François Ruffin and Mediapart

The relatively unsympathetic treatment of La France insoumise is strange. In particular, the orientation of François Ruffin is sympatico with multiple Mediapart journalists. What's going on?

It is evident that Mediapart editorial doesn’t care much for La France insoumise. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s ego provides ready raw material for this stance. But François Ruffin?

The interview of Ruffin by Joseph Confavreux & Pauline Graulle, published 20 June, was not a good look. A bad odour. It was in the ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ genre.

Where has LFI been on the defining issue of the moment – systemic racism and white privilege? And why weren’t you, François, front and centre at the Adama Traore demo on 13 June? And why not toting the ‘Truth and justice for Adama’ T-shirt? Right. If Ruffiin had turned up, no doubt he’d be accused of appropriating the demo for a personal and partisan cause. As did countless opportunist politicians, not least front-and-centre racist mass murderer Bibi Netanyahu, at the ‘Je suis Charlie’ rally.

Right through to the end of the tortuous Confavreux/Graulle interview, Ruffin is accused of being, at best, late to come to the party on various pressing causes. Has Mediapart devoted resources to tracking Ruffin’s every movement, every utterance? That pursuit could be left to the goons of Bernard Arnault and Emmanuel Macron.

But then Ruffin’s replies are not listened to. Ruffin’s patience in responding to the deaf ears is remarkable.  

Only once, deservedly, does Ruffin leave the plane of equanimity in response to a question. “Is it not because the Left has been preoccupied, for the last 30 years, on social questions that it has come only belatedly to the question of racism?” What?


“Where have you seen, over 30 years, a social Left? Excuse my irritation, but in my lifetime, I have never seen a ‘social Left’ at work. It is not my Left! These who have signed all the free trade treaties? Those who have privatised non-stop? Those who have constructed a Europe around the imperative of ‘free and fair’ competition? This is what you call the social Left? No, it’s the moralising Left.

 “On the questions of immigration, of racism, there is again no ‘social Left’. But prominent again is the moralising Left, which sells us the last accords of the World Trade Organisation with a mouth full of multiculturalism, who say to the workers ejected from their factory that their ‘protectionism’ won’t wash with we who know best. Those who abandon them, knowingly, consciously, into the arms of the National Front.”

Ruffin sticks to his last. It’s predominantly an issue of class. Do you get it?

White privilege? Sure. Tell that to G֖éraldine, cleaner at the Amiens university hospital, who gets up at 5 in the morning to catch a bus, with not even the minimum wage to show for it by month’s end – where is the privilege? Notes Ruffin: in my constituency, I find myself surrounded by such people, broken by unemployment or work problems, who live tough, who struggle to pay for winter fuel … and you think that I can say to them – you are privileged as whites? The Adama Committee itself gets the point in having rallied the gilets jaunes to their side.

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François Ruffin comes across as thoughtful, informed (on France in general and on his constituency in particular), and learned in placing his current scenario in context. To an outsider he appears to carry the mark of integrity. And this from a politician! We are too familiar, frustrated, depressed, even incensed with the standard rhetoric of the political class – characterised, behind the obfuscation, by ignorance, lassitude, indifference and condescension. Ruffin is in a different league. I know of no politicians in the Anglo world who is his peer. Ergo, Ruffin should be seen as something of a treasure in France, yet here he is the subject of abuse.

* * *

François Ruffin has done the hard yards as journalist and activist. Worthy of a little respect from dissenting media?

Voilà the 2016 Merci patron !. This is a masterly work, in conception and execution.

Serge and Jocelyne Klur are reduced to penury, having lost their jobs at LVMH subsidiary ECCE at Poix-du-Nord. Production of upmarket Kenzo gear is shipped off to Poland where the inverse relations between surplus value and Bernard Arnault’s net wealth and the wage level is heightened. Arnault had planned the off-shoring of ECCE’s production as early as 2005.

