The Problem With France

Forum Des Halles. Paris, January 2011.

Forum Des Halles. Paris, January 2011.

Blame it on Bild. Throughout the crisis, the tabloid outdid itself in appealing to Germany’s most predictable prejudices. Lacking a work ethic, prone to corruption, living off of government handouts, profligate Greeks were the perfect foil for thrifty BMW workers from Bavaria. If Berlin was going to have to pay, what was a little reactionary grumbling amongst friends? After all, this was a huge amount of money. And a lot of foreign citations, for a newspaper that is infrequently, if ever, translated.

The problem is that such takes codified a geographical way of framing the economic crisis, which plagued the whole of the EU. As the rise of the extreme right, in France, as well as in the United Kingdom has shown, it’s never been so much a north-south issue as it is a European one. It’s just a question of seeing the same significance in its effects: the growing popularity of neo-fascist and racist, anti-immigrant parties. They may be from wealthier countries, but they are symptoms of the same political upheaval afflicting Greece.

The UK may well split up, but few would deny that the situation in France is growing worse by the day. A consequence of corrupt, economic policies followed by ex-Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, and decades worth of pro-business policies by the Socialists, France has nowhere to turn, except the National Front, and its fantasy of restoring Vichy. The following Front de Gauche (Left Front) flyer is an obvious attempt to buck the trend, leaving French homeless (see the lead photo, from Paris,) and wrongly radicalized.


Left Front pamphlet. Paris, April 2012.
Left Front pamphlet. Paris, April 2014.


Enough is enough!

Lets march against austerity and for equality, and wealth distribution

We cannot bear to see the right and extreme right advance in their drones with hatred towards others, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia and fundamentalism.

In France, as in Europe, budget cuts and austerity imposed by the European Commission, François Hollande and the government in order to satisfy the financial markets feed into this dangerous situation. Here are the consequences: dismantled public services, sacrificed social gains… unemployment is on the rise, social insecurity is spreading, the youth is struggling, wages and pensions are decreasing. Inequality is on the rise, while large firms pay ridiculous dividends to shareholders. These policies cause indignation, anger and despair everywhere. They are revolting.

They go hand in hand with the general decline of rights: education, employment, an adequate income, health, and decent housing. Employment and wage inequalities affect mostly women and immigrants. There is a crackdown on illegal immigrants, Roma, the most vulnerable, and those who defend them. While left-wing political policies should be put in place to tackle the crisis, we are shocked to see the government bow down to the demands of the Movement of French Enterprises (MEDEF) and the political right in social areas, the environment, the family, and the right to vote for immigrants.

With the enthusiastic approval of the MEDEF, the French president now wants to concentrate on the “pact of responsibility”. This will save employers 35 billion in social contributions. Who believes this will tackle unemployment? Faced with a MEDEF that refuses to commit to job creation, the Ayrault government vouched to reduce public spending by 50 billion. Social security and public services will be hit. Local authorities will suffer, associations will be suffocated and culture will be sacrificed. This is not what we want, we who chased out Sarkozy.

People of the legal world, actors and actresses from the world of culture and the arts, the world of sport, union leaders, associations and political parties: we differ in our commitments. But together, we want to build momentum for an ecological, feminist, social and democratic alternative based on the principle of solidarity. We are calling for a national march on Saturday, April 12th in Paris, to promote the left, fight the far right and forsake the “pact of responsibility” in favour of a fair distribution of wealth. This march is only the beginning.



Translated from the French by Kit Rickard. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit and Front de Gauche.

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