French ‘socialists’ go the way of PASOK

dustbinFrance’s left is in a sorry state. It took a bashing in local elections in March and then European elections in May. The ruling socialists plunged to an all time low of less than 14%. The radical Front de Gauche, comprising the communists and other leftists like Jean Luc Melenchon, polled just 6.3%, down from the 11% for Jean Luc Melenchon in the Presidential elections in 2012, and no higher than its national elections results the same year. And meanwhile the nasty Marine le Pen and her far right Front National stole the no.1 spot vote with an historic 25% score.

Now the Front de Gauche and a growing group of dissident socialists want to turn the tide back in favour of left policies and are starting to talk seriously about binding together. Joining this left ‘coalition of the willing’ are the greens, former socialist coalition partners who quite the government after the recent reshuffle that saw the right-wing and eco-unfriendly Manuel Valls become PM. Continue reading

French PM ploughs on with austerity but at what price?

Manuel VallsTranslated by Tom Gill  from the French original by Guillaume Duval

Despite the political thunder of the European elections of 25 May, France’s President and Prime Minister Manuel Valls chose the moment to stay the course of their “stability program” presented a month earlier to the National Assembly and approved by it after a fraught debate. This document, submitted to the European authorities, describes the economic policies to be implemented by the French government over the next three years, that is to say until the end of François Hollande five year term. In return for a significant €41 billion reduction in business taxes, decided under the so-called ‘responsibility pact’, the government aims to cut €50 billion from public spending by 2017 to maintain France’s commitments in terms of deficit reduction. This is a social, political and economic gamble with very uncertain outcomes. Continue reading

The abdication of the king ends Spain’s imperfect transition

Handout  released by the Spanish Royal House shows Spain's King Juan Carlos posing for his new official portraitsTranslated from the original by Vicenç Navarro

The message that the Spanish establishment – the power structure for the financial, economic, political and media elite – has been promoting 24  hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year and through thirty- six years of democracy, is that, as result of a model Transition, Spain has enjoyed a democracy homologous to any Western European democracy, that under the direction and supervision of the King of Spain the country achieved levels of welfare and quality of life similar, if not better, than the rest of the European Union. The King, whose power derives from the Dictator, was the architect of representative and democratic institutions that actually meant a break with the previous regime. This is the idealized vision of the Transition, which produced democracy, and the role of the monarch in that process that the Big Media and mass means of persuasion have constantly repeated over the years. The complete lack of ideological diversity of the media ( with a very marked discrimination against the left ) explains that this view has become conventional wisdom in the country. Continue reading

The battle for France’s national industry jewel

10591728_sFrance has been in a state of shock since it was revealed last week the company that built the high speed TGV train and steam turbines for EDF’s nuclear reactors was about to be taken over by the yankees. Things scarcely improved when a desperate Paris sought to bring in the Germans for an alternative bid over the weekend.

That the fate of Alstom – one of France’s largest private sector employers and seen as central to the country maintaining its position among the world’s major manufacturing powers – is in the hands of two foreign engineering giants, General Electric and Siemens, is seen as another blow to French pride. It comes amid a string of high profile company closures and record 10% unemployment, a picture that has allowed the Economist magazine to brand the country as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Continue reading

Why the Left shoud rejoice that the champagne is flowing again

champagne proletarienChampagne has been flowing again in copious quantities in London and New York as bankers enjoy a return to the good old days of runaway millionaire bonuses on the back of one-way bets. But that flow of lovely bubbly has been under threat by a strike by employees of Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon, Krug, Ruinart and Mercier over a share of profits.

These past three weeks have seen stoppages at factories in Reims and Epernay that have cut production by 40%, according to the CGT union. The strike involved downing tools for one hour per day, spread over stoppages in blocks of twenty minutes. Continue reading