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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Naître libres et égaux en droits...

by Patrick Apel-Muller

Editorial: Born Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights

Translated Saturday 28 October 2006, by Carol Gullidge

The gap between the haves and have-nots is the theme taken up in this editorial written by Patrick Apel-Muller to coincide with One World Week - whose objectives for 2006 are: "exploring a wide variety of ’gaps’ which divide our planet and its people economically, socially and culturally, and looking to find ways to bridge those gaps.” By coincidence, One World Week clashes this year with the anniversary of last year’s riots in France, that were triggered by this very same social divide, and which look set to reignite...

The intelligence service of the French police - Renseignements Généraux (RG) - believes the situation in the deprived urban areas, or banlieues, especially in and around Paris, is very tense: “Most of the conditions that triggered the mass violence throughout much of Paris last year are still in place.” Indeed, Nicolas Sarkozy and his provocative statements have not gone away, but more importantly, nor have the inequalities at the root of the anger. Worse still, they are deteriorating year after year, as is shown in l’Observatoire des inégalités, which publishes data on inequality throughout the world. The situation is simmering. Boiling over.

An incredible contrast: take Serge Dassault, the mayor of Corbeil (Essonne), whose personal fortune exceeds the Gross National Product of Chad or Mali, while the inhabitants of Tarterêts, near Paris, are either jobless or have no job security. In Neuilly-sur-Seine, the home town of Nicolas Sarkozy, nearly one in five inhabitants pays income tax, whereas in the banlieue of Saint-Denis, this figure is a mere one in 1,000. There’s no comparison in these figures; nor in recourse to justice. How to reconcile the glaring violations of this fine-sounding principle: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”[1] Injustice is widespread where income is so low that the glitter of consumerism is nothing but a distant illusion. Insecurity touches a raw nerve when income and work are unreliable and where it seems that academic study is a waste of time if it doesn’t lead to a better way of life. Injustice and insecurity alike are increasing on a planetary scale, and the fortunes of the 8.3 million people throughout the world who are dollar millionaires can be seen to increase each year at twice the annual growth rate.
When one is born to inherit the fortune of the famous boss of the Wendel iron works - and even excluding Baron Ernest-Antoine Seillière [2], the boss of European bosses - we’re talking about 2.46 million euros on average.

But in La Courneuve[3] or in Valenton, it’s the other side of the coin. Much in the hands of the very few; very little in the hands of many... such is the face of France, and its features are becoming more deeply etched under the ordeals inflicted on the country by the French employers’ association, MEDEF.

The magnitude of the crisis and the gravity of the social divide mean that any stopgap remedies are doomed to failure. The social fabric can only be restored at the cost of radical reform and genuine social ambition. How can people make a start in life when everything is against them? The movement against the new youth-jobs law (CPE) showed that resistance to capitalist mayhem does not merely concern young people from the cités (low-income housing projects), and could potentially take on less-desperate and more-effective forms. Increased security of professional careers, social guarantees, a minimum wage of 1,500 euros starting from 2007, the 35-hour working week for all, with guaranteed working conditions and sustained spending power, and an end to discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, or origin... so many options to follow if there is to be any hope of human relations not being ruled by abuse of every sort. Antagonising the powerful takes courage. And sufficiently firm commitments and a robust rallying of social conscience, in order to avoid a repetition of the recent disappointments , when the Socialist Party, after cheap talk and empty promises, went on to pay dearly for them... Along with the remainder of the Left. Better to be thoroughly prepared than to have to pick up the pieces afterwards...

Equality – that of opportunities and rights, and not the levelling egalitarianism to which liberal ideologists are attempting to reduce it – nicely completes the motto of our Republic. It’s still a novel idea. To be explored without further ado!


1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1

2. Ernest-Antoine Seillière, former chief of MEDEF, the French business association, now heads the Europe-wide version (UNICE).

3. La Courneuve was heavily affected by the riots of November 2005. ...

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