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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La revanche contre la Résistance

by Jean-Paul Piérot

French Bosses Seek Revenge on the Anti-Nazi Resistance Movement

Translated Saturday 27 October 2007, by Isabelle Métral

A leading figure of MEDEF, the confederation of French trade and industry, praises Sarkozy’s policy for leaving 1945 well behind and methodically dismantling the legacy of the National Resistance Covenant.

Denis Kessler, a former vice-president of MEDEF, still moves in the highest business and political circles. And so the editoral he wrote for the French magazine “Challenges” under the title “Farewell 1945 : let our country join up with the rest of the world” should in no way be read as the ramblings of an extremist carried away by his own exalted views or hatred of the Résistance. A patented spokesman for MEDEF, he analyses candidly the purpose behind Sarkozy’s policy, and makes no bones about it: the French social system is the achievement of the Liberation. “It’s time we left 1945 behind and moved ahead, time to unpick the Résistance’s programme methodically.”

Never before had such an avowal been made publicly. All through his electoral campaign the UMP governing party’s candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, did indeed launch scathing attacks on the French social model, he extolled individual effort as opposed to solidarity, and cast suspicion on the poor and jobless for taking undue advantage of the government’s generosity. And he did also hold the 1968 May protest movement up to public obloquy. And as far back as 2002, François Fillon had indeed blamed the 1940 defeat on the Popular Front. But so far la Résistance itself had gone unscathed in his speeches: how can one possibly pay tribute to Guy Môquet, the 17-year-old communist resistant who was shot down by the Nazis, and then criticise the CNR (National Resistance Council)? Even though the “Challenges” article was not signed by one of the president’s ministers, it does at least make clear what the MEDEF circles expect of a president who has so far never disappointed them.

In the MEDEF’s view, everything must go

The whole package of social and economic advances that were implemented when France had just liberated itself from Nazi occupation was possible “thanks to a political pact between Gaullists and Communists”, Kessler explains. Part of the right and of the French bourgeoisie obviously never actually accepted this, he says; but now the political situation makes it possible to dismantle it. This is all resumed in the “Challenges” article. The upshot is an invitation for the government to put its foot down and speed up the dismantling of the whole system: whether it be the social security, or the status of government workers, or what remains of the public sector, or the conventions regulating the labour market and job contracts, or the complementary retirement plans, or the rules under which trade unions are recognized as representative bodies…all of these must go.

The portrayal of the CNR is so narrow that it is totally incorrect. Granted that the communists played a decisive role in the Resistance and in the drafting of its political programme, but the CNR cannot be reduced to a two-block alliance between Gaullists and Communists. It also included all the armed resistance movements, most of the political parties, and the trade unions (there were only two at the time, the CGT and the CFTC).

The declining influence of the communist party and the throwing overboard of the Gaullist legacy by the UMP (the right-wing governing party) are golden opportunities for an ideological revolution that would have both right and left uphold the basic principles of financial capitalism. But the game is not up yet (according to our aforementioned editorialist) for “the country still cherishes its institutions.” French people still set great store by the republic and democracy retrieved from Nazi barbarity. Apparently, this is a grievous problem to Denis Kessler who deplores that “whoever attacks any post-war institutions sounds sacrilegious”. Never mind that those post-war institutions brought back the republic after four years of fascist rule “à la française” and Nazi occupation!

Is the model so “outdated” then, so “inefficient”, so “dated”? No questions allowed. What the MEDEF says goes. The government follows. This is the impression you got if you heard Prime Minister François Fillon talk last Wednesday before the UMP club of self-styled “Reformers” (die-hard neo-liberals). Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister has discarded the myth the government had so far been trying to sell, that the loss of the several ten thousand jobs that will be cut in government services from this year onwards will have no damaging effect on the services effectively available to the public. Who will forget the candidate’s smooth talk during the campaign about there being too many customs officers on our borders since there were no longer any controls within the EU? Fillon at last lets the cat out of the bag and even congratulates himself: “each and every one of us must accept fewer services, fewer staff in his locality.”

The request has been made to reduce government services. This will be felt in schools (where 20,000 posts will be slashed), in courts (hundreds of tribunals and courts will be closed), and in the under-staffed hospitals…Many districts will become deserts with no public services left. This ominous confession delineates a future society that will be harder on those that cannot fend for themselves, even though society today requires new public services for infants, or old people in need of care.

To push through the proposed break with the legacy of the Resistance Denis Kessler and François Fillon would like to pre-empt social protest. The 1995 strikes left the Right with bitter memories. Its plan is to use a shock therapy even before public opinion awakes from the post-electoral magic spell. But France has already proved itself capable of resistance…

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