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By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: yours truly on Press TV.
Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
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Marzieh Hashemi (show host): Cross over to Normandy. We’re going to get in geopolitical analyst Jeff J. Brown here. Jeff, thanks so much for being with us. Well, once again, we’re saying this is six times in not that long of a period of time that the French once again have taken to the streets. Do you think that their efforts are going to make a difference in the Macron reform plan?
Jeff J. Brown (guest): Well, first off, I would like to thank you for having me on. I’d like to point out that French strikes go all the way back to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era. In fact, Napoleon actually encouraged strikes to keep the rich people, the bourgeois in place. So, the French love striking. The problem is, they do this one day. Now, today is the seventh. They they’re talking about doing it tomorrow again. And then on the 11th. But, unless they just go out and don’t leave, I’m not very optimistic.
It looks good on film, I’m sure. Ramin Mazaheri, your Press TV correspondent is there reporting on it, if he is back in Paris by now. But unfortunately, these one-off strikes like today and then next week and then in a couple of weeks look good. But they’re not effective. So, they would need to have a much more extended presence on the streets, I think, to have any kind of effect, to be honest with you. And I’m a French citizen, so I’m just speaking from the heart.
Marzieh: Well, let’s talk about that. So what you’re saying is something more sustained, more prolonged. Why don’t we see that? I mean, we did see the Yellow Vests that they came out regularly at the end of the day, do you think that they made a difference? And why do you think that we do not see, for example, these type of strikes being more sustained?
Jeff: The Yellow Vests are really the only movement in France that represents the broad interests of the French people. Even bourgeois and wealthier people agree with most of the demands of the Yellow Vests. All of these unions that you’re seeing today refuse to even acknowledge the Yellow Vests, all the left, you know, Mélenchon and all of the left-wing parties, they pretend that the Yellow Vests don’t exist, because the Yellow Vests expose them for what they are. So, that is basically Kabuki theater. It looks good. And I get messages on Telegram and Facebook and stuff. Oh, look what the French are doing.
But it’s really only the Yellow Vests who were out there every weekend getting killed, injured, hospitalized, imprisoned, beaten, who had an effect. Today, they’re out because a microscopic issue. They’re talking about the retirement system. And that’s not really what the Yellow Vests were all about. The Yellow Vests are essentially the French Revolution, 200 to 220 years later.
Marzieh: So what you’re saying is that there is a split, first of all, be between those on the left. I’m assuming a lot of them out there today are from the left. And for example, the Yellow Vests, who look at a more long term perspective of what needs to be done to change the situation on the ground, instead of what you’re saying, perhaps is more show than anything else. Is that correct?
Jeff: Absolutely. The Yellow Vests are all about a completely holistic transformation of the French economy, the governance. They’re basically, you know, wanting to do what Napoleon was hoping to do. And he was actually a democratic socialist. Most of the Yellow Vests are older people. And they’ve been there. They’ve done that. They were there in 1968. They are more mature, they are more seasoned, and they really, really care about their country.
A year or so before COVID, I even saw a report that the CGT, the biggest union in France was actually attacking Yellow Vest protesters during a protest in Paris. So. you can see how much the left fears the Yellow Vests, because it is literally the Yellow Vests who prove that the left is essentially just an empty fossil. The left it’s just not very, very effective. I’m disgusted with them, to be honest with you. I’m very, very disgusted.
Marzieh: Well, how do you see this, Jeff? Is it basically your perspective, this movement with these people were seeing on the streets right now, those who are leading it? Because I’m sure many of the people who are on the streets really are seeking reforms, but those who are leading it, basically, they’re just offering some type of controllable alternative to let the people let off steam as opposed to making actual changes in the system.
Jeff: Exactly. The people out there, I admire them. I know. I know. They have the best of intentions. I know they feel like they’re doing the right thing. The reform is true. My wife and I can tell you, it’s a mess. The retirement system in France is awful compared to the United States. Whatever you want to say about the United States, the Social Security administration is probably the best run government bureaucracy in the world. It is a mess here. Here there’s a two- tiered system. There are the government bureaucrats, the government employees, who have massive retirements. And then there’s the private sector and entrepreneurs, wives and husbands, you know, the unemployed, people who poor people who get nothing.
So, that’s why they’re fighting to keep the retirement age at 60, because their retirements are so low. The pay they get in retirement is so low. It’s horrible. I could give you story after story after story of people who worked like galley slaves all their lives in the private sector and their retirements are like, you know, €1,200 to €1,500 a month. What does that mean? You can’t live on that in France.
So I admire what they’re doing. The problem is, of course Macron is a Goldman Sachs, Wall Street, City of London neo-conservative, neo-neoliberal. So, they want to reform it. What they’ll do is they’ll reform it down to where people are going to get even less and raise the age at the same time. So it’s not a good, enviable situation for your average working class French person.
Again, my hat’s off to all of those people who are out there today. I just think their efforts are misguided. I think what they ought to do, instead of bothering people like us, where I can’t take the train, you know, to go see the doctor or whatever, they ought to go around the Elysée, where Macron lives. They ought to go surround the Central Bank of France, and they ought to surround the legislature, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. All are in Paris, don’t leave and just blockade those three institutions. That would probably cause some changes to be made. But, they don’t do that. And I don’t know why.
Marzieh: And on that note, I appreciate you being with us.
Do yourself, your friends, family and colleagues a favor, to make sure all of you are Sino-smart:
Google ebooks (Epub) and audiobooks:
44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YBKHEAAAQBAJ
China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YNmLEAAAQBAJ
BIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution
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44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass
China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations
BIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution
Praise for The China Trilogy:
Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
JEFF J. BROWN, Editor, China Rising, and Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing, The Greanville Post
Jeff J. Brown is a geopolitical analyst, journalist, lecturer and the author of The China Trilogy. It consists of 44 Days Backpacking in China – The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013); Punto Press released China Rising – Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and BIG Red Book on China (2020). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing and is a Global Opinion Leader at 21st Century. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff writes, interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on YouTube, Stitcher Radio, iTunes, Ivoox and RUvid. Guests have included Ramsey Clark, James Bradley, Moti Nissani, Godfree Roberts, Hiroyuki Hamada, The Saker and many others. [/su_spoiler]
Jeff can be reached at China Rising, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (+86-19806711824/Mr_Professor_Brown, and Line/Signal/Telegram/Whatsapp: +33-612458821.
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