@gduval_altereco The Approaching Dark Age of Macron’s ‘Reforms’ . A comment by Almost Marx

Headline: Can Macron Move Europe Forward?

Of course, this depends in the first instance on the attitude of Germany, of its government but also of public opinion there. That’s the reason why Macron’s first trip after assuming office was made to Berlin. The crushing second round defeat of Le Pen was a nice surprise for our neighbours who feared, if not her victory, at least a very tight outcome.

There was no ‘crushing defeat of Le Pen‘ ! the facts are of massive abstentions,spoiled ballots and the exercise on the voters part to choose ‘the lesser of two evils’ . That is  how an honest ‘reporter’ might have framed it, but your not that, your a Macron Partisan, a   technocrat!  Some insights on the French election that place your ‘crushing defeat of Le Pen‘ into proper perspective:

Consider that according to Reuters the abstention rate in the French election was to be between 25-27% :

The final abstention level in the second round of the French presidential election is likely to stand at between 25-27 percent, according to four polls published on Sunday.

A survey from Ifop-Fiducial put the abstention rate at 25 percent. Polls from Ipsos Sopra Steria and Elabe estimated the abstention rate at 26 percent while another poll from Harris Interactive estimated that rate at 27 percent.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Michel Rose)


And, according to Newsweek:

Abstention could be high, and close to 60 percent of those who plan to vote for Macron say they will do so to stop Le Pen from being elected to lead the euro zone’s second-largest economy rather than because they fully agree with the former banker-turned-politician.


Close to 60% of those voters ‘ who plan to vote for Macron say they will do so to stop Le Pen from being elected…’. The idea that Macron can be important to ‘the whole world’ is mooted by the fact of that 60% of voters cast ballots against Le Pen, rather than in favor of Macron. This puts the Macron Victory in a much clearer light. 

Also read this FiveThirtyEight essay by Harry Enten titled ‘Macron Won, But The French Polls Were Way Off’ :

This observation about the ‘shy voter’ adds some necessary insights:

None of this is to say that there aren’t “shy voters” in the electorate. It’s just that we may be thinking about them in the wrong way. Instead of undercounting conservative support because people are afraid to give a socially undesirable response, the polls may simply be missing unenthusiastic supporters — people who aren’t excited about their candidate enough to answer a poll but still vote. In fact, when the idea of a “shy” voter was originally formed in 1992, it had nothing to do with right-wing populists. Instead, pollsters were underestimating the strength of the mainstream and relatively milquetoast Conservative Party in the U.K.

“Milquetoast,” in fact, has been used to describe Macron. In the 2017 French election, his voters were more likely to say that they were voting against Le Pen than for Macron. A Suffolk University poll also indicates that voters who liked neither candidate went overwhelmingly for Macron. In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well, Trump won because people who were unenthusiastic about both candidates (i.e., had an unfavorable view of both) went in large numbers for Trump. Maybe we should talk less about “shy” voters and more about “apathetic” voters or “reluctant” voters.


The reader is then confronted with your political metaphysics, for want of a better term, as somehow the answer to questions of  pressing relevance.

Paradoxically, this wide margin of victory somewhat weakens Macron’s immediate hand, however: had the election been won 55-45, fear of the Front National (FN) would probably have more easily brought the German government to accept substantial changes in Europe than the actual 66-34 outcome that no doubt prompts our neighbours to think there’s no point in over-estimating the unpopularity of austerity in the rest of Europe. This state of mind has already come to play with the warning shots in the German press against likely demands from Macron. The renowned weekly Der Spiegel put on its cover of May 12 the header, Dear Macron, playing on the word ‘dear’, with as sub-header: ‘Emmanuel Macron saves Europe…and Germany foots the bill’. As for the Chancellor, she let it be known straight after his election that she could do nothing to reduce Germany’s current account surplus due, she indicated, to elements outwith her control: the excellence of German companies combined with the excessively accommodating monetary policy of the European Central Bank.

