PARIS--Most Americans don't care what happens in France. But the oldest country in "Old Europe" remains the Western world's intellectual capital and one of its primary originators of political trends. (Google "May+1968+Sorbonne.")
The French are reacting to a situation almost identical to ours--economic collapse, government impotence, corporate corruption--by turning hard left. National strikes and massive demonstrations are occurring every few weeks. How far left? This far: the late president François Mitterand's Socialist Party, the rough equivalent of America's Greens, is considered too conservative to solve the economic crisis.
A new poll by the Parisian daily Libération finds 53 percent of French voters (68 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds) favoring "radical social change." Fifty-seven percent want France to insulate itself from the global economic system. Does this mean revolution? It's certainly possible. Or maybe counter-revolution: Jean-Marie Le Pen's nativist (some would say neofascist) National Front is also picking up points.
One thing is certain: French politics are even more volatile than the financial markets these days. In yet another indication of How Far Left?, the Communist-aligned CGT labor union is on the defensive for not being militant enough. "We're not going to put out the blazing fires [of the economic crisis]," the CGT's secretary general said, trying to seize the initiative by calling for another strike on February 18th. "We're going to fan them."