Today France witnessed a massive strike in favor of higher wages and against job cuts, in which 23% of the civil service participated, including 50% of France's teachers.
The strike has taken on heavy political overtones, coming less than three months before the presidential elections, with the rightists promising to reduce France's army of more than five million civil servants and the Socialists expected to maintain numbers.
"Today's movement creates an immense obligation for the left," said Jack Lang, a former education minister who is now an adviser to Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal.
"We have a duty to listen to the concerns and hopes of the servants of the republic," he said.
Although Royal got in trouble several months back by saying that teachers should spend more time in the classroom and less time earning extra money, it has been Nicolas Sarkozy's pledge to replace every two civil service retirees with one that has drawn much anger.
Almost at the same time teachers were quitting their classrooms, the International Herald Tribune highlighted the number of French intellectuals who are quitting Royal at this stage in the campaign.
Roger Hanin, an actor and author, came out in favor of Sarkozy this week — surprising because Hanin is the brother-in-law of late Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, Royal's mentor. Though Hanin said he still "worships" Mitterrand, he doesn't trust Royal.
Royal "scares me because she's not cut out for this, she doesn't have the qualifications to be president of the Republic," Hanin told Europe-1 radio. "When you love your country, that's scary."
Leftist essayist Alain Finkielkraut blasted Royal's "manifest incompetence" in an interview with Liberation newspaper, saying he felt closer to Sarkozy, though he did not outright endorse him.
Philosopher Andre Glucksmann backed Sarkozy in a commentary in Le Monde, complaining that the French left was "marinating in its own narcissism." Though he said he respected Royal, he nonetheless took a dig at her by saying that "the left's emptiness was even greater than her own."
Others who praised Sarkozy are writer Pascal Bruckner and Max Gallo, a novelist who once served in Mitterrand's government.
Of course Royal's entire campaign has been somewhat anti-intellectual, favoring the power and ideas of the general public over those of the traditional leftist elite. That being said, intellectuals play a more decisive role in a country like France than say the US, so she must be sure not to become too much the populist.
Technorati tags: Ségolène Royal, Segolene Royal, Nicolas Sarkozy, UMP, politics, politique, présidentielle, actualité, France