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French Socialists Divide on Austerity Plan Vote as Front de Gauche Faces its own New Rows.

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Manuel Valls  Faces Socialist Opposition. 

France’s lawmakers Tuesday voted narrowly in favour of a plan to slash €50 billion from the country’s budget deficit by 2017, but a high abstention rate underscored discord within the Socialist majority.

The plan, designed to allow the eurozone’s second-largest economy to meet deficit-reduction commitments, passed with 265 votes in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, with 232 voting against and 67 abstaining.

The programme can now be submitted for approval to the European Commission, which has already granted France two extra years to bring its deficit below EU-mandated limits.

It is the brainchild of recently appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls and targets the country’s generous welfare system in an aggressive drive to cut state spending.

More than 40 percent of the savings will come from cuts in social benefits and healthcare, another 18 billion is to be trimmed from the budgets of government ministries and the remaining 11 billion will come from restructuring local government.

“It’s a decisive vote that deeply emphasizes the advancement of our country,” Valls told parliament before the vote.

The plan has divided the ruling Socialist Party, however, and 41 of the party’s members abstained from the vote – a high rate pointing to resistance ahead as Valls tries to push through reform to revive the economy and spur growth while also meeting deficit-cutting goals.

While the Greens party and the left-wing Front de Gauche voted in the majority against the plan, the centrist UDI party mostly abstained.

A few members of the opposition UMP party, which overwhelmingly voted against the plan, also abstained.

The party’s leader Jean-François Copé denounced the plan as an “optical illusion”.

Economists are also sceptical as to whether the plan will allow the Socialist government to meet its goal of lowering its public deficit to three percent of output by the end of 2015.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Today Valls has defended his cuts plan,

«J’assume ce réformisme, j’assume cette social-démocratie ou, au fond, cette gauche profondément moderne, qui regarde la réalité en face et qui, en même temps, veut répondre à l’attente de justice sociale»

This reformism, that I have taken on, this social democracy, is a deeply  modern left,  one that faces up to reality and at the same time, wants to meet the expectations of social justice.”

Libération.

Christian Paul (close to the moderate social democratic Martin Aubry) , amongst the Socialists who abstained, said that it was the result of “politically mature, considered policy by a group wounded by the results of the local election, and the feeling that the first 2 years of the (Socialist_) Presidency have not held to their promises.”,  This was “Un vote d’alerte, pas un vote de défiance » a wake-up call, not an open challenge, he added.

Humanité

Meanwhile news reaches us (thanks EY) that leading figures in the French Communist Party are concerned by the difficulties of  working with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Front de Gauche and are re-thinking their whole approach to the bloc.

More :

PCF : avec ou sans le Front de gauche ?
Par Roger Martelli
 
And (l’Humanité)
 
Des communistes pour une refondation ambitieuse du Front de gauche 
 
 

French Prime Minister Valls Booed at Vatican Canonisation.

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Ils étaient une vingtaine a dénoncer l'attitude du Premier ministre, à Laval.

The attendance of French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, at the Vatican, during the canonisation of two previous Popes, has created controversy.

“Twice, some of the thousands of French Catholics present at the Vatican ….booed the Prime Minister when his image appeared on the giant screens. The cries rang out once while Manuel Valls approached the podium Piazza Farnese, before the start of the ceremony.”

 Manuel Valls was present at the ceremony, he claimed, “«pour représenter la France et son gouvernement (…) un État laïc mais respectueux de l’Église». “”to represent France and its government (…) a secular state but respectful of the Church.”

Not only the Catholic hard-right – still angry over Gay marriage and hysterical about an alleged plot to teach  “gender studies” and homosexuality  in schools – were annoyed.

L’Association des Libres Penseurs de France (ADLPF), and other secularist organisations, have protested at this official recognition and support of Christianity. 

The Fédération Nationale de la Libre Pensée states, “C’est la soumission pure et simple de la Républiqueà l’Eglise catholique, apostolique et romaine !”

This Tuesday the rightward leaning  Socialist Prime Minister faces a crucial  Parliamentary vote on his plans for cuts and a “pact of responsibility” with employers, reducing charges and encouraging “enterprise”. Members of his own party are known to have raised objections, and the outcome could be close. Valls has denied that he will seek the support of right-wing deputies to push his proposals through (le Monde).

Will the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Continue its Lonely Path?

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Left Alternative to French Socialist Government.

French politics are in turmoil. Opinion Polls show both the Socialist President, François  Hollande and his Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on a slide. They have dropped to backing levels of  35 and 37%.

Thier handling of the Mittal group’s  plans for the Florange steel plant, which many believe will not save jobs or the furnace, has been widely criticised on the left and by trade unions. 

Left-wing sections of the Front de Gauche have issued a joint declaration on the wider aspects of the present situation.

They note that the strategy of the Ayrault government is far from their electoral promises of “« changement maintenant », change now.

The Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls has not hesitated to crack down on Roms,  has decided to fight by police repression, protests against the construction of the airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, and the Cabinet is wobbling about the promise to give immigrants the vote in local elections.

St the root of this, they states, is a failure to confront the austerity measures incarnated in the European Treaty drawn up principally by Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

The European Union agreement on increased ‘compeition’, a mainstay of “ultralibéralisme”, remains unchallenged. Austerity policies, based on this outlook, are being implemented by the Ayrault government, with President Hollande’s approval.

Against this they call for a campaign in 2013 for an alternative to austerity, based on concrete measures, to help resolve the crisis. They propose that the Front de Gauche takes every possible means to mobilise protest, to show that there is an alternative on the left,a nd that cuts and austerity are not in inevitable . In this way they propose to broaden their campaign to include all those who share this strategy.

Pierre Laporte (FASE), Stéphanie Treillet (Convergences et alternative), Alain Faradji (Gauche unitaire), Ingrid Hayes (Gauche anticapitaliste)

How is the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (from which both the Gauche Unitaire and the Gauche anticapitaliste broke away) reacting?

On the Gauche anticapitaliste site this has just been posted.

Le NPA va t-il choisir un isolement supplémentaire ? Samy Johsua.

Johsua notes that the former NPA Presidential Candidate Olivier Besancenot does envisage some kind of general cooperation between different left forces opposed to the present Socialist-led government’s policies. But that in the documents for the NPA’s next year Conference there is no mention of any real « front social et politique » that could give this shape. The  NPA remains fixated by hard-line opposition to ‘social liberalism’, which in its view is incarnated in the Socialist Party (PS).

If the NPA now stands for ‘left opposition’ to the Ayrault government, that is not sufficient for real unity.

Instead we see a repeat of the old – antique – opposition between  « les réformistes » (Front de Gauche) et « les révolutionnaires » (the NPA). The FdG which stands for change “through the ballot box”, is not, in this view, really ‘anti-capitalist’. It does not stand for real united struggle, nor their self-organisation.

To Joshua the NPA remains stuck in the past. Its appeal for a party in which one could see “cohabiter des traditions différentes” draws narrow limits. Only the traditional far left is welcome to join.

By contrast for the Gauche anticapitaliste, a “front social et politique ” of the left of the left remains essential.

But, as yet, the NPA appears not to want to be a full part of such a united response to the crisis.