Then the reader confronts the perennial German Hypocrisy expressed by Der Spiegel : ‘Emmanuel Macron saves Europe…and Germany foots the bill’ ! Do you not read the British Press? Here is a link to Jillian Tett’s  2015 essay at the Financial Times titled ‘A Debt to History’ that reports on an address given by economic historian Benjamin Friedman.

“We meet at an unsettled time in the economic and political trajectory of many parts of the world, Europe certainly included,” he began in a strikingly flat monotone (I quote from the version of his speech that is now posted online, since I wasn’t allowed to take notes then.) Carefully, he explained that he intended to read his speech from a script, verbatim, to ensure that he got every single word correct. Uneasily, the audience sat up. For a couple of minutes Friedman then offered a brief review of western financial history, highlighting the unprecedented nature of Europe’s single currency experiment, and offering a description of sovereign and local government defaults in the 20th century. Then, with an edge to his voice, Friedman pointed out that one of the great beneficiaries of debt forgiveness throughout the last century was Germany: on multiple occasions (1924, 1929, 1932 and 1953), the western allies had restructured German debt. So why couldn’t Germany do the same for others? “There is ample precedent within Europe for both debt relief and debt restructuring . . . There is no economic ground for Germany to be the only European country in modern times to be granted official debt relief on a massive scale and certainly no moral ground either. “The supposed ability of today’s most heavily indebted European countries to reduce their obligations over time, even in relation to the scale of their economies, is likely yet another fiction,” he continued, warning of political unrest if this situation continued.


The Germans defaulted four times in the 20th Century, and now assume the role, in the crude metaphor, of ‘The Virtuous Norther Tier’ propaganda that was quickly discarded by  the Neo-Liberal apologetic Western Press, which means the respectable bourgeois press. The Germans would not grant to the Greeks what the whole of Western Capitalist Democracies had granted to them. The only descriptor for this is hubris. Courtesy of the Merkel/Schäuble alliance.

The reader then confronts your Neo-Liberal Faith, expressed in most banal terms, bland and non-threatening, which belies the facts of the Strong Medicine of Neo-Liberalism’s inherent nihilism, allied to its utterly perverse politics of Austrian Economics:the Hayek/Mises pathology.

Despite these reactions, the chances of successfully reforming Europe are greater than one usually thinks if Macron gathers enough momentum around him for this course of action. Given its demographic, economic weight and its geographical position at the heart of an enlarged Europe, Germany incontestably plays the dominant role within the EU.

As to the chances of success for Macron the reader need only turn to Yanis Varoufakis’ May 15, 2017 essay.

Headline:  Congratulations, President Macron – Now We Oppose You

ATHENS – Prior to the second round of the French Presidential election, DiEM25 (the pan-European movement of democrats, mostly of the left, that I helped to found) promised Emmanuel Macron that we would “mobilize fully to help” him defeat Marine Le Pen. This we did – incurring the wrath of many on the left – because maintaining “an equal distance between Macron and Le Pen,” we believed, was “inexcusable.”

But there was a second part to our promise to Macron: if he “becomes merely another functionary of Europe’s deep establishment,” pursuing dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism, we “will oppose him no less energetically than we are – or should be – opposing Le Pen now.” Relieved that Macron won, and proud of our clear support for him, we must now fulfill the second part of the promise. No “honeymoon” period: we must oppose Macron immediately. Here’s why.

Macron’s electoral program made clear his intent to continue with the labor-market policies that he began to introduce as former President François Hollande’s economy minister. Having spoken to him about these policies, I have no doubt that he believes in them strongly. He follows a long tradition of blaming the legal constraints on firing workers for the fall in permanent employment and the emergence of a new division between protected and precarious employees – between insiders, with well-paid, quasi-tenured positions, and outsiders, who work as service providers without benefits and often under zero-hour contracts. Trade unions and the left, according to this view, are actually a conservative force, because they defend insiders’ interests while ignoring the plight of the burgeoning army of outsiders.


