POINT OF VIEW. “The social landscape seems disconnected from the political landscape”

In this return to January, the social landscape seems disconnected from the political landscape.

Civil society, in fact, is overheated here and there. So far, since 2017, we have not heard much from teachers: many of them are now up in arms, and criticize the Minister of Education for his management of the health crisis. Health personnel are at their wit’s end, denouncing the crisis in the hospital system day after day.

Moreover, the presidential announcement of the economic recovery and the drop in unemployment, and the inflation figures are fueling wage demands. In many companies, and while branch negotiations are announced for the end of January, the time is under pressure for wage increases.

These struggles do not necessarily herald a major social movement, nor does the image of any convergence emerge.

The demands of the teachers first express a fed up, the feeling of being despised by those in power; they also bear witness to other concerns relating to wages, working conditions, even general education policy and the very meaning of their profession.

The fire smolders

Employees in struggle in companies are often those who have allowed the economy to function in times of confinement even though they did not benefit from teleworking: a cashier, a garbage collector, a food or transport worker , for example, can only work face-to-face. But if their role has been recognized even in political speeches, they have hardly benefited from wage increases. They experience a feeling of injustice that is all the more acute as they see the prices of food products, fuels or electricity soar. They are, within companies, in work, the equivalent of what the Yellow Vests were outside: not the poorest, but those who are struggling to complete the month, while the power speaks of the economy in euphoric terms and complains about unfilled jobs. Will they be joined by workers in a more advantageous position, who also want to obtain better compensation in a labor market that could become favorable to them? Will the movement extend to those who access telework, and who have much more suitable salaries? Nothing indicates it today.

For the moment, everywhere the sense of action seems rather to be reduced to limited demands and dissociated from a global perspective. The fire is smoldering, of course, but we cannot say whether these mobilizations will lead to articulations, a scale and a real capacity to impose real transformations.

It would require, except to dream of a very improbable revolution, a political system in tune with social life. And since it is a question of disputes and protests, it would also be necessary that these find an echo there, an extension which traditionally plays out on the left.

But the observation is quickly made: the little that remains of the French left is unable to ensure the rise of social demands. She calls herself a social democrat, and therefore the expression of the social, trade union, associative movement: she is far from the mark. Therefore, its debate with the right is non-existent, and politics, instead of focusing on social issues, focuses on insecurity, order, immigration or secularism.

This disjunction of the social and the political which encourages violence and extreme positions leaves the field open to statism, bureaucracy or technocracy. It limits the space for a democratic treatment of the demands and expectations that come from society. Unfortunately, the current presidential campaign does not allow us to predict any improvement in this area.

(1) Michel Wieviorka is the author of Metamorphosis or decay. where is france going published by Rue de Seine.