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Posts Tagged ‘Emmanuel Macron

Gilets Jaunes and the Crisis in France, a Left Analysis.

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The Politics of the Barricades Reborn?

“Toutes les grandes crises que connaît le pays prendront la forme d’une tension entre ceux d’en bas et ceux d’en haut et d’un process des élites gouvernantes.”

All the big crises that the country has experienced have taken the form of tensions between those at the top and those at the bottom, in the shape of an attack on the governing elites.

Jacques Julliard  La faute aux élites. 1997.

On ne donne rien si libéralement que ses conseils”.

Nothing is given so freely as advice.

La Rochefoucauld. Maxims. 

In France, between October and October 2018 the pump price of petrol rose by 15% and diesel (used by many motorists) 25%. Taxes make up 60% of cost of fuel. While presented as part of a “Green transition” plan most of the money goes to general public finances. In May an on-line petition calling for a reduction in these increases had attracted 220,00 signatures by October. On the 10th of October there was a call to block the country’s road system. Social Networks carried videos backing action. By the 17th of November there were 300,000 people across France protesting against the price rises.

Every account agrees that the Gilets Jaunes were initially self-organised through Face Book, Twitter, and self-made Videos. The demands of the movement, which have spiralled in all directions, began to focus on high taxes and the erosion of the purchasing power of ordinary power. To which have been added the decline in the public infrastructure of La France périphérique, precarious working conditions, and, above all, the call for the President Emmanuel Macron to resign. Demands for a special national conference, whether as an Assembly on Fiscal issues, or a ‘Grenelle’, that is a wide-ranging agreement on the pattern of the 1968 union-government negotiations, to resolve these difficulties, have emerged.

Neither the Web, nor efforts to designate spokespeople for the Gilets Jaunes, have enabled the movement to cohere around an agreed structure. There are groups out at roundabouts, tollbooths, and demonstrators. There is a far-right presence, and the “people from somewhere” often show support for the Rassemblement National of Marine Le Pen. There was a strong presence of ‘nationalists’ during Saturday’s violent demonstration on the Champs Élysées. 

The left has shown sympathy for the demands of the movement. Lundi Matin, linked to the comité invisible which believes in a coming insurrection, gave support. Their affinity mouvance is said to be have engaged in some of the street fighting. The widely respected group, Verité pour Adama (after the name of a young person killed by gendarmes in 2016), with wider backing, has attempted to waken the banlieue to the revolt. To join the main march they mobilised a few hundred people in central Paris. Across the country there are reports of left-wing activists joining Gilets Jaunes actions, either on their own initiative, as part of the strategy of La France insoumise to “federate the people” around their own movement, or from other, much smaller, left wing organisations.

Protest Spread.

Following the government’s climb-down Lycéens and students have protested against Macron’s education ‘reforms’, often amid violence. As with Saturday’s protests the forces of order have reacted with a heavy hand. Farmers are also out on the streets. Many groups, though not, as yet, people in the workplaces, have seen in Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe’s announcement of an end to the fuel price hike an opportunity to press their case. The CGT has announced a national days of action and demonstration with a list of demands, on the 14th of December.

The French left has suddenly discovered a long history of popular uprisings that began with protests against taxation. The burden of the 17th century paiement de la dîme’ has nevertheless little in common with today’s tax regimes.

As Alexis Spire points out in the latest le Monde Diplomatique, outsourcing means that large numbers of workers are nominally self-employed (as in the UK), and have to pay for themselves. Reliant on their own transport they would find it hard to see why their means of getting to work should be a source of state revenue. A ‘far-away’ government, which seems to offer little in the way of public services across large swathes of the country, imposes charges on people who see little in return. To add to this tax offices are less and less accessible. One asks how people in France would react to the virtual disappearance of physical contact with HMRC. (2)

Before tax revolts become the left’s favourite new social movement it is nevertheless important to see some difficulties here. To begin with in 1953 Poujadisme started with small businesses revolting against tax inspectors verifying their accounts. Jean-Marie Pen began his political career as a Parliamentary deputy for this movement which won 52 seats on 11,6% of the vote in 1956. Echoes of the less than progressive aspect of this early ‘populism’ can be seen in Gilets Jaunes demands for less frequent strict MOT tests, raising rural speed limits, the – to their admirers marginal – racist incidents which have come to wider attention, and the enthusiastic backing from le Pen’s daughter Marine le Pen.

