Insights into the French Presidential and Legislative elections: “A mere window dressing”
- 06 Aug 2017
History goes on…within the institutions of a worn-out Fifth Republic, of course, but especially tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in the businesses, the places of culture, and the street.
First observation: the media tide
The intense media chatter about the personalities of the candidates, the interpretations that “must” be given to their words and gestures, even about their personal style and dress, perceptions of them being a “big” or “small” candidate, the emphasis on specific points in their program and the silence on others, on the major role that should have been granted to polls with a multiplier effect, all in a tone, depending on the case, aggressive or indulgent, has spread throughout the minds of the voters and kept up an unprecedented confusion.
Such journalists, all self-appointed “experts” or “editorialists”, don’t have the legitimacy to comment on everything in the name of a pseudo self-proclaimed-omniscience (economic, ecological, social, financial, etc.) They, as well as the speech of the candidates, have fabricated the “climate” of an election that neither the radical left of J. L. Mélenchon nor the right-ultra and neo-fascist of Mrs. Le Pen were to win: the Médef (largest employer federation in France) and the Parisian establishment had chosen and the major media groups, the big weeklies and most of the dailies from “Le Monde” to “Libération”, via “BFM TV” and other public and private channels followed in their wake! Macron was the best!
The Front National was carefully instrumentalized (while their leaders Le Pen, Philippot and others believed it was possible to take advantage of it): it served as a foil and a justification for all rallying and “useful”/”tactical” votes.
J.L. Mélenchon’s rise in the polls, the source of a brief panic, followed by a feigned indifference, was halted by the sudden evocation of certain Latin American leaders, the “Bolivarian Alliance” and by the inevitable reference to “wicked” Russia, which would have had the sympathy of Mélenchon’s movement, “France Insoumise”, thus breaking with the traditional silence on international politics during the electoral period.
Contrary to their usual sermons, this “honest” media did not insist on human rights: the thousands of victims of migratory movements and the refusal of a dignified welcome, the protracted state of emergency which foreshadowed the eventual repression of a too radical social movement, and the total indifference to the misery of the Third World, not even touched upon, did not lend itself to an insistence on “Western Humanism”!
The mainstream media have changed their software with ease!
They were able to react to the more or less unexpected slips that disturbed “correct-thinking” hegemony: the “scandals” aroused by the press itself made it possible to choose Macron at the expense of Fillon (leader of the rightwing “Les Républicains” movement and second choice of the business community); the difficulty of maintaining the focus on the security issue because of the overwhelming reality of unemployment and diminishing purchasing power led to both the social promises of the National Front and the critical analysis of French financial capitalism by France Insoumise being denounced as “populist”! The citizens have been submerged by this media tide prohibiting thinking for one’s self: the pre-Macron climate, initiated by the weekly magazine “Paris Match”preceded the “all-Macron” flatterer who followed the election and continued during the legislative campaign extending the “grace period”, ie, the time of illusions, traditional after a consultation. The most “suitable” and consensual of the candidates were therefore able extend their own votes, the 50% of anti-National Front votes who believed (or pretended to believe) that neo-fascism was at the gates of the Elysée Palace!
Once again, the “useful” vote carried on, especially preventing the new President from being a badly elected one!
Thus, with skill and intensive bombardment, a semi-unknown was excessively mediatized, displaying a desire to make something new out of something old, in a Bonapartist style, by pushing Fillon aside, an old-fashioned and clericalized Right-wing conservative, playing with Le Pen to make her scary (just enough to let her be present in the second round, as an “ideal” opponent) and obviously by denouncing Mélenchon, with a financial anti-capitalism unbearable for the established oligarchy!
It was necessary to produce by all means the most “frank-macrons” as possible and to persuade everyone that a New France was born! The results of this media mobilization were, however, very poor as far as the legislative elections were concerned: success came only from the voting system (single-member majority). The Macron movement only represents 16% of the participants in the first round! More than 51% of the citizens abstained!! The “triumph” is totally artificial.
This media invasion is not a striking affirmation of freedom of expression, as some journalists themselves proclaim. It is, on the contrary, a method of asphyxiating the citizens, of destroying their critical thinking: overwhelmed by the continuous flow of commentary, they remain enclosed in a false pluralism closely aligned to the existing socio-economic system and Caesarean institutions of the Fifth Republic, making the Head of State a kind of Zorro, Superman, presented as able to solve all problems or almost all of them!
