FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Revolt Against Hollande

by

French President Francois Hollande is facing a revolt with the socialist party ranks over his government’s plan to slash public spending.

After his freshly appointed prime minister, Manuel Valls, presented details of a package of 50 billion euros ($69 billion) in cuts last week, socialists MPs slammed his austerity plan as “economically dangerous”, saying it would “kill off’” the economic recovery and jobs.

The latest figures released last month show unemployment in the Eurozone’s second largest economy at almost 3.35 million. The economy slid into recession in the first part of last year, barely grew for the whole of 2013, and is only expected to grow1 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2015. The austerity medicine dished out to Europe’s ‘periphery’ – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland – is now being served up in the core of the Eurozone and the French patient is slowly dying too.

Writing in the name of 100 socialist parliamentarians who publicly aired their anger at the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month that put right-winger Valls in charge, a number of socialist MPs last week wrote to free-market fan Valls for his cuts plan to be scaled back.

Valls wants a freeze in social benefits in order to save 11 billion euros, and a cut to health spending worth another 10 billion euros. Local government spending will save a further 11 billion euros and state spending on administration is to be axed by 18 billion euros. Wages of state employees will be frozen until 2017.

The MPs, including allies of veteran left-winger Martine Aubry but also Hollande supporters, further demanded one billion euros spending to fund 50,000 jobs, tax reforms that help cut inequality and poverty, “serious and specific” commitments from businesses in exchange for a planned huge, 30 billion euros package of tax breaks, and the postponement of the EU’s punishing deficit target of 3%.

Under the weight of austerity-fuelled domestic and Eurozone economic woes, France’s deficit amounted to 4.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2013. Following EU economic rules put in place after the sovereign debt-banking crisis, Hollande promised last year to reduce the budget shortfall to 3.6 percent this year and 3 percent in 2015. He has utterly failed to stand up to the EU’s defacto imperial power, Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, as he had promised in his election campaign two years ago.

At local elections in March French voters got their revenge. The Socialists lost 155 towns to the right wing UMP party as their voters stayed at home, leaving turnout, at 62%, at the lowest ever for a French local election. Marine Le Pen’s nasty, anti-EU, anti-immigrant National Front won control of 11 town halls and the 7th district of Marseille, with a population of about 150,000, the party’s biggest win.

Laurent Baumel, one of the socialist MPs threatening not to back the proposals when they come to the vote next week, said the austerity plan did not reflect “the message we received at the polls.” With such unpopular measures, the socialists were “going in the wall.” Another socialist rebel Christian Paul said: “We were not elected to implement the loss of purchasing power.” A prominent critic, Senator Marie Noëlle Lienemann, said the austerity plan was an “economic aberration” based on the “dogma of lowering labor costs” and vowed to vote against it .

Unions are also up in arms about Valls’ austerity plan and a public sector strike has been called for May 15.

Force Ouvrière said it would “heavily penalize the most disadvantaged, and increase inequality, insecurity and poverty” and would “drag the French economy into deflation.” It added: “As we have stated several times, austerity is triply suicidal: socially, economically and democratically.”

“This government is hard on the weak and weak on the strong,” Thierry Lepaon, the head of the CGT union, added.

France’s economic problems are not just down to “fiscal” austerity – enshrined in successive EU treaties – but the monetary straight-jacket of sharing a currency with stronger economies, notably Germany, and dependence on the European Central Bank that sets interest rates for the entire 18 member state Eurozone. Last week finance minister Michel Sapin expressed once again the Hollande’s concerns that the Euro was overvalued. This hurts French exports at a time when austerity policies are slashing demand at home.

President Hollande, whose popularity has plunged to a record low, isn’t himself threatened since his mandate lasts until 2017. But his government depends on support in the National Assembly, where the Socialists have 290 seats against the 289 required for an absolute majority. They may have to rely on opposition votes or — more damaging — face an election if a vote on the austerity package fails.

Valls and Sapin were expected to present further details of the planned spending cuts to the cabinet Wednesday before taking it to Brussels under European Union rules to be signed off by faceless, unelected Eurocrats. The plan is slated for a vote in the French parliament on April 29.

Valls, who has been in office three weeks, has been trying to sell the plan to the French. Echoing the right-wing deficit hawks across the English Channel Valls said on France 2 television on April 16: “For more than 30 years we’ve lived beyond our means. I cannot accept it. The president cannot accept it.”

Tom Gill blogs at www.revolting-europe.com

Tom Gill edits Revolting Europe.

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail