Hollande

War of the Lefts

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Published on RT on May 27, 2016

A striking French labour union EDF employee stands near a burning barricade that blocks the entrance of the depot of the SFDM company near the oil refinery to protest the labour reforms law proposal in Donges, France, May 27, 2016 © Stephane Mahe

A striking French labour union EDF employee stands near a burning barricade that blocks the entrance of the depot of the SFDM company near the oil refinery to protest the labour reforms law proposal in Donges, France, May 27, 2016 © Stephane Mahe / Reuters

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France paralyzed by the ‘War of the Lefts’

Paris burns as Hollande fiddles. Take it as shorthand for nationwide protests in France against a proposed labor “reform” while the President poses at the G-7 in Japan as if he’s one of the Masters of the Universe.

France is semi-paralyzed – from dockworkers in the port of Le Havre (a key trade hub) to workers in refineries, oil depots, nuclear power stations (accounting for 75 percent of the national electricity supply), airports, and the metropolitan Paris rail system. This has translated into panic at myriad petrol stations – with much of the French transportation system brought to a standstill.

All this because the cataclysmically unpopular, nominally “socialist” Hollande administration has introduced a draft law that drastically modifies the French labor code and essentially adopts Anglo-Saxon neoliberal “hire and fire” in a deeply regulated, regimented nation where workers’ rights and protections are taken extremely seriously. Hollande and his astonishingly mediocre Prime Minister Manuel Valls defend it as the best way to fight chronic unemployment.

Scrap the bill to unblock the nation

May 2016 in France is certainly no May 1968 remix. It features a vortex of complicating factors, such as the “terra terra terra” psychosis (Paris is in a semi-disguised state of siege); the ongoing Nuit Debout movement at the Place de la Republique – the French version of Occupy Wall Street; and police with their nerves on edge complaining, and even demonstrating, that they are not getting all the love they need from the general population.

May 2016 is essentially configured as a battle between the socialist government and French unions. It’s bound to get nastier. Police figures suggest 153,000 strikers/demonstrators this past Thursday – a huge mobilization day that touched public services and air transport; unions claim there were almost 300,000. The executive is beginning to use force to unblock key refineries. Panic at empty petrol stations is becoming the norm.

The Hollande-Valls duo has gone hardcore; the labor reform bill must be approved, otherwise that’s the end of the government. Valls’ red line is that if the bill goes, he also goes. Yet he’s already been forced to (slightly) backtrack; he’s now allowing “modifications” and “improvements” to the bill.

So this is essentially a battle of the French Lefts – a radical, working-class branch against a nominally social-democratic one in power, actually neoliberal. It’s also a dialogue of the deaf. The Prime Minister is not exactly a participant of social dialogue. For him these two Lefts are irreconcilable. You don't need to be a reader of Barthes or Deleuze to infer that France is running the risk of reaching degree zero of social democracy.

After the eighth day of demonstrations, the secretary-general of the powerful CGT union, Philippe Martinez, is now demanding to be received by the President and the President only – actually throwing Valls into the dustbin. From Japan, Hollande emitted a laconic “I’m being briefed.”

A case can be made that the Hollande-Valls duo is so disconnected from the street pulse that they had no idea this bill would be met with so much hostility. They should have gone for a wider reach – and should have previously invested in a lot of dialogue, not to mention semantic niceties, with the unions.

So what does the French public think about this mess? Essentially, three-quarters of the population is against the bill. And you can’t “modernize” France without the French. Yet this being France, subtle nuances matter. According to one of the latest polls, 69 percent are in favor of the bill being scrapped, to avoid the nation being paralyzed. Another poll shows that 62 percent consider the strikes “justified” despite parts the country being paralyzed. So a sound cross-pollination of these polls tells us that social movements are legitimate even as most people don’t want to see the nation paralyzed.

