The French Presidential Election: the Roles of Fascism and Fukushima

Today in Paris the first of May parades by unions, the right wing and the moving-ever-closer-to-seriously-right wing Sarkozy supporters are all out in force. I can hear the left wing bullhorns out of my central Paris window. What are they shouting about? Basically they are upset that what seemed to be a French way of life is being undermined. Except for ALL of the parties are shouting about the same thing. Yet each group defines what being French means in a different way. No one appears to be happy about the state of things in France. What are they unhappy about? Obviously, a large percentage of them are unhappy with Sarkozy, and this is coming from the -- amazing by U.S. standards -- 80 percent of the electorate who voted in the first round. The head of the Communist party even encouraged the people marching today to bring their iron bars to the protest.

But one thing is sure, that French President Nicolas Sarkozy blew it last week when he began heavily courting the right-wing Front National vote which hovered between 18 and 20 percent. F He used words which harkened back to Marechal Petain's collaborationist speeches during World War II. To make it worse, the press has come out with information once again allegedly linking Sarkozy's last campaign with money from Gaddhafi and now Sarkozy is suing them for printing this claim (which is confusing as he did not sue them when they first claimed it back in 2006). Then, a few days ago, the former Libyan oil minister was found dead, floating in the Danube. Did he know anything about deals for oil concessions? Who knows, but the guy did not just go for a swim in the Danube. Let's get Julian Assange on the case and dig up some of those old Wikileaks files on all this. I, for one, would like to know more about those folks who might end up in power. I would also like them to be scared of the voters, not vice-versa. Fear is a tool that has been used in this French election far too often, by both Sarkozy's camp and the FN's Marine Le Pen (who is refusing to cast a vote on May 6).

President Sarkozy frankly should know better than to try to play the Front National party's racist, anti-immigrant game. He is the son of a Hungarian immigrant. He is the son of a Jewish mother who was of the generation which can remember World War II. How is it possible that he could utter sentences which directly evoke collaborationist tendencies, including the biggest traitors of all, Petain and Laval? Add to this the alliance with Germany in which France is once again simply asking to be told what their place will be in the overall Germanic hierarchy of Europe and one can honestly say that Nicolas Sarkozy has not only not helped his fellow citizens, but has undermined France.

Sarkozy's attacks on the Roma population have been focused and intense, as has his recent anti-Muslim and anti-suburban Paris comments made at rallies to gain fascist Front National party votes for the next round of voting May 6. In France, there is an obvious build up of police present everywhere. When one descends from the train coming from Amsterdam or London, officers immediately surround anyone who is not white and ask for their identification. Racial profiling is so obvious in this country that it is disturbing. But without these same immigrants, their parents and grandparents, France would not be the country it is today. France's automobile and other industries were built on the backs of cheap labor who lived in horrific conditions and were paid salaries no Frenchman or woman would accept. The reason unions grew in the first place was precisely because of abuses of the same workers who made countries such as France strong.

Sarkozy has also sold out to a kind of Americanization and encouragement of full on capitalism with fewer regulations to such a degree that one wonders which country he has been running. I will never forget that one of the first things he did was fly to the U.S. to spend his summer vacation nearby George W. Bush in order to have lunch with the American President, a lunch his then wife Cecilia refused to attend. Sarkozy rejoined NATO and was the first to attack Libya, thereby attempting to placate certain factions in the U.S. who wanted regime change in Libya.

The obsession with celebrity lifestyle, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous has become so annoying that many of the rich and famous themselves have been speaking out against Sarkozy.

"Recently the film director Mathieu Kassowitz said that if the president made it to round two of the election, it would show that France was a 'neo-fascist collaborationist' country."

and one of France's most influential billionaires, Francois Pinault, "doesn't see President Nicolas Sarkozy winning re-election," Le Monde reported, citing comments made by the French billionaire on April 26. According to Bloomberg,

"People close to him think that he may still win," Pinault said as he traveled to visit an art exhibition in Colmar, eastern France, according to Le Monde. "He's cooked!," he said about Sarkozy's bid for re-election."

One can even add the comments made by DSK that his downfall was indeed orchestrated by Sarkozy and French intelligence, specifically to remove him from running in the Presidential election to the mix (not that anyone cares much these days about comments made by DSK, but this theory was always in the backs of people's minds as very possibly being the work of Sarkozy). The real problem is not whether or not Sarkozy did set up DSK, it is that so many people believe he is capable of having done so. In general, the French President does not appear to be respected as a statesman. The French do not recognize Sarkozy's way of doing things as being familiar, as representing who they are, whether it be on the left or the right.

