Monday, April 30, 2012

Pandering to Labor

Last time around it was "la France qui se lève tôt," and the panderer was Nicolas Sarkozy. This time it's François Hollande, who is assuring workers of his "attachment to the values and principles of May 1," by which he means, presumably, not the Haymarket Massacre whose anniversary will actually be celebrated tomorrow but the principle that labor needs to be organized and fairly represented in order to achieve an equitable balance of power with capital. Unfortunately, rather than elaborate on precisely what his attachment to the values of labor might entail in the way of policy, he contents himself with a remarkably bland restatement of what he has already said about the inadequacy of a pure austerity policy as a means of resolving the problems of the euro:
François Hollande affirme vouloir "créer très tôt les conditions d'un retour à la confiance, notamment en renégociant le Mécanisme européen de stabilité pour y introduire un volet de croissance et d'emploi. Rien ne serait pire que de nous lier à une logique d'austérité",
For a man who is within a week of--possibly, even very likely--becoming the next president of France, such a mantra, intended to be soothing, has the opposite effect, at least on me. Because after May 6, it will no longer be enough to intone this reassuring formula. He will actually have to do something, and to be responsible for the success or failure of his proposals. I would like to believe that Hollande's studied vagueness is merely a campaign tactic, but I find myself worrying that he has actually given very little thought to what comes next.

That said, I'm not naive enough to think that any national leader is actually master of the current economic agenda. All of them, Merkel included, are playthings of the gods, and events will surely upset the best-laid plans. So I'm not really looking for a program; I'm looking instead for some sign of intellectual life, for a flicker of intelligent thought about the various contingencies and possible responses to whatever comes to pass. Sarkozy has long accustomed us to governing by the seat of one's pants: what he says today has no bearing on what he may do tomorrow. His inconstancy is characterological. Hollande's is different, or, rather, it's undetectable, because he never pins himself down firmly enough to know when he's changed his mind. Keeping options open is a fine idea until it isn't. Hollande has made a career of indecisiveness, but a week from today, unless the polls are seriously wrong, he becomes "the Decider," to borrow a phrase from George W. Bush (une fois n'est pas coutume). Hollande's slogan is le changement, but somehow I keep coming back to that old saw, "Plus ça change ..."


Anonymous said...

Quite so. Totally out of love with Sarkozy the French may be but the awfulness of the creme caramel pudding they are invited to vote for to replace him is no choice at all. Hell of a time for a lacklustre performer to be running the French half of the government of Europe.

FrédéricLN said...

" I would like to believe that Hollande's studied vagueness is merely a campaign tactic" I absolutely believe that.

"but I find myself worrying that he has actually given very little thought to what comes next." So do I, too.

I fear Hollande might be one of these "élégants énarques désabusés" which I met by numbers among high level public servants. He would be happy enough to give France a competent, smart President (himself), nevertheless not hoping that something serious can be done to get out the crisis.

BTW, there ARE serious analyses of the crisis leading to quite straightforward solutions (Stiglitz, and so on).

Even if not all of them agree, the basis is common: build upon reality, natural resources, human abilities, "l'économie réelle", including its non-material part — reputation, brands, inner peace and democracy. And drop falsification, artificial paradises, corruption systems — which are not new at all in History, for sure; but global information systems opened predators the way of maximal power, and this way should be cut first. As simple as this, and people will invest in "économie réelle", in Main Street, and the world is so full of resources that it can only work.

As simple as this — but you need the people to which supreme and legislative power are entrusted, exert authority on global firms and financial private institutions, and do not depend on them.

You need personal independence, independence of their party from those private interests, and budget balance, in order to be able to tell money owners the F word if needed. Plus the ambition to really take the country out of the crisis — not just hope that it comes out spontaneously.

Will we have that with Hollande? I seriously doubt it.

What is clear: we had none of the four with Sarkozy.

I think we would have had four of the four with Bayrou. But we haven't Bayrou. So…

bernard said...

How about this. The euro crisis will become paroxistic in July-August. The alternative will be the end of the euro or a complete change of tack and a serious growth support pact. Germany's Merkel faces difficult elections in October. Does she want to go there with a blown-up euro? My view: we actually hold Germany by the short hairs. A French specialty: la dissuasion du faible au fort. Think about it.