Last updated on 28th July 2019
If Notre Dame allowed Macron a few days of respite, Act 23 quickly brought Jupiter back to earth. On the eve of the announcements of the end of the “grand debate” [this article was written on April 23rd – 2 days before Macron announced his pathetic “measures” on April 25th – ed], there is a doubled pressure that is exerted on Macron by the Yellow Vests and the big bosses, who fear to see the reforming ambitions of Macronism disappear and urge the government to specify its measures for increasing working time.
The sequence that opened last Monday with the fire of Notre-Dame gave Macron a healthy respite to review his speech [which was supposed to happen on April 15th – ed] and refine the course he intends to traverse at the end of the “great debate”. Indeed, as things stands, the President’s planned speech had everything to make it a flop, as the reactions to the proposals published in the media showed, as well as the criticisms made by former close associates of the government such as Gerard Collomb.
However, the truce has been short-lived. As might be expected, Act 23 of Yellow Vests brought the government back to earth. If the extremely offensive police system allowed a relative victory for the maintenance of order, the importance of the Parisian mobilisation, the determination of the Yellow Vests, and the indignation provoked since Saturday by the repression against two independent journalists reminded the government that the war is far from won.
After five months of mobilisation of the Yellow Vests, the repression and delegitimisation campaigns of the movement through which the government seeks to maintain itself are only second-best efforts in the expectation of a political response to a mobilisation that continues to arouse the engagement of half the population.
For a government that must find a way to appease anger while implementing the measures for which it was elected – to impose ultra-liberal reforms, reduce public spending, etc – the situation seems insoluble. The bourgeois editorialists know it and are afraid of seeing their aspirations damaged, as Jean-François Pécresse particularly stresses in Les Echos: “We must not expect, alas, that the restitution (…) of the grievances of the French leads to a desire for more freedom for employers, producers or traders, or less guarantees for employees, less welfare or less public services.”
However, if Macron is still looking for a neo-liberal outcome to the Yellow Vests crisis, the room for manoeuvre remains limited. He must indeed reconcile a neo-liberal program of “rising working time” with the demands of the Yellow Vests in a logic of “everything has a cost”. Thus, in order to “finance dependence” it will be necessary to sacrifice a “holiday”. In this sense, what he gives on the one hand, he will want to recover in reality a hundredfold with the other. For a few crumbs obtained on one side, and “tax cuts”, it will be necessary to increase the “working time”.
What Macron does not say is that, mechanically speaking, an increase in working time implies an increase in exploitation and, thus, the profit of the big employers. Moreover, increasing working time ultimately means more work for some, less work for others, leading to ever greater unemployment. In this perspective, the employers and the bourgeois editocrats are keeping watch, demanding that the government specify its measures, while underlining the dangers of too “unpopular” measures in the current convulsive context. “The words of the head of state remain very vague. And it is not sure how much clearer we will see at the end of the week. Because the subject is ultra-sensitive and the options are ultimately few and very unpopular,” noted Stéphane Dupont in an editorial of Les Echos.
The contradictions that Macron finds himself in thus seem insoluble. In addition, the government is facing a multiplication of fronts as elements of mobilisation in several sectors, with the strike of the Assistance publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, the movement of teachers, and the broader perspective of a mobilisation of civil servants. In this context, the elements of convergence between unions and Yellow Vests on April 27th, as well as the May Day demonstration, could trigger a dynamic of mobilisation to try to broaden the movement and build the balance of power to defeat Macron.
Pablo Morao, Revolution Permanente