Add to this Sarkozy's recent admission that he did not, indeed, visit Fukushima on his post tsunami trip to Japan last year, though he claimed to have visited the plant itself. But he was the first world leader on the scene, in order to make sure that France was well positioned to acquire rebuilding and cleaning/disposal contracts which will last for decades and cost in the billions. He did not visit Japan to demonstrate his sympathy for the Japanese but to protect Areva and the French nuclear industry overall. He has been against closing plants in France, including older ones which need huge amounts of money to update them and make sure they are what could be considered "safe." But the real reason for keeping open plants and building more in France for Sarkozy is political:

In the proposed closures, Sarkozy calls attention to the jobs that will be lost. (According to his campaign site, the industry employs 400,000 people). Regarding Germany's decision, in the wake of Fukushima, to withdraw from nuclear energy production altogether, the French president is not a fan. While insisting that he does not criticize Chancellor Merkel for this choice, he stressed the importance of keeping a level head, Le Monde reported last June. "Emotionalism, not keeping one's cool, the immediacy of the media debate all lead one to make extraordinary decisions. We cannot, because there was a tsunami in Japan, consider that we must apply the same rules in non-coastal regions.

The candidate running against Sarkozy, Francois Hollande, has emphasized renewables and

"... he vows to encourage the creation and development of industries in the sector, as well as to invest in research programs in disruptive technologies, like electricity storage."

Storage is in fact the biggest issue confronting what has been considered to be the weakness of both solar and wind energy, their intermittency and lack of storage at scale. But this is not to say that the Socialists have the answer, either, and could do a lot more to make issues related to nuclear safety and decommissioning part of their platform. Sarkozy first passed a lot of laws to first encourage the renewable industry and then did a massive about face and pulled the carpet out from under this same industry. Why?

What I find to be the most disturbing is that Sarkozy has not spoken out at all about why the Germans made the choice to stop all nuclear post-Fukushima. With all the talk of Merkozy alliances to face the crisis, why has there been no similar decision to face the nuclear crisis post-Fukushima? In part it may be that Germany now has a first mover advantage , which means that by going off nuclear, it put other EU countries in the situation that they would put the grid at risk if they, too, took a similar stance. The only one that did is not part of the EU, Switzerland. France is the most pro-nuclear country in the world, but even half of its population is now questioning if being nuclear dependent is a good thing.

Once again Sarkozy supports industry before people, and has made the mistake of not supporting more jobs through renewables, choosing to keep the status quo on nuclear, even adding to the mix the cleanups, decommissioning and treatment of nuclear waste, as well as exporting new builds, in exchange for listening to citizens' concerns about human health issues. His ministers have ridiculed the Green party leader.

Fukushima was not simply an accident which will most likely never happen again and which was solely caused by a tsunami. Many reports blame the earthquake itself, along with the tsunami for the failing of cooling systems. Both massive earthquakes AND tsunamis can very well happen again. Other kinds of accidents and even terrorist strikes on nuclear power plants can occur. And they will occur again. But like that Chernobyl cloud which the French media kept out of the news back when I was a student here in 1986, the one which magically circumvented the French border, any accident or nuclear incident in France will affect not only its neighbors but all of us, just as Fukushima is doing. Because the build up of radioactive waste and contamination of foods, soil, water, oceans and air everywhere on this planet are bad for everyone's health, especially that of generations to come. And any forward-looking politician must acknowledge this. To not do so is not only political suicide, but putting profits before people. And, by the way, people are the ones who vote for presidents in the first place.

To sum it up, Nicolas Sarkozy is simply not well liked by all kinds of people on the left and right. Many of those who voted for the Front National's Marine Le Pen are not traditional right-wing voters but also those who wanted to protest Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency. It will be interesting to see the outcome on May 6, but the reality is France cannot evolve in a healthy way while led by someone who does not have the country's best interests at heart. The collaborationist French leaders sold out their country. And the ties between the nuclear industry and the State lead to both the creation of nuclear dependent states such as Japan and France, and to worsening of nuclear accidents and their effects by keeping the information from the people. During World War II, the hidden Fascist link between French industry and power was called the "cagoule." In the U.S. it is called the military industrial complex, and it always leads to a usurping and undermining of true democracy.

Many people in France had hoped, when Sarkozy became President, that entrepreneurship and job creation would become easier, but they did not. Entrepreneurs are strong leaders, and the successful ones have great ideas and know how to learn from failure. I am not so sure that Nicolas Sarkozy has even admitted to his failures, much less learned from them. Ironically I believe it is a Socialist Hollande who could end up encouraging an evolution of France towards what could be considered a "hybrid" economy in which strong industry, encouraging entrepreneurship and leading the way in areas such as renewables could help France move ahead.

And God forbid Marine le Pen's Front National party ever takes power as some believe she is planning to in five year's time. It would be a political nightmare for France.