RNA - President Emmanuel Macron recently unveiled the right-wing, austerity-minded details of his radical universal pension system to near total condemnation. A cooperative, mutually-beneficial solution appears unlikely, given Macron’s widely-resented refusal to negotiate or to incorporate public opinion into public policy.
The main question is 'How long will the strikes last?' Over the past decade, many workers have already had their pockets emptied by failed trikes against austerity. However, few issues are as galvanizing as fear of poverty in one’s old age.
Union leaders expect the strike to last through Christmas, or even into the new year.
The sad reality is that austerity has weakened the average person’s ability to strike, putting time on the side of Macron.
Beyond poverty another obstacle is political alienation. The French are aware that in their aristocratic liberal democracy, Macron can do whatever he wants for his entire 5-year term; that’s because he has unprecedented control over his brand-new party, which has an absolute majority in Parliament. Many are not striking as they believe the only option is to wait out his term, and hope the next president undoes Macron’s changes.
The government’s primary reason for junking the entire pension system is that it is too complicated. That requires more government workers, and reducing the number of public jobs is a hallmark of neoliberal thought, as is reducing pensions.
The idled trains, strikes, blockades, traffic jams and protests will continue throughout the weekend. Next week is sure to see the kid gloves come off on both sides.