Things have not moved forward much since February regarding pensions or local elections. The government might use the famous 49/3 to force though the new pension law. The 49/3 is the measure that allow governments to pass laws by decree and bypass a vote, usually because it doesn’t have a majority. Here there is a majority, so the decree is to cut short discussion. The opposition has put forward over 30,000 amendments.
As for the local elections, Macron’s candidate as Mayor of Paris resigned after the publication of a schoolboy video he made of himself. Said schoolboys might think twice in future before getting into trouble (apparently school principals have to deal with this sort of thing regularly), seeing how pathetic it looks from outside.
Since we are in a limbo on these two fronts, Froggy will talk about the Greens in France. A bit of history first.
Parties represent a class or group interest. Greens do not represent a class interest. When the Seine overflows through climate change, everyone is affected. Ditto the state of the oceans, rivers, air quality, pesticides, resistance to antibiotics through overuse in intensive meat farming etc.
In the 1960s the deleterious effects of pesticides, in particular DDT, became obvious, as described in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. In the early 1970s the oil producing countries shocked the developed world with price rises. For a time western governments reacted as if the situation might continue to their disadvantage and instigated national anti-waste campaigns. Then the situation was resolved and the motto from then on was ‘consume as much as you can’. People who had believed all the ‘be frugal and avoid waste’ propaganda found a refuge in the new Green parties. Suddenly concern about pollution was left to individuals in the margins. Libertarians dominated these groups, for example in France the leading lights included Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the socialist alternative, coupled with the end of heavy industry and destruction of the old working class, communist parties disappeared and with them a clear political alternative. Social democratic parties implemented or encouraged liberal economics. That in France weakened party politics and left more room for non-political people like the Greens. The main Green party is called Europe Ecologie les Verts, because it’s the result of a merger.
The Greens do quite well in European elections (9 seats out of 79 in 2019, 13% of the vote), less well in general elections (no MPs in 2019 with 4% of the vote; 17 MPs in 2014 with 5%); in local elections they have 49 communes (out of 36,000) and one town of over 100,000 inhabitants, Grenoble, (out of 41).
The 2019 general election results were particularly bad because the Greens participated in the Hollande and the Macron governments, and discredited themselves, since these governments cannot be ecological. They are now led by an unknown young man who when elected promised his audience everything nice and good.
There isn’t really a national programme. According to their website, the ‘party’ as a structure (all parties, not just the greens) is ‘in crisis’. So the Greens need to regroup themselves not on party lines. They rest their hopes on getting ideas from their local federations.
There is a programme however for the present (15th March) local elections. Examples are:
- More public transport. Speed reduction to 20 miles an hour in towns. More council housing, which should be built ecologically. Bring municipal services back in house. No public/private partnership. Subsidise water consumption on a means tested basis.
- Part things that happen already: plant trees, measure air pollution. Part pious wishes: more local shops, fewer supermarkets. Creation of ‘green roofs’ in towns, where people could grow food. When the communal spaces in blocks of flat are often occupied by youths smoking dope, the green roofs will provide extra space of that sort. More police in high immigrant areas.
- End of coal and nuclear power stations by 2040. Reducing the need for transport of people. Subsidise small local firms. Ensure goods don’t come from too far away. Regarding employment: zero unemployment areas, create urban agriculture. Limit the place of advertising billboards in cities. (That in practice means municipalities voting budget cuts). Charge people for waste disposal according to quantity.
- Part fashionable policies unconnected with ecology: massive policy of awareness teaching on gender and homosexuality to primary school children.
- Universal Basic Income. Unconditional welcome for migrants.
- Mayor can ban hunting on grounds of potential accidents and actual nuisance.
- Ban on laboratories that use animal testing.
These policies are present in other parties’ programmes, since the Socialist Party has become a green party: its motto shows the red rose and the words “P.S. SocialEcologie”.
The CP proposes ‘ecocommunism’ and says ecology is at the heart of its programme; ditto for Melanchon’s group La France Insoumise.
There is no awareness, as regards for example decrease in energy supply, that most people could not live with less electricity or petrol, as things stand. They are not in any way ready to give up what they have and to embrace lower growth, meaning loss of work and income. The climate and pollution problems from the Green point of view seems to be the fault of somebody else, and so they act as a protest movement.
To take the example of pesticides in food, according to them the big corporations fixated on profit are responsible. 70% of the population live in towns, the gigantic quantities of food that must be produced and transported to towns must come from somewhere. The Greens promote organic food for school meals. This is great and feasible, because municipalities can buy the crop of a smallish local farmer at a guaranteed price, but this can’t be duplicated in the supplying of large city supermarkets. The Greens certainly don’t advocate expropriating the supermarkets and implementing a rationing system, necessary to favour small scale farming in the modern age.
The free consumer must remain free. This principle is enshrined in the manifesto of the present Mayor of Paris, the Socialist Anne Hidalgo: “The role of the community is to define the rules which allow coexistence, without intervening in individual conceptions of personal good.” How this contradiction might be resolved is not explained.
In Green thinking, the individual will is still supreme, and should not be subordinated to the common good. And still less to the good of the nation. This is where the Greens actually do harm.
The Greens are responsible for a disaster for France: the end of a strong nuclear industry. This industry was meant by De Gaulle to ensure national sovereignty both military and economic; this objective was supported by the Communist Party through its then affiliated trade union the CGT, vital in the running of EDF, Electricite de France, and the nuclear power stations.
The Greens are against nuclear power, and not the least concerned about France as such. With ten years remaining to act on CO2 emissions, and the question of nuclear waste, a problem for hundreds of years ahead, it is clear that nuclear power is part of the solution. Hollande when president, pushed by the ecologists, decided the closure of nuclear power stations which were functioning and safe. Macron is now implementing the first closure; he also gave up the French company Alstom to General Electric, generally running down and demoralising an industry that by definition must be strongly motivated and enjoy 100% government support, or not be at all.
De Gaulle and the communists did not have ecological reasons for supporting nuclear energy; but it turns out that, as a commentator said: “With hindsight, it is striking that the French energy policy based on nuclear power had succeeded in reconciling a long-term strategy, a benefit for the consumer and the development of a powerful domestic industry.
But what is less well known is that this policy obeyed in an exemplary manner the triple objective assigned to national electricity policies by the Community authorities, i.e. climate imperative, competitiveness of supply and energy security.”
It is a bitter irony that it is the Greens we have to thank for this ecological and national disaster. As Hervé Kempf, an ecology journalist censored both by Le Monde and green publications, said, what is needed is not renewables instead of nuclear, but a drastic reduction in energy consumption. Nobody wants to face up to that, from any political party. The Greens and the green left are no better and it’s sheer hypocrisy on their part to claim they are doing something useful. They make a show of their virtue on every fashionable front, and they ignore the crucial issue. Insisting on the primacy of the individual will, or ‘freedom of choice’, they are one of the supports of neo-liberal politics.