In a lighter vein, Paris café talk now rules that the Socialist Party better not even try to stage an upcoming presidential campaign; what’s going on is proof that the working class hates their guts. It’s a fact that the current état d’urgence – as in the French version of the US Patriot Act – plus the neoliberal drive made the Socialist Party (PS) lose the votes of artists and intellectuals as well as ‘bobos’ (bourgeois bohemians) which used to be the mainstay of their electoral base. And all this while CEOs so much courted by the PS will continue to vote for the right.

Time to be an ‘indignado’ with a cause

So what next? The sound money is on some sort of compromise; the text of the bill will be amended by the Senate next month, before coming back to the Assembly. This means it will be “retouched” – as even the government is now admitting; and that will mean a victory for social movements. Whatever happens the War of the Lefts won’t be over. And the final result may even come up in the form of a collective suicide – to the benefit of the Right.

Meanwhile, growth in France remains feeble at best. Euro 2016 starts in only two weeks, on June 10. France may expect to receive as many as 1.5 million foreign tourists and profit to the tune of €1.3 billion. The fan zone under construction in front of the Eiffel Tower will attract at least 100,000 people daily.

If there is no solution in the coming days, the Hollande-Valls duo will have to back down. The French security system won’t be able to cope, simultaneously, with a high terrorist alert and policing myriad demonstrations (a huge one is already scheduled for June 14). A lot is riding on the success of the Euro football, not the currency. Football, in this case, is far from politically neutral; if the whole show is a major success, it’s Hollande who will reap the benefits.

Socialists in France, meanwhile, could do worse than take a look at neighboring Spain.
In Spain under Franco, communists and socialists were at the vanguard of democratic resistance, incorporating in their struggle those who created Workers’ Commissions and some of the best intellectuals of the times.

But then came the recent neoliberal drift of the European socialist parties – which led them to lose their historical hegemony. They have not adapted to being able to defend their social base – and the welfare state – and at the same time satisfy the harsh requirements of the financial casino system as well as a European Commission economic policy of fiscal austerity as demanded by Germany and financialization as influenced by Britain.

During Franco and the Cold War, it was common to use “communist” and “socialist” as a disqualification of any political argument. What reigned was the politics of fear. France, for its part, was way more sophisticated politically (and not under a fascist regime.)

What’s left for the ‘Lefts’ in Europe is to pay close attention to the emerging path opened by social movements, bent on rebuilding the welfare state and creating worthy forms of employment; all that has been denied by market fundamentalism and the austerity TINA (There Is No Alternative) mindset.

Among the Spanish ‘indignados’ one finds anarchists, communists, socialists – a microcosm of modern history in Spain rooted in the indignation against dictatorship and social injustice, all trying to reinvent themselves while neoliberalism flounders. If only the French Lefts would pay attention.

———————————-

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.

 

 

Paris Massacre: Circle of Mayhem

terrorists-Anthony-Freda-Studiogc2reddit-logoOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on November 20, 2015

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The Massacre in Paris last Friday has already had much of the expected Blowback.  France is under Martial Law, 1000s of Police, National Guard and Military units are patrolling the streets in Camo outfits and Black Robocop Gear.  The Ruskies have joined the Frogs to send their long range Bombers and Cruise Missiles in to further bomb Syria back to the Stone Age.  They do this because this method has clearly been so successful for the FSoA in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Right. Roll Eyes

The Saber Rattling is reaching deafening proportions as everyone from Hollandaise Sauce to Marine LePew  to The Donald first want to Glaze over the whole neighborhood there with Nukes, and after that Deport all the Muslims currently living in Eurotrashland or Amerika back to the nuclear wasteland!

Clearly, this Circle of Mayhem could only be treated properly with a RANT.

Snippet

In terms of asymmetric warfare, if in fact it's true that ISIS is responsible and has smuggled in 4000 Allah Akbars to wreak mayhem around Europe, then they should be following up with more attacks in other cities. Otherwise it smells more like a 9-11 style false flag, providing a good excuse for Euro countries to try to close their borders and refuse more incoming refugees.