Relevant to thoughts about the possible/probable political success of Macron, key to which is his exercise of personal integrity in his interaction with political allies, here is a link to Simon Kuper’s essay at The Financial Times of May 17, 2017:

Headline: The chill behind Emmanuel Macron’s charm

Sub-headline: ‘He seduces useful people, then drops and humiliates them’

Emmanuel Macron watches a smartphone video of an egg cracking on his forehead at a campaign event. He ­guffaws, then plays the video again. “It didn’t hurt. It came from a long way, did you see?” he marvels to his wife Brigitte and an aide. “The guy got lucky.”

The scene is from Emmanuel Macron, les coulisses d’une victoire (“Behind the scenes of a victory”)‚ a fly-on-the-wall documentary of his campaign that screened on French TV after he was elected president. It’s the most intimate portrait I’ve seen of a political leader. After the artificiality of the campaign, we’re starting to get to know Macron better. He’s a remarkable chap. But there is also something chilling about him. One man who knew him well for many years told me: “He seduces everyone. And then he kills.”

The key to Macron is that he is what the French call a grand séducteur. He quickly learnt that his charm could get him whatever he wanted. Almost every schoolboy fantasises about seducing his sexy high-school teacher. Macron did, even after Brigitte initially turned him down.

He also got used early to being the smartest person in the room. That doesn’t mean he has an original intellectual mind. He twice failed the entrance exams for the Ecole Normale Supérieure, France’s most cerebral “grande école”. But he’s a polymath who quickly absorbs everything from Rossini’s operas to Hegel. His father, a neurologist, had applied his brain more discreetly: his most cited academic article is on sneezing in cats. However, Macron’s charm required larger outlets. After writing his master’s thesis on Machiavelli, he got rich fast as a banker, then absorbed enough economics to be named finance minister.

Like his political ancestor Tony Blair, who walked into Downing Street 20 years ago this month, Macron is an actor at heart. (He met Brigitte when she taught him drama.) Watch the online video in which a journalist hands him a copy of Molière’s play The Misanthrope, a favourite of Macron’s, and suggests he mug up the opening scene so they can perform it together in a week. No, replies Macron, let’s do it right now. And he does, from memory: “Leave me, I beg of you . . . ” He also used to have ambitions of performing as a pianist.


Your essay first reads like  an uninspired but victorious Macron Press release, and then lapses into a defense of the approaching Neo-Liberalism à la française, not to forget that the ‘vision’ of Monnet was Neo-Liberalism avant la lettre : a coal and steel cartel with the window dressing of  ‘democracy’ . Although you attempt to redeem yourself in these last three paragraphs, or is it just the use of an ironizing rhetorical strategy to emancipate your politicking from the jejune chatter of the technocrat? The word ‘reform’ is the perpetual stand-in for a completely discredited Neo-Liberalism, in the wake of that failure , Austerity then assumed the role , that, then again, morphs into the benign notion of ‘reform’. The reader tires of this maladroit posturing, that, in sum, is an apologetic for a failed belief system, whose institutional realization brought catastrophe.

Paradoxically, what risks weakening Macron the most in this indispensable struggle to save Europe and the euro by transforming them is French domestic policy. To convince Germany’s leadership into changing Europe he thinks he absolutely must start by doing to France what they ask: ‘reforms’ of the type introduced to Germany at the start of the 2000s by the social democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that liberalised the employment market, removed layers of social protection and lowered labour costs.

However, this is the very same kind of policy that Francois Hollande consistently applied during five years with no less than four important reforms of the labour market, plus €40bn labour cost reductions with the pact of responsibility on top. And that’s why he failed as much at the economic level with no industrial recovery or decline in unemployment to show for his efforts as at the social and political level with endless social conflicts and the disintegration of the socialist party.

By continuing, even speeding up in this direction Macron risks from the very start breaking once more the very modest economic recovery at work and ranging the two-thirds of the French who elected him on May 7 against each other by reawakening social and political tensions. And this, in turn, would weaken his negotiating position towards the German government as well as public opinion in the drive to reform Europe.


Almost Marx


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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