By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.
“We designed this system for the younger generations, those who will have to face professional mobility, geographical mobility and herky-jerky careers.”
- French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at the unveiling of what aims to be the world’s first one-size-fits-all pension system, 11 December 2019
“Like poor farmers all over China, they always had to look for supplementary employment, and their odd-jobbing during busy seasons was at the cost of their own crops. The 1942 survey team gave the example of a Suide county village in which 31 percent of all poor famers hired themselves out at one time or another to other farmers each year, and another 31 percent hired out full time.”
– From the book Late Victorian Holocausts, by Mike Davis, describing the situation of pre-revolutionary China
Macron and the globalist 1% would be thrilled if they could achieve such astronomical part-time figures.
France would not be more than a week into a huge general strike if their “uppity” workers were reduced to begging for part-time work – like in the Anglo-Saxon world – instead of mostly working on long-term contracts.
The “Uberization” of the work force is an atrocious Western concoction, but it’s not historically new. However, making your pension based on a lifetime of odd-jobbing is definitely unprecedented.
The enormous difference between France and pre-revolutionary China is that nobody is occupying France militarily, controlling their foreign trade, making their leaders puppets who cannot properly administer a country, and nor is anyone forcing in tons of drugs (the infamous “Opium Wars”). France is Uberizing (or Americanizing) their economy from the cradle to the grave amid record corporate profits and zero foreign sanctions.
Odd-jobbing as a way of life only worked temporarily in China – a popular revolution was able to restore sovereignty in 1949, and now China is the economic envy of the world – but that’s not the case for many Western nations, sadly.
Macron wants to turn France into the US, but the French prefer Asia’s moral governance
Is France China? No, France is more like the US. A tough assessment, but it certainly will be even truer if their general strike fails to stop Macron’s radical pension “reform”.
Quite simply: All workers cannot be united… under a single pension system, that is. Somebody starting work at 18 and working in the cold and heat cannot be compared with a PhD graduate who didn’t start his or her cushy office job until 30. So, only the dense and naive still push this idea.
But the dense and naive are actually running France’s semi-dictatorial executive branch and its totally aristocratic/bourgeois legislative branch!
There is much to write about France’s radical (in a reactionary, not a leftist/progressive sense) pension system, unveiled yesterday, but what we should not do is believe that it is actually new.
Return to those two quotes, but put aside the modern Western propaganda fomenting prejudice against rural people, and their identity politics-inspired idea that all workers are not fundamentally similar – the Uber model of work is the same as perpetual, precarious, pension-less “odd-jobbing”. What pre-progressive China had was an “Uberized” economy and… it was terrible.
It should not be surprising that Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, is an anti-revolution Iranian. Reactionary exiles – from the revolutions in Russia, Cuba, etc. – are the persons whom the West likes to elevate because they are often even more reactionary than what can be found inside the West: They are violently, personally at (counter-) war with the progressive politics which link any revolution since 1917.
The unsaid reality in the Western mainstream media’s adoring coverage of Uber is this: nobody actually wants to be an Uber driver. They only do it because their governments fail to provide them with full time work.
This reality remains unsaid because the West, capitalism, and especially the adherents of the neoliberal/free market form of capitalism simply hate government assistance for the poor/middle classes, including things like decent pensions even in rich countries.
Many people reading this feel the same way: they believe that people only want a “handout” and that, morally, such a worldview deserves only punishment. Their view is the exact same as that in the West when they imposed the era of the developing world’s “Great Leap Backward”, the Late Victorian era.
Davis’ book is so necessary because he showed the devastating true early years of free market/neoliberal capitalism – forced, organised, genocidal (thus he uses the term “holocaust”, like the German slaughter of the Jews) famine and poverty because the free market says so. This period of Western history is absolutely never discussed; conversely, the bumpy early years of countries which had popular revolutions in the 20th century are endlessly criticised, even though such nations had such far, far more noble goals and such enormous foreign obstacles thrown up.
Unlike China’s Great Leap Forward, which produced infrastructure and irrigation systems which are still in use today, the “Belle Epoque” or “Gilded Age” of Western colonialism (1865-1914) purposely neglected peasant infrastructure and irrigation systems (something never done by any government in the pre-colonial history of India or China, for example) to create this “Uberized”, desperately odd-jobbing work force at the mercy of the boss, of the usurer, of the foreign capitalist, of the unholy “free market”.
France’s pension rollback must be seen as part a historical pattern, and not in isolation.
Their current general strike is a response to the austerity project of that “neoliberal empire”, the European Union. The EU is finally doing to Europe what Europeans did to the rest of the world for two centuries: purposely ruining and dismantling what took so long to build.
A capitalist government, especially a Western individualist one, does NOT want worker stability because their happiness necessarily comes at the expense of the profits and control of the 1%. It’s as true in the Uber Era as it was in the Victorian Era.
No public jobs, no public pension, no public anything – only private domination
Who is leading the general strike in France? Public sector workers.
Why not private sector workers? Because private workers can be far more easily fired, of course, and for things like going on strike for one month. It should be easy to understand why Western, free-market, neoliberal, 1%-driven dogma demands the end of the public sector.
But we must realise that free-marketeers have always viewed any government expenditure – jobs, services, pension – as wasteful, inefficient, incompetent and even morally repugnant, even when the only alternative was death.
What they fail to realise is that there are only two choices: give a citizen a government job and get some societal benefit, or give them a dole and get no societal benefit except avoiding famine.
Free-marketers, however, demand a third option: collect no tax revenue, and give them nothing so the rich can keep every penny there is. This was the exact same view during the Third World-holocaust beginnings of Western-style capitalism. Here is Davis on the colonial government’s response to one of the many famines in British India (FYI: 120 years of British rule – 31 famines. The previous 2,000 years of Indian rule – 17 famines):
“(The Earl of Lytton, Viceroy of India 1876-1880) promptly ordered his district officers and engineers to ‘discourage relief works in every possible way … Mere distress is not a sufficient reason for opening a relief work.’ The point was to force the peasants to give money to the government, not the other way around.”
The Eurozone is not facing famine, but their Lost Decade of economic growth has created poverty not seen since the immediate postwar period. Macron’s pension plan is the same moral response as Lytton’s: the point is to give money to the 1%, not for the 1% to “waste” money on old people.
The French want minor adjustments to their current pension model – Macron wants to throw it out entirely. We can easily picture him saying “Mere distress is not a sufficient reason for giving old people good pensions.”
Things have not changed dramatically in Western economic culture since 1865. Lytton was so popular that he is one of the few British people to ever be given a state funeral in France; Macron is feted like a conquering god in the Anglophone world. The Netherlands’ cultuurstelsel system of colonisation was modelled on British India, and they are Germany’s “silent partner” in forcing austerity on weaker Eurozone nations.
The links are endless, and they are all built around exploiting the average person whether young or old because Western culture is so against anything but aristocratic liberal democracy. This is not a model accepted by Iran, China and perhaps the “silent majority” of the world’s nations.
Anyone who cannot see the link between imperialist-dominated China, at the mercy of the world’s largest-ever drug traffickers (the UK opium dealers), and the Uber model either lacks intellectual flexibility due to dogmatic support of falsely-moralist free market ideology or they incorrectly believe that human beings have changed immeasurably in the past 150+ years.
The slogan of France’s general strike has become, “A few weeks of chaos or a lifetime misery?” It’s not very imbued with revolutionary spirit – economics is grim and emotionless business in the West – but it is common sense.
However, common sense and common humanity have often been more than the West’s individualist-worshipping 1% has been able to muster for a couple centuries.