 

Newz now also is that France has deployed their ONLY Nuke powered Aircraft Carrier to the waters off the Syrian coast. The purpose of which is to do precisely WHAT? The Ruskies are bombing in Syria and so is NATO already. One Frog aircraft Carrier here will make a big difference? What? More bombs dropped just means more refugees and more radicalized terrorists. Besides, their real problems aren't in Syria anyhow, they are right at home in Frogland, and Krautland and the Limeyland too!

EuroSoap

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on March 20, 2015

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TSIPRAS/MERKEL SUMMIT: You thought Greek politics complicated? Wait until you tot up the seismic splits in the EU

Take a close look at the timeline since Thursday night’s mini-summit marathon between Alexis Tsipras and Angela Merkel.

After a 3am Friday finish, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the meeting as “good and constructive,” but warned that the Greek government will have to meet commitments before it can access EU money. She gave Syriza exactly seven days to offer fully detailed “reform” proposals to Troika2, and then left clutching several haunches of Venison and 683 sausages for her beloved fridge.

A few hours later, however, Jean-Claude Juncker – the President of the European Commission (EC) – announced a completely unconditional 2 billion euro contribution immediately available to Greece to boost growth, tackle youth unemployment and help with the “humanitarian crisis”. Juncker said the cash for this would come from “unused EU development funds”.

When I called the EC press office this afternoon and asked how this circle might be squared, there was much scurrying about and promises of getting back to me…none of which materialised.

Those EU schisms in full

This is what’s really going on here: pissed off by the degree to which Germany and the Troikanauts are increasingly adopting the Führerprinzip in relation to EU affairs, the EC as led by J-CJ is doing everything in its power to be good-cop to Greece in general, and Tsipras in particular. This is a good old-fashioned Nazi Party power struggle, and there is every opportunity for Athens to exploit it.

But equally, we must remember that on another level entirely, Francois Hollande of France got away almost scot-free last week on deficit failures that far outweigh those of Greece….but was forced to bring in Troika-demanded laws about tax evasion…and ECB diktats about bank liquidity. This has not gone down well in his Party.

The Parti Socialiste de France doesn’t like this crap because (like many of us) they foresee the wholesale handing over of millions of votes to Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale.

So then: we have the EC at war with Berlin and Troika2, plus France at war with Frankfurt. But just when you thought you had it sussed, more fractures appear.

For Wolfgang Schäuble is at war with Merkel over his single-minded obsession to become Supreme Leader of the as yet unformed Fiskalunion…and fighting a second front against Mario Draghi’s ECB, which in turn is fighting on another front entirely with Jens Weidemann and the German Central Bank…who rightly think that Draghula is working not for the euro, but a planned eurodollar spookily approaching parity with, um, the euro. And Merkel too distrusts the ECB boss’s motives….preferring as she does to keep her options open on the subject of which way to jump in the Dollar v Rublenimbi chasm.

Confused? You will be after this latest episode of Eurosoap. But there are far more plot lines and faultlines to develop before your confusion is comprehensively constructed.

There is the coming UK election, and the increasing likelihood of the ‘biggest’ Party needing to do a deal with EU-secessionists. There is the growing secessionist and europhobic tendency in Italy. There is Podemos support in Spain growing with every act of defiance from Greece. There is the Austro-German bank collapse epidemiology threatening everyone from Santander to Deutsche. And there remains the implacable unwillingness of Viktor Orban in Hungary to have anything to do with globalism in general, or the euro in particular.

Face facts: the EU is imploding.

 

From Minsk to Brussels, it’s all about Germany

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France's President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to France’s President Francois Hollande during a meeting with the media after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Grigory Dukor)

Originally published in RT on February 13, 2015

Germany holds the key to where Europe goes next. A fragile deal may have been reached on Ukraine, but there’s still no deal with Greece. In both cases, there’s much more than meets the eye.

Let’s start with the grueling Eurogroup negotiation in Brussels over the Greek debt.