As the quote from Julliard reminds us, complaints about French governing elites are far from new. Today we have those who talk of “post-democracy” the detachment of polities from the masses reinforced by Macron’s neoliberalism. In the era of Donald Trump’s broadsides against globalism it is hard to imagine that opponents of the liberal ‘progressive’ (Macron’s self-description) centre are invariably to be welcomed.

The real problem is that Emmanuel Macron came to power after a political earthquake in 2017 marginalised all the traditional political parties. His own movement-party, la République en Marche (LREM), ”  centrist, liberal and social-liberal” was only founded in April 2016. It is made up of politicians from the centre right, the  right wing of the Parti Socialiste, a dash of ‘personalities’ and a lot of newcomers. It has definite campaigning experience in the grass-roots, but little experience of long-term local political implantation.

On the left opposition la France insoumise )FI) is a body linked together, like the Gilets Jaunes, by the web (I received an electronic appeal to ‘vote’ on their European programme a few days ago). It, like LREM, is a movement around a Leader, not a democratic party. Both the President’s effort to negotiate with the thousands of visible Gilets Jaunes factions, and FI’s efforts to speak on behalf of le Peuple, start from a position of outsiders trying to direct the political theatre.

Unity Against Macron’s Arrogance is not a Strategy.

Some of the best, and realistic, accounts of the present crisis have come from those with little stake in the state system or on the bigger parties of the left. They have indicated that, perhaps in a more acute form than in the UK trade unions, where activity is at low ebb, syndicates have been weakened in recent years, as the failure to push back Macron’s labour reforms and his liberalising plans for the rail system illustrates. The violent acts on Gilets Jaunes marches were no doubt made worse by the absence of traditional union or left stewarding. There is little coherence on a left which may well end up presenting over 7 different lists for next year’s European elections.

The way in which the present movement has tossed aside what local campaigns have been built going to help those trying to push them in a left direction. With the demands of the Gilets Jaunes moving like a buoy tossed by the sea in all directions, it is hard to see that either following them (suivisme) or trying to channel them, is going to work.

More fundamentally, how can any the left’s fight against austerity meet demands meet the call for fewer taxes? 

In these conditions who can be surprised to hear calls for the tax burden to be relieved by cuts in state spending, that is real neo-liberalism, from former Prime Minister and right-wing politician Édouard Balladur  – this morning, on Europe 1.

*****

(1) Page 52. Jacques Julliard La faute aux élites. Folio. 1997.

(2) Aux sources de la colère contre l’impôt. Alexis Spire.  December 2018. Le Monde Diplomatique. 

(3) Histoire de l’extrême droite en France. Michel Winock Seuil 2015

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 7, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Trump Hails Macron Climb-down on Fuel Tax, Alt-right claim French shout, “We Want Trump”.

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Paris: We Want Trump – Claims US alt-Right.

US President Donald Trump has criticised his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the recent large-scale anti-government protests over high taxes.

Trump posted several messages about the demonstrations on his Twitter account, claiming the protests were a direct result of the Paris climate agreement of which France is a signatory, but the United States is not.

“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world,” Trump wrote in the tweets.

The US president also retweeted conservative pundit Charlie Kirk, who falsely claimed France is a socialist country, the riots in the country did not receive any media attention and that protesters shouted: “we want Trump”.

 

 

Trump’s assertions are obviously the work of  fantaisistes adrift in the world of politics.

For the moment we note that however Trump’s views cast a shadow on those who claim that Macron’s climb-down is a victory for those opposed to Macron’s “neo-liberalism”. It certainly seems that the US President is also against “neo-liberal globalism.”

