGC members (cadres, executives) and last, but not the least, 96% of the big companies union (MEDEF) and small and medium companies union members (CGPME).

On the second run, Sarkozy got 46 % of the blue collar workers votes and 49 % of the employees .

If one adds to that the results of the candidate of the National Front (Le Pen) one can say that a significant fraction of the working class voted for Sarkozy and Le Pen on the first run. In 2002, 25 % of the workers voted for Le Pen as well as 23 % of those who earned less than 1500 euros per month. And in 2007 12 % of the CGT sympathisers voted for Le Pen.

So if one labels Sarkozy and Le Pen as fascists or neofascists, one should conclude that between one fourth and one third of the French working class is supporting « neofascism ». Obviously even the worst « leftist » or « libertarian » demagogues dont dare to say such an idiocy.

One has to note that even in the 50s and 60s a significant portion of the workers always voted for the Rightwing. The working class votes were more or less divided into 3 equal parts : 1/3 to the Gaullists, 1/3 to the Socialists and 1/3 to the Stalinists. As the composition of the working class changed, its votes have been more disseminated between new parties like the National Front or the small Far Left groups who have consistently been present at all the elections, and even the New Center party of François Bayrou (the MODEM) which got 16 % of the workers votes, the same quantity as the Stalinists, Trotskyists and Greens taken together.

The media prepared the voters to the idea that the second run was going to be between Sarkozy and Royal. This efficient brainwashing pushed many new voters and working class voters to vote for the SP candidate. And there was a high proportion of participation (83 %) during both runs.

But Sarkozy nevertheless won the elections, probably because he and his party were considered as more able to govern and deal with unemployment as well as many other social problems. What is sure is that the Left’s and Far Left’s attempt to transform Sarkozy into a new Hitler, a Bush, a Berlusconi and so on did not convince the totality of the working class voters, and not even the majority of the petty bourgeoisie.

Now, concerning the age groups here are the statistics :

Globally the more French people are old, the more thet voted for Nicolas Sarkozy on the first as well as on the second run. With an exception for the 1967-1975 generation whose majority always voted for the Left.

58% of the young generation (those who voted for the first time in 2007 because they were 18 years old) supported the Socialist party candidate. 57% of those who were 18 in the 1990s voted Sarkozy. Those who were 18 in the 80s are equally divided between Royal and Sarkozy. 55 % of the 1967-1975 generation voted for Royal. Among those who are between 60 and 69 years old, 61 % voted for Sarkozy. And 68% of those who are more than 70 years old voted for Sarkozy.

Which "desire of change" was he able to exploit ?

86% of Sarkozy electors prefered « more law and order » and « more authority » to measures increasing « individual liberties ». This is not a surprising figure for rightwingers. What is more surprising is that 60% of Sarkozy voters identified the Righwting candidate to the idea of a « deep change », which was only the case of 30 % of Segolene Royal (the Socialist Party candidate) voters. The manipulative propaganda of the Rightwing party (UMP) against « immobility » has apparently worked (even if the Right was « immobile » for the last 30 years !).

This desire of change is probably linked to the continuing growth of unemployment for 30 years, the growing difficulties of everyday life which are linked to the stagnation of the wages, the difficulty of the youth to find proper jobs even after long studies, the decay in quality of many public services, etc.

And there is also another factor : as the Fifth (French Republic) is a « Republican monarchy » in which the President has many powers, probably Sarkozy with his past as minister of Interior, the support of the medias, and his populist rhetoric was considered as more able to be efficient for this job than Ségolène Royal who was not fully supported by the main leaders of her party (the SP) and who constantly hesitated between an authoritarian and a protective figure.

Does Sarkozy express something else than the inconsistency and discredit of the project of the Classic Left ?

It’s too soon to know if he « will do what he says », as he loved to repeat before his election, but at least he has a detailed programm which will certainly change people’s life if he does not encounter any significant resistance to his plans.

Basically, he wants France to join European standards on many points.