Greek officials swear they never received a draft of a possible agreement leaked by Eurogroup bureaucrats to the Financial Times. This draft, crucially, referred to an agreement “amending and extending and successfully concluding,” the current austerity-heavy bailout.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cut off “amending”. This is the draft that was leaked. But then Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called Prime Minister Tsipras – and the statement, still not signed, was rejected. So this was a top Tsipras decision.

Tsipras could not possibly balk – not after previously raising the stakes – as in promising to boost the Greek minimum wage and halt privatizations. He’s still betting the house that the Troika won’t allow a ‘Grexit’. Yet he may be wrong; the possibility of ‘Grexit’ is hovering around 35 percent to 40 percent, and it will be much higher if no deal is reached on the next crunch meeting, Monday.

Tsipras and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem at least agreed that Greek officials and the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) should start talking “at a technical level.” Translation: they will be comparing the current austerity nightmare with new Greek proposals.

Athens essentially has only two choices. Either the Troika accedes to some form of debt repudiation – real or as a sleight of hand (that’s Syriza’s proposal – an arrangement that fosters growth); or ‘Grexit’ ensues, with Athens creating its own central bank and currency as an independent nation. There’s no third choice; a debt of 175 percent of Greece’s GDP is totally unpayable.

As much as the Troika and its institutional derivatives spin ‘Grexit’ won’t be a big deal, the fact is a Greek debt default could have a more devastating effect than the Lehman Brothers case. It was not the fundamentals at Lehman that caused widespread panic when it went down; but the fear that their derivative exposures would bring down the system.

And cutting through all the spin, what remains, essentially, is what European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Le Figaro a few days ago; it’s out of the question to suppress the Greek debt and, most of all, “there can be no democratic option against European treaties.” There it is, crystal clear: EU institutions work against democracy.

Plan B remains a distinct possibility. Moscow has already invited Tsipras to meet with Putin. And Beijing has invited Tsipras to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. These are the “R” and the “C” in BRICS in action.

It’s worth remembering Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos when he articulated if not a majority view, at least a substantial perception among Greek public opinion; “We want a deal. But if there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow Europe apart, then we will have to go to Plan B… We have other ways of finding money. It could be the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries.”

Alea jacta est. Troika or RC?

And it’s all about NATO

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

Then there’s Minsk. What was achieved after nearly 17 hours of a grueling marathon is not exactly, in French President Francois Hollande’s words, a “global” agreement and a “global ceasefire” in Ukraine.

There’s every possibility the ceasefire will be nullified only a few minutes after its implementation at midnight this Saturday – irony of ironies, at the end of Valentine’s Day. Significantly, the final statement bears no important signatures: Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was cautious, warning Minsk 2.0 is not exactly a breakthrough, but at least de-escalates matters. Merkel preferred to spin that Putin had to pressure the Eastern Ukraine federalists of the DNR and the LNR to agree to the ceasefire.

Predictably, like clockwork, even before the ceasefire, the IMF – under Washington’s orders – suddenly announced it would continue to rape, sorry, help bailout bankrupt, failed state Ukraine with a tranche of$17.5 billion, part of a large $40 billion, four-year “rescue” package. Translation: Kiev’s goons now have fresh cash to throw at a war they don’t want to give up on.

Poroshenko himself took no time to torpedo the ceasefire – spinning there’s no autonomy granted to the areas controlled by the federalists, and refusing to confirm Putin’s assertion that Kiev has agreed to terminate the vicious economic blockade of Donbass.

The precise contours of the demilitarized zone – bordering one frontline in September and a very different frontline five months later – remain a mystery. And Washington immediately turned the “withdrawal of foreign forces” clause into a joke. The Pentagon has already announced it will begin training Ukraine’s National Guard next month.

Minsk 2.0 hardly qualifies as a band-aid. Ukraine is unredeemable. It would only come back from the dead if a tsunami of cash – almost equivalent to the cost of German reunification – were poured in. Needless to add, no one in Europe wants to dish out even a few devalued euro.

