[Marxism] Why the French Are Growing Angry With Emmanuel Macron

Louis Proyect 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

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 
his anger.

“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 
monarchical culture.”

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 
answers yes.

“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 
expresses it.”

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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