2017 05 – News From France


What next?

We can assume that Emmanuel Macron will be elected on May 7th even if the élan against Marine Le Pen isn’t what it was against her father in 2002. There isn’t the same surprise and shock. Also the situation has changed. Globalisation and deindustrialisation have increased, and so has the realisation that France can’t do anything about them without going against EU rules. The solution is either to leave Europe, or else to join in the fiscal and social dumping, as practised by Britain.

The country is divided between those who would leave Europe (or try and reform it), and those who embrace Europe and want to reduce taxes and reduce regulation, in particular that of the Labour Code. At the moment the former are represented by Le Pen and the latter by Macron. The question of the free movement of people/immigration is the other component of the race between the two candidates.

Support for the candidates depends on what globalisation has done for you.  If it has destroyed your livelihood, roughly as in Eastern and Northern France, you are more likely to vote Le Pen but if it has given you a livelihood, as in Western France, you are more likely to vote Macron.

There should be a movement to oppose liberalism (social and fiscal dumping, and free movement of people) other than Le Pen, but there isn’t. The left who should have organised such a movement has spent its time campaigning for side issues and lost the support of the working class. That leaves them with no candidate to support for the second round. They are out of it. Melenchon for example is not calling for people to vote Macron against Le Pen (pending a consultation with supporters). On the crucial issues, and at a crucial time, the left are not there.

The Communist Party, if it is worth talking about political ghosts, is calling for a Macron vote. The general secretary said it was important to counter Marine Le Pen, ‘who supports dictators like Trump, Putin and Bashar Al Assad’. This is the level of thinking among the once defenders and representatives of the working class.

Macron will have problems ruling the country, with Le Pen voters seething, and the opposition to social dumping still strong: the past few years have seen demonstrations against the reform of the Labour Code, and this will presumably continue.

One particular reform is that of unemployment benefit. It will no longer be an entitlement, dependent on contributions paid, said Macron. The unemployed will have rights, but also duties. They will be offered work, and if they refuse, their benefit will be decreased then stopped. They will receive one offer of a ‘decent’ job, and they will be able to refuse once, but not twice. How easy will it be to get measures like this through Parliament?

The president and the Prime Minister both have executive powers. In periods of cohabitation, as happened in the past, the President and the Prime Minister belong to different political parties. The presidential elections bring in a president of one political colour, and the general elections bring in a majority of a different colour.  The president has to choose a prime minister among the majority.

The Hollande government wanted to push through deregulation of the labour code, but did not have a majority. It used decree powers to do so. This was possible because the president and the prime minister agreed. What sort of majority will Macron have?

General elections will take place this coming June. There will be a multiplicity of candidates. The traditional parties, the Socialists (whose candidate, Hamon, scored 6.36% of votes in the presidential elections), the Republicans (Sarkozy’s old party, with Fillon, who came third with 20%), plus the CP and their 7 present MPs, the National Front,  the Greens, etc. will present candidates. Macron will put up 577 candidates from his movement ‘En Marche!’ (Forward!); Melenchon will put candidates who support ‘France Insoumise’ (Defiant France/Unsubmissive France).

The left candidates will stand in competition with each other, unless negotiations are successful. None have a program that inspires confidence concerning the big issues of globalization and liberalism. Melenchon offers excellent sentiments: his is the only ‘humanist’ movement, as he proudly said. The traditional Gaullist right, with its pro-Russian and anti-American sovereign elements, are also stuck. Sarkozy has called for a Macron vote.

The Le Pen program is not convincing economically and socially. It is difficult to see how she would govern. There is nobody to vote for on May 7th if you want to see brakes applied to globalization and to free movement of capital and people. This should give French citizens pause for thought, especially on the left.

A different point of view, taken from a French blog. (Translation)

View from a Marseille prison: Macron and Hollande are heroes.

“I have just come from the prison of the Baumettes whose public is strongly ethnicized. Visiting families are kept waiting for hours and everyone is talking, in particular about the elections. I can assure you that there won’t be a problem voting Macron for the second round, a good part of the “Mediterranean” world, shall we say, has already voted Macron in the first round, since they already benefit from the self-exploiting status that Macron dreams of… Moreover, the fear of Marine Le Pen and the arbitrariness that would ensue, is not just fantasy, but also based on lived experience.

Besides in the Baumettes, while the prison staff is quite friendly, you have a fairly good view of arbitrariness not only for the delinquents but for their families, who are treated like them. In short, whether you are outside or inside, Macron has become a hero and Hollande enjoys increased admiration: he is congratulated on his manoeuvre, people admire his cleverness in planning to protect France from the right and from the extreme right by this amazing manoeuvre…

I would have to go round the proletarian world, that of the “Mediterranean” workers and see if the will to beat not only Marine but her Marseille supporters who are much more intolerable than you might imagine listening to Marine, a sickening, fascistic lot … has succeeded in propelling Macron and Hollande to the rank of national heroes, I hope not … But we are undoubtedly in a moment of regression as far as anti-capitalist thinking is concerned.”