Macron's "Yellow Jackets" speech: a French socialist's analysis

Submitted by martin on 11 December, 2018 - 7:48 Author: Olivier Delbeke
Macron spoke in an office full of gold while protests went on in the street

Olivier Delbeke of the French socialist blog Arguments pour la Lutte Sociale has written an analysis of Macron's 10 December televised address, in which he tried to calm down the Yellow Jackets protests by making threats and throwing crumbs.

A word on presentation: stuffy, stilted. Perhaps he has been personally affected by events; but all that comes through is that he wants to emphasise his control of the situation. It tries to be both a display of an authoritarian personality, and of sympathy and understanding – and it rings false. People are picking up on that.
Then, there are five parts of the speech.
1. Repression first: and threats! Not a word about the victims, about the grandmother from Marseilles [killed by a police projectile during a demonstration] and a conspiratorial attitude towards "those few" who "want to destroy the Republic" etc.
2. Tearful sympathy for the poor which builds into a feigned self-criticism ("I am so sorry that I hurt you!") which combines with the opening theme and ends in an announcement of a so-called "economic and political state of emergency".
3. Then some immediate measures are announced:
- 100 extra Euros per month on the minimum wage, which is supposed to be centrepiece. But take note: These 100 Euros "won't have to be paid by the employer", That means that this is a massive attack on gross wages and against social security and pensioners.. A wage increase paid for by wage earners! So who's going to pay? Over what time-frame? In fact an increase in the minimum wage was already being planned: as [founder of SOS Racisme and prominent leftwing activist] Gérard Filoche has pointed out, when all's said and done he has only "conceded" 23 Euros. It's pretty rich! What's more he doesn't say "the minimum wage will increase" but "a worker on the minimum wage will receive more pay"! And this doesn't affect public sector workers at all, either.
- scrapping tax on overtime pay, that old flagship policy of Sarkozy's, makes a centre-stage comeback. The Gilets Jaunes on the roundabouts will appreciate it – this announcement is going to have them protesting overtime, after all.
- Christmas bonuses awarded at employers' discretion won't be taxed or subject to "charges": here, too, an attack on gross wages and social security...
- And the cancellation of the planned increase in CSG (social security tax) for pensioners earning less than 2,000 Euros a month. Only this last measure marks a real step back for the government
The others are about trying to combine apparent pay rises for low-wage workers with attacks on social security, and, via tax policy, on public services: which has always been Macron's policy.
4. The line about the ISF ["Solidarity Tax on Wealth"] "Was life better in the days of the ISF?" That's a good one! So no movement on the ISF wealth tax, or on VAT, or on the CICE [tax credits for employers], and the government will keep the policy of cumulative tax relief and other waivers on fees for bosses...
5. A peroration on the Grrrreat National Debate, a swift canter through every subject under the sun – including "immigration", which of course we have to "combat" – aimed at re-establishing his own legitimacy as the "co-ordinator" of all these debates and policies. Along the way, he rediscovers that mayors exist.
And so we've got a mixture of three important components: real but flimsy concessions; an attempt to go after social security, pensions and public services, which really should ring alarm bells for public sector trade unions and social services, and the flailing declaration of a "great national debate" to rebuild not only his own legitimacy but also that of the Fifth Republic.
And then there's what he didn't say. Naturally, nothing about the institutions of the state: the "great debate" will be held within strict limits and anyway, Macron adds, "I will co-ordinate it" (and reveals he's suddenly remembered that Mayors exist, and he will summon them to a meeting!). And above all, nothing on the youth, revolted and in revolt, faced with shameful repression. This speech and the images from Mantes-la-Jolie where a crowd of college students were held kneeling by the police are two sides of the same coin!
Now more than ever, the central political question is that of the place of the trade union organisations which must not be permitted to hold this political movement back. But in fact they are: the outraged "unity" communiqué issued on 6 December (signed by all the national trade union federations apart from the left-wing Solidaires) and their presence, this Monday morning, summoned as if by a whistle, at the President's side in a "co-ordination" meeting to draw up Monday night's speech, indicates.
Participating means permitting the anti-social policy, which stoked this explosion, to carry on. It is clear that the strikes called by the CGT on 14 December will only succeed if they cut against this strategy. Participation in a moribund Macronism would be the death of the unions. The path to victory for the Gilets Jaunes, for young people and for organised workers is through a general strike. And the broadest masses have given a name to this victory: Macron out!

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