As most of your have seen, there have been a series of ever-growing protests in France; I described the background to them in a previous post. I will go into a little more detail in the next few days, since there’s really no escaping this story in France these days.
But first, an interesting opinion survey I read two days ago in L’Humanité, the far-left French newspaper closely allied with the French Communist Party (PCF). The PCF commissioned a study on French attitudes toward the Party itself, toward Communism in general, and to the need for profound social transformation in France.
The results were published on page 8 under the title "Our public opinion poll: Capitalism isn’t living up to its promises." The results?
- 37% of the French had either a "very good" or "mainly good" opinion of the PCF; 46% had a very/mainly bad opinion of it.
- 54% believed that "communism is an idea which belongs to the past and has no current relevance," 39% believed that it "still has a future" as long as it "re-thinks its principles."
- The statistic I found the most intriguin concerned capitalism. 45% of those polled believed that capitalism should either be "radically transformed" or "profoundly reformed." A further 45% believed it should be "improved in certain aspects."
Keep this in mind as you read the following, from the Washington Post:
"France is divorced from the modern world of the 21st century," said Nicolas Baverez, author of a top-selling book, "New World, Old France." It describes a country so fearful of letting go of outmoded traditions — including a hugely expensive cradle-to-grave welfare system — that it is being shut out of the global marketplace. "We’re at a very dangerous turning point," he said.
Ipsos, a French polling institute, recently asked 500 people between the ages of 20 and 25 the question: "What does globalization mean to you?"
Forty-eight percent of those surveyed responded, "Fear."
Fear of what?
Just about everything, according to Christophe Lambert, author of another examination of contemporary France, "The Fearful Society." The country, he writes, is paralyzed by "fear of the future, fear of losing, fear of others, fear of taking a risk, fear of solitude, fear of growing old."
There is a certain tendency to gloat over European failure and frustration in the American press, so I would take the above with a grain of salt. The two French authors quoted do not represent the whole French political spectrum. But the leven of bitterness and fear in the public debate in France is unmistakable. I don’t plan to spend too much time blogging about this, but I probably will anyway — especially since a general strike on the 28th of March looks set to bring the whole country crashing to a halt…