Reject cuts: French Socialists to Hollande

The following letter urging a rejection of austerity was sent to French President Francois Hollande by members of the French Socialist Party on Sunday 30th March, following the party’s poor results in local elections.

The call for public investment, a lift in the minimum wage and end to pay freezes is a Europe-wide message.

Mr. President,

The defeat is heavy. Its scope, its impact across the country, despite the good work of local elected officials, demonstrates that left-wing voters wanted to punish political choices since the beginning of [Francois Hollande’s] Presidential term.

Tonight it is all the left which is penalized. But more than our green or communist allies, it is the socialist candidates who have suffered the toughest repudiation in the polls.

The Government cannot remain deaf to the message of the voters. Nothing would be worse than to relativise the seriousness of defeat. Nothing could be more dangerous than to err in analyzing the causes. The problem is not “methodological”, it is political. The central issue is not about competence, it is a rejection of austerity. It is not about ‘sending left-wing signals’ to our electorate. We must change course.

Mr. President,

You made a ‘socially-just recovery’ the watchword of your presidential campaign. Rightly, you have pointed out the historical responsibility of the financial world in the difficulties facing our country and our continent. You said, loud and clear, that Europe must change course, denouncing the harmful nature of austerity policies. You forcefully recalled that “the soul of France is equality.”

Two years later, this analysis seems just as pertinent. It is clear that sometimes actions trump words. Certainly salutary reforms were undertaken. Certainly, nobody ignores the gravity of the crisis and the heavy toll left by Nicolas Sarkozy. Certainly, the eradication of mass unemployment requires time and consistency. But, as we have done tirelessly for months, we urge you to change course.

Increases in indirect taxes, flexible labour markets, a reduction of public deficits at a forced march, a massive decline in the labour costs: we do not reject these solutions just because they risk undermining our social model and our public services, we reject them because they are ineffective in reviving economic activity!

Like you, we believe that the French expect results on employment above all. Like you, we believe that we will be judged on our ability to actually improve the lives of many.

Today, it is pragmatism that must be bold!

Because luck favours the courageous, because France is great when it leaps forward, it is possible to prove wrong those who are resigned, fatalistic and pessimistic.

To make a success of the next phase of the Presidential term, three conditions must be met:

1 / At the European level , it’s time to loosen the grip of the constraints of the Stability Pact. From tomorrow, we must face up to the European Commission, notifying it that it is not only impossible, but especially that we refuse to comply within the stipulated time frames to meet the restrictive deficit criteria. The reduction of public deficits at a forced march is an absurd dogma during a period of economic stagnation, for it precisely investment, and particularly public investment that will generate growth. Austerity has led Europe into the abyss as it reduces the protection of its citizens without achieving any other result that social dumping. Monetary policy is now more of a liability than an asset, and generalized free trade weakens us. The French are mocked for being the bad boys of (neo-) liberal Europe. But they voted for a government which has as an objective to be a determined agent of change in the European project. To propose another way forward for Europe, laying the groundwork for a progressive coalition against austerity, this is the way to “revive the French dream”

2 / On the domestic front, the time has come for a major economic turning point. Rather than “supply side economics” and massive cuts in public spending, priority should be give to returning to growth, employment and a recovery of industry. Obviously, greening the economy must be the guiding principle.

The ‘responsibility pact’ is stillborn. We note the intransigent position of the employers lobby MEDEF that rejects any consideration for workers. Supported by a minority of the trade unions, extremely expensive for the public finances, the “pact” today is not the “great social compromise” that you want.

Do not be afraid to abandon this course. A generalised mobilisation for employment passes through the revival of public investment and the consumption.

It is urgent to take action to boost purchasing power. Tax reform is obviously a tool to improve the lives of the poorest French. But the substantial increase in the minimum wage at its annual revaluation, the end to the freeze on wages, rises in the lowest pensions seem equally necessary.

3 / Just as there will be no recovery without justice, there will be no success if the left fails to unite.

Change can only be achieved by taking into account the aspirations of the social majority to which we owe the political majority secured in 2012. To translate this into action, the Left will only succeed with a new pact for a parliamentary majority that puts to the service of France all those who contributed to the defeat of the Right* during the last presidential campaign.

But beyond the Left it is to the deep malaise that runs through our country that we must now respond. As in each crucial period of its history, France can find the best of itself based on the principles that are the strength and uniqueness of the republican model. Respect for popular sovereignty, defence of our social model, promoting equality: in this year of the death of historic Socialist leader Jean Jaurès, a Social Republic remains a unifying project. It is your responsibility to keep this project alive.

We hope you understand this address as a frank and constructive contribution with one goal: the success of your five years as President, that of the Left, that of France.

*Statement on behalf of Maintenant la Gauche (‘Now for the Left’)

Emmanuel Maurel, Regional Councillor
Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, Senator
Jérôme Guedj, MP
Paul Quiles, a former minister and member of the National Bureau of PS, Julien Dray, Anne Ferreira, Gerard Filoche, Marianne Louis, Jonathan Munoz, Jean-François Thomas

Originally posted at Maintenant la Gauche here, with this translation is thanks to Tom Gill of Revolting Europe.