This was, remains, and will continue to be, essentially about NATO expansion. Washington and the Kiev marionettes will never allow any constitutional reform that lets the Donbass block NATO embedded in Ukraine. So the ‘Empire of Chaos’, in a nutshell, won’t cease from using Ukraine to bully Russia. The ‘Empire of Chaos’ is not exactly in the business of nation building – quite the contrary.

Crossing the German bridge

And that brings us to the crucial role played by Germany – with France as sidekick.

Chancellor Merkel had to go to Moscow to negotiate with Putin because she saw which way the wind was blowing – counterproductive sanctions; Ukrainian economy in free fall; Kiev’s goons defeated on the battlefield. That was as much an imperative as a crucial demarcation away from the imperial NATO expansion obsession.

As Immanuel Wallerstein has observed Moscow is pursuing “a careful policy. Not totally in control of the Donetsk-Lugansk autonomists, Russia is nonetheless making sure that the autonomists cannot be eliminated militarily. The Russian price for real peace is a commitment by NATO that Ukraine is not a potential member.”

So Merkel may have defused the Obama administration’s drive to weaponize Kiev – but only for a moment. There’s no evidence – yet – that the Obama administration and its embedded neo-con cells have admitted that the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR) are essentially “lost” to Kiev’s influence.

Hollande provided the perfect cover for Merkel. It was Hollande who publicly supported autonomy – as in federalization – for the DPR and the LPR. At the same time, both Merkel and Hollande know that Kiev will never de facto accept it (and even a substantial portion of the Donbass only accepts federalization as a stepping stone to eventual secession and union with Russia.)

Merkel – at least in terms of German public opinion – did manage to achieve her goal, emerging as a victor (“The world chancellor,” as the tabloid Bild coined it) after her frequent-flyer marathon. Putin also emerged a victor of sorts – as Merkel essentially rehashed proposals he made months ago. So yes, whichever angle we look at it, this was in fact a Moscow-Berlin deal.It’s easy to see who is extremely disgruntled and will do everything to bomb it; Washington, Kiev, London, Warsaw and the hysterical “Russia is invading” Baltic states.

Last but not least, let’s call attention to the monumental white elephant in the room. Minsk 2.0 was conducted in the total absence of the ‘Empire of Chaos’ and the (increasingly irrelevant) “special relationship” British minions.

Slowly but surely, public opinion across Europe – and especially Germany – is experiencing a tectonic shift. The obsession by the ‘Empire of Chaos’ to further weaponize Kiev has horrified millions – resurrecting the specter of a war in Europe’s eastern borderlands. Not only in Germany but also in France, Italy, Spain, there is a growing continental consensus against NATO.

Even at the height of a vicious Russia demonization campaign unleashed by virtually the whole German corporate media, a Deutschland Trend survey revealed that most Germans are against NATO troops in Eastern Europe. And no less than 49 percent would rather see Germany position itself as a bridge between East and West. The leadership in Beijing definitely took note.

So it’s tempting to hop on the Merkel/Hollande peace train as the heart of Europe finally exercising their sovereignty and frontally defying the ‘Empire of Chaos’. Perhaps that could be the embryo of a German-French partnership for peace in Europe and even beyond, from the Middle East to Africa.

That would frontally antagonize NATO’s screenplay – which implies the ’Empire of Chaos’ ruling uncontested over Europe, the Middle East and even across Eurasia, with continental European powers, especially Germany, France and yes, Russia, at the margins.

Sooner or later European politicians will have to wake up and smell the coffee; the notion of a German-French-Russian pan-European peace/trade partnership is way more popular than reflected in failed corporate media.

Now it’s up to Germany to clean up its act on Greece. The choice is stark. The EU may embark on a quadruple-dip recession as the ECB further destroys what is left of the European middle class. Or Germany, reflecting the thinking among its captains of industry, may tell the EU – Troika included – that the way to go is to shift the strategic, trade and political focus from West to the East. That would start by stuffing the corporate US-devised TTIP treaty – that’s NATO on trade. After all, this is going to be the Eurasian century – and this train has already left the station.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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