Today: March 19 2019
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The French sent Macron a "black mark"

The French sent Macron a "black mark"

Tags: France, Macron, Politics, Protests, Analytics, Economics, Reforms, Strikes

Reforms of President Macron, somewhat resembling "shock therapy" in Russia 1990-ies, brought to the streets of tens of thousands of Frenchmen who gave the police a full-fledged battle. The purpose of the protesters is the resignation of the head of state. Otherwise, the country expects a transport collapse. But how did the triumphantly elected president manage to quarrel with his people in less than a year?

On the international scene, French President Emmanuel Macron positions himself almost as a new EU leader, but he can not build a relationship with his own electorate at home. For ten months of the government, the head of state managed to quarrel with almost all categories of working people.

In September, the French went to mass demonstrations to save the Labor Code, which the government decided to reform in favor of the "masters of life."

In February, on the brink of insurrection were farmers, outraged by the forthcoming reform of agriculture. Macron called it a "cultural revolution," and its essence is to cut back on subsidies to farmers from the EU budget and send the money to create a pan-European army.

It is necessary to know the attitude of the French to the land, in order to understand why all the presidents before Macron fought for increasing these payments without regret. In 1965-1966, Charles de Gaulle even announced a boycott of the European Commission and was absent from its meetings, until he got the right for Paris to veto any decisions on subsidies to agricultural producers. But Macron, as he promised in one of his fiery speeches, "threw away all taboos." Indignant farmers are ready to go to Paris on tractors and arrange another spectacular protest action there with bonfires from straw and throwing manure. The president had to urgently invite a thousand of them to the Elysee Palace, where he painted all the delights of the "cultural revolution" in agriculture and tried to dissuade him from rebellion.

Literally a week ago, Paris hosted tens of thousands of angry pensioners, who were painfully hit by the tax reform. Pensioners in the electoral process of France - a serious force. They are in the country 15 million, and they all like to go to the polls. In May, three quarters of the elderly voted for Makron, but only eight months after the elections, only half of them supported it. Especially the elderly French are annoyed by the fact that by raising taxes for ordinary people, the government simultaneously reduced them for the super-rich and corporate profits.

Finally, on 22 March, seven French trade unions announced a nationwide strike, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the famous mass riots of 1968, and will continue until the summer, together with demonstrations and rallies.

The scale of this event could be assessed on the first day of a nationwide strike. In France, high-speed TGV trains stopped, train trains are canceled and delayed, hundreds of schools are closed. On Friday, Parisians, who needed to somehow get to work, decided to go to the center on their cars, which led to traffic jams that stretched for three hundred kilometers. For its part, the company Air France canceled up to forty percent of flights for short distances.

Approximately in this mode, the country will live up to 28 June. With his legislative novels, Macron succeeded in uniting the most diverse categories of working people against himself. In the ranks of protesters - teachers and railway workers, air traffic controllers and doctors, nurses and kindergarten teachers. In short, all those in France are considered civil servants.

Over the past decades, work in the public sector was considered one of the most prestigious in the Fifth Republic. A generous social package, medical insurance, long holidays, a good pension, wide guarantees against dismissal - all this made the French budget workers a kind of elite among the working people. But Makron decided that such a large number of civil servants could not withstand the budget: the total number of budget employees was decided to be reduced by 120 thousand people. And they will be dismissed "on their own" - that is, without compensation.

In parallel, public employment contracts will be widely used in the public sector. This, of course, will improve employment figures and somewhat reduce unemployment. However, an employee who has received a job in this way will be practically deprived of all social guarantees. The trade union will not be able to protect it, which will make the unions themselves unnecessary - the century of their power is ended ingloriously.

For example, the process of firing of railroad personnel is dramatically simplified - earlier with them were lifelong contracts. In addition, their right to early retirement is abolished (now railway workers retire from the age of 50 to 55), and the pension payments that a transport worker can expect will be drastically reduced if he is dismissed.

An additional irritant for all these categories of employees is a long-frozen salary against a background of constant inflation. So, air traffic controllers require at least a six percent increase to their salary.

There is no support from the upper echelons of the citizens - they simply can not rely on their protests in their protests. The reforms of the young and active president cover them like a natural disaster. Leaders of the largest trade unions Makron managed to win over to his side. Deputies of the parliament are also in no hurry to stand up for their voters' defense. After the last elections, the National Assembly of France consists mainly of newcomers to politics, personally selected by Macron and in all of his supporters. As a result, all presidential bills are going with a bang.

To further strengthen its position and "cut the bones" even faster, the head of state plans to reduce the number of parliamentarians by one third - from 577 to 385. Deputies from the Communists are confident that this reform will lead to a "dictatorship of technocrats".

The possibility of all these projects being submitted to a referendum is not even mentioned, although the opposition is constantly demanding from both the left and the right. The swiftness and rigidity of reforms Macron is surprisingly reminiscent of the "shock therapy" that was used in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The only thing that remains for the French working people in such conditions is mass street speeches and strikes. The current "hot spring" (as the event was called by its organizers) will smoothly flow into a difficult summer. Up to 28 June, the railway workers will go on strike for two days every three. The number of high-speed train flights will be reduced by at least 60%, and the number of flights - by 30%.

May and June are the height of the tourist season in France, so that the transport collapse both for tourists and for the local is almost guaranteed.

Skeptics argue that strikers will not be able to repeat the success of the general strike of 1995, which buried the plan of Prime Minister Alain Juppe to reform the national SNCF rail network. Then the trains in the country did not go for several weeks in a row.

Since then, the protest movement has significantly faded. The authorities manage to ignore the most notable strikes and brutally disperse the largest of them. "The government realized that it could just bend its line," says Professor Stefan Siro in an interview with Reuters.

Proof of the powerlessness of the masses can be called grandiose performances of 2003 against raising the retirement age. The government has still transformed the reform into reality.

However, the organizers of the "hot spring" believe in other historical parallels and do not coincidentally timed their strike to the anniversary of street fighting 1968 year. Half a century ago, the uprising of students and workers led to the resignation of de Gaulle himself. Today, the demonstrators hope to send President Macron to rest.

Meanwhile, the center of Paris was covered with smoke from firecrackers - at the end of the working week thousands of demonstrators entered street battles with the police. They threw siloviki with stones, beat shop windows and glasses of parked cars. In response, the police used tear gas, many demonstrators became ill, ambulances came to the scene of the clashes.

Instead of the declared "end of history" on the Parisian bridges, a traditional class war was raging, resembling either the Paris Commune or the street battles between communists and fascists of the 1930-ies.

Victoria Nikiforov
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