The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Praying for the French

In news you may not have heard, the French have been protesting a bill to raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62. And by protesting, I don’t mean just showing up for one day. Sarkozy has struck back:

Clashes have broken out outside a major oil refinery in France after riot police moved in to clear strikers who blockaded the terminal for 10 days.

Two people were hurt outside the Grandpuits refinery east of Paris, one of 12 facilities affected by strikes.

President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the authorities to lift the blockade earlier this week after thousands of petrol stations across France ran dry.

The Senate will vote later on the pension reform that sparked the action.

Ministers said the bill would clear its last major hurdle in a matter of hours, after the Senate was asked to halt debate on hundreds of opposition amendments and hold a single vote on all of them.

Changes to the retirement and pension age could become law next week, once they pass the committee stage and a final vote is held in both houses of parliament.

Notice something here: the protesters are doing economically damaging things. They aren’t just showing up in the mall, waving some flags, making some speeches and wandering off.

Notice also, that Sarkozy is still going to pass his bill.

The key point will be whether the opposition keeps up the pressure.  AFTER the bill passes, they must continue rolling strikes and occupations until the elite gives in.

RULE Of Post-Modern Elite Thinking: Elites think in terms of costs.  If the cost of something is less than the benefit of doing it, assuming the return is also high enough they will almost certainly do it.

The strikes and shutdowns are a COST.  The benefit of raising the pension age is that it pays for bailouts, bonuses and high salaries for the elites (since it helps pay to continue the financial casino.)  Unless the cost is clearly going to be higher than the gain, they will do it. The strikes and other actions must continue until the elites who run Sarkozy realize the cost is higher than the benefit to them.  Or, of course, they can be made to fear something more existential.  It may be time for a new French Republic, for example, which takes power out of their hands entirely and bankrupts them by forcing them to pay back all their ill-gotten gains.

At this point in time, France is the only nation in the first world where there is meaningful resistance to the rush of Austerity (aka. Hooverism) and the attempt by elites to permanently break the power and wealth of the middle and working class.

Pray for France.  Because if they fall, no one is even trying, and if they fall the elites will know they can take anything away from any first world’s nation’s population.


No the rich aren’t like you


How the Next 4 Years Will Play out


  1. tBoy

    People need to know that the French retirement system is a lot more complicated than “raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62. ” You can retire at 60 if you’ve been on the books for 40 years.

    Also the way the fund the retirement system is dynamic – money paid to beneficiaries depends on the amount of money collected. Pay-as-you-go. It is not an unfunded mandate.

    Here is a pretty good synopsis:

    Also please note. My French wife tells me that virtually everybody understands that the French system needs to be tweaked. What most of the population objects to is Sarkozy presenting a plan and telling the population they are going to accept it – no questions asked.

    The French do not do well with being bossed around.

  2. Peter

    If economic strikes and boycots take place in the U.S. the military, no matter if it’s Nationl Guard or Army will use what ever level of mass death to break the back of the stike.

    The French went after the jugular, the liquid fuel.

  3. cripes

    1980’s Argentina-style austerity comes to the US and Europe.

    I don’t like it, but I have to say we told them so years ago. But no, american exceptionalism, football, beer and Fox Snooze have stupified the populace. They’re too scared to stand up to a postal clerk, let alone the machinery of rapine capitalism and, anyway, are still waiting for their “wealth” ship to come in.

    By the way, Argentina, Brazil and others finally told the IMF to fuck off and die.

    China never gave them shit.

    God help the French workers and students.

  4. Am afraid this is part of a trend we are just beginning to see of well-off nations becoming more and more poor. China and India have a long way to catch up – while we are slowly falling off the prosperity escalator. Taking back money from the rich is part of the solution per fellows including Robert Reich – can’t prove it, but I just feel the end of mass consumerism is coming and with it a lack of government funds and greater need for same. Less gas tax, ex., and, sadly, more prisons. We can reform prisons? Jerry Brown wants to in California – but very little action has taken place.
    Localizing food and economies can certainly help. Need to learn from Mondragon Coop and some Latin American countries where cooperation is more the rule and capitalism on the wane.

