French 'No' delivered by the Left?

In Brendan Young’s analysis of the campaign that led to the French No vote in last week’s referendum on the EU Constitution leads him to claim it was intended as by the French electorate a blow against a Free Market Europe (subs needed).

The No vote – especially in France – was achieved in large part by grassroots campaigning and debate. Almost 1,000 ‘unity committees’, calling for a “No from the Left”, had been set up across France since last autumn. These were based on a left-wing critique of the Constitution – which highlighted the primacy of the market, of unrestricted competition, and the threat of privatisation of public services contained in the Constitution. The No campaign was led on the ground by these Committees – based upon public sector unions and two large union federations, the alter-globalisation movement Attac, the French Communist Party, the far-left League Communiste Revolutionaire, the left of the Socialist Party, and left-wing Greens. They exposed the neo-liberalism of the Constitution, and campaigned instead for social and environmental priorities.

The French “non” was not just a dig at Chirac because of dissatisfaction with his government. The French vote was a conscious rejection of a Constitution that would enshrine for generations the Thatcherite policies being imposed across Europe by Chirac, Blair, Ahern et al, in conjunction with the European Commission. Market-liberalisers like Blair and Berlusconi – and liberalising EU leaders like Barroso, Mandelson and McCreevy – support this document. Likewise Sarkhozy, leader of the French right-wing UMP party, who gave the game away when he said “the Europe we want will induce change in France”. By this he means an end to the 35- hour week, cuts in social spending to allow employers’ tax cuts, and legal changes so that people can be fired more easily – what Blair calls “labour-market flexibility”. All this in the name of being more competitive.

  • DCB

    Ironic isn’t it that they rejected it for being all the things that I would have loved it to be, and yet I’d vote no because I fear it’s all that they’d want it to be.

    When will the French learn that 12% unemployment is in no small part caused by their “social” labour laws. They seem to think that they can remian competitve if they force the rest of europe to adopt similar labout market inflexibilities, but of course we’ll all just lose out to the rest of the world.

  • euinni

    At the beginning of the campaign, the dynamic of was very much against Turkey. The shift came when Sarkozy said that saying ‘Yes’ to the Treaty meant saying ‘No’ to Turkey and the debate over ‘liberal’ Europe sparked with the talks over the Bolkestein directive. The French voted against their elites (trade unions leaders, editorialists, polititians…) I do not agree with the author of the article as Chirac made is, although disastrous, campaign on the theme of the ‘Europe Fortress’ and defence against the ‘ultra-liberalisme’. Sarkozy’s first speech after the defeat of the ‘Yes’ was on the ‘defence of the French industry’ which is miles away from what is usually describes as the ‘ultra-liberalisme’. In that respect, we see a wider polarisation between the French ‘old social Europe’ and the ‘Anglo-Saxon new economical model’ as described by McGreevy.
    It will be also interesting to see what the French ‘No’ voters will do with their victory, given the pluralism of their projects.