ALL pretence that Emmanuel Macron represents a new exciting direction in French politics must end following his appointment as prime minister of Edouard Philippe of the conservative Republicans party.
The president, who was recruited by outgoing Socialist Party (PS) president Francois Hollande to direct measures to smash job security and undermine workers’ living standards, is redrawing the political party map.
Macron intends to use government decrees to drive through his anti-working-class programme, as Hollande’s prime minister Manuel Valls did with the El Khomri labour law.
The project of his fledgling Republic on the Move party is to absorb PS and the Republican neoliberals, having already co-opted Francois Bayrou’s Democratic Movement (MoDem) during his presidential challenge, and to present the amalgamation of these discredited outfits as a party of the future.
Combative trade unions and the readiness of workers and students to take to the streets have frequently obstructed ruling class offensives to undermine the social gains won by working people in the aftermath of the liberation from nazi German occupation.
Macron is not a neoliberal superman, but he is backed by the duopoly of Establishment political formations that have dominated the republic for the past 35 years and he can rely on corporate finance.
It is noteworthy that, while his general secretary Alexis Kohler announced the identity of Macron’s prime minister, the president himself went to Berlin to discuss the renewal of Franco-German links to plan the way forward for the European Union.
His five-point plan would take EU integration and centralisation a step forward, including in the military sphere, and would enhance the concept of Fortress Europe, with a further 5,000 frontier guards in Greece, Italy and other countries regarded as having too porous borders.
Setting up a European asylum agency to co-ordinate treatment of asylum-seekers and immigrants would further centralise responsibilities in this area.
Macron’s rhetoric about the need to harmonise EU member states’ tax policies to end “social dumping,” where transnational corporations decamp to lower-pay, lower-tax economies, carries the unspoken proviso that this would bring a huge reduction in French corporate taxation and, as a result, public spending.
It is the flip side of his commitment, shared by his Republican, PS and MoDem accomplices, to a neoliberal agenda for France and, in accord with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, across the entire EU.
Merkel imposed that programme on the German labour force, ensuring that workers went 14 years without a real-terms pay increase.
Macron’s proposal of a eurozone finance minister and a shared budget is portrayed as a mechanism for joint investment in member states but can better be read as facilitating central control of governments seen as straying in the wrong direction.
The new president’s direction of travel is clearly visible, but it is not inviolable.
Macron’s mishmash of neoliberal zealots from a handful of parties has not yet won a majority in the National Assembly. The duty of left forces is to take action to prevent it from doing so.
Had the Socialist Party’s left-of-centre presidential hopeful Benoit Hamon and those of far-left groups stood down in favour of Jean-Luc Melenchon in the presidential first round, the France Unbowed candidate would certainly have made the final against Macron.
Nothing should stand in the way, even at this late stage, of maximising left forces’ success in next month’s general election first round to weaken the positions of both the neoliberal and far-right camps.