This did not go unnoticed in France:

Gilets jaunes : Trump y va de son petit tweet moqueur envers Macron et contre l’accord de Paris

For an explanation of why Trump’s claims are a load of old cobblers see:

Tacle de Trump à Macron: «Les “gilets jaunes” ne sont pas contre la transition écologique, mais contre son coût social»

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2018 at 1:21 pm

8 Official Spokespersons “Elected” for Gilets Jaunes, One already booted out for belonging to a Trade Union.

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Macron, t’est foutu, la TaxPayers Alliance est dans la rue!

After a meeting of regional representatives the Gilets Jaunes now how Spokespeople and an Official Delegation.

Des “gilets jaunes” créent une “délégation” officielle

They have issued these demands,

After consulting  supporters on Facebook, the delegation addressed “two main proposals” to the government  : “reduce  all taxes” and  “create of citizens’ assembly” to discuss the themes of ecological transition, “taking in account of the voice of the citizens “, the increase of the purchasing power and insecurity (i.e. crime), the text announced.  They also ask to be received at the Élysée Palace by the Head of State.

Some local groups have not reacted favourably to the initiative, reports  Laure-Hélène de Vriendt for RTL Paul Mara,  spokesperson for Marseille compared the Macron’s Paris centred decison-making. 

A peine nommés, les 8 porte-parole des gilets jaunes réfléchissent… à virer l’un d’entre eux.

The appointment of the eight spokespeople was made “in a hurry” this Sunday, during a procedure restricted to 44 regional representatives of the movement.

After examining their credentials, for any political or trade union affiliations, one of them, Jason Herbert, a former journalist, now in charge of communication as a member of the National Council of journalists of the CFDT-Journalists was found out. He had also a ‘past’ as a representative for workers at employment tribunals,  (Conseils de prud’hommes.)

France Info reports more divisions inside the movement with more and more local groups refusing to recognise these people’s legitimacy:

“Pour qui se prennent-ils ?” : les huit porte-parole officiels des “gilets jaunes” ne font pas l’unanimité

 

There’s even a new Yellow Party:

Those on the British left who have reported on the Gilets Jaunes have so far studiously ignored the far-right element at the head of the march chanting the Identitarian slogan “on est Chez Nous on Saturday on the  Champs-Elysées.

The French government is not so forgiving:

“Gilets jaunes” : le slogan “on est chez nous” rappelle “furieusement la peste brune”, juge à son tour Benjamin Griveaux.

Today President Macron is making a speech on his “Green” “Transition énergétique.”

Faced with violent anti-government protests, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday will announce a 10-year blueprint for France’s transition to cleaner energy.

France 24.

Update: It’s just emerged that one of the 8 national Spokesperson of the Gilets Jaunes, Thomas Miralles, stood for the Front National (now Rassemblement National) of Marine le Pen in 2014, and before that a Republican list backed by the Parti Socialiste (2010). Both apparently were “youthful  mistakes”.

RTL played this song today: And Me and Me and Me, to celebrate the Gilets Jaunes’ demand for lower taxes and, no doubt, more, better, public services.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2018 at 11:41 am

French President Macron Backs Down on Plan to Honour Pétain at Commemorative Ceremony.

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The Man Macron Wished to Honour…

CNN reports,

The French government has backed down over apparent plans to pay tribute to Marshal Philippe Pétain — who collaborated with the Nazis in the deportation of Jews from France during World War II — as part of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

French President Emmanuel Macron came under fire Wednesday after he said it was “legitimate” to honour Pétain’s role as a “great soldier” in World War I.
Hours later, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in a Facebook post that no tribute would be paid to Pétain in Saturday’s ceremony.
We had announced that we would honour the marshals of the Great War. Some have deduced that Pétain was one of them; this is not the case. If there was confusion, it was because we were not clear enough on that point,” Griveaux said.

 

This follows this in le Monde which gives a different version of the story to that spun by Griveaux.

