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by Pierre Laurent

The convergence of all counter-attacks

Translated Sunday 14 September 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

The place of La Fête de l’Humanité in developing an alternative to government policy.

Sarkozy-Fillon government policy is not the invincible, unstoppable steam- roller that they boast about every morning. This time round, the government has very seriously stumbled with the Edvige databank scandal.

The strength of the growing movement demanding the abandonment of this freedom-killing databank, and the backtracking maneuvers which the government has begun, while attempting to preserve its key elements, are a good example [of the government’s vulnerability].

Faced with rising protests, Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has indeed attempted to package her misdeeds in friendly words: “Smile, we’ve got you on file,” she ceaselessly repeats, “this is the price you must pay for security.” But the decree’s real nature and its dangers have come to light little by little, and this has only increased people’s worries. While the details provided yesterday by government spokesman Luc Chatel following the Cabinet Meeting presided over by Nicolas Sarkozy have confirmed the government’s embarrassment, they nevertheless remain extremely alarming: President Sarkozy has confirmed the gathering of data on minors and has given “the riots in the [working-class] suburbs” as a justification, again demonstrating that the government’s talk of security masks a policy of suspecting and fencing off the “dangerous classes.” The Edvige databank also gathers information on association, trade union and political activists for the same reason. In point of fact, the government fears and is trying to defuse the mounting protest movement because the movement attacks the essence of the July 1 decree, and because the government believes that a defeat on this issue could lead to other defeats.

There is no lack of reasons to contest government policy. Yes, the government continues to advance, but with less and less [popular] backing, and only because it has not met with a sufficiently solid and determined opposition, able to put forward effective counter-proposals. The BVA institute’s opinion polls show that French confidence continues to decline, both as regards the economy and purchasing power. The government’s measures are seen as ineffective in solving these problems. For months, it has spoken soothingly about the financial crisis and economic growth, but the economic results contradict this fine talk. Every day, the government promises a decrease in the unemployment rate, but Airbus’s and Renault’s layoff announcements throw cold water on this fine talk. The government assures us that the social security budget will be balanced, but the report by the Cour des comptes [government accounting office in the U.S., national audit office in the U.K.] shows that the government’s measures are both unfair and ineffective.

Strategic fronts for opposition to government policy are appearing regarding the future of public education and the planned privatization of the postal service. But the Edvige database affair clearly shows what shakes the government’s arrogance – it’s when one or more of these questions becomes a concern for all and the subject of the largest possible mobilization of activists and citizens.

The Fête de l’Humanité [a festival sponsored by l’Humanité newspaper] will serve to promote this mobilization all week-end long. All of the counter-attacks and all of the mobilizations will come together at La Courneuve, the Seine-Saint-Denis fairground just north of Paris. The activists in these protest movements will mingle on the bleachers and in the paths, will exchange information, will communicate with one another, developing new contacts for the coming weeks.

The Fête de l’Humanité will also be the stage for a general discussion of another aspect of the problem facing the left – that of building an alternative to present government policy. The strength of this unique event, the Fête de l’Humanité, lies in the fact that this is where all the political and social forces in France can take part in a general public discussion. It’s an understatement to say that the left needs to get to work building an alternative. Counter-attacking and building an alternative – confronted as we are with the policies of Nicolas Sarkozy, for whom the absence of an alternative is all peaches and cream – these two aspects of the Fête de l’Humanité should have quite a powerful resonance this year.

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