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by Maurice Ulrich


Translated Monday 9 March 2009, by Laure Tallot

He was bluffing. In front of the motor industry workers and of the French, Nicolas Sarkozy appears to have behaved like a backroom poker player, laying his Rolex, let’s say, on the gaming table. Let’s recall the facts. The stimulus plan for the motor industry was to come with very strict safeguards, among which the pledge not to relocate. Less than three weeks later, one needs to weigh the declaration of the European Commission after the extraordinary meeting of the Council last Saturday: “The loan agreements with car manufacturers have no stipulation whatsoever concerning the location of their activities or the priority use of suppliers located in France”.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s promises did not last twenty days. The Rolex was a fake. If he did not lie three weeks ago, last Saturday he lay flat on his back without a fight to clear himself from the supposed sin of protectionism…. but not without cheating since, with his usual nerve, he immediately claimed that aid to the big automotive corporations would benefit Europe as a whole. This is exactly what he had denied a few days before in one of his swaggering outbursts of braggadocio, when he had rejected all ideas of relocation “in the Czech Republic, for instance”. And now it would be in everyone’s interest!
More humbug was to come since the extraordinary Council did not even come up with a miniscule stimulus plan for Europe, or any real aid for the car industry, but conversely it insisted once more on asserting its bedrock dogma: free and unfettered competition.

Faced with the crisis, with doubts, with tens of millions of employees who refuse to pay for the crisis of this capitalism so stuffed with its profits that it is almost choking on them like a flooded engine, the European Council, as ever acting as the big money’s faithful board of directors, fears heresy, tracks down misgivings, hounds weakness and error. It is the Holy Inquisition of the dividends which, despite its pronouncements to the nations, stays true to its mission: the system must be saved; its substance must not be touched. At the same time, it is also an admission of weakness. Principles must be defended all the more resolutely as the golden calf’s temple is in peril. The agreement signed in Germany in favour of state employees’ salaries is evidence of that. The exceptionally brave struggle of the inhabitants of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion are linked to special circumstances of course, but they are also upheavals caused by a crisis made much harsher by these very same circumstances.

In France, tension does not abate. We are in a deep social crisis that doubles as a political one. Everyone knows what the president’s popularity rating is. But the attitude of the French concerning social unrest, their approval of the claims and of the proposals –yes, the proposals of the trade-unions — have once more been confirmed by the unprecedented results of an opinion poll: 58% of executives, whose morale is plummeting, support the current trade-union activities, the March 19th demo included, and 85% think these movements will become more and more important. And what can we make of the fall of their “motivation index” in the same poll?

What if the final goal of companies, which today is focused on finance and shareholders, were itself the problem –among other things? The government can’t bluff all the time. They won’t be able to do it as the left coalesces ever more strongly in a real class struggle, and not in a struggle to grab political posts nor in futile opposition. We must stand up to them.

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