Macron dénonce une « fausse polémique » sur Pétain, qui ne sera pas honoré le 10 novembre

Le chef de l’Etat a d’abord jugé « légitime » d’honorer le maréchal de 14-18 et dirigeant de Vichy. La présidence a finalement annoncé qu’il n’était pas dans la cérémonie aux Invalides.

The Head of State had at first judged it legitimate to honour the Marshal of the Great War, and the Vichy leader. The Presidency has in the end announced that he will not be commemorated in the official ceremony at the Invalides.

Macron notably stated that one could not rub out the role of Pétain in the Great War.

 Il a été un grand soldat, c’est une réalité. La vie politique comme l’humaine nature sont parfois plus complexes que ce qu’on voudrait croire (…). J’ai toujours regardé l’histoire de notre pays en face. »

He was an important, a great, soldier, that’s the truth. Political life, like human nature, is sometimes more complicated than one would wish to believe. I have always looked history straight in the face.

Many were quick to challenge the role of the Army leadership during that conflict, citing executions of their own soldiers, and the giant causality rates in all the armies.

But the key note was Pétain’s  collaboration with the Nazis.

Clearly earlier attempts to ward off this link failed:

As this did not work they tried to claim that there was never any intention to honour Pétai:

 

Which as I write – nice try Griveaux – is flopping completely.

The response began at lunch-time…..

Background:

French President Emmanuel Macron waded into controversy Wednesday by praising a general who helped win World War I but became a top Nazi collaborator in World War II – comments that triggered outrage among French Jews.

Marshal Philippe Petain’s name appears alongside seven other top military chiefs to be honored this Saturday in a ceremony at the Invalides monument, site of Napoleon’s tomb, to mark the centenary of the end of World War 1.

Touring battlefields ahead of a formal commemoration of the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice that ended the war, Macron said Petain was worthy of the honor for his leading role in the World War I victory.

“Marshal Petain was also a great soldier during World War I” even though he made “fatal choices during the Second World War,” Macron said in the northern town of Charleville-Mezieres.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

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Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

Emmanuel Macron is an “anti-Trump”, pro-European and a “liberal internationalist” who unites the centre-left and the centre-right against the extremes. He is a “neo-progressive”, argues Sophie Pedder, whose ideas are “structured around the idea of individual progress for all.” Elected President in 2017, in a run off with the far-right Marine Le Pen, at 39 years old, Macron presented a “a message of hope.” His strategy was “both a means of remaking party politics and a response to the populist threat”. Their campaign laid claim to break the existing party duopoly, and sweep away the existing “political caste”, itself perhaps a “populist” message.

The Head of State’s party, La République en marche (LRM), commands 60% of the seats in France’s National Assembly. It is, like many new ‘parties’ of this millennium, including their rivals La France insoumise (LFI), is less a democratic organisation run by the members than a top-down run movement or ‘rally’. Macron, despite the Benalla affair, and the recent Cabinet resignations of ecology Minister Bernard Hulot and Minister of the Interior Gèrard Collomb, is the master of French politics. He has been, so far, able to carry out his programme. Protests, last year,  against liberalising reform of labour legislation, and the railway service (SNCF), as well as of higher education, failed to have any impact.

Sophie Pedder is Paris bureau chief for the liberal (economically and politically), British weekly the Economist. Largely favourable to the President, the book is unlikely to win a favourable audience amongst those who dismiss Macron as, at best, a “social liberal”. This does not stop Revolution française from being a deft and informed account of Emmanuel Macron’s life and politics.

Modernisation.

Macron, writes Pedder, is a long-standing advocate of “modernisation”. France, from this standpoint, is burdened with regulations that stifle economic initiative. As a Minister of the Economy under Parti Socialiste President Hollande, his 2015 plans (Loi Macron) to loosen the rules on shop opening hours, and rigid legislation governing the ‘liberal professions’ (notaries, pharmacists) were partly thwarted. His Socialist colleagues were to blame, including the influential Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, a moderate social democrat described as the “standard bearer of the Socialist left”.

