The French people do not want Macron and his economic policies. They want him out of office and into oblivion.
Rabat – This past Saturday was yet another day of horrible urban riots in Paris and major French cities. The French people, represented by protesters bearing high-visibility fluorescent jackets and calling themselves the “yellow vest” movement, do not want Macron and his economic policies. They want him out of office and into oblivion.
On placards and on the back of their vests, the demonstrators inscribed a clear message: “Macron demissionne” and, at other times, abrupt wording: “Macron degage.” The word “degage” is reminiscent of the beginning of demonstrations of the Arab Spring and was meant, initially, for the dictator Ben Ali in Tunisia in 2010. It has been used as a lead message by all Arab uprisings to get rid of their corrupt and patriarchal leaders.
Macron is no dictator, whatsoever. He was elected to the office by the majority of French people on May 7, 2017, and today they want him to go. Why is that?
No “uberization” of the French economic model
Macron came to politics from business circles, the Rothschild investment bank to be precise, which he joined in 2008 at the age of 30. In many ways he is bewitched by the American economic model. For some of his enemies he is no more than a puppet of the powerful Rothschild business dynasty.
His undeclared objective is to dismantle the French welfare system and, most importantly, the French “Etat de providence.” He is eyeing eagerly, also, the privatization of the railroad company SNCF and later on all other state conglomerates.
He has initiated, willingly, the end of free tertiary education to boost and modernize this sector, according to him. In the same line, he has increased university fees astronomically, obliging thousands of foreign students, mostly from former colonies, to seek other educational horizons.
At the beginning of the “Yellow Revolution” on November 7, 2018, he swore to stay his course and not budge, but as the successive Saturdays became violent and the “yellow vests” proved to be more determined to fight to the last drop, Macron, like most medieval kings, retired to his dungeon.
Macron kept mum while trying to use political parties, NGOs, trade unions, etc., to negotiate on his behalf, one way or the other. At the end, realizing that the “yellow vests” would not change course, he backtracked on his increase of energy taxes. Nevertheless, the yellow vests continued, increasing their demands and vowing to continue the protests until spring, if need be, or the end of Macron’s presidency.
What is more, now they are demanding a referendum on the whole French political system. Indeed, many of the “yellow vests” who hit the streets again on Saturday wielded signs with the acronym RIC–for “Citizens’ Initiative Referendum”–insisting popular votes be held to allow citizens to vet government policy proposals.
Is this the second French Revolution?
The demonstrations are reminiscent of the May 1968 protests that led to the departure of the charismatic Charles de Gaulle from power, after the majority of the French people rejected his austere ruling philosophy and approach.
The “yellow vests” movement is more like a “Second French Revolution” in the making. It is aiming to change the French Model that has past its expiration date, according to many analysts and experts, but in their own way:
- Put an end to the vertical approach to power;
- Create real and accountable local governments in the regions; and
- Reduce the power of the president and his government in favor of local governments.
Since coming to power one year ago, Macron has tried to Americanize the French economy by increasing taxes in areas that hurt mostly the “petit peuple” and taxing less big fortunes. This has increased the gap between the poor and the rich. His avowed aim, apparently, is to attract more investments into the French economy to create more jobs and, therefore, better life prospects for the French nation.
Now Macron’s choices are very hard: Give up his economic model altogether to keep his seat or leave office. Chances are that he will not leave power but try to get a new virginity (nouvelle virginite) to continue until the end of his term. However, whatever route he will take, he will be a weakened president, and his party will go on until the end of this term and then, probably, disintegrate, because it is so unpopular at the time being.
Indeed, two cars of a female deputy from Macron’s party were burned down one night by unknown arsonists to express their dislike of him and his model of governance. Many other deputies received death threats and graffiti was inscribed on the front walls of their residences.
After the fourth violent Saturday that took place in most major cities, Macron, on counsel from his inner circle, came down from his ivory tower and spoke to the French people on Monday, December 10, 2018.
In his speech, he expressed his willingness not only to dismantle all the energy taxes he planned for 2019, but, also, to respond favorably to most of the demands put forward by the “yellow vests.” Mainly, he will:
- Increase the minimum wage by €100,
- Raise retirement payments and pensions, and
- Scrap taxes on extra-work hours.
In addition, he asked all employers to grant their employees a Christmas bonus. He also pressed banks to review their charges on customer accounts.
So, Macron is probably not going to Americanize the French culture and economy. After all, it was an approach that Margaret Thatcher undertook in the late 1970s, with much pain, saving the United Kingdom from bankruptcy and making it among the strongest economies of the 21st century.
France is a Latin country, and it is not going to go the American way; it will remain Latin by popular choice.
What consequences for Macron?
Macron, who was buoyed by his almost landslide victory in the presidential elections of 2017 with his new party “La Republique en Marche,” is facing dire prospects today. The party he created will, undoubtedly, be buried with him at the end of his term. Already, Francois Holland, who handpicked Macron to succeed him, is criticizing Macron for his policies and is preparing his probable triumphant political comeback.
One of the last straws of the ailing Macron administration is the national debate. Macron, in person, officially launched the debate with the mayors of France in the northern provincial town of Grand Bourgtheroulde in Normandy on January 15, 2019.
The initiative was intended to address a long list of grievances of the “yellow vests” and to soothe their ongoing protests. But from the start, the debate that was supposed to assuage the anger of the protesters ran aground when Macron sparked new outrage by stigmatizing the poor when he said that they are “screwing around.”
Is this a pure political faux-pas or another way of settling scores with the people who are openly rejecting his presidency and asking him to leave?
Prior to launching the debate, Macron wrote in a 2,330-word open letter: “For me, there is no banned issue.” He went on to say: “We won’t agree on everything, which is normal in a democracy. But at least we’ll show we’re a people which is not afraid of talking, exchanging, and debating.”
France never wanted the American model that has been established in the United Kingdom after downsizing the trade unions and vanquishing their radical leaders. France wants a mixture of a liberal economy with a social welfare state and not just a total liberal economy.
The “uberization” of the economy of this country that has happened in several other countries around the world will not occur in France, in the near future, because the majority of the people want to keep France French, in soul and philosophy. Whether they succeed in that objective or not, only time will show.