The Another

    How France’s intellectual left fell out of love with Macron



    Emmanuel Macron, during a meeting with intellectuals, at the Elysee Palace, March 18, 2019.

    It has been months since the two men have spoken: Is their relationship on the rocks? Not exactly, but on October 26, 2022, when the sociologist Jean Viard, an early supporter of Emmanuel Macron, crossed paths with the head of state backstage at the television program The Event on France 2 after the president had clarified the “direction” of his second five-year term, an icy wind blew through the studio. “I’m going to destroy you,” the leftist intellectual warned, before clarifying “I’m kidding.”

    Jokes aside, the author of The Revolution We’ve Been Waiting For Has Arrived (“The Revolution We Were Waiting for Has Arrived,” 2021), who was a Macron-aligned candidate defeated in the 2017 legislative elections in southeastern France, did not go easy on the president that evening. He lamented that the pension reform, which dominated the discussion, has been approached with accounting and financial criteria when, in his eyes, “people are talking about the meaning of work.” France has left “factory-line culture” behind, he pointed out.

    The words from a man who had Macron’s ear during the Yellow Vests movement now hold little purchasing power at the Elysée. He would have to knock louder. “While we have to work harder to win the climate war, to turn the situation around, which I believe we can, we must galvanize the country for this fight but we cannot be treated like lines on a balance sheet. This reform is being experienced as an aggression by the educated elites against the freedom of the working classes,” he said in March in an interview with the Sunday newspaper. He was told that the article had been “much debated” at the Elysée. But no response from the president had appeared on the sociologist’s phone.

    A ‘badly done and unfair’ reform

    “He doesn’t need us anymore,” said Viard. Us? The time when Macron gathered intellectuals and experts like Viard at the Elysée Palace is over. People like Gilles Finchelstein, head of the Jean Jaurès Foundation, economist Jean Pisani-Ferry, who participated in the development of the 2017 agenda, or Thierry Pech, director of the think tank Terra Nova, who had given the president the socio-economic concept of certain French people living “under house arrest,” are no longer being invited to the palace. “I had some fondness, I still have some,” Pech sighed. But the tie has been broken. On both sides.

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    Some members of the Parisian intelligentsia that saw Macron as an heir of Michel Rocard or even Dominique Strauss-Kahn are disappointed after the pension reform fiasco. The historian Jean Garrigues, who was such a “Macronophile” during the first term that he was accused on social media of being a “Macron bootlicker,” wrote a bitter-toned op-ed for The world on March 19 comparing the pension reform to a “liberal and managerial pseudo-reform,” catering to “electoral necessities.” “The pension reform was the trigger of a disappointment symptomatic of the failure of a political system,” the historian wrote.

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