This experience, Pedder states, led Macron to conclude that the existing party system kept France stuck in the past. A modernising regroupment needed, “to put together two-thirds of the Socialist Party, all of the centrists, and part of the centre-right. That would give us a pro-European market-friendly majority in favour of modernising the social model.” British readers will not fail to observe a parallel electoral logic with domestic ‘centrist’ projects, however tiny the audience for making the UK social system more ‘liberal’ is.

The achievement of that goal was partly due to good fortune. The “normal” Hollande discredited himself, both by his incontinent deprecation of colleagues revealed in Un président ne devrait pas dire ça (2006), and his causal deception of his partner Valerie Trierweiler. As his Presidential bid took off in 2017 his chief opponent on the right, François Fillon, became mired in allegations of financial misconduct. The Socialists chose the left-Green Benoît Hamon, without many allies beyond his own forces. With their political rivals in disarray Macron’s support snowballed. Socialists, centrists and the right, duly defected in his direction. The movement En marche  soon picked up a large number of the professional politicians targeted above, and inspired a, largely middle class, army of volunteers to campaign for him door to door.

Centre Left Reconciled to the Market Economy.

Revolution française equally offers a readable account of Macron’s ideas. Unlike the Macron, un president philosophe (Brice Couturier. 2017) Peddar does not offer a weighty list of influences, from Hegel to Schumpeter. Instead she singles out the influence of Macron’s teacher, Paul Ricœur, his Protestant humanism, and “confidence in mankind” with a dose of Saint-Simon’s advocacy of technocratic progress. Above all, “His roots are on the progressive centre left that reconciled itself to the market economy.” At the same time, noting some of Macron’s verbal tics, she observes that, “his theoretical abstractions and grandiosity came across as pompous. His sentences were convoluted, meandering and went on for ever.” One could expand further on his grating anglicisms.

Will Macron, the “networking machine”, be able to change France? Has ‘liberal globalism’ found a champion who will step into the breach that has opened up after the failure of ‘third way’? Peddar signals the entrenched difficulties of a divided France, mass unemployment, those cast aside in the banlieue and “la France périperifeque”. Can Macron’s grand romantic mission turn this around?

The ‘nation’ is less important than the people who live in France. There are not many grounds for hope in the recent indications that the richest section of French society is the undoubted winner of the President’s tax reforms. (Les ultrariches, grands gagnants de la fiscalité Macron. Le Monde. 13.10.18). Weakening labour legislation to the point where wage negotiations can take place plant by plant, does not look so progressive from the position of workers in enterprises cut off from national union support. Local tax changes seem designed to weaken municipal finance, not strengthen decentralised initiative. While Macron has tried to stand up to Trump his efforts have few visible effects.

Defeat of the French left.

The French left has yet to recover from the catastrophic defeat of the governing socialists. Hamon was fated, in the words of former PS General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis to get the minimal score of left-greens, 6,36 %  (Chronique d’une débâcle 2017). Hamon now has his own party Génération.s. The PS has since seen more defections, this time to Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France insoumise. If LFI won a respectable vote of in the Presidential elections (fourth position and 19.58% for Jean-Luc Mélenchon,  in the first round) , and has, with its allies, 17 deputies, it is far, very far, from securing an alternative majority to Macron. It is unlikely this week’s pantomime response to police investigations into their funding will expand their audience and ‘federate’ the “People”. The left is now so splintered that up to 6 different lists will appear in next year’s European elections. It would appear, if one might say so from a distance, that a long-term war of position to regroup the left into some form of united front would be a better way of building an alternative to Macron that a head on war of manoeuvre. And, unlike LFI,  it is quite possible to be a ‘pro-European’ radical leftist.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm

France: Top Macron Minder, Alexandre Benalla, Filmed Hitting May Day Protester.

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Alexandre Benalla: “After  attacks quickly slipped off afraid of being recognised”.

