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Macron never did military service and is a pure example of an énarque, a graduate of ENA, the elite national school of administration that was founded in 1945 under de Gaulle. In 1958, on his return to power, De Gaulle surrounded himself with a staff of about 45 technical advisers, many of them graduates of this school. He called these young men (they were all men) la Maison — the Household, another royal echo — and Macron follows the same system. But even his friends are beginning to worry that Macron is now surrounded by yes-men and is becoming too isolated from public opinion. De Gaulle did not tolerate contradiction, but he frequently responded to it on the following morning, as Professor Jackson shows.

Macron was elected to modernise French society and the French economy and his first reforms passed (by decree) into law last year. He has chosen to fight the second, critical, round by imposing affordable working practices on the employees of the SNCF (the French railways) which is one of the last bastions of union power. Here his proposed measures are still being disputed by all five rail unions who have launched a three-month series of two-day strikes.

Arm-wrestling matches between the government and the public services are generally decided in France by the French public, who tend to support the government until the inconvenience becomes too much, and then switch sides and support the unions. In the current struggle this has not yet happened, and Macron still has the upper hand.

His principal opponent, Philippe Martinez, the general secretary of the CGT,  is a wonderfully antique figure, a card-carrying Communist with an “Uncle Joe” moustache who has underestimated the extent to which the arrival of the internet has weakened the effects of a rail strike. Office staff are now often able to work at home, fully updated by the SNCF management about cancelled services. And support for the strike among his members has halved, following an unexpected court ruling that strikers were not entitled to be paid.

Macron has been helped by the violent intervention of extreme-left and anarchist groups known as “black bloc”, whose masked supporters have turned what were supposed to be peaceful protests by the rail unions into bloody clashes with the police. But these riots have not troubled Macron. Instead they have had the unexpected effect of discrediting the union leadership which looks as though it is incapable of organising a peaceful demonstration. In another distant echo of de Gaulle, Macron has blamed the riots on Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left, pro-Communist LFI (La France Insoumise) who has been actually been trying to calm the situation. Mélenchon’s indignation was not lessened by the discovery that this presidential edict was literally jupitérien, having been issued from above — the aeroplane carrying Macron on an official tour of the South Pacific.

A defining mark of Gaullist foreign policy was an opposition to US influence in Europe. This was an aspect of his hostility towards “les Anglo-Saxons”, another relic of his wartime experience. Jackson’s account reveals how, as he struggled to secure the leadership of the Free French, de Gaulle’s most active enemies were frequently his fellow allied leaders. President Roosevelt made repeated attempts to overthrow him in favour of more malleable, pro-American rivals. And Churchill became completely exasperated by his outrageous ingratitude and unrealistic demands, ordering him to be imprisoned, banished or “bound in chains” on more than one occasion. Somehow, “le Symbole”, as his followers called him — when he was not in the room — managed to avoid these bayonet thrusts and preside in triumph over his liberated country in August 1944.
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June 10th, 2018
3:06 PM
The "X" have ruled for long enough to forget that the Battle of the Palace of the Martyrs was not the finish of Empire-building, but only a setback for the losers. This time the invasion is all but complete and just awaits the end-game.

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