I have been thinking a lot about the present situation in France. Simply put, the Socialist government of François Hollande and Manual Valls has forced through a bill for a new law governing employment and labour. The employers would have more leeway to be able to adapt their workforce to their companys’ order books and economic conditions, in theory making it easier and less risky to take on new employees. The bill is rejected by the workers’ unions as regressive in terms of the rights of workers.
The extreme-left, almost discredited in modern Europe, is still active in two of their trade unions, the CGT (Confédération générale du travail) et the FO (Force Ouvrière). Recently, lorry drivers were told they could keep their overtime bonus, but that the bill would go through and become law in July 2016. The two trade unions are still blocking oil refineries, and it becomes increasingly difficult to re-fuel our vehicles and many fuel stations are dry. They now threaten the entire transport system and are hoping to call the already highly-privileged nuclear power station workers out on strike. They intend to hold the entire country to ransom unless the Socialist government withdraws and scrubs the bill.
Normally, when there is a general strike that impoverishes other sectors of work and the rights of ordinary people, the right to strike can be offset against the rights of others to live their lives normally. The police and military would be called in to break up the blockages, respecting the right to strike but not to hold us all to ransom. This time, the Socialists have nearly no credibility with the electorate, and forcing through an unpopular labour bill was an act of stupidity at one year from the next Presidential Election – or a Machiavellian piece of manipulation. Hollande sends in the goons to break up the extreme left unions and their blockages and the Socialists come out as heroes! We are between Scylla and Charybdis: sleazy Sarkozy, more of the same or Mme Le Pen and her Front National. Despite being “right wing”, their policies are also socialist! If they do nothing, we are left with only the possibility of a popular reaction against both the champagne socialists and the Commies – and then we need to see where the sympathies of the Army and police lie…
Le Figaro (centre right and conservative) has come up with a very interesting article giving some attempt at analysis. How is the government going to deal with this crisis of what seems to be becoming a general strike? The Commies are directly challenging the State, no less. They are counting on the State being too cowardly to do anything like sending in the police (which they have already done to free some of the fuel depots to allow tankers to collect fuel and deliver it to the petrol stations). There are only two things to do: abandon the labour reform bill or declare war against the Commies. But will they?
These unions have been around for quite a long time, and their ideology is the old Marxist theory of bringing the worker’s paradise out of the destruction of capitalism. The champagne socialists, like the Gaullist conservatives, seem to have a more “realistic” view of capitalism and the means of production.
The labour reform bill is unpopular, as is the Socialist government pushing it through. The Commies are unpopular as are their violent methods of protesting and stopping other people from working and living normally. The Commies have also committed acts of violence against the police and have destroyed public and private property.
The situation is serious and unpredictable. The government has to reassure the public of the advantages of the new labour law, but the government has largely lost credibility. Valls is promising a firm response (police / military?) but is he credible? Most of us are cynical. Valls perhaps takes himself for a new Clemenceau, known in his day as the “strike breaker”. When does a strike have the character of an insurrection? That seems to be what is happening in France. The beginnings of a civil war? It all smells of a wimp-out. Then the champagne socialists will have the rest of the population to contend with. It is beginning to look like the 1970’s in England, the endless strikes and the death of the coal industry in England, the fall of Ted Heath and the no-confidence vote that ousted Jim Callaghan in favour of Margaret Thatcher. Might history repeat itself in the land of the Froggies?
Surrounding events? The tourist season is nearly here. The European Cup is to be held in Paris in June 2016, and a pile of money has been invested in that for the whole thing to fail because there is no petrol for the cars and no trains, buses, metros or planes! Surely the socialists are interested in solving the crisis before the orgy of bread and circuses! France is going to be noticed by everyone else. The British will vote on Brexit in June, and the French crisis might get associated with the evils of the EU. Already, the arguments of getting out become increasingly convincing! A lot of people over here are going to go out of business because basic services have failed.
The government may send in the goons, and get their popularity score up if they play it the right way, breaking the blockages, putting the ringleaders in prison for breaking the law and the antiquated Marxist organisations closed down once and for all after a discrediting campaign. Hollande and Valls are between a rock and a hard place, the right-wing opposition and the dwindling hard-core communist ideologues.
The Presidential Election of 2017 may well be interesting to observe. The extreme right in Austria has lost narrowly and Donald Trump is unlikely to win in the US. Hollande and Valls would have to go for the left to get anywhere in France. Le Pen’s party seems discredited and no conservative figure seems to stand out. Further speculation seems futile.
The immediate future in France is uncertain, but it can’t continue. For once, the fault is not that of the EU – unless the bureaucrats in Brussels were responsible for drafting the new law and are forcing the French to push it through come fire, dungeon and sword.
The next weeks, it will all go “boom” or will fizzle out as both ideology and state authority rot away. France would indeed become an Etat Poubelle (a dustbin state).
‘Hollande and Valls are between a rock and a hard place’ Yes they are indeed and this is in line with the present situation confronting the centre-left and the centre-right throughout Europe.
The general public are sick and tired of them and their inability to adapt to new circumstances in the matters of uncontrolled mass immigration and economic problems.
