Garbage cans gutted and burned in ransacked streets… After seeing the head of government prevented from speaking under the boos of some of the deputies, the parliamentarians surrounded at the Palais-Bourbon by demonstrators, the means of public transport blocked each week, here is that our city centers are, every night, the scene of clashes, degradations and burning of garbage cans, in the face of a police force clearly determined to respond harshly.
An image that is both derisory and disturbing. The episode of the yellow vests did not have time to fade from our collective memory that another big political crisis shook our country, with this form of feverishness and violence of which we seem to have the secret.
We can be against, but we cannot deny that the pension reform was voted in full compliance with the Constitution, and its article 49.3, on a text which was the result of the agreement obtained within a joint joint committee bringing together deputies and senators. There was neither coup d’etat nor hijacking of the Republic.
However, the government should not be surprised by the deleterious climate that reigns in the country today. That there is a need for a pension reform is a valid argument: the current system is not balanced, and it is not good for its financing to be based on State debt, while public investments are more necessary than ever to finance health, education or the ecological transition. It was still necessary to know how to explain it, and not to play only on the variable of age, which focuses most of the effort on the middle classes.
Above all, was it necessary to show such haste, to use all the parliamentary possibilities provided for by the Constitution – and not always designed for this – to force the vote? Used in high doses, these techniques (blocked vote, reduced delay, 49.3, etc.) become more of a democratic problem than a solution. The Constitution is not only a reserve of procedures. It is there to give a framework to the political life of the country.
Worse. This extremely rationalized parliamentarism in a technocratic vision of our institutions has come together with an opposition that has done everything to obstruct the debate. A Parliament prevented from “parliamentarizing”, in a way! The political system works in reverse: it no longer serves to mediate the conflicts of society, but on the contrary, it brutalizes them, it antagonizes them.
“factious and factions”
On the one hand, a government remained totally deaf to the anger of the unions as well as public opinion. Emmanuel Macron had a good game, Wednesday, to denounce “the rebels” and “the factions” in the street. But didn’t his inability to listen to the intermediary bodies that are the unions and associations push the French to seek other ways of expressing themselves, sometimes violently?
On the other side, a left engulfed by the extremes: to hear some of the elected representatives of La France insoumise attack the “rotting power”, treat the president of “Caligula, an emperor drunk on his power”, insult the institutions, encouraging or at least excusing violent degradation and blowing on the embers of youth, does not fail to worry.
This speech reconnects with the historical mistrust of part of the French left against democracy, afflicted with all evils, against a background of anti-liberal rhetoric which sees more the failures of the system than its possible fruitfulness. This is to forget that democracy is not only a tool for regulating power, but that it provides a horizon of meaning for our society.
By flirting with insurrection in this way, by moving imperceptibly from criticism of the government to that of the regime, this left is taking the risk of a much more serious crisis, which can only benefit the forces of the extreme right.
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