[Marxism] Why the French Are Growing Angry With Emmanuel Macron
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 19 08:36:13 MDT 2018
NY Times, April 19, 2018
Why the French Are Growing Angry With Emmanuel Macron
By ADAM NOSSITER
PARIS — The veteran journalists did not wear ties and they did not
address him as “Mr. President”: two outrageous insults in a television
interview this week that served to underscore a new chapter in Emmanuel
Macron’s mercurial presidency, one defined by popular anger.
The total lack of deference and a barrage of hostile questions in the
interview on Sunday evening have reverberated for days in France and
come on top of a coolly savage portrayal of Mr. Macron in a new book of
memoirs by his predecessor François Hollande.
What both Mr. Hollande’s book and the television interview had in common
was not only the substance of their attacks — that Mr. Macron is a
self-seeking servant of society’s fortunate — but also their underlying
message: It is open season on the French president.
The undisguised hostility has made clear that, less than a year into
this new presidency, anti-Macron sentiment is emerging as a potent
force. It is being fueled by a pervasive sense that Mr. Macron is
pushing too far, too fast in too many areas — nicking at the benefits of
pensioners and low earners, giving dollops to the well-off and slashing
sacred worker privileges.
The souring of the public mood is reflected in Mr. Macron’s drooping
poll numbers among workers and the middle class. (His popularity remains
high among those that the French call “executives.”) It is also seen in
the streets, where a wave of strikes and demonstrations is testing Mr.
Macron’s resolve as never before.
“In every area, there is discontent,” admonished one of Mr. Macron’s
interviewers on Sunday, Edwy Plenel, a political journalist with the
investigative news website Mediapart. The president could barely conceal
“Your question is biased!” Mr. Macron retorted. “The discontent of the
railway workers has nothing to do with the discontent in the hospitals!”
The result for now is a strike that has crippled France’s vaunted rail
service, shut down many of its universities and put hostile
demonstrators in the streets as they try to push back against Mr.
Macron’s effort to reshape the country’s work force culture.
The television interview was less a conversation than a controlled
ambush. For more than two hours, Mr. Macron was admonished, lectured at,
cut off and shouted over. And he gave nearly as good as he got. Still,
never before has a French president been so rudely manhandled.
“France has passed a threshold with this debate,” the political
consultant Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet said on television afterward.
“So, you are searching for cash in the wallets of the retirees! Excuse
me, Emmanuel Macron!” the other television interviewer, Jean-Jacques
Bourdin, nearly shouted at the president.
In the interview, it was plain “Emmanuel Macron” — as in Citizen Macron
in the style of the French Revolution — from start to finish.
“I have got to put the country back to work,” Mr. Macron was left
blustering. “There are too many who work hard, and don’t earn enough
from their work.”
“You are not the teacher and we are not the students!” Mr. Plenel said
in reprimand to Mr. Macron, using a phrase that has a long pedigree in
French political debates.
“I’m not aggravated, but I don’t like intellectual dishonesty!” Mr.
Macron insisted through gritted teeth.
The far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who makes no secret of his
disdain for Mr. Macron, seized upon Sunday’s televised “wrestling
match,” as one commentator called it.
“Jupiter has fallen from the sky!” he declared, invoking the king of the
gods, a name the French news media have pinned on Mr. Macron for
gathering up extraordinary powerfor example by using his legislative
supermajority to carry out his agenda almost unchecked.
If he has not quite fallen, at the very least there is a growing sense
that Mr. Macron and the French presidency are no longer “sacred,” as a
headline on Mr. Plenel’s news website Mediapart put it.
To be sure, Mr. Macron, once he had rebalanced himself, periodically
launched his habitual command performance, speaking fluently and without
notes on Syria, labor, taxes and other subjects for more than two hours.
Yet the image remaining is that of an aggravated French president, his
voice fairly choking, having to remind his interlocutors, “You are the
interviewers, and I am the president of the Republic!”
“I am not about sanctifying the function of the presidency,” Mr. Plenel
said on television afterward.
“There is a monarchical culture in France,” Mr. Plenel, who was once
editor in chief of Le Monde, said in an interview on Tuesday, explaining
his strategy Sunday. “It was necessary to break the code of this
Likewise, in his book “The Lessons of Power,” Mr. Hollande draws a
portrait in acid of his ambitious successor. While Mr. Hollande was
considered by many the “normal” chief executive, Mr. Macron set out to
be his opposite.
This was not the stuff of Olympian maneuvering but rather of base human
machinations, in Mr. Hollande’s view.
Did the young Minister of the Economy who had been Mr. Hollande’s
protégé stab the older man in the back, then leap over his carcass to
gain the presidency? Did he betray the seasoned politician to whom he
owed so much? Those central questions have been a subtext in French
politics since Mr. Macron was elected a year ago. Mr. Hollande all but
“Always, that style of denying the plain evidence with a smile,” Mr.
Hollande comments with barely disguised bitterness after Mr. Macron has
denied he will be a candidate. That denial followed the triumphalist
kickoff rally in July 2016 at which his supporters shouted “Macron,
President!” almost for the first time.
“In front of me, Emmanuel Macron protested his good faith, and his
faithfulness,” Mr. Hollande writes, describing a moment when he was
forced to upbraid his protégé for having displayed his ambition. “Was he
sincere when he thought that his adventure was limited in time, and that
it would eventually end, to serve, finally, my own candidacy?”
The ex-president doesn’t answer the question, but he hardly needs to.
“Did he feel guilty about something?” Mr. Hollande asks about the moment
he handed over power to Mr. Macron a year ago at the Élysée Palace. “As
though the order of things, and of human relations, had been unduly
And Mr. Hollande wickedly sums up both the limits and potential of Mr.
Macron’s outlook, gleaned when the younger man was his counselor at the
“He is certain that reality graciously bends to his will as soon as he
The ex-president adopts the critique of Mr. Macron’s detractors on the
left when he writes in his book that “my government reduced inequality,
while this one is deepening it.”
If the numbers show Mr. Hollande giving himself too easy a pass on his
own record in that regard, the jury is still out on Mr. Macron’s.
Certainly he appeared to do himself few favors on Sunday when he
repeatedly refused to condemn the well-established practice by the very
wealthy in France of seeking tax havens.
“We’ve got a problem with fiscal optimization,” Mr. Macron conceded.
That provoked the outrage of Mr. Bourdin: “Tax evasion!” he shouted at
the president, using a term more recognizable to the average citizen.
Mr. Macron refused to give ground.
“And what about your friend Arnault?” — the question referred to the
C.E.O. of LVMH, France’s wealthiest man, Bernard Arnault.
“I don’t have friends,” Mr. Macron said coldly.
Elian Peltier contributed reporting.
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