Thursday, April 9, 2009

Groux on Strikes

Guy Groux considers the reasons for the particularities of the French strike.

A Rarity

The law "Création and Internet" (HADOPI) has failed to pass the National Assembly. Legislative recalcitrance is rare enough in France (so different in this respect from the US!) that it's worth noting when it occurs. Yet another failure for Jean-François Copé, who is no Sarkozy when it comes to keeping his troops in line.

And then the EU may take care of it altogether:

Pendant les vacances parlementaires en France, les députés européens doivent se prononcer le 22 avril sur le paquet télécom, un ensemble de directives qui régiront les télécommunications dans l'Union européenne. Un amendement défendu par la socialiste Catherine Trautmann, ancienne ministre de la Culture, pourrait rendre la loi antipiratage française contraire au droit européen, s'il est adopté. Son vote ne fait guère de doute, puisque les eurodéputés se sont déjà prononcés par deux fois en faveur d'un amendement similaire, à la quasi-unanimité.

Temptation

L'Action directe: those of a certain age will remember the extremist group of the 1980s. It seems that there is a permanent temptation to resort to "direct action," though the sense in which the recourse to illegality and violence is more "direct" than other forms of political action is hardly perspicuous and needs to be unpacked. In recent times, surely, direct action has rarely yielded the desired result, so its "directness" should not be confused with efficacy. Direct action does generally substitute deeds (of a certain kind) for words, and that is no doubt one of its attractions to practitioners. It also involves an element of risk, which is perhaps taken as a sign of authentic commitment and readiness to sacrifice rather than serve oneself (as politicians who favor "indirect" action are invariably suspected of doing).

Back when he was a candidate, Sarkozy professed to "understand" the recourse to "direct action" by certain groups, such as fishermen, whom he described as "threatened with economic death." The defense was thus one of legitimate self-defense: who cannot countenance violence in such circumstances? Sarkozy implicitly asked. Now that he is president, he prefers to emphasize the existence of a "society of laws" and to call for the "most extreme severity" in dealing with demonstrators who break those laws. Olivier Besancenot has taken the opposite line: "Il est légitime et cohérent que cela dérape," he said, speaking of the destruction that took place in Strasbourg. Never mind that many of the demonstrators did not endorse the violence, or that much of the damage was confined to one of the poorer quarters of the city. And Besancenot's sentiments have been echoed, in less forthright terms, on both the left (Royal) and right (Villepin)--for an analysis, see Koztoujours.

The "legitimate self-defense" justification is one that I am prepared to countenance, but only in the most extreme circumstances. Neither a NATO summit nor layoffs at Caterpillar qualify. "Que cela dérape" is perhaps more "normal" in France than it ought to be, but "legitimate?" I don't think so, and the political class ought to remember the Chinese proverb: "He who mounts the tiger will end up inside." (I am aware of the proverbial riposte to this ancient wisdom: "The monkey rules the mountain when there is no tiger." Alas, after the tigers have eaten all the monkeys and each other, it is the hyenas who rule the mountain.)

Crudeness and hypocrisy in high places

Bernard G. says all that needs to be said. Watch the video as well.