Dead Men Left

Friday, May 27, 2005

Bewildered liberal journalists resort to cheap abuse shock

The very idea that leftwingers might be busily campaigning against taking the latest gift Jose Barroso's EU grotto has completely blown the minds of the liberal media over here. They're freaking out, man, they're going apeshit crazy:

For once, the French right is more or less right. All the polls show the centre right electorate, those who habitually vote for Chirac's UMP party and its ally, Giscard's UDF, to be firmly behind the constitution; pro-treaty support on the moderate right is up at 80% or 82%.

"More or less right"... the point at which you, the tremulous liberal journo, start declaring your closest allies to be the more unpleasantly corrupt and racist end of the profoundly corrupt and racist French establishment is probably the point at which should have a quiet lie down in a darkened room and wait for everything to blow over.

Alas, the poor Gaullist darlings are being let down by those treacherous rotters on the left:

...there is no particular reason to suggest that those on the left who declined to listen to, or vote for, Jospin in 2002 will do so now. Their choice will depend more, according to the pollsters, on whether their personal experience and situation prompt them to see Europe as an opportunity or as a threat, a magnificent and improving adventure or a Trojan horse for globalisation.

And that is where the French Socialist party has its biggest problem. It is still torn between a modernist, social democratic (or even Blairite) vision and the traditional, immutable tenets of the Gallic left. Still fundamentally uncomfortable with all notions of the market, it is proving incapable of reassuring its historic electoral base of anything, let alone of the merits of the EU constitution.

Ah, those immutable Gallic tenets. Opposition to neoliberalism arrives with the stripy jumpers and the strings of onions. Strange how the hint that hundreds of thousands of French voters don't particularly want "Blairite visions" forced on them brings out the inner Kilroy-Silk.

If xenophobia doesn't work, and with your head still reeling from the shock of it all, you could just try the odd smear, here provided in a report from a Left "no" rally:

But weren't all the references to "free-trade", "competition", and "markets", which they hated, copied into the constitution from existing EU treaties going back to 1957? Weren't they therefore challenging, not just the constitution but the whole basis - free trade, free movement of workers - on which French prosperity had been built in the 1960s? No, they weren't against free movement, they were just just against the Poles and Czechs coming to France on low wages. They wanted a united Europe but one with harmonised social protection, not free trade or "competition".

The misrepresentation involved here is incredible. Those cheerleading the constitution want to remove hard-won social protections in France through competition with Poland and the Czech republic. Those opposing it want to bring the welfare states of Poland, the Czech republic and the rest up to the standards in France. This is working-class internationalism; to flip it on its head, and hint that it disguises nothing more than common-or-garden racism is breathtaking.

Many racists will vote "no" on Sunday, just as many racists will vote "yes". What's important is how marginal the xenophobes have become, squeezed by a Left that has demanded an alternative vision of Europe. This is the single most salient fact that should be known on this issue. By attempting to repackage French politics for British consumption - through the pretence that, behind the ATTAC and LCR banners, lurks UKIP - the British media have failed their readers.

(Socialist Worker had a good summary of the debate last summer; and here's the Trade Unions Against the EU Constitution site.)