On the occasion of his trip to Amiens, the Head of State met, Monday, November 22, with former employees of the Whirlpool factory, which was permanently closed after the failure of two buyers. A complicated political situation, and a real rhetorical challenge. Can a head of state admit his powerlessness? This is the whole question!
We remember that Whirlpool had been the subject of a very political duel during the period between the two rounds 2017. Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron had both gone there, to undertake to fight in order to keep jobs. In 2019, the Head of State returned after the failure of a first buyer, WN. He then said this: “I am not forgetting you and I am not forgetting my commitments. And my commitments today, the results are not there. So, we will continue to work.”
“We will continue to work”, therefore, with a second buyer, Ageco, in turn liquidated last March. It is therefore the observation of an industrial failure that Emmanuel Macron had come to draw up. And so we ask ourselves: what to say, in such a situation? There is a landmark precedent. It was September 1999. Michelin had just announced more than 1,800 job cuts in France. This is how the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, reacted to the France 2 news: “The employees exist, there are unions, there is a mobilization, which can be carried out. So I believe that we should not expect everything from the State or the government. option and the employees of the company. “
“We must not expect everything from the State”, a real admission of helplessness on the part of a Prime Minister reduced to appealing for the mobilization of employees. At the time, he had been widely criticized, including within his own majority. Obviously, in rhetorical terms, a head of government cannot confess his own inability to change the world.
Has Emmanuel Macron managed to escape this dilemma? Yes ! And he mobilized, for this, a clever rhetorical process: “The difficulty is that we have had several experiences, if I can use this word modestly, with adventures which have disappointed and marked everyone. And therefore on the site, there were partial resumptions of activity. which did not live up to the challenges and expectations. Which left a mark on the former employees. “
“We have had several experiences with adventures that have disappointed”. The use of the third person indefinite singular “on”. “There were resumptions of activity which were not up to the stakes” : use of the impersonal phrase “there is”. These two formulations are not due to chance: they are the main grammatical tools allowing the dilution of responsibilities. Who is the real subject of the action, that is, the person responsible for the situation? Hearing these sentences, one cannot know it.
Thanks to this syntactic sleight of hand, Emmanuel Macron manages at the same time to evoke the file, to admit that it was a failure, therefore, not to give the impression of discarding it, without, however, take responsibility for it. Rhetorically, he is more skillful than Lionel Jospin.
And yet, we hear him utter the same sentence about the impotence of the state. It is true, but you will see, the effect produced is radically different! “The state owes what? To train children, to educate, to train and to give the possibility of rebounding throughout life. But the state is not everything in society. The state does not stand alone. does not substitute neither for your industrial choices nor for economic life. And so what we have to and what we do from the beginning, it is indeed to help the recoveries and to train people. And then there is happy experiences and unhappy experiences. “
“The state is not everything in society”… But it gives the possibility of rebounding throughout life. This, too, is clever. Emmanuel Macron confesses the same limit of the State in the field of industrial files, but he immediately links it to another subject: social protection. A way of saying, basically, that of course, the state cannot do everything, but it never abandons its workers. An affirmation that is enough to ward off the impression of helplessness, even though, let us note: it was no less true in the time of Lionel Jospin.
This is how Emmanuel Macron manages to extricate himself from a delicate rhetorical dilemma. There remains, of course, a factual reality: in 2017, he pledged to fight to save these industrial jobs. No doubt the commitment to fight has been kept. But the fight, unfortunately, is lost.