|That wasn't on the menu!
(placard: general strike)
Citizens of France,
How would you feel if:
You had to borrow 5 or 10 times your annual salary to be able to have a home?
You had to purchase expensive private medical insurance to be sure of having any medial care?
Every hospital denied all medical care to those without private medical insurance?
There was no social safety net, no unemployment insurance for yourself, your family, and your children?
You had to work 40 to 60 hours per week with only one week of holiday per year - and even that only after you have worked for a year or two?
You had to borrow money every year just to feed your family and keep a roof over their heads?
You had to borrow 100,000 Euros to pay for a university education for your child?
You had a credit card debt so huge you would never be able to repay it and could never stop working until you die?
Universities were financed by corporations and obliged to teach only what those corporations decide is important?
All of France's infrastructure and national wealth was "privatized" for the benefit of a few wealthy elites who tell you what you can and can't do in your own country, and charge you for the natural resources that are presently the community property of all?
If you can imagine what life would be like under such circumstances, then you know what life is like today for a majority of Americans. Americans think it is normal to work 50 hours a week with only one week of vacation per year. There are many horror stories of Americans without insurance being turned away from hospitals. The American Education system has resulted in a 50% literacy rate and only the wealthy can attend university.
American's believe that such a life - a life based on how much money you have - is the epitome of freedom because they have been brainwashed into believing that money makes the man. Do you want the same for France?
You don't know me personally, but to paraphrase a line from the movie "V for Vendetta," I am "Edmond Dantés... and I am your father. And your mother... your brother... your friend. I am you... and me. I am all of us."
In real life, I am a former investment banker with one of your biggest banks. I have degrees in economics and I have spent most of my adult life observing the flow of international capital and how it is manipulated by governments and large corporations to suit their own agenda. I am also an international editor of www.sott.net because I see it as the clearest voice of Truth on the internet. But, enough about me. It is you, it is France, I want to talk about.
Many French citizens remember how France slept through the 1930s while Germany rearmed and made its plans for European domination, plans that were not hidden, but proudly announced by Hitler and his Nazis, yet France slept and suffered the inevitable horrific consequences.
People of France, your President - a representative of the cabal of power-hungry global and corporate elite - has stated his plans clearly just as Hitler did, and yet you sleep now. You are being invaded not by an army but by malicious and repugnant ideas spread by your political leaders and the media. The goal is to infect your minds with these ideas and make the French people the architects of their own destruction. When your President speaks of a "rupture" with the past what he means is a rupture of French society; the destruction of the French way of life and it will be no less horrific than the previous invasion by Hitler and his hordes.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy famously said:
"For we are opposed, around the world, by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence; in infiltration instead of invasion; on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice; on guerillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific, and political operations. Its preparations are concealed not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined, its dissenters are silenced, not praised; no expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the cold war, in short, with a wartime discipline no democracy would ever hope to wish to match. ...".Your enemy is well organized, has unlimited financing, is global, ruthless and has almost total control of the media. Your enemy is amongst you and in many ways within you for you have been conditioned to think in limited and thereby self-limiting ways. Your enemy plans to destroy your paternalistic social structures with the ushering in of what is being called a "neo-liberal American" economic model; or, as journalist Naomi Klein calls it "Disaster Capitalism".
You have been led to believe that France is somehow exempt from the predations of neo-liberal economics. In large part this has been achieved by keeping you ignorant of the truth via the barrier of language. The English speaking world is replete with warnings of what neo-liberal economics means yet there is limited literature available in France on this most important of topics. Why is this? Why is it that you actually know so little about what really goes on outside of France?
M Sarkozy is attempting to manipulate this ignorance and foster an exaggerated self-interest and jealousy that is anathema to the French psyche. While loath to admit it, many of the middle class supporters of M Sarkozy are motivated by jealousy. They are jealous of the employment benefits enjoyed by state workers and are being manipulated by M Sarkozy into supporting policies that would strip state workers of those benefits. What the middle classes fail to understand is that in supporting government action against the working classes now, they are setting themselves up for similar treatment in the near future.
Make no mistake, the only winners that will emerge from M Sarkozy's "rupture" will be the ruling elite, large international corporations and foreign vultures that will pick over the bones of France. The middle/professional classes that presently support M Sarkozy will also lose their comforts, they just don't know it yet. They believe that through some miraculous mechanism they will become richer at the expense of the ordinary worker and that this is "just", "necessary" and "modern". The ruling elite may allow a little of the wealth of France to be "loaned" to the middle classes in the short term, and the middle classes may be bought for a few Euros, but it will be transient and ultimately illusory. Believe me, I know. Banking is my business. In the US and the UK the mechanism used to bribe the middle classes was property inflation. Over the past few years a massive boom in property values was engineered to provide the illusion of wealth. Yet today, as prices start to fall, this wealth is vanishing while the debt that was incurred to acquire that property remains very real and increasingly expensive and will in the end be the death of the middle classes in those countries.
