French Thoughts on Communism

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…

4 thoughts on “French Thoughts on Communism

  1. Please blog about the topic. It is very interesting. When I ask Germans in the former East about globalisation they often answer that the GDR wasn’t that bad at all. Maybe a few changes…more freedom and such things. It’s astounishing how many people still believe in communism. The more change is required the more people are attracted by old an obsolete ideas. Anything, even communism, but no change, no risk and no cuts on welfare.

    Strange. Life is always about change. What do we have to loose? In fact everything if we continue to ignore the need for change. Lets embrace some new ideas…not old one.

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  2. Globalisation means fear for Europeans because Europe has all reason to be afraid of globalisation, as far as the economical side of it is concerned. It means that big companies and entrepreneurs have no sense of patriotism anymore. They don’t feel committed to the local communities that they exist in, they are not part of a national economy. When you talked about “the German economy” in earlier years, that meant the sum of the economic activities of the German people; these days it means a number of companies that happen to pay their taxes here; not necessarily because they feel any sort of attachment to the country, but because they were able to cut a good deal or out of some tradition that they hope to overcome soon. That may be good news for the individual investor, but it is bad news on a national level.

    Germans visit the website of Deutsche Bank – could there be a company that more clearly has represented in the past the sense of community in the German industry? – and see a plethora of anglicisms: “Deutsche Asset Management” … “DB Real Estate Germany” … “Private Wealth Management” … this is not the staid and solid enterprise they thought they knew. The same goes for the Post AG, or Lufthansa, or Siemens, or Daimler-Benz, etc. pp. Everyone praises international savvy and modern business, but the truth is that people like their economy a little bit more cozy.

    Globalisation is not “to act in a global marketplace.” We’ve done that for decades, and Germany and other European nations were actually quite good at it. To this day, export is the “motor” of German manufacturing, and the situation would be much worse without it. But modern globalisation is manufacturing in China. Not for the Chinese, mind you, but for everybody. We are assured that even in the future the creative process, design, research, etc. will still be centered in Europe, but that does not put our minds at rest. We doubt that research and development is enough to feed a whole nation. We have a hard time believing that the Chinese will be content with executing European ideas – they aren’t stupid, they will be able to design everything from clothing to cars over short or long, and what will we do then?

    There is no answer to such fears. If anything, the inevitability of the development is stressed over and over again: “It will happen. There is nothing we can do but adapt.” That turns sorrow and fear into desparation and anger. It is a small wonder that people turn towards ideologies that promise a way out. If capitalism wants to remain popular in Europe, then it must show how it works in favour of the European citizens, instead of promising to inexorably drive them into unemployment and poverty. Becaiuse, mind you, it is not the communists that tell us that globalisation means doom. It is our mainstream politicians, economists, managers.

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  3. > Lets embrace some new ideas…not old one.

    I agree. But isnt capitalism older than communism?

    The real existing communism was far from being what its idealistic visions were, so no doubt this went wrong right from the beginning. Capitalism isnt the ideal system either, as rich tend to get richer and poor tend to get poorer. With mass unemployment getting a fact, things will get worse in the future.

    The basic question is: What are the new visions for the future?

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  4. Globalization:
    If everything follows the Pareto principle, 20% will take advantage (become preveliged elite) and 80% will lose. I don’t believe it will be the other way round, not in the third, the second or the first world – even not in China, which already becomes obvious today.

    And the losers: Well, in Europe 80% (64% in total) will just give up, following only their basic instincts, and otherwise escape into virtual reality (which will be provided for them) and 20% will combat the situation.

    The 20% of fighters (4% in total): 80% of them will just get unscrupulous and criminal to become part of the upper minority, and 20% will have political intentions in their fights for a “better world”, whatever promisses they provide with it. Are 0.8% to be dreaded? I am more concerned about the 64% of helpless brainless reality escapers (afraid just of “everything” on globalization) – a second class manhood? However maybe a gratefull modelling material for the 0,8%? Better find some concepts to prevent that. Just 70 years ago we had some serious trouble with this*.

    * P.S.: And I don’t talk about simple Nazism, Fashism has many faces. First efect of that problem, by the way, is a relapse to Nationalism, for instance by disclaiming an European constitution.

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