Sarkozy economic programm goes around the following themes

– Labour is not valued anymore by workers and bosses alike. Both think that 57 is a « normal » age for stopping working. The job of the government is to « reeducate » bosses and workers. Obviously, this is bullshit for the bosses, but not for the workers. France is the country of Europe where people work less years in their life, and during the last ten years its productivity gains are lower than in the States or other European countries. So the idea is to eliminate all systems enabling people to stop working between 55 and 64, and then the « seniors » will obviously be obliged to go on sweating for Capital. – – Manual labour has to be rehabilitated through an active propaganda of the State and private companies. – – The Labour code has to be modified so that collective as well as individual sackings are made much easier without any heavy intervention of the courts and with smaller compensations for the wage-earners and smaller fines for the bosses. – – A unique labour contract should be installed. The Long term labour contract (CDI) prevents the bosses from hiring and firing easily, and it is unfair for 3 categories : youth, women and unqualified workers who generally have short term labour contracts CDD. In the service sector the CDDs are used to select the « best » employees. But in the industrial sector the CDDs are used to answer to the peaks of activity. So equality will be realised by generalizing precarity and suppressing legal protections for all wage-earners ! – – The cost of labour is « too high », starting by the minimum wage (7,6 euros per hour !!!). – – The 35-hour’s week should be slowly abolished and replaced by local agreements, enabling people to « freely » choose if they want to work only 35 hours or if they want to do extra hours. – – Unemployed people should not be able to refuse a « decent » job (i.e. badly paid), therefore the unemployment benefits should be less « interesting » in order to « stimulate » people to take shitty jobs to survive. – – All the institutions dealing with unemployment should be fused in one : ANPE (in charge of finding jobs), UNEDIC (paying unemployment benefits) and « maisons de l’emploi » (employment houses : a structure created in 2005 which is supposed to federate all the « local energies » to « help » unemployer people) – – Private health insurances and private pension schemes should be encouraged. – – In the public sector state employees should have the « freedom » to work extra hours and to work after the present age limit (Sarkozy thinks there is nothing wrong if somebody « wants » to work until he is 70) ; – – « Privileged » pension systems should be eliminated both in the present public sector (Parisian buses, Gas, Electricity, national railways). This concerns 500 000 people who are working and 1,1 million of pensioners. In these sectors people can stop working much earlier than in the private sector (between 50 and 60 according to the activity). – – Taxes upon company benefits should be significantly diminished – – Bosses should pay much less money to the various State administrations, if they employ workers with low wages. If a boss pays 100 euros to a worker, he has to give 45 euros extra to the State : 10 for unemployment benefits and 30 for pension, illness, maternity, invalidity, death, family allowance and work accidents. Presently, on these 30 euros, the bosses pay only 4 euros for each worker that they employ on a minimum wage ! All that thanks to the different reforms taken alternatively by the Left and the Right since 1993, in order to stimulate the poor bosses to hire unqualified and low-paid workers ! This is obviously going to continue under Sarkozy. – – The public debt should be reduced : it has reached 66,6 % in 2005 and the EU does not admit more than 60 %. This is the weakest point in Sarkozy’s programm and in the first governmental measures, as his MPs have only voted new gifts to the bosses and rich people, eliminating important resources for the State. –

Is there a "desire for order" in French society stronger than before and what’s the basis of it ?

I don’t know if it’s really stronger than before, I can only say that the medias, the journalists, the politicians and a good part of the intellectuals, from the Right to the Left, are making a strong propaganda in favour of law and order. Some sociologists think that society has changed so much that the different TV news can manufacture consent around very reactionary issues, presenting them as neutral. If we take the example of the last 30 years in France it’s quite obvious that small events in the suburbs have become national events only thanks to the TVs, I mean before November 2005 which was obviously a national event. And this process feeds itself as it was shown during the November riots : the rioters watched TV and wanted also their suburb to be « on the news ». When TV did not exist, a small incident between 3 cops and 5 young people in a working class district did not take a national dimension. Now it’s no more the case, and the presence of migrants, who are not only presented as dangerous foreigners but as dangerous muslims, gives to the xenophobic and racist propaganda a much wider impact specially when it’s presented as a deep, eternal, « cultural » problem. The medias have played their role in hiding and negating the social dimension of many problems affecting the working class in France, and law and order has progressively appeared as the only solution, including to the preceding generations of migrants who became French or are living in France for a long time. And the reformist Left has adopted almost the same language as the right on these questions.

