France: Three Months After the New Government Took Office

“No to Permanent Austerity. Reject the Budgetary Pact – Open Up the Debate in Europe!” Large Demonstration on September

Three months after inauguration the new government and its policies are in the centre of big social and political conflicts.
Instead of the announcement by the presidential candidate to change the course of the EU, the unconditional ratification of the European Fiscal Compact* has been put on the agenda. And instead of the promise no longer to tolerate inacceptable layoff-plans these plans are implemented in ever more core areas of the French economy. The first positive measures for more social justice are increasingly losing their efficiency due to tighter austerity policies. The president, the government as well as the Socialist Party do not show any intention to stand up to the neoliberal maxims of the ruling elites. No more talk about “le changement – c’est maintenant” (“The change – it is now!”). In cooperation with the European neoliberal elites, employers’ associations and the political Right exploit this situation, in order to expand their offensive and also to bring down the government.

More concretely, the autumn after the ratification is characterised by an intensified pressure on the budget as well as a so-called “competitiveness-shock” (with wages and social security benefits dropping so that the margins of entrepreneurs and stockholders will rise) and a “historical compromise” in negotiations between employers and employees in order to achieve a maximum of flexibility in labour relations. And all this in spite of the economy heading for recession.

In French society the vehemence of the concrete consequences of the crisis is being felt ever more keenly. A growing number of economists are speaking out their criticism in public and even Christine Lagarde and the IMF cannot cover up the failure of their strategy any longer.

Three months after the government took office people are aware of the necessity of resolutely fighting social and political struggles. Already on 30 September a broad coalition (consisting of 60 organisations of the political Left, of trade unions and movements) could mobilise 80,000 participants for a demonstration in Paris demanding the non-ratification of the Fiscal Compact. Another demonstration organised by the CGT (Confédération générale du travail) at the beginning of October reveals mobilisation potential against the layoff-plans.

The ratification could not be prevented, but a big step was made towards the de-legitimisation of the EU-treaty which is to shape the future budgetary policy of the EU, thus a first stone being set in future conflicts over the budget. Beyond that, the urgency of a reorientation of the EU was again put on the table. In both the parliament and the senate, the fronts have hardened: in both houses altogether 90 parliamentarians of the left hemisphere have refused their consent to the Fiscal Compact (77 have opposed, others have abstained from voting or not taken part). Besides the Front de Gauche which had been positioned in opposition to the Fiscal Compact right from the beginning, also Europe Ecologie – Les Verts (Greens) positioned themselves against the Compact in spite of them being members of the government. And also some representatives belonging to the Socialist Party vetoed the party line.

In confronting European austerity policies the national unity of action is to be deepened and expanded and the local collectives (a tradition since the EU-referendum in 2005) mobilised to contribute to a joint struggle for an ever more urgent reorientation of the EU. The presence of a politically widely supported delegation in Florence as well as the readiness to actively support a joint strike in several European countries are the next plans of the coalition.

* Fiscal Compact /Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG)