Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brown Is the New Green

The Front National is going green as well as gay. It launched its "New Ecology" movement this week. Of course its idea of ecology introduces a few interesting "nationalist" twists: it favors nuclear power "in defense of the French worker" and opposes international climate talks because they are, well, international. It also considers halal and kosher butchers guilty of cruelty to animals. 

Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was a climate sceptic who once cut open a watermelon to illustrate how environmentalists were supposedly red communists underneath. But the issue of whether human activity caused global warming was “a very technical question,” d’Ornano said.
“We have to find a balanced position and we don’t have to be politically correct or ideologically biased about it. There are pros and cons to the scientific evidence. We have to find out what really comes from human activity, or doesn’t.”
The FN's spokesperson on climate change also denounced the international climate talks as a "communist project."

Yannick Jadot, a French Green MEP, said that the new FN grouping was a sham.
“They never talk about biodiversity because that means respecting diversity,” he told the Guardian. “They oppose animal cruelty, but they also defend hunters and big agricultural industries. They pretend to defend fish but vote in favour of deep sea fisheries. Again today [Wednesday] they voted in favour of allowing Canadian tar sands in EU fuel.” 
The FN's program finds echoes in the "ecology agenda" of other extreme right parties:

New Ecology’s launch closely follows a spectacular, if unsuccessful, campaign by ‘eco-nationalists’ in Switzerland to cap immigration levels at 0.2% of the resident population.
In Hungary, the neo-Nazi Jobbik party has campaigned against invasive flora from abroad which they say is destroying Hungarian plants and animals as it spreads unchecked.
The far-right Danish People’s Party is virulently opposed to immigration, multi-culturalism and multi-ethnicity. But it also pledges “to ensure that the way in which the earth’s resources are used bears the stamp of consideration, care and a sense of responsibility for the natural world and all its living creatures.” 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Extreme Right and "Entrisme"

"Entrisme," or "entryism" in English, is a political strategy in which an organization encourages its members to join another organization in order to influence its actions and gain power. In the French context, the term usually calls to mind Trotskyists or Lambertists making their way among the Socialists (older heads will remember the flap around Lambertist entrisme when Lionel Jospin, an alleged entriste, was prime minister). But suddenly entrisme is in vogue on the extreme right. Not only do we see the head of a prominent gay organization joining the FN (see previous post). We also learn that the extreme nationalist group SIEL has placed one of its members, Fatima Allaoui, in a high position in the UMP (the story was broken by Libération). And the FN itself has been attempting entrisme with the union Force Ouvrière. Actually, there's nothing new about FN entrisme, but with the party's fortunes on the rise, there's more reason to take notice.

FN, LGBT, même combat?

The "pinkwashing" (h/t Karim Batar) of the FN was the talk of the town last week, but I wonder if this article is for real or just lazy journalism. Didier Lestrade takes the outing of Florian Philippot, Marine Le Pen's strategist, and the rallying of GayLib founder Sébastien Chenu as evidence that gays in general are turning to the FN out of frustration and disappointment with both the PS and the UMP, the latter because it supported the anti-gay Manif pour Tous and the former because its response was muted. Is there any substance to this? I find it hard if not impossible to credit.

Immigration in France

Le Monde publishes the hard facts about immigration in France in advance of François Hollande's speech on the subject today. The numbers are interesting even to one aware that the hysteria that often surrounds the subject has no basis in reality. For example, in 30 years, the percentage of immigrants in the population has risen from 7.2 to just 8.4. Hardly a "flood" or a "deliberate and strategic replacement of the native population." And France is not more affected by immigration than other, comparable countries: Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK all receive more immigrants annually.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Decline of Saint Lundi and the Rise of Saint Dimanche

A new poll suggests that a majority (59%) of the French favor allowing more shop openings on Sundays. Sunday work is to be "voluntary" under the new law and compensated by an amount to be negotiated branch by branch.

It's interesting to compare the apparent new tolerance for Sunday work with the decline of another old French institution, "Saint Lundi," the widespread practice among workers of taking Mondays off to compensate themselves for Sunday work:
Avant 1830, le chômage du lundi est en général étroitement lié à celui du dimanche, formant ainsi une unité temporelle. Or le repos dominical entre, après les Trois Glorieuses, dans une sphère de grandes turbulences. Notamment à Paris, mais aussi dans les centres industriels du Nord et de l’Est de la France, où artisans, compagnons et ouvriers travaillent de plus en plus dans la matinée du dimanche, pour consacrer le reste de la journée à leur famille 24 et pour fêter, le lendemain, le lundi. Le travail du dimanche se développe donc, et avec lui le chômage du lundi : « La plupart des ouvriers qui travaillent le dimanche, se reposent ensuite le lundi… » écrit Théodore-Henri Barrau en 1850 25. En 1872, 63 cas de chômage du lundi, sur les 98 relevés par l’Enquête sur la situation des classes ouvrières 26, sont liés au travail du dimanche. La combinaison repos du dimanche et repos du lundi ne se retrouve plus que dans les régions catholiques respectueuses du repos du dimanche.
The Macron Law is, as many observers have commented, a small-bore affair that is unlikely to do much to improve the French economy. Its "divide-and-conquer" design may serve as a blueprint for further legislation, however: the law goes after the ever unpopular professions réglementées (huissiers, notaires, etc.); it opens up the market for intercity bus travel, offering a lower-cost alternative to expensive trains; it promises consumers more time to shop on a day of leisure; it offers shop workers the prospect of better remuneration for a part of the work week; and there may be new jobs for the currently unemployed to staff the stores during Sunday openings. The aggrieved groups do not share common interests. Small shop owners who may now feel compelled to open on Sunday to compete with big-box stores have nothing in common with huissiers threatened with lower fees, etc.