  5. @Ian:

    “Notice something here: the protesters are doing economically damaging things. They aren’t just showing up in the mall, waving some flags, making some speeches and wandering off.”

    Yes, Ian, but there is a message being beamed into every brain here in the U.S. telling us that our government will define such economic interruptions as “terrorist” activity, and we all know what happens after that…

    If things get heated enough to spark up over here it’s not going to be as genteel as Granpuits, violent as it is. There will be visits in the night.

  6. guest

    any american terrorism by the the common man will be against the unions (or what’s left of them), government employees, or some minority who is held responsible for the economic mess by Fox News and the WSJ. the big shots don’t care if you take out government workers – they could barely contain their smirks when that guy flew a plane into the IRS and there was next to zero official condemnation of that (a weak resolution passed weeks later), and most americans just yawned and forgot it by the next day.

    but remember how freaked they got when people began showing up at the banksters’ mansions with protest signs? THE HORROR! That was beyond the pale! definitely americans are armed and eminently capable of violence, and they definitely will act out when things get worse and worse. but liberals in this country are fools if they think their countrymen are smart enough to figure out who is really to blame for this mess.

    As for the social security “entitlements reform” the blue dogs and Obama will pass in the lame duck session, most americans have been resigned to losing social security since the 80’s and I get the feeling the conservatives want it, out of some stupid conservative psychological need for austerity. Shortly after the last time it was “reformed” the meme that it was going bankrupt when the boomers started retiring was started. and it sure as hell won’t take another 27 years for the next round of cuts after the lame duck.

  7. Hugh

    All the national elites, China, the US, Europe, are engaged in various versions of extend and pretend. All of them are trying to keep their casinos open on the back of those less well of in their societies. They are not actually fixing anything in the process though. In this country, Helicopter Ben is angling to drop a trillion to keep markets pumped and the bubbles in them inflated. But underneath, the fundamentals of the real economy continue to deteriorate. At some point, the real economy is going to go down, and when it does, the paper economy of Ben, Turbo Timmy, and all their cronies is going to go with it. This will happen. The vacuum of leadership on the left, both here and abroad, means that it is highly likely that the worst will end up leading the populist backlash. Progressives rather than opposing now and organizing for the future are going to wake up one morning and be surprised, surprised I tell you, that there has been a revolution and no one bothered to ask them to lead it.

    What is going on in France should not be taken in isolation. It is part of a boiling kettle: Greece, the euro, the eurobanks, the flash crash, foreclosuregate, this week’s bubble in China. We are being hit with multiple signals that the status quo is not working, that the patient is crashing. It’s just a question of time and which crisis will take him out. On a more optimistic note, OK, there are no optimistic notes, sorry.

  8. Suspenders

    I think the French will be fine. They have one thing we don’t in North America, and that’s a (more or less) ethnically homogeneous state. These sort of mass strikes and civil unrest, the sort of unrest that makes people want to shed blood over, seem to me to be most easily organized in societies that are very ethnically homogeneous, mostly because it’s so much easier to rope people into your movement with a little ethnic nationalism and appeals to your fellow brothers and sisters, etc. This works in Europe and most of Asia for obvious reasons, but is problematic for our North American multi-ethnic societies, aside maybe from Quebec. The central problem is how do you get people in a society to care enough for one another so that they’re willing to sacrifice a whole lot for someone else s welfare, without the hooks of religion or nationalism? And I don’t mean organize against foreigners (that’s trivial), but rather organizing to oppose our own elites.

    That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, only that it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get Americans to tear down Versailles (or stop Versailles tearing them down) without the glue of Kin and/or God holding the opposition together. Demagogues make good glue, though….

