Thursday, June 22, 2017

Macron Puffing Begins Anew After Brief Respite of Realism

Western press adulation over Emmanuel Macron hit a rough patch following Sunday's legislative elections, summed up by the vile Adam Nossiter ("For Emmanuel Macron, Fight for France Is Just Beginning"):
Mr. Macron got 24 percent in a first round of presidential voting in April against three opponents who all finished close behind. On Sunday, a record-breaking 57 percent of French voters boycotted the polls, leading to much anguished commentary in French media and questions about the legitimacy of Mr. Macron’s victory. And only two of his deputies elected Sunday received more than 30 percent of the registered voters in their districts, in Le Monde’s reckoning.
From Mr. Macron’s point of view, Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Mélenchon will, at best, fill up airtime in Parliament. But at worst, theirs will be the voices for the union and street opposition that is already gathering against Mr. Macron to oppose his proposed changes to France’s rigid and job-killing labor code. [No reportorial bias there.] Both Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Mélenchon suggested Sunday night that this is where they will be concentrating their fire in the months to come.
“We will fight the new work law, which destroys the rights of employees,” Ms. Le Pen said, while Mr. Mélenchon warned against “the destruction of the entire social order, by this repeal of the labor code.”
But in the last few days cheerleading for Macron has begun anew. Yesterday's sour, blame-the-victim column ("Where Did ‘We the People’ Go?") by the clownish Thomas Friedman offered one ray of sunshine -- "Look at the new president of France."

Then there's Thomas Edsall's piece today, "The End of the Left and the Right as We Knew Them," about the realignment of traditional politics to the new axis of globalist vs. nationalist. The neoliberal elite are hankering for Macron to reinvent the brand while maintaining its redistribution of wealth to the 1%:
According to Steven Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations, globalization and the Great Recession of 2007-9 have resulted in a “pervasive anxiety” that provides fertile grounds for populists who promise a reassertion of control and national sovereignty, including over borders, as well as a renewed focus on those left behind in the global economy.
Patrick shares with a number of internationalists the hope that Macron and En Marche represent a viable political solution to contemporary conflicts that could be applied in other countries:
Macron’s genius has been to argue that he can thread the political needle, by embracing globalization and reinforcing social protections to compensate those exposed to its downside. In the process, he has obliterated traditional parties of the left and the right, while promising a synthesis tailor made for the twenty-first century. If he can bring it off, he will become a model for other leaders to follow — including in the United States.
This "synthesis" is being pitched as a "Scandinavian-style" economy where people are constantly upgrading their skills in a rewarding holistic partnership with their nurturing employer. Liz Alderman explains in her interview ("In French Labor Overhaul, Union Leader Offers a Way to a Compromise") with the head of French Democratic Confederation of Labor, Laurent Berger, that
Mr. Macron wants to steer France toward a more Scandinavian-style economic model known as “flexible security.” Pioneered in Denmark, it promotes consensus between unions and employers, and it aims to minimize joblessness by making it easy for companies to adjust their work force and by retraining the unemployed.
The idea is to no longer protect jobs for life, while giving people skills to transition to different careers.
It should be called a "U.S.-style" economy since the United States went through this decades ago. Then it was Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich (now safe in a prestigious U.C. Berkeley sinecure) who extolled the flexibility of "knowledge workers." Twenty-five years later we know that "flexible" is merely a marketing term for "precarious."

The Macron camp is indulging in the type of "It's Morning in America Again" propaganda that is more than three-decades stale in the U.S. Republicans, if they use it all, mumble it under their breath like reciting the pledge of allegiance at a compulsory meeting. It doesn't work with anyone anymore. Once again I ask, "Are the French this stupid?" According to Nossiter,
The battle of ideas during the election campaign is far from over, in the view of Mr. Delevoye, the Macron camp veteran. “French society, in all its diversity, finds itself divided between those who are fearful of globalization, and those who want to undertake the adventure of the future,” he said. “What’s begun is a cultural change, which is moving from fear toward hope, and the liberty to create.”
The promised "liberty to come" will be delivered by the following market fixes Alderman lists:
Mr. Macron’s plans contain several elements that unions, including the C.F.D.T., see as red lines. Foremost is a proposal to allow employers to negotiate directly with employees on a range of workplace issues, overriding sector-wide accords struck by unions. Labor organizations also oppose a measure to cap compensation awards in unfair dismissal cases.
Basically a mortal wound for organized labor that will deliver the French working class over to the mercy of their employers.

So get ready. The doubts expressed in the legacy media about the strength of Macron's base of support in wake of the record level of abstention in the second round of voting Sunday is going to give way to superficial boosterism of the sort found in Ivan Krastev's "Central Europe’s Tough Choice: Macron or Orban?"
Polls show that a growing number of Europeans are betting on the European Union. Improved economies across the Continent, the miserable performance of populists in the Netherlands, and the humiliation suffered by the “hard Brexiteer” Theresa May in this month’s general election in Britain have made many Europeans hopeful that the European Union has received a second chance, and that it is going to make the most of it.
Emmanuel Macron’s decisive victories in France — first in the presidential election in May and then again in parliamentary elections last week — on a proudly pro-European platform have led many Europeans to believe that rather than disintegration, further integration may now be possible. The hope among the ever-closer-unionists is that Mr. Macron’s labor reforms in France will persuade Germany to invest more in eurozone economies. Meanwhile, plans for further investment in European defense are afoot.
But while infectious optimism is visible everywhere in Western Europe, the East has remained conspicuously unenthusiastic. The prospect of Eastern Europeans exiting the union — as the former Czech president Vaclav Klaus recently implored them to do — is still about as likely as President Vladimir Putin of Russia losing next year’s elections, but many in Eastern Europe are squeamish about German-French efforts to reorder Europe. Why?
The stakes are too high for anything approaching realism to intrude upon the media monopoly. If the French social compact can be vivisected, a race to the bottom throughout Europe will begin post-haste.

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