As the French braces itself for the latest wave of protests and strikes across the country, as attitudes harden against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension and retirement system reforms. Karel Vereycken, vice-president of France’s Solidarity and Progress Party, has given his version what’s behind the recent wave of strikes and why Macron’s efforts to calm the situation down are backfiring.
Over 450,000 demonstrators marched across France on Thursday with teachers, lawyers, and doctors joining the 36-day old public sector strike – one of the longest since May 1968 – over proposed pension reforms.
French hardline union leaders, who’ve been at the head of the protest movement since 5 December 2019, want the Macron government to abandon a plan to replace France’s 42 separate pension regimes with a points-based system that would make the official retirement age of 62 mandatory for all workers and envisages it being raised up to 64 in the foreseeable future as people live longer. However, the French president made it clear in his New Year address that “the pension reform will be carried out”.
Macron cannot think beyond neo-liberal economic ideas, he is in a dramatic state of denial”, says Vereycken, “And as the African proverb says, to clap hands, you need two of them. Key influentials, some of them ‘late evening visitors’ at le Chateau, are desperate. ‘I don’t talk any longer to him, because it’s a waste of time’, said one of them. The President of France increasingly has isolated himself”.
Because he has adopted the same Thatcherite follies as Ronald Reagan and Tony Blair, Macronhas to be removed”, Vereycken opines. “Today, for the people – but not yet for Macron – it has become clear that the ‘trickle-down theory’ in economics which supposes a government offering advantages to the rich and wealthy will attract investors which in the end will create jobs and bolster production, has been proven worse than an illusion – a swindle”.
According to the journalist, Macron’s “training as an investment banker prevents him to thinking out of the box of the very neo-liberal Modern Monetary Theory based economic and models that have the West, including France, close to disaster”.
The politician points out that while Macron’s pensions reform appears to be the “very big straw” that eventually broke the camel’s back, it is essentially “decades of wrong policies destroying [France’s] industry, agriculture, jobs, health system, children, education, and especially [the people’s] hopes for a better future” that is behind the French ire.