L’Indépendent,

“Cet homme s’est ensuite rapidement éloigné de peur d’être reconnu…”

The Guardian reports, “Benalla, wearing a police visor, is seen first grabbing and dragging a woman, then dragging, hitting and stamping on an unarmed young man who seems to be in pain.”

“The many riot police close by appear to let Benalla carry out the violence untroubled.

One witness who saw the incident said: “What I watched was not normal, it was extraordinary, it was not legal and it was not techniques used by the police. It’s unacceptable, I’m extremely angry and I want to see action by the justice system, police and administration against this member of staff of the presidency.”

One of President Emmanuel Macron’s top security officers was at the centre of a potentially damaging scandal for the French leader on Wednesday after being filmed hitting a protester.

France 24.

Le Monde newspaper published a video showing Alexandre Benalla hitting and then stamping on a young man while wearing a police visor during a demonstration in central Paris on May 1.

Benalla, who is not a policeman and previously worked as bodyguard, had been given permission to “observe police operations” during a day-off on the May 1 public holiday, Macron’s office said.

The presidential palace added that Benalla had been suspended for two weeks after the incident came to light and had been transferred out of his job, which was organising security for Macron’s trips.

“This sanction was to punish unacceptable behaviour and it was a final warning before being sacked,” presidential spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit told reporters.

Prosecutors in Paris opened a probe on Thursday into possible charges of violence by a public official, pretending to be a policeman and the illegal use of police insignia.

Benalla was a popular and ever-present member of Macron’s campaign team, usually found several steps behind the then-candidate, and transferred to the presidential staff in May 2017.

Opposition MPs immediately suggested there had been a cover up and questioned why the incident had not been referred to the police when it came to light in May.

“This video is shocking. Today, we have the feeling that in Macron’s entourage, one is above the law. It is obvious that Macron has to speak up about this,” Laurent Wauquiez, president of conservative opposition party Les Républicains told Europe 1 radio.

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure said there was “a double standard” in how Benalla had been treated compared to any ordinary French citizen.

Alexis Corbière, an MP for the hard-left France Unbowed party, said Benalla “deserves to be punished with a prison sentence, at least a suspended sentence and with very heavy sanctions”.

Supporters of Macron claimed that the punishment handed down to Benalla – suspension without pay for two weeks and a transfer to an administrative job – was appropriate.

In fact le Monde has just reported that the French prosecution service has now opened an inquiry into the incident:

 Le parquet ouvre une enquête visant un collaborateur de Macron

As is the way  Videos of the incident are already freely available.

 

It is astonishing, and outrageous, that Benalla  thought he could get away with this behaviour.

As the person who filmed the incident, Taha Bouhafs, says,

Ça montre que quand on est conseiller d’Emmanuel Macron, on peut tabasser quelqu’un et être mis à pied quinze jours seulement. Est-ce que la sanction aurait été aussi légère si ça n’avait pas été un proche du pration.résident ?

This shows that when you’re an aide to Emmanuel Macron, you can beat up somebody and only get suspended for a fortnight. Would this have been the penalty faced by anybody other than somebody close to the President?

Libération: Agression d’un manifestant par un collaborateur de Macron: «Il l’étrangle et lui met plusieurs coups de poing par derrière»

Written by Andrew Coates

July 19, 2018 at 11:50 am

France: Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Reforms’ to Continue on Track?

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Protest Against Macron Calls for General Strike. May 2018.

Is France’s President Emmanuel Macron about to win his battle against the rail strikers?  

Last Friday after the French National Assembly the Senate passed legislation reforming the country’s railway system, the SNCF by 245 against 82. The principal change is that from an “établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial (EPIC) » to « société anonyme (SA) ». That is, it will become a limited company, which will remain under public ownership.

No new recruit will benefit from the existing ‘statut’, the terms and conditions, of existing employees. This open the way for the end of free travel for employees, lower pay, more worker ‘flexibility, and the abolition of the right to retire at 55 for train drivers. A principal argument behind these, and other changes, is that the public railway company must resolve its debt problem to be competitive.

