The Daily Telegraph

French have the right to be idle, says Green MP

We must fight for breaks, politician insists after Communist Party chief pours scorn on handouts

- By Henry Samuel in Paris

FRENCH people have “a right to idleness”, an influentia­l Green MP has said amid a row over the Left’s approach to work.

In an interview with French media, Sandrine Rousseau argued that working hard was “essentiall­y a Right-wing value” and that taking breaks and being less productive was a far healthier objective for the Left.

She made the comments in response to Fabien Roussel, leader of France’s Communist Party, who last Friday called on his camp to reclaim hard work, rather than “handouts”, as a Leftwing value.

Mr Roussel, appearing at Fête de l’humanité, an annual Leftist festival, in Essonne, south of Paris, said: “The Left must defend work and not be the Left of handouts and social welfare.”

The French Left introduced the 35-hour working week – a move that conservati­ves say crippled the country’s economy. France has one of the most generous unemployme­nt benefit systems in the world and state spending eats up 59 per cent of its budget.

The 2018 Yellow Vest revolt was in part a protest by the working poor against being taxed to the hilt while others lived as well or better on benefits.

The Communist chief ’s words led to criticism from the New Popular, Environmen­tal and Social Union (Nupes), an alliance of Leftists and Greens that forms the biggest opposition in parliament, and infuriated Ms Rousseau, a self-styled “ecofeminis­t” viewed by many in her own party as too radical.

“I would have followed him on sharing working time, reducing working time, a four-day week, but to hold up work as the only value of the Left is not possible and particular­ly not for a Communist,” she told France Info.

“I would remind you that Marx denounced the exploitati­on of workers and the fact that company bosses made profits from work,” she said. “We have the right to idleness. We have the right to change profession­s. We also have the right to take breaks in our life and we need to regain time, a sense of sharing and a four-day week.

“[Roussel is] not talking about that at all. Sorry to say this but the work ethic is a Right-wing value.”

Left-wing allies argue that the row is a gift to conservati­ves and Emmanuel Macron, France’s centrist president, who has brought unemployme­nt to its lowest level in 15 years and whose government is preparing to introduce reforms on pensions and unemployme­nt benefits.

Jean-luc Mélenchon, the Nupes leader and ex-presidenti­al candidate, called on the Left to “stop moaning”.

“All that matters is the class struggle,” he insisted, adding that benefits were

‘To hold up work as the only value of the Left is not possible… the work ethic is a Right-wing value’

not handouts but rights accrued by working.

The opposition Right reacted with glee at the spat. Alexandra Dublanche, the Right-wing vice-president of Paris region, said: “To be this disconnect­ed from the French who get up early to work and those who aspire to find another job is flabbergas­ting.

“And who finances this ‘right to idleness’ while we are at it? Those who work hard,” she added.

Jordan Bardella, interim leader of the hard-right National Rally party, said Ms Rousseau was “mired in wokeist madness”.

This is not the first run-in between Ms Rousseau and the Communist leader, who ran for president this year with an unlikely pledge to make the country “happy” again.

The two clashed this summer after Ms Rousseau claimed that cooking red meat on the barbecue was an outmoded “symbol of virility” that should be stamped out, arguing that men’s meaty diet emitted 41 per cent more greenhouse gases than the food women eat.

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