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by Jean-Paul Piérot

The Crisis Within

Translated Saturday 22 November 2008, by Alison Billington

Is the Reims congress going to leave that familiar bitter aftertaste for militant socialists as have several other meetings which stand out as landmarks in the history of this party over the last thirty years ? The spectre of Rennes now lingers over the metropolitan capital of the Champagne region, although one big difference does distinguish the two events.

In 1990, when Francois Mitterand was in command, the conflicts of personalities and the resulting rivalry among pretenders to the throne, (both of which were factors causing the congress to fail) did not take place in a context such as the present financial crisis and anti-social offensive, an offensive without precedent, in France, prior to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy.

It’s a terrible paradox; bewildering, at a time when the proletariat should be attentive to the discussions of an influential Leftist Party, in which they can find an elaboration of common values worth defending, to open new horizons; rather than trifling negociations between factions, day to day alliances, clandestine meetings in restaurants… the socialists’ conference appears to the public like a shadow play. A far cry, indeed, from the concerns of the millions of wage earners whose social rights are attacked, whose purchasing power is failing and whose jobs are threatened far more than ever before by the first signs of the recession.

How far is the Right going to go? A Right which uses the argument of an economic crisis to speed up the pace and extend the reach of its counter-reforms. Honestly, who would have thought that, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a minister of the Republic could defend a plan which pushes back the age-limit of retirement to seventy? How could we fail to be revolted by the cynicism of a Xavier Bertrand who cited, before the Senate, the cases of Dr. Montagnier [1] and Guy Roux [2] attempting to justify the so called "right" for wage earners to prolong their careers in order to compensate for their dwindling pension funds? Some time ago, Denis Kessler, a figure among the big bosses, demanded, in an editorial for an economic review, that the social advances won in 1945 be repealed! Shocking words but words that could be judged unrealistic. Nevertheless, there we are. Kessler dreamt of it, Sarkozy did it.

In the face of such a serious situation, Segolène Royal’s « desires » stand convicted of total inadequacy, accompanied as they are by all those conspiracies and rifts that have become almost daily routine at the rue de Solférino (Parisian headquarters of the Socialist Party), dissentions falling like manna for commentators already critical of the Left, and who delight in turning them to derision and scorn. Hit by the crisis, tormented by the Right, the proverbial French "early bird” working classes need a Left which forges ahead with a policy of opposition and which works with citizens to construct an alternative, eager to reunite their forces in order to disarm the Right, capable of rebuilding a social model worthy of our time. The obstacles the Socialist Party must overcome are of another nature than the perpetual quarrel over leadership, with eyes set on the blue line of yonder presidential horizons. At the end of the day, its Florentine political mores are merely the froth on the surface of a deeper crisis. In this time of crisis for the global capitalist system, dynamic Left wing supporters face the challenge of change. The Left cannot content itself with advocating a ‘regulated market’ which is practically the same as talking about the ‘moralization’ of capitalism. Because it yielded to the ideology of economic liberalism, the Socialist Party contributed to the promulgation of the idea that a global free-market society would be unsurpassable and in so doing undermined the credibility of an egalitarian society more in accordance with the socialist Ideal.

The workers, the working-class families and the social movement are waiting for the Left, the Left as a whole, to take more decisive action against the evil blows that the government deals them. Today, in Reims, the socialists; next month, in Paris, the communists, as well as other parties, in the near future, are holding conventions in these final months of the year, which could provide the opportunity for them to fall into ranks. “The militants will now have the floor..."

Editor’s notes:

[1Luc Montagnier (born August 18, 1932) is a French virologist and joint recipient with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Harald zur Hausen of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[1] He was born in Chabris.

[2Guy Roux (born 18 October 1938) is a former French football player and manager known for being in charge of French soccer team AJ Auxerre for the remarkable period of more than forty years and for leading the once humble amateur team to national - and worldwide prominence.

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