BURIED in his new year speech to the French nation, President Emmanuel Macron uttered a few words which reveal much about the mindset of the European bourgeois elite in whose interests he was installed in the Elysee Palace.
“We live in one of the world’s greatest economies, our infrastructures are among the best in the world, we pay little or nothing towards our children’s education, our healthcare costs are among the lowest of any developed country and give us access to some of the best doctors,” Macron said.
His first point is incontestable. France, although under assault from the EU’s drive to liberalise the continent’s economy, is still dirigiste enough that its industry to this day benefits from high levels of investment, its labour force from a historic emphasis on skills and an infrastructure from previously high levels of public investment.
But this privileged product of the elite French education system — with a career as an inspector in the Inspection general des finances and in the Rothschild banking empire — is under the illusion that the French people don’t pay for their children’s education or their healthcare.
He has not been paying attention. Three-quarters of the nation are either actively or passively in support of the nationwide gilets jaunes movement which was sparked by a fuel tax regarded as a levy too far.
Further fuel was added to this petrol tax protest by Macron’s massive tax cuts from which the corporate sector and the rich exclusively benefited.
France’s hard-pressed working millions are angry — not just the employed working and middle classes whose tax burden takes the form of both flat taxes levied on consumption and a graduated income tax taken from their pay packets — but also the nation’s relatively large self-employed sector.
Together with the working class, these micro entrepreneurs, artisans, specialists and exploitant agricole feel the chill wind of austerity.
These sectors are historically the electoral prop of the centre and right. It shows the depth of the French social crisis that even though his popularity has slipped to the lowest level recorded in living memory — down to a puny 24 per cent — Macron feels the need to admonish his subjects for their “blatant denial of reality.”
“We can’t work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending,” said President Macron who, in 2017, scrapped the wealth levy on everything except property assets — in effect cutting taxes on the rich by 70 per cent.
Macron should have studied linguistics or psychology rather than philosophy. He might then have been sensitive to the ways in which his language reveals his patterns of thought.
In suggesting that somehow the costs of education and healthcare are not born by the taxpayer, Macron’s Freudian slip exposes his vision of a marketised future.
For the neoliberal elite, the delivery of these essentials already falls outside of a system of universal provision. When these services become an optional extra paid for in the marketplace working people bear an additional burden.
Already we see exposed in Britain the bare bones of this neoliberal dystopia. A increasingly marketised and fragmented NHS carries the entirely unnecessary costs that market mechanisms and profit margins create.
Our education system is already the perfect distillation of class privilege. The facility wealth permits — to buy a better-resourced education — is now, it appears, topped off by an opportunity to sit less rigorous exams than the common masses.
There is a working-class alternative to the capitalist drive to turn every aspect of life into a commodity. It rests on tackling the central questions of ownership and power. It is called socialism.
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