Opponents of the law worry that Sunday work won't be truly "voluntary" for some workers and point to existing abuses in big-box stores. It's a legitimate concern, but remedies exist. Some critics also believe that the law will disrupt un repos dominical that has assumed in their minds the eternal tranquility of a landscape by Poussin, with maidens clad in white dipping toes in an unrippled pond shaded by mighty oaks--a far cry from, say, the Place Danton when the movie theaters let out on a Sunday afternoon and crowds gather in the cafés for a preprandial apéritif. The diversity of modern life has people spending their Sundays in enough different ways that already, without the Loi Macron, 30 percent of the French are employed on the supposed day of rest to keep the restaurants, trains, buses, museums, airports, theaters, etc. running. The Republic will therefore survive the Loi Macron, though you might not know it to hear the cris d'orfraie that currently fill the airwaves, as though all of France still dressed in its Sunday best to troop off to mass before consuming la poule au pot at grandma's house.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gay Liberation Leader Joins Marine Le Pen


Sébastien Chenu, le fondateur de GayLib, "mouvement associé à l'UDI, regroupant les LGBT de droite et de centre droit", rejoint le Rassemblement Bleu Marine.

"Son ralliement est la preuve de l'ouverture du RBM et que de plus en plus d'anciens adhérents UMP nous rejoignent", explique Gilbert Collard, député RBM, au Tout s'est passé il y a cinq mois "autour d'une bonne table via Gilbert Collard" selon le site, qui précise que ce dernier devrait par ailleurs annoncer "dans les prochains mois plusieurs ralliements importants" au mouvement associé au FN.

An Interesting Juxtaposition

Sometimes, the hazards of the news juxtapose interesting articles. Thus we read in Le Nouvel Obs today of NKM's dismay at finding one of Patrick Buisson's disciples limiting her room for maneuver in the party and aiding her rival Laurent Wauquiez:

Après avoir bataillé ferme pour élargir son périmètre d'action face à Laurent Wauquiez, la nouvelle de la future nomination de Guillaume Peltier a fait bondir Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, la nouvelle vice-présidente du parti qui incarne plutôt la frange modérée du mouvement. Elle aurait même menacé de claquer la porte. L'animosité entre eux ne date pas d'hier : "Peltier, c'est le Buisson qui cache la forêt", avait dit l'ancienne ministre pendant la campagne des municipales.

And then we learn from Le Monde that Peltier is under investigation in the Bygmalion affair and will probably have to resign his UMP post:

L'ex-vice-président de l'UMP Guillaume Peltier et le cofondateur de la société Bygmalion, Guy Alvès, ont été placés en garde à vue, jeudi 11 décembre, à Nice, selon la police.
Score one for NKM, minus one for Laurent Wauquiez.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

"Let's not reduce existence to consumption," says Martine Aubry. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has declared "war" on Sunday work. It's rather odd to see the left of the left, les bouffeurs de curé d'autrefois, today defending la paix dominicale. But economy minister Emmanuel Macron wants to "free" retailers to throw open their doors on Sundays, so self-declared "enemies of neoliberalism" must fight him tooth and nail. Yet Macron claims that his famous law will not only put more clerks to work but also drain more euros from the wallets of free-spending Chinese tourists.

It's hardly the stuff of an epic battle of the working class against the capitalist oppressor, this. First time tragedy, second time farce, third time sitcom. But, as Marx also reminds us, if man makes his own history, he does not do so under conditions of his own choosing, and Sunday hours seems to be all the Left has to work with these days. From my perspective in the Land of the Shopping Mall and 24x7 online consumerism, the capacity of French commentators to work themselves into a lather over whether stores should be allowed to open 7 Sundays a year or 12 or 15 seems rather ... quaint, although I would certainly go to the barricades on behalf of a law that would malls from blaring Katy Perry songs through their PA systems at 120 decibels.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Une 6e République naissante?

Des paroles et des actes - Mélenchon, Duflot... by lepartidegauche


Emmanuel Macron has been minister of the economy for a relatively short time, but he's been ubiquitous in the media for almost all of it. He has a knack for attracting attention in every possible way--effet d'annonce, interview, controversial statements, even gaffes--that is reminiscent of the young Nicolas Sarkozy. And like Sarkozy, all his abundant energy and obvious ambition are spurring opposition--and most notably, opposition within his own party. His latest proposal--for a "growth and activity" law--may even fail to win a majority, which would force the government to invoke Article 49-3, making passage an issue of confidence.

What is striking about Macron's approach to governing through notoriety is his apparent eagerness to use small-bore measures to declare his ideological colors. Extending Sunday working hours and deregulating the notarial profession aren't measures likely to invert the unemployment curve or meet Brussels' demands for deficit reduction, but they do place Macron--and the government of which he is a part--on the ideological map, and that seems to be his main goal. In this he is no different from his predecessor, Montebourg, who also "talked his book" without accomplishing much. The difference was that Montebourg's book was at odds with that of his prime minister (first Ayrault and then, even more, Valls) and president (although the president largely avoided making his position clear, allowing him to straddle the gap, whereas Hollande seems prepared to embrace Macron's line openly).

The new macroneconomics is a lot like the old sarkoeconomics. It is long on symbolism and short on deep reforms. It signals a direction but doesn't actually move very far. This doesn't come as a surprise. Macron was after all the rapporteur of the Attali Commission, which Sarkozy purported to support, and now he is the spokesman for the Gallois report, which Hollande purports to favor.With such persistent policy orientations across changes of regime, one might expect to see some actual change occurring. But France is an old country, and venerable old things change slowly.