III An openly repressive method

What are the reasons of the government’s repressive rhetoric ?

The government is facing social problems it can solve withouth investing a lot in education, professional training, social housing, public health, etc. An orientation which is totally opposed to the EU agenda and its will to diminish public deficits. Already Sarkozy has been obliged to ask more delay to the European Commission to meet the EU standards in terms of public deficits. It’s difficult to see where the government, if it was its programm – which is not the case –, could find the money to finance all the necessary measures to end with unemployment, bad housing, deterioration of the education system, etc.

What are the reasons of this form of social response to the growing social contradictions ?

In France, for the last 50 years, the State has always been presented by the Gaullist Right as well as the Socialist or Stalinist Parties as a neutral element which was supposed to correct social differences and injustices. Therefore the role of the Public Education, National Education, Health and Pension systems. Therefore the different State Plans launched by De Gaulle and his successors during the boom. This was partly linked to workers struggles (i.e. the general strikes of 1936 and 1968, the United Front between the Gaullists and the CP during the French Resistance and the first postwar government, but also the Public Sector sector of 1953 and the miners strike of 1963), partly to the choices of the capitalist class. The most advanced sectors of the bourgeoisie (heavily linked to the State elites) wanted to buy social peace letting the trade unions manage many social institutions, both inside the companies (the « comités d’entreprises ») and outside (the National Health and Unemployment systems, for example) in common with the representatives of the bosses and of the State. This form of social compromise is no more possible given the decay of French imperialism and the necessity of defining common European norms to compete with other old and new powers.

Therefore the government’s agenda is :

-  to progressively undermine the Statist ideology, the Welfare State idea, which was propagated both by the Right and the Left. This job has been undertaken by part of the Reformist Left (the Right of the Socialist Party, some independent clubs) but much more agressively by Sarkozy and the UMP party for the last five years (it won’t lead to the disappearance of the Welfare State but probably to a significant reduction of its field of action) ;
-  to win over the trade unions and other associations (Ecologist groups, community groups, NGOs, etc.) for even more class collaboration as before (it’s quite significant that Sarkozy has integrated in his government 3 representatives of « civil society » : Bernard Kouchner, one of the first French doctors NGO ; Fadela Amara, leader of Ni putes ni soumises, a feminist group active in the suburbs ; and Bernard Hirsh, president of Emmaüs, a group which helps homeless and very poor people).
-  to repress the working class elements who dont or will not accept the government’s measures.

Why can’t we speak of fascism, even under a modernized form ?

Traditional fascism, as seen in Germany and Italy, before the Second World War was based on the constitution of mass reactionary, inter-classist parties, which organized militias to physically break all the institutions of the workers movement, and started doing that even before taking power. They attacked the headquarters and demonstrations of the trade unions and leftwing parties, assassinated working class militants, in other words they tried to terrorize the whole working class population. They were able to organize mass organisations regrouping hundreds of thousands of unemployed, ruined petty bourgeois, former soldiers and a fraction of the army. And when they were at the head of the state, the fascists destroyed not only all forms of workers organisations but also bourgeois democracy and bourgeois parties.

Whatever the « revolutionary » Left pretends, Sarkozy and his party, the UMP, have nothing to do with fascism and a totalitarian ideology, in any sense. Unless one wants to call any bourgeois state « totalitarian », whatever its specific political regime… And in this case totalitarian is just a chic word, which could be replaced by any trivial word : oppressive, reactionary, dictatorial, etc.

Usually when « Leftists » talk of fascism or of totalitarianism, either they dont know what they are talking about (in other words they really believe a bloody dictatorship is going to be installed very soon), or they are trying to manipulate the masses hate of fascism. This was the case when the French CP opposed De Gaulle’s coup in 1958, presenting him as a fascist. But what was possible (or at least worth trying for the Stalinists) in the early 60s (even if it was politically wrong and stupid) has little meaning today, when most activists were born after the Second World War and have no concrete idea of what fascism of even the Pétain military dictatorship meant. Modern antifascism has nothing to do with the Armed Resistance antifascism. Yesterday it could be mixed with a vague and confused hope of a social revolution. Today, antifascism sees bourgeois democracy as is the ultimate step. So « fascism » in the head of modern antifascists is just a lazy and easy way to discredit conservatives or rightwingers.

