Friday, March 31, 2006

Things Fall Apart

Change, when it comes from the masses, tends to be progressive. However, when the executives and politicians advocate for "change", it is almost certainly regressive. For those of us who subscribe to The Economist, you probably read this week's absurd article encouraging France to embrace "change".

For centuries, under feudal rule, workers in Europe had few to no rights. Ideas like eight hour work days, safety regulations, and collective bargaining were still twinkles in Marx and Engel's eyes. In the 20th century, labor unions made leaps and bounds in France by passing some of the most progressive and pro-worker laws in the capitalist world. This past month, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin passed into law a bill, known as the CPE, that would make even Benito Mussolini blush. At its core, the law gives employers the right to arbitrarily fire any worker under 26 without notice or justification. Young workers must also wait 2 years before they can receive the same job security as older workers. de Villepin pushed the law through the French legislature by claiming it will lower France's high unemployment rate. The French masses were not as easy to seduce.

In the past week, activists and unions have staged protests all over France that have driven over 3 million to the street. de Villepin has used riot police and tear gas to try and curb the protest, but French workers are undeterred. Laure Maillard, an economist at Ixis Corporate & Investment Bank in Paris, told Bloomberg, "The law is going to apply in the coming weeks and it is likely that social tensions will remain." Understatement of the century, Laure.

Besides simply being poor economists, the individuals that advocate this plan have a clear contempt for anything resembling democracy. The Milton Friedman's of the world believe that laws like this should be forced on the population without their consent. Only 6% of the people support the CPE laws. Pinochet, enter stage right.

Indeed, these riots and protests are just a precursor to the wider social revolution coming in France. At this moment, France, has more potential as a socialist nation than any other developed nation. Not only do they have a long history of democracy, but they are one of the final bastions against neo-liberal economics. The aforementioned Economist article notes that only about 35% of French citizens believe in a free market. These two qualities will prevent a French socialist state from devolving into a Stalinist, pseudo-communist dictatorship like we see in Chine or North Korea.

The French Socialist Party has filed lawsuits against the CPE that will hopefully make change work for the people, not the powerful. If you speak French, visit their website here.