There will be competition between the rail-service and other companies, extending the existing opening to freight. There are suggestions (Spinetta report) that some unprofitable branch lines may be done away with. Maintenance will also be open to private companies (l’Humanité. 15.6.18). From 2019 regional services will be affected and in 2020 the TGV will, leaving the position around Paris in the l’Ile-de-France to be clarified between 2023 and…..2039.

These changes follow European Union directives on public debt and competition. They have been issued with the agreement of the counties of the EU, dominated by supporters of the marketisation of public services, and not from some hidden Brussels cabal.

Strikes, strongly supported by those working for the SNCF, against the ‘reform’ began on the 3rd of April, co-ordinated by the ‘intersyndical’ of rail unions (CGT, UNSA, SUD, CFDT, and FO). As collective bargaining begins in the light of the new law stoppages continue, intended to weigh on the negotiations. Despite suggestions that the ‘reformist’ unions (such as the CFDT) might reach a conciliatory agreement on their own this has not yet happened. What looks likely happen as talks get underway is that strikes will become reduced to a means of pressure for the best possible outcome, within this framework.

Despite a parallel conflict in Air France and a student movement, including militant occupations, against the reform called ORE (“d’orientation et de réussite des étudiants”) which gives universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants , a ‘social movement’ against Macron’s moves has not taken off. The wider public appears not to have identified with the fight of the cheminots (rail workers) as they did in 1997. Jean Luc-Mélenchon has stated that while he is drunk with his own self-satisfaction,  59% of those polled have a ‘negative’ opinion of the President. But ‘marées populaires” ‘ (tidal waves of protesters) at demonstration of solidarity with the strikers by his rally-party, have failed to flood the streets.  La France insoumise, the radical left, and other parts of the fragmented green, Communist and socialist left, trade unionists and students, have not created an ‘ insurrection  citoyenne’. Many of the public, lukewarm at the defence of what much of the media has presented as “special interests”  do not identify with the strikers.

Macon now feels free to tackle the welfare state. He has complained about the “pognon de dingue” (daft amount of dosh)  spent on welfare, suggesting wholesale changes in the benefit system. Replacing the complex French pension system with a uniform regime is in his sights. At the same time today it’s confirmed by right wing Economy Minister, Bruno le Maire, that the les Aéroports de Paris, la Française des Jeux (National Lottery) and Engie (unsurprisingly an energy firm) will be privatised (France’s Le Maire set to unveil inflammatory privatisation bill.)

It is sometimes suggested that Macron poses as ‘above’ left and right to cover his neoliberal policies. But is the struggle against neo-liberal globalisation what it was at the turn of the new millenium? The nature of ‘liberal’ policies, when not only European countries like Italy, Poland and Hungary, displaying signs of the less attractive side of anti-liberalism, but the US is engaged in trade wars that strike up the pillars of what was assumed to be ‘globalisation ‘ is in a state of flux. It is all very well for Mélenchon to shout that the President is an “EXTRÊME-LIBÉRAL”. But that part of the French left, including sections of La France insoumise, like other currents in Europe, including Britain, consider that ‘socialist’ version of ‘sovereigntism ‘ that is national control of the economy, is the answer to the difficulties created by years of market reform and liberalisation only adds to the confusion.

The French President himself claims to be a « progressive » both of the « right, the centre, and the left ». (Macron, un président philosophe. Brice Couturier. 2017) Put in less exorbitant langue he is, in effect, claiming the mantle of the 5th Republic, designed by de Gaulle to make the Head of State appear « above » parties and social divisions. Taking this further Macron presents his fight against workers and social rights as a struggle against outdated ‘ corporatism ‘.

A more bogus sets of political assertions would be hard to find. Saint-Simonian top-down technocratic reforms are the opposite of changes inspired by grassroots democratic struggle. But until there is a left united enough to challenge Macron and the domination of the National Assembly by his La République En Marche!  they will be hard to put down.