Thursday, March 6, 2008

Radicalism Pays

The union SUD-Rail, which took the most intransigent position on the reform of the special regime for railway workers of any union, improved its score in union elections at the SNCF, moving up 5.23 percent to 18.24.

Unemployment Down

Unemployment is down to its lowest level since 1983, according to the government. Christine Lagarde claims, moreover, that the number of CDIs is stable and that the increased employment is not all in subsidized low-end jobs. This is certainly good news, but it seems likely to be overshadowed by renewed concern about inflation, which has claimed the headlines in recent weeks. Indeed, Sarkozy anticipated Lagarde's announcement today with a throwaway remark yesterday. His reluctance to take full credit for lower unemployment may be calculated. The government seems to have decided that the current mood of the public is so morose that good news is greeted as propaganda. Rather than be accused of denial, the government's present public relations strategy seems to be to reinforce the the widespread opinion that things are indeed bad, so as to gain points for offering appropriate consolation in the present the better to claim credit for improvements down the road. "Something will turn up," as Mr. Micawber likes to say. And with any luck, something will. Lower unemployment is not quite it--not yet, anyway, and certainly not on the eve of the municipals, when the majority does not wish to appear out of touch and indifferent to the national malaise, however exaggerated it might be. Prosperity may be "just around the corner," but recovery from a decade of "declinism" will take longer, Sarkozy has concluded. Anyway, it was a winning formula for him, and as nothing else is working at the moment, he may as well revert to a time-tested recipe.

Headscratching Time

"Patrons français, soyez fiers de l'être." So said Jean Jaurès on May 28, 1890, and it's Michel Rocard who's reminding us of this today in an article headlined "Tous derrière Laurence Parisot." Meanwhile, Le Figaro--Le Figaro!!--tells us that le patronat is tearing itself apart, that debate is raging in the boardrooms, and that huge stakes in wealth and power are up for grabs. And all because the UIMM--the successor organization to the redoutable Comité des Forges, le mur d'argent, la haute banque Protestante, and all those monstrous emanations of the occult power of das Kapital that one used to read about in history books of a certain sort--made Denis Gautier-Sauvagnac a small but tidy gift of 1.5 million euros to keep himself warm when he is embastillé by the vengeful workers' regime of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Why, one might almost think that the good old days had returned, when right was right and left was left and l'ouverture was as unthinkable as a reversal of gravity. So this is what France gets for attempting yet again to modernize itself. And who is most gleeful about this turn of events? None other than Jean-Marie Le Pen, who appeared on France2 news last night in a jolly mood, hinting darkly that the UIMM had financed his old comrade, the Judas Bruno Mégret, as well as the GUD, the Groupe Union Défense, which even Le Pen appears to regard as an unfrequentable organization, even if one of its former leaders will soon be teaching law at the University of Poitiers and former members sit today on the benches of the majority in the National Assembly.

It's actually almost a pleasure to write this post. The old denunciatory reflexes return; no thought is necessary; and one can indulge in the satisfyingly cathartic expression of the slogan tous pourris! But really, in the end, it's awfully disappointing, since one would like to believe, along with Michel Rocard, that an ethical patronat is not only necessary in France but also possible. Surely even the UIMM can recognize that, although the initial performance of its new head, M. Saint-Geours, has not been encouraging, even allowing for the impossible situation he inherited.