M Sarkozy is a clever and ruthless man. He knows that he cannot persuade France to accept neo-liberalism (1), and ultimately Fascism directly. He has to manipulate France into a position where the outcome is a "fait accompli". How will this manipulation be achieved?
It was this topic that was being discussed amongst SOTT editors just prior to the commencement of the recent French strikes. We noted that a similar situation existed in the UK when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 "committed to an unambiguous program of reducing trade union power and influence" (2) and with carefully formulated plans to "rupture" British working class power. We speculated that similar tactics might be used in France. And so, since banking is my business, I was asked to research the matter and present, to you the people of France, an outline of your future.
The key to Margaret Thatcher's success in "rupturing" the UK and foisting Neoliberalism on the British people was long term preparation:
- Massive increases in unemployment, particularly among racial minorities, were engineered while the government manipulated the unemployment statistics. As a result there was an eruption of major riots in the poorest inner city areas.Eventually, Thatcher was ready for the final battle. Her government had been re-elected on the back of the national euphoria generated by the Falklands War and her strategists were ready for all out conflict with the unions and the working classes. Union weakness and the new laws that prevented strikes without a majority vote in a union ballot gave the government the resolve and public support needed to finally take on the most vulnerable industry in the country, the Coal Miners.
- Police tactics that had been fine-tuned through years of practice in Northern Ireland were rolled out in full public view; the years of false flag attacks in Ireland had conditioned the public mind to the need for massive militaristic police violence to "defend law and order".
- Union leaders were put in place whose subsequent behaviour could only be described as "craven" thus weakening unity amongst the unions.
- Strikes in the industries with the strongest unions were deliberately generated through provocation, A "war of attrition" was fought with scattered attacks by the government on a piecemeal basis. None of these was severe enough for the grassroots union members to realize that they were being set up for a major confrontation in the future.
- New laws limiting the rights of workers to strike were introduced where unions had been successful. Thus the government had successfully probed its enemy, observed its reaction and essentially made much of that reaction illegal; removing in great swathes the ability of workers to exercise their rights and neutralizing their power.
The parallels for France seem too much to ignore. The ground work has been laid in very similar ways. Like Margaret Thatcher in 1982, M Sarkozy is at the beginning of a new term and is claiming a popular mandate. Margaret Thatcher famously said "There is no alternative" and "The lady is not for turning"; while M Sarkozy has said "We will not surrender and we will not retreat ... France needs reforms to meet the challenges imposed on it by the world."
Speculating that M Sarkozy will have learned from not only the British but also from labour confrontations around the world, two weeks ago we speculated that:-
1. M Sarkozy will seek to set the agenda and ensure that the media focus public attention on the reform where the unions are weakest and public sympathy least likely.Events over the past two weeks have proved us right. M Sarkozy's strategy has followed our speculations to the letter, but this is only the beginning.
2. In order to further marginalize the workers in the public mind, violent events will be manipulated to occur or staged (false flag operations) so as to alienate the strikers from "ordinary people". The media will spin these issues out of all proportion for the facts of the events involved.
3. Union leaders will seem to stand frozen like rabbits in headlights while the media focuses on the "evil" of these manufactured events.
4. 1, 2 and 3 above will cause a splitting in the opposition to the reforms - this will be played up by the media when in all likelihood the "split" is over details and not principles. The focus of the media will be on those opposing the strikes and not those who have valid grievances that can only be defended by striking.
5. Government ministers will be given ample media space and airtime to denounce the strikers for their "selfishness" and "lack of social responsibility". Strikers will be accused of "threatening the greatness of France", "refusing to modernize", "putting lives at risk", "holding the country to ransom", "causing economic chaos".
6. Violence will flare as key points of contact between those striking and those officially opposing the strikes. In all cases the violence will be blamed on the strikers. The police will be brought in to "suppress the violence" while in fact inflaming it.
7. In poor working class areas events will be staged to manufacture a violent response from the "masses" and condition the public mind to the need for violence from police and CRS "to defend France".
8. The terms of the negotiations between government and unions will either be kept secret or simply withheld from the public. The real terns will be so disadvantageous to workers that they cannot possibly accept them, all the while the public mind will be focused on an "unwinnable issue", one that garners little public sympathy. The workers will strike again and take to the streets.
9. At this point violence will break out on the picket lines and the CRS will be sent in against strikers. Small groups of strikers will be shown to be very violent. These individuals (possibly agent provocateurs) will be used to discredit the entire labour movement and union leaders will be required to distance themselves from the violence thereby handing M Sarkozy victory in the arena of the public mind and in the minds of moderate workers.
M Sarkozy was allowed to set the agenda of pension reform. The provision for early retirement among workers in strenuous jobs such as the railways was fair when the work was harder but is now widely accepted as being outdated. Conveniently staged "sabotage" split the unions and public opinion, the union leaders froze and broke ranks last Friday under the media glare generated by the "sabotage". Violence "erupted" at universities and 5 nights ago 3 people were killed in an "accident" with the police, and the predictable "riots" ensued for three nights. All playing out according to plan!