ECCE workers, under the assertive leadership of CGT union rep Marie-Helène Bourlard, accosted the Big Cheese himself at the 2007 LVMH AGM (Ruffin, ‘Insolite face-à-face entre ouvrières et actionnaires’, Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2008). Says Bourlard – the 147 workers about to be sacked want answers. Aranult replies – it’s simple: you cost too much, period. Arnault finds Bourlard’s ‘aggressive’ manner, classic union ‘dialectic’, unsavoury. Rather, this calls for ‘social dialogue’, but that’s not in the ambit of the AGM. You’re not welcome. The 147 employees soon get the chop.

But Poland’s lumpenproletariat become too expensive, so off we go to Bulgaria. From which the local manager opines to the camera that even Bulgaria is looking iffy and Greece might be the next step. There’s always Ethiopia.

Ruffin’s documentary is not easily consigned to oblivion in short time. Frédéric Lordon (Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2016) heralds its significance. This is a direct action film. It propagates its impact long after the last image. Merci patron ! liberates us from powerlessness (Lordon notes, in passing, no thanks to  the ‘socialist’ Right for its complicity) and reconnects us directly with force. It is not a film so much as a clarion call to action.

Here is the oppressed who make the man of plenty bite the dust. France’s richest individual, one of the world’s richest, panics, is humbled. One has internalised a belief that the overturning of the accepted order is improbable. But here one sees it, with our own eyes! One can believe it. With the blinkers removed, there follows the irresistible desire to replicate such action and transform the world represented by Arnault for the better.

Lordon again: to ditch conventional sociological twaddle, let’s cut to the bone. When the workers of ECCE invade the 2014 LVMH AGM focused on dividends, here is a transparent face-off between exploiting capital and exploited worker. And with the Klurs in particular – their destitution directly attributable to the valorisation of capital. It’s all about class.

Ruffin and the Klurs prepare a letter, addressed to various media outlets. They threaten LVMH that they will send these letters to gain exposure if they don’t receive the proposed compensation sum, and in quick time. Regarding the potential power of these letters, Serge proffers: ‘Le Canard enchaîné and Mediapart – they’re scary, aren’t they!’. Perhaps, perhaps. It depends. And scary for whom?

Then there’s the 2019 Ce pays que tu ne connais pas (You don’t know your own country). A sustained indictment of the occupant of the Élysée.

Emmanuel Macron as hollow man. A kind of Chauncey Gardiner, but pre-programmed. Bloodless. Dangerous, both as automaton and as bearer of such a destructive agenda.  

Ruffin documents the parallel but separate lives. From early on, Macron makes a tropist bee-line towards those who will be his patrons. Those see readily in him their ideal vehicle to install their particular interests in the structures of state that formally represent the general interest. ‘You are their jockey, but they own the stables.’ With not a little help from the media that they own themselves or dominate. Macron, as ersatz banker, himself helped with the elite takeover of Le Monde.

There is another world, populated by those who struggle to make it to the end of the month. Those who Macron ‘knows not’.  Ruffin’s book juxtaposes the two worlds. Macron occasionally emerges from his cocoon to ‘make contact’ with ‘the people’ (the media lets everybody know) and then retreats to another bout of contempt (’layabouts’).

One has only to ‘cross the street’ to find a job, yet Macron readily condones the deindustrialisation occurring on a grand scale (wind down nation?). Macron’s contribution to the high scandal that was the sell-off of Alstom Energy to GE is indicative of his flunkeydom.

Then when the people emerge, no longer appropriately out of picture (their absence helped by the media claque) as gilets jaunes, Macron oversees their repression, physically and judicially.

Mediapart has played a valiant part in support of the gilets jaunes movement. Ruffin has doggedly provided parts of a background to this movement and has humanised a representative personnel. So why the aggro towards this man? Ruffin’s orientation is sympatico with that of Goanec, Godin, Mauduit, Orange, Israel … Qu’est-ce qui se passe ? What is going on?

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