The orchestration of this battle of “heads” and not of programs, every five years, is nothing but a source of mindlessness to the voters, transformed into sub-citizens awaiting a supreme savior, quickly disappointed of course, but to whom it is appropriate, periodically, to give one’s confidence to in order to perpetuate the established order. Napoleon (the little one) sleeps inside all the candidates, often to the point of absurdity!
To all this are added the “foiled” terrorist attacks and those intervening on the eve of the ballot: the tour de force succeeded. The candidate of the establishment was elected and it has its absolute majority which accomodates the Medef.
Second observation: the question of the relative autonomy of political forces
Each political force enjoys a privileged relationship with certain social categories, interest groups, professional circles, and so on, and with certain foreign political regimes (particularly the United States, the eternal big brother, whoever their President is), but it is not mechanically possible to consider that political parties or movements such as “En Marche” are the strict expression of such and such social class or interest groups. The relationship is more complex but it is nonetheless indisputable: the business community, for example, clearly chose to support as a first choice E. Macron. One can analyze the 2017 French elections as the condemnation by these same business circles of the relative autonomy of the traditional right-wing party, “Les Républicains”, considered too greatly and excessively defined by clan quarrels, abusive manifestations of egos, of excessive electoral obsessions.
Employers need above all social “peace”, seductive skills towards citizens through low-cost societal measures that have not been achieved in recent decades by either Sarkozism or Hollandism. F. Fillon, carefully “demolished” during the campaign, was, for example, judged in the event of election as a source of unnecessary social disturbance for the Business Enterprise, as had already been the Sarkozy “agitation”. The fundamentalist Catholic movement to which Fillon made allegiance with was certainly not much appreciated!
It was necessary to put an end to a “classical” right-wing force whose global mediocrity and extreme conservatism was becoming a handicap for the world of money, even if it satisfied its demands.
Also excluded was the “German” solution of a “right” and “left” national union, the French Socialist Party being also the seat of multiple contradictions and of ideological and practical misery reaching a high with its “Hollandais” (inner circle of President François Hollande) managing France as might have been the Corrèze, department of F. Hollande!
The “neither right nor left” solution à la Macron has thus become the (provisional) ideal of those for whom “everything must change so that nothing essential changes”, as Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard.
Obviously, this Bonapartist solution, rallying all opportunists and ambitious backers, who owe their careers to their “leader”, but also a fraction of uncertain voters seduced by the deliberate vagueness of the program “La République en Marche” and by his criticism of “the politics”, could in the future only arouse in the society a number of vivid contradictions and profound disappointments, but … “after him, the deluge!” The system will bring, when the time comes, other seductive gadgets sources of perpetuation…
For the moment, the neo-liberal-social-democratic syncretism prevails under the aegis of a man in osmosis with the French, European and American business circles. A “modern” and cosmopolitan “Caesarism” style, “Yankee manager”, nursing his figure at Crossfit, supported by a multi-faceted “catch-all” movement, replaces a party system that no longer “shows its usefulness” and handicaps the “good run” of the race to profit. The “ground is cleared” by this window-dressing of financial capitalism.
This pseudo “renovation” will serve some and seduce the others, especially those of the middle class who by voting Macron shot themselves in the foot without knowing it, under the cover of a consideration of their interests! The only “Macronic” horizon is indeed the sacred (the great) Enterprise, the American dream (scarcely Gallicized), but inaccessible to the largest number, and an agreeable decadence under the guise of an off-ground universalism (especially in Africa) compensating for a generalized social regression!
Third observation: what becomes of the left?
The political “execution” of the PS is the best news brought by the 2017 elections. Those who longed for the reduction of this party to an unimportant groupuscule because of all the political evil for which it has been responsible for decades were right!
Unfortunately, its collapse is hardly definitive as the “socialists” have a capacity to reproduce, and as long as they are useful to the system which already re-mediates them: they correspond, in fact, sociologically to a part of the “middle strata” and populist unfit to clearly choose the society they desire and endowed with an irrepressible taste for compromises. Their essential role in concealing social realities, denying class divisions, and adhering to “improved” capitalism is indispensable to the system. Since the victory of Macron, everything is being done to revive a P.S. whose defeat has been total: the media multiplies the interventions of those who were ridiculed a few weeks earlier!
