A lot about the current “Revolution” in France, “manifestations” in the best Left-wing tradition, and disarray at the petrol pumps, &c. I’m quite keen to hear views about the actual issues. Without sheltering behind faux-naivete, it does seem that Hollande’s reforms are what the economy needs to function – a sort of latter-day Thatcherism perhaps – while the strength and depth of French Labour movement constitutes a major political obstacle to any such reforms. Longer hours? Well, yes. Shorter contracts – yes to that, too. Limited periods of compensation for lost employment, well … 15 month does seem quite a long time to recuperate from the shock of losing a life-long job in a car-assembly plant.
Everything about the present events stands against the background of a Social Contract drawn up, not at the French Revolution, but under Le Plan Economique in the 1960s when France effectively re-tooled as an industrial society to amazing effect. (Mirage, Citroen, TGV and all that.) It might look as though this is the Monetarist Right against the Socialist Left but it is really a much more Centre-Right affair and much nearer to the feeling of the governing class in France than Le Pen.
It may be reprehensible that there is such a class but in France, if there is one thing you can say with some assurance it is that there IS a governing class in France just as there is an educational elite and an “agregation”. Previously I have blamed the doctrinaire persistence of French “revolutionary” ideas about citizenship for the mismanagement of the terrorist crisis and, more widely, the whole history of emigration. It is quite possible for the Left to err in this respect just as much as the Right and if they think they’re marching towards the Bastille they may find themselves arriving at a vacant lot behind the Champs de Mars. (Anyone for tennis?