News Release

France: Protests Force Macron Retreat; Austerity

The Real News reports that “France’s president Emmanuel Macron made a major concession to nationwide protests this week when he decided to postpone fuel tax hikes and promised to freeze electricity prices.” The Real News also reports Macron is “promising an increase in the minimum wage and tax reductions for pensioners and for overtime work.”

JEAN BRICMONT, jean.bricmont at uclouvain.be
Noted author and academic Bricmont has been in France as the protests have gripped that country. He just arrived in Belgium, seat of several European Union institutions, where similar protests began this weekend. He has been posting his analysis as well as videos on Facebook.

Bricmont’s books include Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War and he is co-editor of Chomsky Notebook. He is a physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Louvain in Belgium.In his interview with The Real News Bricmont said of the “Yellow Vest” movement: “I pretty much believe it’s spontaneous. … It’s certainly an unstructured movement. …

“I did not expect the level of misery that I hear in the testimonies of people saying they can’t make ends meet, they don’t have anything to eat after the 20th or the 25th of the month. People describing the situation in the hospital, which used to be one of the best medical systems in the world, being absolutely dramatic. Waiting lines. You know, I mean, all these things, I mean, just unbelievable how much France seems to be being destroyed. …

“And I think the problem is not Macron. Macron, of course, was speaking publicly like the elites are speaking privately, by showing utter contempt for the people. And you know, that, of course, made him unpopular. But I think the problem is much, much deeper. …

Bricmont highlighted a series of deeper problems, including: “the left should have been leading this movement for years, you see, and it hasn’t been doing so.”

Bricmont also highlighted what he sees as structural problems with how European integration has been achieved, saying the current treaties create “imbalances between economies within the eurozone, because there is no transfer of wealth between the rich countries and the poor ones. And it’s impossible to have the same currency between countries which used to have huge fluctuation between their currencies. …

“So if you have these fluctuations, then suddenly you say all these countries have the same value. But how would you do that? It’s a free market economy. We didn’t go to a planned economy, as far as I know. And then how do you prevent these fluctuations? You prevent these fluctuations by austerity measures. That’s what they’ve been doing.” Also see The Real News overview piece with Greg Wilpert: “France’s Macron Makes Concessions while ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Continue.”