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By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: left to right, Press TV host Kaveh Taghvaei, Gilbert Doctorow and yours truly.
Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
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Kaveh Taghvaei (host): Gilbert Doctorow is an independent international affairs analyst who joins us from Brussels. We also have Jeff J. Brown, a geopolitical analyst who joins us from Normandy. Welcome to you both. Gilbert Doctorow, I’ll first start with you. Before we get into the whole pension reform scheme, the way that this was actually pushed through and the way that it was approved, one of the things that angered the protesters is that this was not a show of democracy, it lacked any form of democratic motion in it. Is that something that you agree with?
Gilbert Doctorow: Yes, of course, this was not an innovation by President Macron. This existed in the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. It has been used repeatedly by his predecessors. However, the issue here was very much on the public mind. There was a great resentment of not just about the way this was pushed through but the content of the reform which was uncompromising and unnecessarily harsh in dealing with French men and women going on pension age. Whereas we see what is happening as what is reported in the French newspapers today, there is the expectation of as many as 1,000 militants.
These are radical and potentially quite violent people who have stirred up the crowds around them to engage in direct combat with the police. The police have also been quite vicious in their response. The situation has threatened to get out of control, notwithstanding the moderating words from the leaders of the French Unions. And that asks us to pose a question that we ordinarily would pose when looking at such mass demonstrations that are violent in other third countries. The question we would ask is what kind of outside or foreign intervention is taking place in France today and who could possibly be behind it?
Kaveh: Okay, let’s go with this notion if we can, Jeff J. Brown the fact that this is seen, which is based on many opinion polls and many surveys taken that the French feel that this was totally undemocratic, obviously for what has occurred. Now, if we were to go with that, based on the numbers of the French who are out on the streets, which we’ve seen not only large numbers, but the violence that has occurred, shouldn’t the government think twice about this whole thing, given the large crowds that are out there because doesn’t that pose a threat to Macron, maybe in some ways towards toppling his government?
Jeff J Brown: Well, they already had a vote and his government survived by eight votes. And I think we need to back up. The retirement age for me is just a distraction. I think what is really going on here is that since the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the French have been screwed from the get-go by Brussels, with all respect to my friend in Brussels. But the European Union, the austerity, they’re just cutting and cutting, they’re cutting back on this. They’re privatizing that. It’s nonstop.
And your correspondent in Paris, Ramin Mazaheri, wrote a book about the Yellow Vests and pointed out that from 2009 to 2019, the economic growth in France was less than the Lost Decade in Japan in the 1990s. So, I think all this violence and of course, there could be some outsiders, I mean that’s classic, that could very well be, and it could also be that the French government is backing the Black Bloc and Antifa. There’s a lot of evidence around the world that it’s actually the actual governments that are funding these people and promoting them, to create violence as a justification to repress the people even more.
So, there’s just, it’s been a horrible, horrible time for the French since 2009 with the Lisbon Treaty, privatizing everything, cutting back on as many services as you possibly can, medical, letting millions of immigrant flood into the country to destroy the social network, to put pressure on wages. It has just been… And now we have in realistic terms double-digit inflation because I’m living it. I live here in spite of what they say. So, it’s just there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of frustration, anger. And it’s way, way beyond the retirement age. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Kaveh: Well, the government explanation, Gilbert Doctorow, is that they needed to do this in order for there not to avoid the system from slipping into a deficit, this is what’s been the explanation. But is that something you buy? I mean, some are speculating like other pension systems, that the money was spent in other ways and maybe misspent. And that is why the French government is not scrambling but has come up with this retirement age to be increased from 62 to 64.
Gilbert: Well, the situation in France with respect to retirement age is an anomaly and not the rule. Most major industrial companies and countries have already long ago raised the retirement age because it matches the increased life expectancy in most advanced countries over the past few decades. So, there’s an ever-larger number of retirees and pensioners who are a burden on the fisc. So, the measure itself is logical and reasonable. The question that we may ask is of two kinds. One is what were the specifics of the French law that made it so repugnant to the population?
And two, how was the law pushed through? The first we’ve already dealt with in your initial question, and the second we haven’t. And I would like to introduce some comments on what is wrong with Mr. Macron’s reform coming from the most unusual source, namely Vladimir Putin, who answered this question from one of his lead journalists in an interview two days ago. Why are the French demonstrating and why didn’t Russia experience similar demonstrations where the retirement age is also sacrosanct and where, in fact, the government succeeded in raising the retirement age?
Number one, as he pointed out, there is a differentiation in Russia, for example, between the retirement age of men and women that all a five-year differential that all by itself reduces the stark impact of any change in retirement age on the population. And secondly, there are various privileges that are enshrined in countries including France, for different sectors of the labor force. According to the difficulties, the physical stress that a given profession imposes on labor.
And these were being swept away by Mr. Macron’s reform, all of which would anger the population and which would in a country where the executive was listening to the population would suggest an avenue for compromise should the executive back down. So far it hasn’t. And it is not just me and my fellow panelist today who are speculating on the political risks for the government, The Financial Times has in the last week speculated in several articles on the end of the Fifth Republic. And not merely on Mr. Macron being swept from office, but the constitutional framework also being swept away.
Kaveh: All right, Jeff Brown, final note, and I have to ask you this question because we were at the receiving end of the French president, Emmanuel Macron here in the Islamic Republic in the way that we confronted the rioters and how we handled them and some of the scenes there, as reminiscent not only of the Yellow Vests during that time in terms of the way that the police exerted their violence. There was one particular scene that came in a video where a woman was beaten with a baton. I don’t know if you’ve seen it or not, but anyways, there’s been multiple scenes of the way that the police have used violence on these protesters. Do you think that this makes the French president or his administration or France overall think twice about throwing allegations against another country on that issue?
Jeff: Well, Macron was the one that ordered the police to use ultra-violence to crush the Yellow Vests. And now that these protests are continuing, it’s shocking to see. I mean, people are being injured. There’s now one guy in the hospital who’s almost dead. Fingers, hands and arms that have been ripped out. Eyes have been bludgeoned out, shot out with rubber bullets. People have been mentally handicapped from having rubber bullets shot into their skulls. I mean, it’s like a RoboCop movie, and it’s shocking.
The only thing they don’t do is, like, in the United States, they just shoot you. And so at least they’re not gunning people down like they do in the United States. But this all goes back to the West. The West does not respect the United Nations Charter, but everybody else is expected to respect it. The West always considers itself to be unique and above the law and above everybody else. And so that’s why they are going after Iran, but here in France, it’s A-OK.
Kaveh: All right. Thank you. As both of you were speaking, we were looking at live images that are occurring on the streets of France. Again, large numbers have come out. I’d like to thank you both, Gilbert Doctorow, for your input, independent international affairs analyst, and Jeff Brown, thank you a geopolitical analyst from Normandy. Thank you to you both. And with that, we come to an end for this edition of the News Review. Thanks for tuning in.
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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
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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, email@example.com, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (+86-19806711824/Mr_Professor_Brown, and Line/Signal/Telegram/Whatsapp: +33-612458821.
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