Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hollande's "Social Democracy"

François Hollande has published a manifesto calling for "social democracy," but he gives a rather fuzzy meaning to the term, at once drily technical and vaguely unspecified:

Je propose donc de nouvelles règles permettant des relations plus équilibrées et plus responsables.
Ainsi, la Constitution devrait garantir à l'avenir une véritable autonomie normative aux partenaires sociaux. Je suggère d'élargir l'article 8 du préambule de la Constitution de 1946 qui dispose que "tout travailleur participe par l'intermédiaire de ses délégués à la détermination collective de ses conditions de travail ainsi qu'à la gestion des entreprises".
Il s'agirait désormais de reconnaître un domaine à cette même négociation collective en précisant son périmètre comme son champ d'intervention et en conditionnant la conclusion d'accords au respect des règles majoritaires.
Concrètement, le gouvernement et le Parlement seraient juridiquement liés par le contenu de conventions signées entre partenaires sociaux sur des sujets bien précis et avec la vérification des mécanismes de représentativité.

This is intended, apparently, as a riposte to the alleged degradation of relations among the social partners under Sarkozy:

Avec Nicolas Sarkozy, le dialogue social a été à l'image de son quinquennat : confus, artificiel et brutal. A quoi bon convoquer des sommets sociaux à l'Elysée s'il s'agit, sous couvert de concertation, de faire avaliser des choix déjà pris comme sur le dossier des retraites ? A quoi bon inciter les partenaires sociaux à négocier sur le partage de la valeur ajoutée si c'est pour annoncer inopinément et contre l'avis de tous une prime qui ne concernera qu'une minorité de salariés ?
I'm really not at all sure what this boils down to. It sounds almost like a call for an American-style system of collective bargaining between employers and employees not only over wages and working conditions but also over components of the social wage such as retirement income. This would be a major change indeed, but it hardly amounts to "social democracy," since it removes the state from the determination of the social wage. Perhaps what he has in mind is something closer to the German mitbestimmung. But this would be a radical change for France.

Certes, les légitimités sont différentes, les démarches sont distinctes et les aspirations souvent contradictoires, mais j'affirme que démocratie politique et démocratie sociale concourent l'une comme l'autre au service de l'intérêt général.
L'Etat doit rester le garant de la cohésion nationale et de l'ordre public social mais il n'a rien à redouter de laisser une plus grande place aux partenaires dans la définition et l'élaboration des normes sociales. Dans un pays comme le nôtre qui, depuis la Révolution française, se méfie des corps intermédiaires, cette évolution ne va pas de soi, d'autant que souvent, c'est la loi qui protège et la liberté des acteurs qui menace, les rapports de force ne peuvent pas se substituer à la règle commune.

Hollande seems to be aiming to capture the "social democratic" space freed up by the abrupt elimination of Strauss-Kahn while covertly introducing a major change in the French social model that on its face seems likely to hold greater appeal to employers than to employees. I am puzzled.


Mr Punch said...

My reading is that the first quoted sentence says it all - he's calling for change without specifying the precise outcome. It's a matter of re-opening for negotiation matters that have been considered (by the left, anyway)settled forever. In the US, collective bargaining is designed as a one-way ratchet, but it's not as hard-and-fast as what is implied by "acquis." The German system, surprisingly, seems to be turning out to be more flexible. In any case, the underlying issue is that what has been seen as "progressive" in a static context may be in effect "conservative" (and unsustainable) in a dynamic one. This is a huge problem for France and the Socialists (among others).

MYOS said...

IMH0, he's referring to N Sarkzy's practice of calling for conferences ith the unoins after he's made up his mind, the conference's point being to make it sound like he's discussed and negtiated, hen in fact it's for them to accept his chosen outcome. That's hat happened ith the retraites reform. Hollande is also talking abut the idea of giving €1,000 to employees of companies that are profitable, an idea that has shrunk so much it's basically pointless - another technique used by NS, keep the "partneraires sociau" in the dark then announce a big thing to surprise them, then change things bit by bit.
(This happened also last Thursday: the loan forgiveness for cattle farmers turned into sth that applied only to a specific loan taken during a specific year under specific conditins...)

MYOS said...

(ps: sorry, my keyboard is dying and stubbornly refuses to type some letters from time to time.)
I'm struck by how unclear he is, though. he needs to improve very very quickly if he wants to be heard... W/0 Art's comments it would have made no sense to me and I am paying attention. The random French voters may not have the time nor the patience...

Arthur Goldhammer said...

He hardly needs a constitutional amendment to approach the unions with an open mind rather than a fait accompli. There must be something more, along the lines Mr. Punch suggests: questioning settled arrangements. But which ones? Why? What problems are to be resolved? He doesn't say. This is Socialist Newspeak, of which there is altogether too much. A hallmark of the Hollande years, so he is back to old tricks, one might say.

frédéricLN said...

It's supposed to go in the direction of the Northern-European social-democracy indeed (le modèle danois, le modèle suédois), and you are rightly puzzled. If the idea may have been relevant — and I think so — it would have been in the 60's, 70's and 80's, not in the globalization era.

But keep quiet, nobody should hear this call in France: many people from many parties already suggested the same, and the public secret is as follows: a law can to voted, the Constitution can be changed, it will never be enforced.

The State will always decide at the end.

There are already such laws, they always include some "emergency clause", and the Administration declares any of the President's last-night-dream-improvised-project as an emergency case. Keep quiet!