A recent mainstream press article illustrates much of this:-
French Strikes Wind DownIt is essential that everyone in France understands that these strikes are not about whether or not a railway worker gets a particular pension. These strikes are the knife-edge of the neo-liberal economic wedge being driven into the soul of socialist France.
AP - 24th Nov 2007
PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy focused on a winnable fight, divided the opposition and appears to have come out on top after nine days of strikes by seething rail drivers.
Yet tensions lingered as the walkout wound down and train traffic began resuming Friday. Violence by protesting students prompted the Sorbonne university to shut down, and highlighted worries about how Sarkozy and his compatriots will weather his painful plans to remake stagnant, reform-resistant France.
Sarkozy scored what was seen as a necessary victory for his broader reform agenda by facing down rail workers angry over his plans to make them work longer to earn a pension.
"This reform, I promised it, I stuck to it," he said in a confident speech Friday.
On Thursday, train workers agreed to return to work on the promise of talks that could soften - though not compromise - the retirement reform.
By holding firm against the rail drivers, Sarkozy was hoping to break the unions' instinctive recourse to strikes, as Margaret Thatcher did in standing down coal miners and Ronald Reagan did with air traffic controllers in the 1980s.
Sarkozy craftily drove a wedge between moderate and militant labor unions during the protracted transport strike, and the opposition Socialists were at a loss to resist his methodical war-waging tactics. Sarkozy expressed hope that in the future, unions "will always prefer negotiations to confrontation."
That would mark a major change for France.
Sarkozy's election in May - on a platform of dramatic "rupture" with the past - showed that most French are ready for change. Commuters long accustomed to labor walkouts lost patience quickly with this transport strike, and were quick to slam the striking train drivers for defending privileges most see as unfair.
"At the moment when the strike is ending, when reason is prevailing, my first thoughts go to the millions of French who ... can't take it anymore after 10 days of mess .... to those millions of French who had the feeling of being taken hostage in a conflict that doesn't concern them," he said.
But millions voted against Sarkozy, and are not ready to give him free rein.
The talks with the rail drivers are certain to be tense, and some unions are threatening new strikes if they don't produce enough concessions. And the retirement reform is just one small thing Sarkozy has up his sleeve for France's future.
He says France has too many civil servants who are dragging down the indebted government. France's 5 million civil servants don't all agree, and many are resisting job cuts and demanding better pay. They held their first strike Tuesday and are threatening more.
Sure to be sensitive is Sarkozy's plan to jettison the complicated and rigid system of job contracts that underpin France's work force.
And then there are the restive universities. The Sorbonne campus was shut down Friday after violence between students protesting a university financing reform and other students trying to get to class.
Students have been blocking the landmark Left Bank building for days, but on Friday resorted to "physical violence," the administration said, shutting the school until Monday. High school and university students are planning new protests Tuesday.
Travelers welcomed improved traffic Friday, though restoring full service to the nationwide rail service and public transport in Paris and other cities was expected to take days.
In a clear sign the strike was ending, some Metro stations started collecting tickets again Friday. During the strike, transport on the few operating subway trains was free.
Yet it seems that France is again asleep and oblivious to the dangers. France has been tricked into thinking that the issue is pension reform. One look at the relative media space given to the SNCF and Metro strikes shows the extent of M Sarkozy's control. For while part of the rail workers strike was about pensions, numerous other workers are opposing "reforms" that illustrate far better the real nature of the Sarkozy agenda.
In allowing M Sarkozy and the media to focus principally on pension reform, the unions handed M Sarkozy a massive advantage. In backing down at the crucial point when the people of France were starting to see the value of the workers whose rights many people seem happy to destroy, the unions handed him victory and split the previously united opposition.
M Sarkozy is a bully who has stated categorically that he does not have to listen to the will of the people. This is the way that Tony Blair treated the British and the way that George W. Bush treats the Americans.
Is that what you want for France?
It is painful for many of us who cheered wildly when the much disliked Jacques Chirac thumbed his nose at the Americans and said "Non!" to the illegal invasion of Iraq to see what is happening in France; it is in fact disturbing to realize that M Sarkozy receives any support at all. Surely it is obvious that the United States is collapsing, the world financial system is hovering on the brink of chaos and the neo-liberal economic model has been exposed as nothing more than a modern day version of the pillage and plunder of the unenlightened past. So has M. Sarkozy lost his mind? Or does he have an agenda to drag France down into the dog pit with the rest of the Disaster Capitalists?
Despite what M Sarkozy may declare, based on my interactions with French citizens, the people of France do not accept the warmongering global hegemony of the US and do not want the American Nightmare in France.
More than ever before in their history, the people of France must stand up for Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite. Make no mistake, this is a war for France's freedom - a covert war of wills - that must be faced head on. But above all else, you must resist with your hearts, your voices and your very bodies any and all attempts to sow division among you. United you stand, divided you will fall.
(1) Neoliberalism is a label for economic liberalism that describes government policies claiming to promote free market competition in a given economy and ultimately globally. Developed by Milton Friedman and his disciples at the Chicago School of Economics - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberal
(2) See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3502759.stm