Will there be new forms of repression ? What kind of contradictions can it provoke ?

Sarkozy and the UMP party have spent a lot of energy during the last years to implement four new repressive laws. But the repressive package would not be complete without the first law which was voted under the Jospin, Socialist government in 2001.

The daily security law (2001), the Law of Orientation and Programmation for Justice (2002), the Internal Security Law (2003), the Law of adaptation of justice to the evolutions of crime (2004) and the law to prevent delinquency (2007) mix very consciously different dimensions which have no relationship between themselves :

– the struggle against international islamist terrorism (which has struck France several times) : – – the prevention of delinquency, including at a very early age (3 years !!) through schools tests and all sorts of reports, with the compulsory cooperation of the teachers, doctors, social workers, etc. – – a more severe control of all French citizens : higher fines for those who don’t pay their bus or tube ticket ; easier procedures to search cars, private houses, tape phone calls, etc ; more connections between the different state data bases ; creation of genetic imprints files ; – – the struggle against prostitution – – the construction of new jails, – – the struggle against « illegal »migrants and against those who help them – – a reform of justice which basically means that those who are arrested by the cops have less rights, will more often be automatically put in jail and could be judged quicker so with less guarantees – – the struggle against minors delinquency through the creation of special jails and the progressive blurring between minors and adults crimes – – the struggle against the Rom people, through higher fines against « illegal » occupation of plots – – the struggle against beggars – – the struggle against drug consumers – – the struggle against pedophile and sex abusers – – the restoration of the authority of the teachers inside schools through more severe legal sanctions against insults or violence inside the class room – – the struggle against « uncivility » (the fact that young people don’t leave their place when there is pregnant woman or an old man standing up in the bus or in the tube ; that young people pee in the lift or in the hall of social housing estates ; that young people insult bus controllers or drivers, etc.) which takes as a main target the working class youth, and specially the French youth whose parents come from Africa and North Africa. This propaganda tries to convince French people that this specific part of the population is responsible for all the State’s flaws in working class districts concerning bad housing, bad schools, unemployment, bad health system, absence of cultural institutions, parks, etc. – This deliberate confusion between different levels of social problems, which have in reality no direct connection between eachother, has evidently a very clear aim : to play on the fears of all citizens in front of imaginary (and sometimes real) dangers or difficulties, in order to make them accept voluntarily an important diminution of their elementary democratic rights, as well as an increase of the arbitrary power of the police and justice. And also to push ordinary citizens to help all the state institutions to cooperate with the openly repressive branch of the State (cops and judges) but also with its « social » branch (social workers, doctors and teachers) in order to spot and denounce all those who don’t « behave correctly ».

IV What will be attitude of the trade unions and of the bosses ?

For the moment most trade unions have been very cooperative and docile with the government, even if some of them organised a symbolic protest against the new « anti-strike » law in the transports sector.

The main bosses union wants obviously the government to go forward and thinks Sarkozy is too « shy » and too prudent.


Is there a coherent governmental project, with solid social roots or is Sarkozy’s success weak because

- it has been fabricated with media manipulations

- it is the expression of a capitalist class which is loosing ground

- the ruling class has no real idea about how to manage growing social contradictions ?

I think there is a rather coherent project which is presently limited by the traditional role of the French State in the economy and the remnants of the weight and influence of what one use to call the « workers movement ». The medias have played their part but the French Rightwing, traditionnaly labelled as « the most stupid of the world », has recently made an effort to find new ways of dealing with social and economic problems. I don’t really see what ground the capitalist class is « loosing ». The only class which is « loosing ground » for approximately 30 years is the American and European working class which is getting atomized, precarized, downsized, deunionized, etc., without being able to find a proper and new collective answer. As regards the third question, it does not matter very much whether the ruling class knows or not in detail how to manage all growing social contradictions. It has enough intelligent and well-informed people at its service to find quick answers in case of crisis. The problem is more the cost of these possible answers for the capitalists on one side, for the workers on the other side, than the practical ability to find temporary or even middle-term solutions.

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