Monday, February 16
My favorite Trotskyite rag, the World Socialist Web Site, is deeply suspicious that Sarkozy's overtures in Baghdad last week are more evidence that he's sold out to the American Imperialists. It doesn't seem that way to me; I think it's pretty clear that Sarkozy was in the Middle East to sensibly scare up as much business he could for French companies. But WSWS reports that various factions in France are darkly concerned about the implications of his trip:
[...] Substantial doubts exist about the feasibility and desirability of French involvement in Iraq. Speaking to the center-left daily Le Monde, Karim Pakzad of France's Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) think tank noted: "The Iraqi authorities do not want to put all their eggs in one basket. Favorable conditions therefore exist [for French interests]. Is France engaged, however, in a cooperation ‘without limits,' as Mr. Sarkozy said, that's another story...."What is Bayrou really saying here? 'Don't rile France's Muslim immigrant population by having a better relationship with the Americans and being buddies with the American-backed government in Iraq?'
The leader of the Socialist Party group in the National Assembly, Marc Ayrault, criticized Sarkozy's trip as a form of "personal agitation" on Sarkozy's part, adding: "The president's visit to Baghdad surprised many people. It's a sign given to the Americans to prepare France's return to NATO's integrated military command." The PS has demanded a public debate in the National Assembly on the possibility of a French return to the NATO command structure.
Opposition extends, however, to within Sarkozy's own party, the conservative Union for a Popular Majority (UMP). UMP deputy Jacques Myard and deputy Daniel Garrigue—who left the UMP over this issue—both have criticized France's re-integration into NATO. Ex-UMP deputy Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who left the party in January 2007, said the NATO issue was an "opportunity to destabilize the [UMP] majority."
The most extensive criticism, however, came from center-right politician François Bayrou, who leads the MoDem (Democratic Movement), formerly considered a pro-US politician. Bayrou gave an extensive interview in Le Nouvel Observateur, explaining the concerns motivating opposition to Sarkozy's policies in the French bourgeoisie.
Bayrou said: "By remaining outside the NATO command structure, we showed that France did not simply resign itself to being in the US sphere of influence, that it was open to the world, that it could say no, which was clearly shown in the Iraq war. We risk sacrificing 150 years of history. And what do we get in return? A few posts for French generals in the NATO general staff.... The French people should have the opportunity to express themselves in a referendum [on the question of full French participation in NATO]."
When Le Nouvel Observateur asked how precisely France's independence was threatened, Bayrou responded: "We are going into a bloc. A Euro-American bloc, on one side, the rest of the world, on the other. This constitutes, for France and her history, her universality, a step back. [France] does not limit itself to the West, it is open, it can demarcate itself, and include the Arab or African worlds."
Bayrou added, "France was the guarantor of an independent Europe that would progressively establish new relations with the US, but one day also with South America, Africa, India. It's a vision of a more balanced world, built on pillars of similar size. That is why I maintain that we are giving away not only our past but also our future, a part of the destiny of France and Europe."
As Bayrou's statement shows, the new Obama administration notwithstanding, powerful sections of the French bourgeoisie view full participation in NATO as a trap for French imperialist interests. The African and Arab worlds are arenas of competition for influence between US and French imperialism and also the home countries of many immigrants in France -- whose opinions of the country's foreign policy and frequent revolts in the poorer suburbs of major French cities are major concerns of bourgeois politicians.
However, Bayrou indicates that far more is at stake: the alignment or not with a Euro-American bloc hostile to "the rest of the world," with potentially incalculable consequences for the French bourgeoisie's interests abroad.