Hence the growth of the National Front in France. Hence the rise in right wing populist parties elsewhere.
It seems to me that if Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Conservatives fail to grasp the present realities facing France and other European countries then the space between the rock and the hard place will narrow even further with populism ,mostly on the right, continuing to grow. In France I would think it possible that if the Republicans could ditch Sarkozy and offer policies restricting immigration together with sensible proposals to reform the economy then they would be in with a chance to govern.
Surely meaningful reform of the EU is another pressing necessity.The French centrist parties including the Gaullists seem to think that the status quo is acceptable. Clearly the french electorate think otherwise. Another political momentum gaining ground in the rest of the EU.
One way or another it does seem to me that France is facing much division and difficulty in politics and governance. I agree with your analysis that the present outbreak of political violence needs to be brought under control.
I think the current situation may be seen as similar to that of Europe in 1848, only worldwide. The hallmark of 21st Century “discourse” seems to be one of deepening polarization, of growing anger, and of a desire not so much for improvement as for rebellion. Though the issues vary as do the potential outcomes, America, Europe, the Middle East (Yes, I see both ISIS and the ‘Arab Spring’ in this light), and other places all show this tendency, and it is a dangerous one. If we cannot learn to confer with one another, and work with one another, somehow finding a balance point, there is little hope for the kind of society we’ve claimed to be seeking.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself but I am sick to death of career politicians who systematically betray the electorate, and uphold their godless, utopian, liberal ideology, which I and many others heartily detest, and lay waste the country of my birth in the process. And you’d like to think that being so disillusioned with politics one might turn for solace and comfort to religion, and what do you find? You find the same liberal ideologues, the same philistines, the same toadies and yes-men that are scared stiff of proclaiming the Gospel (and are probably, secretly, ashamed of it – and what did Our Lord say about that?) in charge, and the churches full of soppy idiots and trendies, with services so banal and artificial that it’s simply not worth going. I tell you, I could quite happily shoot large swathes of these people.
I recall arriving in Dieppe, France, at the end of June 1968: just as the ‘Peoples’ Occupation of Nantes’ was at an end: perhaps what many never realized that M. Cohn-Bendit (then as described by the French Communist Party leader Georges Marchais as the “German anarchist Cohn-Bendit” now a member of the European parliament) and his friends had managed what was almost a revolution: I note that the Figaro makes similar allusions to the potential this series of strikes might have to the 1968 situation.
The remarkable thing is that the ‘Khouri’ law as proposed is an acknowledgment that France has to accept the fiscal regulations of the Euro zone, or risk penalties and the further degradation of their economic viability, and indeed, the proposals have been weakened as the government has reacted to the threats and challenges of the CGT & FO, giving these organizations the encouragement they sought for the law to be scrapped: but it will simply be deferred until the next government has to accept and impose necessary change.
I think you are wrong about Mr. Trump. White Christians in the US are tired of being ruled by a Muslim Mulatto bent on destroying what our English Founding Fathers created, he may very well win.
To answer the question, I agree that Mr Trump might win the election this coming autumn. I am not American so I won’t be voting. However, the FN failed to get anywhere in the last regional elections in France. The Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs of Norbert Hofer failed to win in Austria. It all seems to be a case of “So near but no cigar”! There are also some highly legitimate concerns about some of these demagogues getting into power, that is unless the present establishment run by the oligarchs is willing to pay them into power like someone did with Hitler in 1933.
A less savoury thing to say about “Countess O”, who continues to be moderated on this blog. The e-mail address given is bogus and any attempt to use it results in a bounced e-mail. Entering the address into Google reveals the fact that it is used by a number of trolls, scammers and spammers. Trying to trace the IP address reveals no fixed place. The person is using some kind of technology to hide his or her identity. All I can glean from records I have going back a few years is that the person styling him/her-self as “Countess Oliva” began to be nasty with me because I mentioned an Eastern Orthodox prelate in a posting, and the “Countess” accused the prelate in question for questions of morals. The person certainly resides in the United States and is one of those nasty converts to Eastern Orthodoxy. Perhaps the “Countess” is now a satanist or an atheist. Who knows? Trolls are always sad individuals who try to cause damage whilst remaining anonymous. Some people have tried “profiling” trolls, but the answers are never quite convincing universally.
I will try a conciliatory approach, all in maintaining the moderated status of the “Countess”. Perhaps the person might like to come out into the open and say what is bothering him or her, or what could be done in positive terms. On my side, I am not protecting any Eastern Orthodox prelates, canonical or not, and I am open to dialogue once the mask is off and I have the impression of talking with a human being. I doubt that this “coming out” will occur, so I continue to take precautions. I have a strange intuition that I might have met the person during a visit to the US, but I am probably mistaken. I bear no grudge, but the “Countess” obviously does for some reason. Grudges are very harmful for the soul, and so is abuse via the internet or any other means of communication.
Perhaps the “Countess” would like to participate in discussions as a decent human being, or he or she wants to be some kind of invisible demon caught in some kind of crack between one world or another, wailing and gnashing teeth in his or her own darkness. I offer an outstretched hand as a priest and a human being concerned for others and their spiritual good.