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).