    That’s my crazy theory, anyway.

  9. jcapan

    “The central problem is how do you get people in a society to care enough for one another so that they’re willing to sacrifice a whole lot for someone else s welfare”

    Well, since there are more white people in poverty in the US than any other group, it’d help dramatically if there was a movement on the left that attempts to, I dunno, illustrate how it’s our collective welfare that’s being sacrificed, all to make for cushy landings for the predator class. But if you’re poor, white and uneducated, well, you know the drill–cue the mockery.

    I agree that, a wedge here, a wedge there, that division rules the day, as it nearly always has, but Americans are listening to the Pied Pipers Beck and co. b/c they’re the only public figures speaking to palpable angst about the end of the American dream.

    The liberal blogosphere’s reaction to the Shirley Sherrod story is the most vivid example I’ve seen in recent years of how impotent the left is. The driving conclusion of her speech was it wasn’t about race but the haves vs. the have nots, and with that populist/progressive meatpie on a T, purported liberals whiffed in vain, shrieking about the racism, the evil right wing smear campaign, MSM misreadings, blah fucking blah.

    There is no coherent, compelling counter narrative to the Beck-Palin show from the left. Until there is, any would-be street protests will involve have nots attacking other have nots, not, as one would naturally hope, lynching the Goldman board in the street.

    And, oh yeah, even in some of the most compelling blog-environs we’re still bitching about which DLC president would have been better. Yup, it’s no wonder our gospel is as resonant as shit stew.

  10. guest

    “I think the French will be fine. They have one thing we don’t in North America, and that’s a (more or less) ethnically homogeneous state.”

    Are you clueless or just a troll? Have you ever been to France and seen the vast suburbs of Algerians, Arabs, Africans, Vietnamese and other assorted former colonials? If not, haven’t you read about the riots in those suburbs? No ethnically homegenous states that I know of in Europe. The rich ones all have immigrants they brought in over the last 2 or 3 generations to support their falling birth rates. The poor ones are often countries cobbled together out of multiple nationalities. The only ethnically homogenous society I know if is Japan. China and India are huge countries with many different languages and ethnic minorities (although they may look the same to you).

    The main difference though is that all American politics seems to revolve around conservative paranoia over the hated races getting a free ride, to the point where middle class whites have cut off their own faces economically to spite their black noses.

  11. Formerly T-Bear

    Here is BBC’s reporting of the French Senate passing the change in retirement bill and the attendant civil unrest.

    Not mentioned is that retirement at 60 goes a long way to keeping up employment rates for younger workers as well as helping to maintain wage levels for the less experienced worker by reducing the competition for jobs. The social investment in younger retirement is repaid by an increase in employment security and wages during the height of the productive years for the labour force. It could not happen without a sane universal health provision administration.

  12. Lex

    What’s interesting to me is that we constantly hear statements about how we need austerity, but i’ve never seen an example of austerity measures doing what they’re intended to do…and by that i mean what they’re advertised as doing, not what they’re really meant to do.

    But, yes, solidarity with the French. It’s at least heartening to see a people stand up for themselves against the elites. I only wish that there was any chance of such a thing happening in the States.

  13. tBoy

    Hey Suspenders,

    You really don’t know much about France. It is a melting pot much like the US & Canada. Get on a train or subway in Paris or go to any market in any decent sized city and you’ll quickly understand that you didn’t understand.

  14. Various notes:

    1. I don’t think there are any ethnically homogeneous states any more, any where. The 20th century has seen huge migrations, and the 21st will probably see more, due to climate change.

    2. Population, sustainability, and climate change are going to press us into real austerity measures for this century, and probably longer. Those measures will be easier if we co-operate, rather than fight class wars. In fact, class wars may make the development of a sustainable economy impossible.

    3. “Well, since there are more white people in poverty in the US than any other group, it’d help dramatically if there was a movement on the left that attempts to, I dunno, illustrate how it’s our collective welfare that’s being sacrificed, all to make for cushy landings for the predator class.”

