Friday, April 20, 2018

Macron's New France

Owen Jones writes in the Guardian that Macron is far more popular internationally than in France, where dissatisfaction with his presidency has surged to 58% less than a year after his election. French scepticism towards Macron contrasts sharply with his own lack of self-doubt. He refused to be questioned by journalists because his “complex thought processes” were ill-suited for such a setting.

Macron is a pound-shop Margaret Thatcher, redistributing wealth to those with too much of it, while assaulting workers’ rights and France’s hard-won social model. His tax changes have gifted the hundred wealthiest households more than half a million euros a year: the top 1% captured 44% of his new tax breaks. For the less affluent, it’s a different story. This former investment banker has slashed housing benefit, and hiked taxes on pensioners – in a country where the average monthly pension is just €1,300 (£1,100). His policies have shifted the workplace balance of power from workers to bosses. French students are staging occupations and protests against more selective entry requirements for universities, derided as an attack on free universal education and France’s social model.

Another pillar of his agenda is privatisation, including of France’s airports and part of the national energy utility. His confrontation with rail workers is seen as an attempt to lay the foundations for a catastrophic British-style privatisation of the railway industry. EU-mandated deregulation will mean foreign companies can soon compete with the state rail company SNCF, and Macron is transforming it from a state enterprise into a limited company; exactly what happened with the formerly state-owned France Télécom.

A man who courted left-leaning voters by promising a humane policy towards migrants and refugees now has them firmly in his sights. The number of days a person without papers can be imprisoned in a detention centre is to be doubled; the consideration time period for asylum has been halved, meaning fewer refugees will be accepted. Charities warn that refugees fleeing war will be deported. Macron’s interior minister, Gérard Collomb, claims that communities are “breaking up because they are overwhelmed by the inflow of asylum seekers”. No wonder the far-right Front National has described his policies as a “political victory”.

Macron is presented as an oasis of moderation, a bulwark against the extremes. But there is nothing moderate about slashing taxes on the wealthy, attacking workers’ rights or demonising refugees. He represents an essential ingredient in the revival of French fascism.

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