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Opinion News
May 23,2017

Winner takes all

Diana Johnstone

Macron won in part because older voters in particular were frightened by his opponents’ hints at leaving the European Union, which they have been indoctrinated to consider necessary to prevent renewal of Europe’s old wars.  But only the hysterical anti-fascist scare can explain why self-styled leftist ‘revolutionaries’ such as François Ruffin, known for his successful anti-capitalist movie ‘Merci Patron’, could join the stampede to vote for Macron – promising to ‘oppose him later’. But how?

Later, after five years of Macron, opposition may be harder than ever. In recent decades, as manufacturing moves to low wage countries, including EU members such as Poland and Rumania, France has lost 40% of its industry. Loss of industry means loss of jobs and fewer workers. When industry is no longer essential, workers have lost their key power: striking to shut down industry. Currently the desperate workers in a failing auto-works factory in central France are threatening to blow it up unless the government takes measures to save their jobs. But violence is powerless when it has no price tag.

Emmanuel Macron has said that he wants to spend only a short time in political life, before getting back to business. He has a mission, and he is in a hurry. If he gains an absolute majority in the June parliamentary elections, he has a free hand to govern for five years. He means to use this period not to ‘reform’ the country, as his predecessors put it, but to ‘transform’ France into a different sort of country. If he has his way, in five years France will no longer be a sovereign nation, but a reliable region in a federalized European Union, following a rigorous economic policy made in Germany by bankers and a bellicose foreign policy made in Washington by neocons.

As usual, the newly elected French president’s first move was to rush to Berlin to assert loyalty to the increasingly lopsided ‘Franco-German partnership’. He was most warmly welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanks to his clear determination to force through the austerity measures demanded by the Frankfurt budget masters. Macron hopes that his fiscal obedience will be rewarded by German consent to a European investment fund for stimulating economic growth, but this implies a degree of federalism that the pfennig-pinching Germans show little sign of accepting.

First of all, he has promised to complete the dismantling of the French labor code, which offers various protections to workers. This should save money for employers and the government. For Macron, the ruin of French industry and French farming seem to be welcome steps toward an economy of individual initiative, symbolized by startups.

The Macron program amounts to a profound ideological transformation of the French ideal of égalité, equality, from a horizontal concept, meaning equal benefits for all, to the vertical ideal of ‘equality of opportunity’, meaning the theoretical chance of every individual to rise above the others. This is an ideal easily accepted in the United States with its longstanding myth of the self-made man. The French have traditionally been logical enough to understand that everyone can’t rise above the others.

Horizontal equality in France has primarily meant institutional redistribution of wealth via universal access to benefits such as health care, pensions, communications and transportation facilities, allocations for families raising children, unemployment insurance, free education at all levels. These are the benefits that are under threat from the European Union in various ways. One way is the imposition of ‘competition’ rules that impose privatization and favor foreign takeovers that transform public services into profit-seekers.  Another is the imposition of public budget restrictions, along with the obligation of the State to seek private loans, increasing its debt, and the loss of tax revenue that all end up up making the State too poor to continue providing such services.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org


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