    The left does this. Repeatedly. Over and over. It has done so since it first emerged as a political movement. The left is, at its core, a movement of all the people, or it is nothing.

    “But if you’re poor, white and uneducated, well, you know the drill–cue the mockery.”

    Really? Examples? If you’re thinking of the tea parties, the left has been commenting that they have real issues for as long as they’ve been around. It is, however, distressing to see the tea partiers give reign to their most toxic impulses and jump into the arms of their enemies. If mockery will keep this faction out of power, then mockery is what we have; compassion and reasoned argument avail little in the short term of the current rhetorical environment.

  15. Formerly T-Bear

    Comment edited at commenter’s request. – Ian

  16. Suspenders

    I’ve never been to France, or Europe for that matter, I’m just going by what I’ve read and the information others have given me.

    While there are very few extremely ethnically homogeneous states today (where 98% of the population is the same ethnicity, eg Korea or Japan), there are still many where a large proportion are the same ethnicity (near 90% of the population), and most European countries still fall under that category. This is important for certain reasons.

    According to Wikipedia’s article on French demographics, people of non-European ethnic origin make up a little under 10% of Frances’ population (what we’d call “visible minorities” here in Canada). That tells me that outside of places like Paris and Marseilles, France is not very diverse, and the same goes for most other European countries. Despite the platitudes of multiculturalists, I consider this to be a strength for countries going through hard times, because it’s easier to make people sacrifice for others because of perceived common kinship. I’m reminded of the Asian financial crises, when Koreans stood in line to donate their gold to save the country from bankruptcy; what could have motivated this other than ethnic solidarity? Ethnic nationalism can be an important societal crutch, something the US doesn’t have, and an important difference between the US and France.

    There are other benefits as well to France (and other similar countries). It’s easier to govern (because there are fewer dangerous ethnic fault lines to worry about), and harder to ram shit down the publics throats. They generally tend to be smaller geographically and by population, which also makes governing easier, but also makes protesting and civil disobedience easier and more effective as well, because your elites will have a more difficult time ignoring you. Contrast that to the sprawling continental behemoths that are the USA, India and China, where as an elite you can literally write off the complaints of entire regions and not have to worry much about it.

    Anyway, my point was that France has certain natural advantages over the US that will help it weather this storm, even if those protesting loose on this specific retirement issue. Some of these (big) advantages don’t apply to societies like the US. That’s why I’m not so worried about France. In the US, creating wedges between people is going to be triflingly easy. We already can see that; so much energy is going to be wasted on “how does this affect Latinos”, or “white issue” this, “black issue” that, the south vs the north and the rest of it. So even if things fail for the elites in France, I think despite what Ian believes it won’t end up mattering much for us over here. The societies are just too different.

  17. There is no coherent, compelling counter narrative to the Beck-Palin show from the left.

    There are many coherent, compelling counter narratives all over cyberspace. You just won’t see them on Faux or CNN, that’s all. Even Krugman is confined to an opinion column and a blog.

    We are dealing with a massive, well-funded, and organized disinformation campaign that has morphed over decades, possibly since Poppy Bu$h’s daddy got pissed at FDR.

    The compelling counter narratives get ignored.

    The leaders of the left get bought out, or if they can’t get bought and still command a great popular audience, meet short rides in small airplanes or lone gunmen.

    But Obama, you might say, disproves this? Barack Obama had Joe Lieberman as his mentor in the $enate, and has spent his two years in office doing everything his handlers told him to do there.

    If a compelling counter narratives is told, and no microphones are tuned to it, does it make a sound?

  18. Ian Welsh

    Japan is pretty close. There are Koreans and Ainu, but they are very marginalized.

    What is different about France isn’t ethnicity, it is that the people who are willing to risk violence are on the left, not the right and that they still have an extremely strong union movement who never lost their tradition of hard-core strikes, whether the state likes it or not.

