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Allez les Bleus

10/18/2010

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As you know this week sees the much awaited, much talked about and in many sectors much feared Comprehensive Spending review. Throughout Westminster and beyond public servants are adopting the brace position, hoping that the hobnail of doom will go stamping over someone else’s department and not theirs.

We’re not alone in this. European countries are all going through similar reviews, acts are being passed in parliaments and senates across the continent as governments look at ways at digging us out of the hole that the banks got us in to, through cutting services for the weak, the poor and the needy. Because, of course they are absolutely responsible for the billions of toxic debt run up by the bankers….

I’m not going to dwell on bankers. They are a bunch of c**ts and we all know that. (I even reserve the c word for them alone). What I want to talk about is us and our response to this.

France is a country I know well. I have lived there, I’ve studied there and of course one side of my family is there. I know some of you will think of the French as onion wearing, baguette brandishing, Gitane smoking, cheese eating surrender monkeys. And of course there is a lot to be said for this as a way of life. But France is also a country with a population and a GDP that are almost entirely equivalent to the UK.

They are not a third world country; they are not a backward nor a totalitarian state. They are not oil rich. But they are proud. Proud of whom they are and what they do. And they support one another when times get tough. At the moment the French are looking to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67. Most people don’t have a private pension in France, because guess what…..the State pension is enough to live on. And why is that? Because people have stood up over the years, stood collectively and protected their rights.

At present, the oil refineries are on strike, the students and academics (together) are on strike, the lorry drivers are on a go slow. Each day of industrial action is being supported by 3 million people. And, here is the killer fact…..opinion polls are showing the over 70% of the population ARE IN FAVOUR OF THE STRIKES. They aren’t locking bosses away or holding people hostage (although admittedly some of that has and does go on) as the stereotypes portray, they are engaging in good old fashioned strike action. As is their constitutional right.

Meanwhile, back across the channel, back to old Blighty. What do we find here? Well we don’t really have a State pension scheme anymore and even if we did, we would probably be dead within three years of getting it. We have some of the deepest darkest days ahead of us for many a decade, driven not by financial need but by political dogma. And what are we doing about it? Well nothing really. Less than half of public sector workers are indicating that they are prepared to strike and nearly 40% of workers arguing that industrial action should be BANNED in frontline services.

“Do what you want to them……we don’t care, just make sure it doesn’t affect me”.

But it will. The cuts that are taking place will affect every single person in this country. They will affect the young, the old, the infirm and the fragile. They will impact on businesses in every sector. This isn’t something that is going to happen in sweet isolation with the after effects dissipating into the morning fog. They will affect you, your children and their children…….and even their children to come.  So wake up, pay attention and start to angry about the way the heart of this country is about to be ripped out.

Solidarity brother? My arse……

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Ministry of Truth permalink
    10/18/2010 09:21

    Solidarity brother! From my perspective this is one of your best posts ever.

    The difference is that France never had a Thatcher and a full on neo-liberal project and it’s labour movement didn’t suffer the defeats that the British one has (miners strike, Wapping etc).

    But as you know I am an optimist and it is early days yet. Remember the Economist or the Financial Times (can’t remember which one) in early 1968 said that France was a great place for capitalism because nothing was going to kick off there. Then May 68 came along. At the beginning of 1917 Lenin wrote: “We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution”. My point is opinions change quickly, particularly in times of struggle.

    As the old saying goes they only look so powerful because we are on our knees. Time to get up.

  2. 10/18/2010 15:05

    I must admit that when I read this morning that “nearly 40% of workers arguing that industrial action should be BANNED in front line services” it both surprised and saddened me. We seem as a nation, poll tax riots apart, to lie down and take whatever is thrown at us. The measures the government will take on Wednesday will be far reaching and, apart from the very wealthy (like George Osborne, heir to a £4m inheritance) will affect us all in one way or another. This wholesales ‘we didn’t create it, so get rid’ approach to Quangos, coupled with the demands on local authorities up and down the country to cut their services by upwards of 20% cannot fail to have a knock on effect that will severely jeopardise thousands of jobs and threaten many families economic situation.

    The Tories keep rolling out the old line “it’s all Labour’s fault” but now is not the time for excuses or reasons. Nor is it the time to decimate a shaky economy. But that’s what’s going to happen – and still UK inc. will sit quietly and let it happen. Big society? No society more like. And all delivered by someone who will never know what it’s like to lose a job or have negative equity or worry about how he is going to afford next month’s mortgage. We may not be the best friends of the French, but at least they stand up for their rights when they are wronged.

  3. 10/19/2010 13:40

    Wasn’t it the French situationists who helped spark the punk movement? I think so. Maybe it’s time for another go?

    1977. The Clash released their first single, White Riot.

    “All the power’s in the hands
    Of people rich enough to buy it

    While we walk the street
    Too chicken to even try it

    Everybody’s doing
    Just what they’re told to
    Nobody wants
    To go to jail!”

    And on the flip side, 1977.

    “In 1977
    I hope I go to Heaven
    ‘Cause I been too long on the dole
    And I can’t work at all”

    Hmmm?

  4. 10/19/2010 14:55

    But we’re British so we’re get a tinsy bit annoyed, shake our fists and go grrr and then go back under our rocks. Allez les poules!

    ps great use of The Clash, Doug Shaw, Joe knew a thing or two about being angry.

  5. 10/20/2010 21:12

    I just came back from my monthly visit to Paris. As a business person, I sympathise with people who say they’d prefer to do business in another country, as the seemingly incessant strikes are a hassle for everyone involved: petrol shortages, unreliable national and international public transport and related traffic jams. Just getting to work is so hard.

    The people I know in France, i.e. the ones working more than 35 hours per week and not on strike, have little sympathy for the not yet employed students striking so that they can be assured a state pension as of age 60.

    Everyone knows the money isn’t there to continue financing state pensions at their current level ad infinitum. Guess it is just fun to ‘give it to the man’ once in while ( ie once per month in my experience of the last year).

  6. 10/24/2010 11:59

    @Ministry of Truth – Thanks….I like to keep the subject matter turning….keep you all on your toes you know? 🙂

    @Aloncalcia – I completely agree. The reaction of the Tories to the biggest cuts in public sector and the welfare state in living memory was quite frankly disgusting. Even if you believe it has to be done, to react with glee? Sick.

    @Doug Shaw – Great lyrical reference! I doff my cap sir!

    @citizenr – “allez les poules” 🙂

    @Ralph Bassfeld – I take your points Ralph. I don’t think the people you spoke to have understood the students stance. They are worried about jobs. If you increase the retirement age, and given the static state of employment in France, then there are less jobs for the young. Inter-generational solidarity isn’t such a bad thing though is it? When we talk about the Japanese culture of respect for their elders we see it as a good thing.

    • 10/25/2010 11:05

      @thehdr If one considers the French job market as a zero-sum game, then the act of students striking seems defensible. Keeping the retirement age status quo will not solve financing issues of the state pension scheme.

      L’accent should be on job creation rather than the battle of the generations.

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