“We shouldn’t change course because it is the right one and necessary.” French president Emmanuel Macron, saying that he will not concede to the protests against his tax increase.
Just a week later, Macron was saying he sympathized with “the couple who earn salaries that do not finish the month, and who get up every day early and come home late,” and also with “the single mother, a widow, a divorcée,” who “has no more hope.”’ He retreated on the gas tax increase, announced a $115/month increase in pay for minimum wage workers, ending of taxes on overtime work and announced that retirees earning less than about $2,270 per month won’t have to pay a recent tax increase on their state pensions.
Macron dead in water from start
Mass protests and disruption get the goods. But this didn’t come from nowhere and there are some lessons to be learned for the working class and for socialists here in the US:
Macron was elected in a runoff against Marine Le Pen, who might be described as the French Donald Trump. A career investment banker, known for being aloof and arrogant, he in turn could be described as the French Hillary Clinton. In other words, the French got Hillary Clinton while we got Marine Le Pen! But in the end, they all four have a lot in common.
Macron’s undoing started almost as soon as he took office. Without a political party of his own, he had to fashion one on the fly. That, in itself, was destabilizing. As the New York Times wrote, “The meltdown of the party system has suddenly thrust France — one of the European Union’s core countries, and long one of its most static and resistant to change — into the same political caldron as countries like Britain, Italy, Greece and Spain. All have seen their politics destabilized in recent years with the implosion of traditional parties and the emergence of populist newcomers.”
More Race to Bottom
Typical of the arrogant finance capitalists, Macron went full speed ahead making France “competitive”. That means making French workers cheaper than workers elsewhere in the EU while boosting the profits of French capitalists. He cut the wealth tax. He moved to make it easier to lay French workers off. (GM workers right about now might be interested in the French laws making layoffs more difficult!) And he raised other taxes on workers.
Meanwhile, his rapidly building reputation in France as “the president of the rich” was enhanced by his getting the government to buy a dinner serving valued at nearly $600,000.
His reputation took another major hit when his top security aide, Alexandre Benalla, beat and abused protesters on May Day of this year. Macron covered it up for months, but it finally came out. When it did, again Macron tried to get away with giving Benalla a slap on the wrist, but the outcry was too great and he was forced to fire Benalla.
Confronted this Summer
This summer, Macron tried to bolster his base by touring France, speaking with small groups of people. He was confronted by complaints from workers and middle class people. Typical was what one woman said to him. His response? “No, no. First of all what you are saying isn’t strictly speaking true.”
Aloof, arrogant and out of touch, he has now been dealt a crippling blow. But he is not alone.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, immortalized in the video “Liar, liar”, is also on the way out. She is unable to navigate Brexit deal that will satisfy anybody. And in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has had to step down as party leader, meaning her days as chancellor are numbered.
And in Egypt, President/dictator el Sisi has actually banned the sale of yellow vests!
And in the US?
Here, while having a fairly narrow base, Trump has still seemed to be sitting firmly in the saddle, but an apparently minor recent event seems to be puncturing that balloon. First came the Mueller charge directly implicating Trump in violating US campaign law. Trump’s supporters will shrug that off as a forgivable nothing. What is not forgivable is appearing weak.
And that’s exactly what’s happened with his chief of staff fiasco. His one and only choice was Rick Ayers, but Ayers declined the honor of walking up onto that scaffold from which the noose was dangling. Now, it seems that nobody wants to take it. Meanwhile, the stock market is dropping.
A columnist for the Wall St. Journal summed matters up neatly: “If the German center takes a beating when unemployment is under 4%, what will happen if it goes back to 6% or 8%? If there are riots in the streets of Paris as national wages rise, what will happen when they start to fall? If Britain is this divided with a strong economy, what happens when—Brexit or no Brexit—the next downturn comes? And, for that matter, what happens in American politics if the Trump boom turns into a bust? …. We may get answers to these questions sooner than we would like.”
Not really. It couldn’t happen too soon. The next question to be discussed is: “What comes afterwards?”