Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 05:37:23 PM EST
[Revised due to disappointing quality of first source, I add another more interesting tidbit...]
Taking a break from decrying revisionism and manufactured consent in Festung Nordamerika, I ran across this promising, but ultimately disappointing book review and an op/ed from LMD. Both suggest that France is under direct attack by neocons/plutocrats; the first casts Sarkozy in particular as the darling of the neolibs, the second doesn't point fingers so precisely but suggests that the French economy is seen by transnational finance capitalists as a ripe peach for the picking.
The assault on labour and resources known as "reform" to the neocons always comes with an ideological narrative to justify its cruelties. I am curious to know what our Francophone contingent can add for deeper understanding of the neolib offensive in their nation-state. Is Sarkozy your very own Thatcher? and if so, what can be done about him and the horse he rode in on?
opening grafs of review caught my attention but it gets less interesting after that, sorry...
The most discussed political book in France this autumn is Ce grand cadavre à la renverse, literally, "this big corpse lying on its back"), by Bernard-Henri Lévy (Grasset, Paris, 2007). It is supposed to be a book about the French left. But oddly enough, it is not really about the left, and it is not even really a political book.
Bernard-Henri Lévy is by far the most notorious of the small coterie of propagandists who, some thirty years ago, under the label of "New Philosophers", began a highly publicized campaign to reverse the anti-imperialist sentiment that had become dominant worldwide in reaction to the U.S. war in Vietnam.
The war was over, and the French left was weakened by sectarian fragmentation and the collapse of unrealistic "revolutionary" expectations. The Khmer Rouge, who took power in Cambodia in the wake of US bombing and a US-backed coup d'état, engaged in the sort of bloodbath that had been wrongly forecast to happen in Vietnam if the United States left. By a highly publicized and emotion-laden "discovery" of the Soviet gulag over twenty years after the death of Stalin, and by focusing on the murderous aberrations of the Khmer Rouge, the New Philosophers undertook to stigmatize all left aspirations toward radical social change as inevitably totalitarian. Against the ever-present "totalitarian threat", the United States was restored as the necessary savior of democracy and defender of human rights.
It is hard to measure the real impact of this campaign. It fit into a general post-Nixon effort to rehab U.S. imperialism under the banner of human rights...
This narrative is certainly ingrained in average USians by now. Hitler/Stalin/PolPot are the Designated Great Satans of the last century, and some automatically add Mao. The crimes of western imperialists are minimised or erased, and the rehabilitation of empire, race supremacy and mission civilisatrice is attempted both in the UK and US. I had not realised that this was also happening in France. Can anyone comment, expand, dismiss, deride, commiserate?
Next, Ignacio Ramonet in Le Monde Diplomatique says openly that transnational capitalists are deliberately targeting France for takeover and looting:
While the discourse we once called alternative-worldist, critical of the economic horror, becomes muddled and suddenly inaudible, a new capitalism - even more brutal and conquering - is moving in. That's the capitalism of a new category of vulture funds, private equity funds, funds with the appetite of an ogre that command colossal amounts of capital (1).
The names of these titans - The Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR), The Blackstone Group, Colony Capital, Apollo Management, Starwood Capital Group, Texas Pacific Group, Wendel, Eurazeo, etc. - remain little known to the general public. And, sheltered by that discretion, they're in the process of taking possession of the global economy. In four years, from 2002 to 2006, the sum raised by these investment funds, which collect the money of banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and the assets of the richest individuals, went from 94 billion euros to 358 billion! Their financial firepower is phenomenal, exceeding 1,100 billion euros! Nothing withstands them. Last year, in the United States, the main private equities firms invested 290 billion euros in repurchasing companies, and more than 220 billion euros during just the first semester of 2007, thus taking control of eight thousand companies.... Already one American employee out of four - and close to one French employee out of twelve - works for these mastodons (2).
Moreover, France has become - after the United Kingdom and the United States - their first target. Last year, they took possession of 400 companies (for a sum of 10 billion euros) and they now manage more than 1,600. Well-known brands - Picard, Dim, Quick restaurants, Buffalo Grill, the Yellow Pages, Allociné and Afflelou - find themselves under the control of private equity, usually Anglo-Saxon, firms that now covet the giants of the CAC 40.
The phenomenon of these rapacious funds erupted about fifteen years ago, but is now on steroids. Thanks to cheap credit and ever more sophisticated financial instruments, that phenomenon has lately taken on a worrying scope. The principle is simple: a club of wealthy investors decides to buy up companies that they then manage privately, far from the stock market and its restrictive rules, and without having to account to fussy, fuddy-duddy shareholders (3). The idea is to circumvent the very principles of the capitalist ethic by betting on the laws of the jungle only.
Concretely, two specialists explain to us, this is how things go: "To acquire a company worth 100, the fund takes 30 out of its pocket (on average) and borrows 70 from banks, taking advantage of the very low interest rates of the moment. During three or four years, it reorganizes the company with the management in place, rationalizes production, develops activities and captures all or part of the profits to pay the interest ... on its own debt. After which, it will resell the company for 200, often to another fund that will do the same thing. Once the borrowed 70 is repaid, the firm has 130 left in its pocket for an initial bet of 30, or a return of over 300 percent on a four-year investment. What could be better?" (4)
And while they personally are earning insane fortunes, the directors of these funds practice, without any squeamishness, the four great principles of corporate "rationalization": reducing employment, squeezing salaries, increasing the work pace, and outsourcing. Encouraged in all that by the public authorities, which, as in France today, dream of "modernizing" their production apparatus. And to the great displeasure of the unions, which call it a nightmare and denounce the end of the social contract.
Some thought that with globalization capitalism was finally sated. We see now that its voracity seems limitless. Until when?
Should one read the phrase Encouraged in all that by the public authorities
as a polite LMD swipe at Sarko? where does LMD fit into the press spectrum?