Cole Stangler

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Striking workers at a demonstration on Wednesday. Eric Gaillard/Reuters

“This government just does not listen to us”, said Renald, a 50-year-old electrical mechanic at the Port of Marseille, as his co-workers assembled a barricade this week on the route leading to a fuel depot. “There’s a deep anger here”.

That anger is unlikely to have been assuaged by President Emmanuel Macron’s televised interview on Wednesday. Breaking his near silence on the pension overhaul that has plunged France into strikes and protests, he defended the legislation as an economic necessity. A no-confidence vote that he narrowly survived in the National Assembly on Monday has clearly done little to instill penitence. Against the people — a majority of whom oppose the overhaul, which would raise the retirement age by two years, to 64 — the president is doubling down.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the French General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union block the entry to a fuel depot in Haulchin, near Valenciennes, on 13 March 2023. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

If French democracy were in a healthier state, Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform legislation would have already been scrapped by now. Broadly unpopular from the outset, his plans to raise the country’s retirement eligibility age from 62 to 64 have triggered a protest movement – historically large even by French standards – lasting nearly two months.

Many in the streets view the bill as a breach of the social contract: workers in France contribute a hefty share of earnings over the course of their careers to support a relatively generous and effective retirement system. Lifting the eligibility floor amounts to a very real cut in benefits, and one that will disproportionately hurt the least well-off.…  Seguir leyendo »

French leftist party La France Insoumise (LFI) presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon delivers a speech in Toulouse on April 3. MATTHIEU RONDEL/AFP via Getty Images

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a flawed candidate.

At 70 years old, he’s running a third consecutive time for president. Over the last five years, the strategy of his left populist party, La France Insoumise, has veered wildly, alternating between ambitions of annihilating competition from other left-wing parties to forming electoral alliances with them, squandering the momentum and goodwill of his 2017 campaign in the process. His party suffers from a lack of internal democracy. His fiery personality still turns off many would-be voters.

Yet, as a masterful and seasoned campaigner defending a platform with popular ideas, the member of parliament from Marseille has been surging in the polls.…  Seguir leyendo »

France Is Becoming More Like America. It’s Terrible.

It’s become a familiar refrain in French political life. From President Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet to the far-right opposition, from print columnists to talking heads, “Americanization” is increasingly held responsible for a whole set of social ills ailing the nation.

or some of these critics, it’s the reason so many young people — adopting the view of Black Lives Matter activists — believe police violence is a problem. For others, it explains why the quality of academic research is in decline, as fanciful ideas concocted on American college campuses like intersectionality and post-colonialism supposedly flourish. To others still, it’s why people can’t speak their mind anymore, suffocated by the threats of “cancel culture.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Shortly after taking office in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron famously told a crowd of tech entrepreneurs that he aimed to make France “a start-up nation.” The goal, he said, was to become not only a business-friendly country but also one that “thinks and moves like a start-up.” Until recently, that vision had appeared to guide much of his tenure, which has ushered in tax cuts for the super-rich, rollbacks in worker protections and tight limits on state spending, including in public hospitals.

It’s all come crashing down with the coronavirus.

Start-ups, it turns out, are not so well-equipped to handle pandemics or global economic crises.…  Seguir leyendo »