April 16, 2018

BLAIR WAS THATCHER:

The heir to Blair? Macron is more like the French Thatcher: The French president's agenda of tax cuts and privatisation is actively corrosive to the progressive dream of Europe. (MICHAEL CHESSUM, 4/15/18, New Statesman)

As a fresh faced, charismatic technocrat, he often draws comparisons to Tony Blair. In terms of his real ambitions and France's less neo-liberalised economy, he is more like a French Thatcher. As Francois Hollande's economy minister, he oversaw labour market reforms, which, among other things, made it easier for employers to sack workers.

Now, his policy is to increase taxes on pensions, undermine trade union representation and power in public services, and introduce performance-related pay for civil servants as a means of undermining general wage increases - all on top of reforms last year which attacked collective bargaining. Simultaneously, the French government has introduced controversial selection practices in higher education, and, perhaps most significantly, paved the way for the privatisation of French railways.

Thus far, most of the commentary in Britain has focused on a rather wonkish analysis of whether or not Macron can get his reforms through - whether he can "win". Like the British miners' strike, this is a race between the unity of the French labour movement and the government's resolve. But the reality is that, regardless of who wins, Macron's policies are a disaster for the ideals he claims to be fighting for - most obviously his Europeanism.

When introducing its package of reforms to the railways, the French government has argued that the dismantling of the working conditions of staff is simply a part of readying the state train network, SNCF, for being opened up to competition and liberalisation under the EU's latest railway directive.

The new EU rules do not really require Macron to do what he is doing - and in any case, the directive could simply be opposed and amended if the French government had the will to do so. And yet, when confronted with the privatisation of the railways, the average French worker finds themselves opposing not just the French government, but, seemingly, the concept of the EU as well.

This is a classic example of how technocratic neo-liberalism operates. Governments with an agenda of privatisation use their seat at the table of trade deals or transnational institutions (in this case the EU) to create rules which supposedly force them to privatise public services - and then claim merely to be following those rules. Fans of privatisation and opponents of state intervention are quite open about the role that state aid rules play - they provide the excuse for right wing governments to do what they want.

All recent successful governments of the left--Clinton, Blair, Obama, etc.--govern from the right. History Ended.

Posted by at April 16, 2018 4:23 AM

  

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