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France: Man the Barricades
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France’s favorite sports are striking and street demonstrations. At heart, most French are revolutionaries and protestors.

In France, the answer to every problem seems to be ‘aux barricades!’ (to the barricades!). Demonstrations are typically followed by a hearty lunch.

But this time things in the Republique have gone way beyond the usual day off from school frivolity of France’s ubiquitous demos. They were a form of ritualized Gallic Kabuki in which protesters would make a big fuss and break some windows. After a lot of huffing and puffing, the government would eventually back down and give the demonstrators much of what they demanded.

France is not highly unionized, but its belligerent trade organizations, most of them with roots in 1930’s communism or socialism, have a stranglehold on key sectors of France’s economy: trains, metros, refineries, truck transport, ports, food distribution, air traffic control, and even hospitals.

The current round of demos that began a month ago are serious business. Just about everyone appears opposed to President Emanuel Macron’s plans to modernize the nation’s crazy-quilt pension regulations that confer special privileges on favored groups of workers. Rail workers, for example, a particularly pampered bunch, can retire with close to full pay while in their 40’s. Ballet dancers enjoy similar benefits. Average workers can retire at 62. Macron wants to change retirement to 64, citing the longer life-span of today’s workers, and to consolidate the nation’s 42 separate retirement plans. Britain’s retirement age is 66 years.

France’s labor movement is up in arms, responding with more outrage and fury than it did when the Germans invaded in 1940. Unless Macron backs down, the unions will strike oil refineries and petroleum distribution centers, threatening to cripple most road transport, food distribution, emergency services and airports. Ports will also be targeted.

In short, industrial warfare against the state and its citizens. Similar strike action and mass demos brought down the government of Gen Charles De Gaulle in 1968, an earthquake that still shakes French society and haunts its leaders.

A major reason is that France is still dominated by discredited leftist thinking. Modern capitalism is widely viewed with fear, dismay and mistrust. Many French regard capitalism as an American plot to permanently dominate Europe, a mistaken fear that is accentuated by President Donald Trump’s crude anti-European fulminations. France’s universities are chock-a-bloc with angry socialists and left-leaning students with poor job prospects. On the other hand, France’s business world is pretty much a closed shop with too little social mobility.

Behind all this, is the unspoken but very real French notion that government is ‘papa.’ Rather than pay for work, Paris doles out allowances to the French. When they want more, like unruly kids everywhere the French throw tantrums, demanding better pay and benefits. Government in France is assumed to enjoy unlimited wealth. Budgets and spending restraints are dismissed as the works of mean-spirited Scots or Swiss accountants.

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This system makes large numbers of French workers retire far too young. I’ve seen them in small towns playing cards or helping rebuild 19th century forts. They are mostly men still fit for hard work and sharp thoughts. It’s a waste of an entire generation, sacrificed on the alter of socialist doctrine and state-sponsored laziness. It’s heartbreaking to see such a great nation as France sacrifice some of its most productive, useful members. Everything we know about health and medicine tells us that humans are better off, longer lived and happier when they work into their 70’s.

France is one of this world’s most beautiful nations. Its citizens are well educated and sophisticated; its cities shine; its ecology superbly safeguarded. In many ways, it remains ‘the Great Nation’ of the era of Louis XIV. But not when it comes to labor and civic responsibility. Instead of calm discussion to resolve wage and work issues, such as we see in Switzerland and Germany, the French keep indulging in political hooliganism to the endless misery of their fellow citizens.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: France, Neoliberalism 
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  1. Alistair says:

    Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité; that’s the motto of the French Republic since the French revolution:
    By far France is much more egalitarian society than the America. that’s why you said it yourself:
    “France is one of this world’s most beautiful nations. Its citizens are well educated and sophisticated; its cities shine; its ecology superbly safeguarded ” ( Eric Margolis ) — And these are the products of an egalitarian society !!!

  2. A123 says:

    Any call for shared sacrifice depends on the benefits of that sacrifice staying in France. The Yellow Vest movement started protesting against Macron long before the most recent announcement about changes to retirement plans.

    Macron lost the people when it became clear he was serving Globalist elites in the EU and German hierarchies. Regardless of the merits of retirement reform, it is perceived as taking from the French people to give to others. That is not a sacrifice the French people are willing to make.

    When are the next French elections? Odds are this standoff between the people and the establishment elites will continue as long as Globalist Macron stays in office.

    PEACE 😇

  3. anonymous[273] • Disclaimer says:

    When I see clear evidence that the elites are sacrificing their benefits and privileges, I’ll consider giving up some of my own. Until then, looks to me like capitalism is a plot to dominate.

    • Replies: @Amuser
  4. Yet another blowhard commenting on “pension reform”.
    It boils down to this. Employers take total compensation, which includes pension costs and other benefits, into account for businesses, whether private or public sector. Pension plans are designed for the industry they cover. That is why you don’t see any 64 year old firefighters climbing ladders with a hose, or 64 year old ballerinas dancing Swan Lake. The pensions are deferred wages, held in trust for beneficiaries.
    Pensions use actuarial models to determine whether there are sufficient funds to meet pension obligations. If there are insufficient funds, there are 3 options: 1) increase contributions; 2) decrease benefits (up to and including a wind up of the plan); or 3) a combination of 1) & 2).
    This author, like most others commenting, fail to understand that the government does not own the pension funds. It’s not theirs to decide whether the pension retirement ages are appropriate, or to take the funds of pension plans to merge. Would Macron dare tell companies listed on the Paris stock exchange that they have to merge their assets?
    Pension plan mergers are costly, and those costs will be born by the pension plans, not the government. What is happening is theft of peoples money. It is no different than the government telling you that your retirement savings are going to be merged with your neighbour’s so your plans for retiring at age 55 are now going to be age 64, and by the way, you probably won’t be getting as much when you do.
    Get with the program, people. If they can do it to a group, they can do it to you. These attacks on pension plans are meant to divert the public away from the kleptocrats running out countries.

    • Agree: kevhin
    • Replies: @Johnny Smoggins
  5. Amuser says:
    @anonymous

    Bravo! I have heard that the best way to lead is by example. Not that I’ve ever seen instances of this in the behavior of those elites who demand austerity from the actual productive workers who support their pampered lifestyles. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be a plot to dominate, but the actual historic and contemporary working policy of dysfunctional capitalism. This is easily verified by the somewhat archaic action of opening ones eyes and looking around at the present culture in which we live.

  6. This system makes large numbers of French workers retire far too young.

    Economically speaking, early retirement is a good thing. It frees up more jobs for younger workers entering the labor force.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  7. @Curmudgeon

    “This author, like most others commenting, fail to understand that the government does not own the pension funds.”

    The money to pay for public sector wages, benefits and pensions comes from taxpayers, so in a way they do.

    To put it in American terms, somewhere a 67 year old person is working a night shift at Walmart so that cops can retire with full benefits at 55.

  8. Anonymous[949] • Disclaimer says:

    France is an increasingly immigrant infested dump, and most of the remaining native French are naive enough to believe that the immigrants are their political allies.

  9. plantman says:

    I am shocked that Margolis would align himself with a narcissistic globalist plutocrat-pig like Macron.

    SHAME!

  10. @Digital Samizdat

    It frees up more jobs for younger workers entering the labor force.

    But too many stay in college or have ‘creative’ pursuits.

    Also, if French opt not to work, there is more reliance on foreigners.

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