    In America if things escalate to confronation, the right will probably win, because they are more willing to be risk violence. In Europe, the left is more willing to risk violence.

    America’s great “lock them up” experiment locked up the people on the left who were willing to let it all hang out, who weren’t super-socialized into quivering fear of confrontation.

  19. Ian Welsh

    Oh Christ, T-Bear, you got caught in the automatic spam filter, I didn’t put you in manually, and I wasn’t at my computer.

  20. jcapan

    “Japan is pretty close. There are Koreans and Ainu, but they are very marginalized.”

    Although there are more Chinese, Filipino and Brazilians (mostly dekasegi) than the highest estimates of Ainu, this is very true. And marginalization doesn’t begin to describe it. That said, the generally homogeneous nature of the population here doesn’t lend support to Suspenders’ contention at all. The left and labor alike have been largely neutered. Only in Okinawa is there any significant protest (against the US empire and their Tokyo lackeys).

    And Kelley, I should have emphasized unity of message. Obviously, I’m trading in generalities above, and I should have been clearer in setting the Netroots off from the left. Chomsky gave an interview earlier this year about the state of anarchism in the US, and speaking more broadly of the left said:

    “There are people interested in all sorts of things. You know, you walk down the main corridor at this university, you see, you know, desks of students, very active, very engaged, lots of great issues, but highly fragmented. There’s very little coordination. There’s a tremendous amount of sectarianism and intolerance, mutual intolerance, insistence on, you know, my particular choice as to what priorities ought to be, and so on…. And there’s certainly plenty of range — of room for quite healthy and constructive disagreement on choice of tactics and priorities and options, but I just see too little of that being handled in a comradely, civilized fashion, with a sense of solidarity and common purpose.”

  21. Bernard

    any kind of coordination will be subjected to overwhelming interference. I am not surprised Sarkozy called out his forces to “win.” Whether the “little people” continue to protest will be what i am curious to see.

    America is so splintered and easy prey to manipulation. that Willful ignorance works its’ wonders time and time again.

    such a farce thinking there would be any kind of united resistance to the Elites. after watching the killings of the leaders of the ’60s and afterwards, Wellstone, in particular,plus the killing of non violent students across America in the ’60s, a splintered and disorganized opposition might be the only path for continued “Hope and Change” America will see.

    if the French can stop their leaders in this particular attack by the Elites, Americans will be indebted once again to the French and their ideals. We can only hope the French People succeed.

  22. Power to them. This happens all the time in America, and the oppressed sit in lawnchairs, sipping pop cola and eating gmo corn chips, gripe for a few moments, then waddle back to their disillusioned existence.

  23. Ken Hoop

    How to organize the American founding ethnic core on the left against the elites?
    Sure. National Bolshevism. Now, ban me for the truth?

  24. AJ

    Well, Suspenders, I suppose you would be pretty happy to hear that there is (and it will continue in the future) a huge backlash against multiculturalism in Europe. See Geert Wilders, the BNP, the Sweden Democrats, La Pen’s National Front, Movement for a better Hungary, the German leader saying “multiculturasm has failed”, Thilo Sarazin and his IQ-based anti-immigrant argument in his book, and nationalism is out of control in Russia. When/if things get even worse economically, who do you think the indigenous Europeans are going to turn against first?

  25. Ken Hoop

    Multiculturalism run amok goes hand in hand with finance capitalism running amok.

  26. Formerly T-Bear

    Today (28th Oct.) the BBC has an in depth report and analysis of the French strike and compares it with other strike action in Europe and Canada (which notably leads in strike action).

    It also backgrounds the differing social contexts between France, Britain, and Germany as to how such actions are used to obtain either economic or social ends. Quite notably, it’s an exercise in responsible journalism as opposed to the jingoistic exceptionalism normally practiced.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén