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by Maurice Ulrich

The Useful Thing

Translated Monday 15 June 2009, by Alison Billington

Did an angry fly bite the speaker of the UMP (rightwing political party), Frédéric Lefebvre, at the beginning of the week [1]? Everything led us to believe this when he lay down his amendment concerning employees working at home while on sick leave. Except that he was supported by the UMP leader and ex-Minister for Employment, Xavier Bertrand, someone in whom Nicolas Sarkozy has every confidence. Conclusion, it wasn’t a question of a whim of some hothead but was a crude diversion as well as a signal intended for the rightist electors of the most reactionary vein there is. The right is going to bring all these profiteers, who abuse sick leave and live on social security, to their senses!

And what is to be said about this deplorable, worrying and exaggerated police security activities, orchestrated by the Head of State himself? From now on we are to know the danger that youngsters of six to ten years can represent for society. And so, doubtless, they must be searched inside the schools themselves to find Kalashnikovs or weapons of massive destruction. As for sensitive districts, we’ll see what we’ll see, we’ll see what we ought to have been seeing for years and what we have never seen. In the meantime, nothing real there is being put in order in terms of jobs, public services, urban redevelopment and poverty, sometimes, to put it simply. Where are the plans for the suburbs ? Are they workable in the crisis and in the free market economy of Europe?

Moreover, it’s curious how, at the same time, we have a bit forgotten the golden handshakes and the stock options. Where are the great speeches delivered with one hand on the heart the other on the wallet, on restoring ethics to capitalism? But, above all, with one week to go now until the European elections [2], where were the genuine debates on their real stakes? Where is the clear confrontation over the question, between those who have supported neo-liberal politics in Europe four years ago, and those who expressed by their ‘No’ vote their wish to build another Europe, based on a social model?

The Left Front demands this debate. It clamours for it. And it does so with all the more strength being carried by the will for unity and alliance, and this is beginning to be recognised. It’s a new fact in French politics over these last years. The Right, as we have seen, is trying to bring its shoddiest ploys into play. Scarcely veiled law and order demagogy and anti-social demogogy. François Bayrou has taken up his role in the presidential campaign again because he is already in the presidential campaign. In reality, he has been won over to free-trade Europe, but it is firstly his own fate that preoccupies him, as the Right’s last resort. On the Left, the Socialist Party has shown off the friendly relations of Segolène Royal with Martine Aubry, at a meeting, with a mutual exchange of presents. A statuette for a piece of porcelain. That doesn’t make a policy. Martine Aubry calls for a useful [3] vote. That still doesn’t make a policy either. Firstly, because it means nothing in an election in a proportional representation round and after that, what use is it? Chasing after small ballets and pas de deux with François Bayrou? ‘I’m going, I’m going, I love you, me neither’…Or even better, useful for approving the Socialist party over its choices of ’Yes’ votes in the referendum and over its support for the treaty of Lisbon?

There really is a movement with the Left Front. Its encounters and meetings bear witness to it, as do the ever more numerous appeals of intellectuals and union leaders these days. They intend no longer to abide with free-trade Europe, nor to to satisfy themselves with a never-ending protest vote. The Left Front now appears as a base of operations geared to another Europe and to rebuild a Leftist Perspective. There is one week to gain a result which could create a majority in this election and which will have forward motion. That’s the useful thing.

[1the week of 1 June

[2This article was delayed in publication, having appeared in the print edition on 30 May. But it’s still fine reading.

[3The Socialist party has a habit of calling for the vote utile as an encouragement to voters to side with them in order to prevent some even less desirable consequences, due to splintering of the electorate. A recent case of this was the call, in the 2007 presidential campaign, to vote for the Socialists rather than the parties further left, in order to prevent the fascist party from winning second place in the run-off, as they did in 2002. This ended up giving a large majority to Sarkozy’s UMP.

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