Generously, the system offers this party new possibilities to remain useful, like the CFDT (Confédération Générale Du Travail – French Democratic Confederation of Labour) in the trade union world: the system needs a risk-free “opposition to its majesty” to make the pseudo-democracy “credible”! In addition, the P.S. cadres, often political professionals, have no other outlets (in the absence of a rally to Macron) than their participation in a rebuilding of a party in one form or another. They began with the launch of various uncertain “movements” around a few elected officials (including B. Hamon, beaten in the first round of the legislative elections) who hope to be perpetuated.
They are always hostile by nature to both the Communists, despite the extreme and excessive indulgence of the PCF (Parti Communiste Français – French Communist Party) leaders towards them, and even more to the France Insoumise de Mélenchon, who committed the great sin of knowing them well. They do not, in fact, intend to make History. They are satisfied, in accordance with their ambiguous “values” and their de facto indifference to any principle, to play the politicians with mini-tactics, in order to survive trying to profit from their instrumentalization. This reality is not only French: it is Italian, Greek, Spanish, Belgian, German, etc. No one in Europe is the heir of S. Allende!
Today, part of Social Democracy has taken refuge in the Macron formula, merged with a renewed Right, to the greatest advantage of the fundamentals of liberal conservatism. But the slight pseudo-socialist “masking” of Macronism is enough for the Valls-style rallies (Holland’s Socialist ex-Prime minister) and others.
It is the “France Insoumise”, with a human capital of 7 million citizens having voted for J.L. Mélenchon, which constitutes the heart of a radicalism ruptured from French and European financial capitalism, always turned towards the United States. It absorbs the “Greens” (with a very advanced ecological program) whose organization is in perdition, never having had the will to recognize the major contradiction between the logic of profit, the reign of money and the demands of the protection of the environment.
France Insoumise undermines the leadership of the PCF, also professionalized and very worried about its immediate future. The Communist leadership seems ready to pursue a timid and cautious strategy ensuring, in its opinion, its survival. It refuses to integrate the party into the dynamics of France Insoumise, judged too “adventurous”! It appears that the socialist future and the Revolution (of which it never now speaks) have moved away forever!
It is possible to think, as with many militants, particularly in the provinces, that this leadership is strongly mistaken, as it lost its way in the dissolution of the “Anti-liberal Committee” cells which had been formed and had won in 2005 against the Rome Treaty, at the time of the refusal between 2012 and 2017 to gather at the base in the “Front de Gauche” the simple citizens not wishing to be part of one of the parties composing it, then carrying out a very “shy” campaign for J. L. Mélenchon, then very critical during the legislative elections for uncertain reasons.
Instead of trying to be the most active and inventive activists and therefore the “best” among the 7 million citizens who voted for Mélenchon, by stimulating grassroots groups, during the legislative elections they cut themselves off from recent voters conquered and sometimes snatched from the FN, since they were not associated with La France Insoumise.
These leaders have opted for a sectarian and opportunistic retreat, counting once again that on some alliances here and there with the remains of the PS and the Greens, and elsewhere with France Insoumise, the management of Paris being the model, actually relatively satisfactory. In the absence of a will to conquer and obviously a proportional ballot, the legislative elections did not confirm the success of J. L. Mélenchon in the presidential elections.
For the PCF, the worst is not the loss of most of its deputies (whose group discipline had even disappeared), but a cautious and fearful orientation, as if La France Insoumise was perceived as a “political adventure ” dangerous because of its radicalism. What has become of the revolutionary party of yore, which seems overwhelmed by too many accumulated defeats?
Fourth observation: the FN, a possible spare tire
As for the FN, the relative failure of the presidential elections, which led to greater failure in the legislative elections, led to the emergence of the traditional divisions of the fascist movements which, for example, broke out in Italian fascism and Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s. Philippot’s “national-social” current is obviously disputed, as the same currents in Italy and Germany have been eliminated with the support of “classical” conservatism.
For the “Frontists”, however, nothing is lost, if they rally, like their historical predecessors, to “useful” compromises. The FN remains an ultimate “spare tire” if the Macron solution proves in a few years to be a new failure for the business world that has no real democratic concerns. No one wishes for this “brutal” solution, which could provoke adverse reactions dangerous to economic “order”. But if we had to go through this, as we have seen in the past, a new business syncretism of the right wing and neo-fascism could “be useful”. Scruples have never rattled the world of money.
In short, History goes on… within the institutions of a worn-out Fifth Republic, of course, but especially tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in businesses, places of culture, and the street.
Translated from French by Stéphane Rouilly
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