FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Macron Goes for Broke

A former finance minister under a socialist government, who later founded a neoliberal party in his own image, described how to create a market society: ‘Do not try to advance one step at a time. Define your objectives clearly and move towards them by quantum leaps. Otherwise the interest groups will have time to mobilise and drag you down. Speed is essential: it is impossible to go too fast. Even at maximum speed, the total programme will take some years to implement. Don’t stop until you have completed the programme. Opponents’ fire is much less accurate if they have to shoot at a rapidly moving target. Go as fast as you can.’ This was not Emmanuel Macron, but Roger Douglas in New Zealand in November 1989, explaining the recent neoliberal counter-revolution in his country (1).

Nearly 30 years later, President Macron has adopted all the tricks of this shock strategy. Everywhere – the SNCF (the national rail company), the civil service, hospitals, schools, labour legislation, capital taxation, immigration, public broadcasting (which Macron has called ‘a national shame’) – ‘reform’ is going full steam ahead on the pretext of impending catastrophe or soaring debt.

A report on France’s railways, which Macron commissioned from a like-minded expert, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, has revived the as yet unfulfilled neoliberal wish list: ending the privileged status of railway workers, converting the SNCF to a PLC, closing loss-making lines. Five days after its publication, the government began ‘negotiations’ in an attempt to disguise the diktat it wanted to impose on the unions. It urgently needs to take advantage of the climate of political detente, divisions among the unions, and passenger frustration over delays, accidents, dilapidated track and high ticket prices. This is the ‘urgency of action’ claimed by the transport minister. As Roger Douglas stressed, when the opportunity arises, ‘it is impossible to go too fast.’

The French government is also counting on the media to produce fake official news and come up with catchphrases that will help its plans. The idea (quickly spread) that ‘the SNCF costs every French citizen €1,000, even if they don’t use the railways’ closely resembles the infamous claim that ‘every French person will have to pay €735 to wipe out Greece’s debt’, which in 2015 helped the EU to establish its financial stranglehold on Greece.

Sometimes the truth emerges, but too late. Some pensions ‘reforms’ have been justified on the grounds that average life expectancy is rising, but a recent government study concludes that ‘for those born in 1951 or later,’ 80% of France’s population, ‘average life expectancy after retirement is set to fall a little as compared with those born in 1950’ (2). A long trend of growing time spent in retirement has just been reversed. We have not heard much about this. And Macron is not about to warn us that urgent action is required on this front.

Notes.

(1) See Serge Halimi, Le Grand Bond en arrière: Comment l’ordre libéral s’est imposé au monde, (The Great Leap Backwards: how the neoliberal order imposed itself on the world), Agone, Marseille, 2012 (first published 2004).

(2) Average retirement age has risen by 1 year and 4 months since 2010), Etudes et Résultats, no 1052, Direction de la Recherche, des Etudes, de l’Evaluation et des Statistiques, French Ministry of Health and Solidarity, Paris, February 2018.

 

More articles by:

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail