From THE NATION, November 16, 1992
CHACUN À SON GOÛT
New York City
I am more than a little surprised by Daniel Singer's comments on the September 20 vote in France on European integration ["Buba Knows Best," Oct. 12]. I wonder if he really talked to French people before he wrote an article that reflects his opinions more than the French reality. I know what I am talking about: (a) I am French; (b) I was in France this summer, talked to a lot of Frenchmen, read many newspapers and listened to too much TV.
The non was not clearly divided, as Singer would have it: It cut across all social classes. He asserts that "France was neatly split between the privileged and the downtrodden, between the haves and the have-nots." Nothing could be further from the truth. I can assure you that the opposition to Maastricht was vehement among upper-class civil servants and other types of Frenchmen who are certainly not "have-nots." The non was based on good old French nationalism. This is a problem that transcends race (perhaps) and class (most definitely).
The people who voted non were not necessarily "the traditional electorate of the left," whatever that means, since it seems (unfortunately) to have evaporated over the past ten years. Besides, It does not make sense to speak of ''a traditional electorate of the left" in a country that has seen the Communist electorate disappear almost completely and where, In all likelihood, the Socialists will suffer a severe electoral defeat soon.
That nationalism in France is reaching most unexpected quarters is illustrated by this letter. I am glad to hear that Françoise Burgess is French, since her passport is her main clam to superior wisdom. Can she accept the idea that a foreigner, who has spent not the last summer holiday but the last thirty years in Paris, knows something about her country and may even have learned to communicate with "natives"?
Since she finds the views of an alien unconvincing, she should read the French press more carefully. From Le Monde, September 22, "...the adhesion to Europe increases with the level of income.... Among the towns having obtained the best [pro-] Maastricht results the communes of Alsace alternate with the wealthy communes of the Paris region...the posh districts of the capital and the residential suburbs of Lyon.... It is not surprising that the political map of the oui borrows a great deal in its broad lines from that of the right.... It is not the least paradox of this referendum that M Mitterrand is saved at the tape by an electorate that in no way insured his election in 1981."
And, in another analysis in the same issue: "The map of unemployment and that of the non largely overlap.... Most of the departments that voted non on Sunday had been among those that on May 10, 1981, had given their vote to François Mitterrand." I could keep on quoting. But is it a question of facts? I hope next time she wants to sit in judgment, Professor Burgess does some homework rather than produce her passport.