The travails of French President Emmanuel Macron reflect the contradictions of the system he represents: namely late-stage managerial, social-democratic and globalist capitalism. In a consumer democracy, everyone is entitled to infinity stuff. That is how it works.
I am not sure if you recall, but we fought World War II based on the simple proposition that every featherless biped is equal. The fellows who died on the beaches of Normandy or in the Résistance may not have thought of it exactly this way, but that’s what we’ve retroactively decided that war was about. If all featherless bipeds are equal, it follows that public policy is dedicated to the individual comfort and desires of every featherless biped and, therefore, every featherless biped is entitled to a middle-class income enabling them to own a nice little house in the suburbs, a car (necessary given said suburban dwelling), and all the familial amenities. I may think this is unadulterated Satanism, as Gandhi pointed out, but that’s the system we have.
Macron, like other social-democratic leaders, has to deliver on these promises. The trouble with human desire is that it is bottomless. The more you have the more you want. (Conversely, human beings can gradually adjust to just about any hardship if they are convinced that it is necessary.) Consumer capitalism is a system in which individual citizens, business leaders, and indeed “thought-leaders” are all committed to belly-chasing, to endlessly refilling the proverbial jar of the Danaids as the highest end, an end-in-itself.
Besides, Macron is committed to a Eurocratic, globalist, and technologically-progressive economic system which – even if it increases economic efficiency overall – will necessarily destroy the jobs or depress the wages of increasingly-obsolete (yes, already) indigenous French peripherals. Macron has partially surrendered to the gilets-jaunes’ demands, inter alia delaying a small gas tax rise and increasing the minimum wage, even though this means increasing France’s budget deficit. More deficits means more weakness and less trust relative to Germany, necessary to turning the ailing and sclerotic European Union into something semi-coherent.
Alternatively, Macron can raise taxes – the gilets-jaunes condemn Macron for eliminating a wealth tax on stocks – but France has probably reached the limit in that area: more taxes and even more of the country’s brains and business will bleed out elsewhere, meaning the end of the former Rothschild banker’s dream of turning the former Grande Nation into a “start-up nation” (the English expression is used directly in French, reflecting a total intellectual surrender to the globalist model). Of course, a city-state could be a networked, cognitive-elitist node for innovation and/or tax-avoidance in the global system (e.g. Singapore), but certainly not an actual (if decomposing) nation with some 45 million indigenous French citizens.
I was quite sympathetic to Macron’s recent appeal to the notion of civic virtue:
The troubles that our society is experiencing are also sometimes due and related to the fact that too many of our fellow citizens believe that they can earn without effort . . . We have too often forgotten that besides the rights of each person in the Republic, and our Republic has nothing to blush from in this respect, I can tell you, there are duties. And if there is not this engagement, this effort, the fact that every citizen by his work, by commitment to work, adds his stone to the edifice, our country will never be able to fully recover its strength, its cohesion.
Bravo! The trouble is this kind of appeal to duty can only fall on deaf ears. Fifty years since the events of May ’68, the only thing the typical Western ‘citizen’ can understand is “me, me, me.”
A revolution in the name of “purchasing power” is a disgusting notion (as Dieudonné pointed out some years ago in a legendary sketch on the Pygmies). However, he supports the gilets-jaunes. And we support the gilets-jaunes as a symptom of the democratic and capitalist system’s contradictions. That which is falling must be pushed, let the future come more quickly!
The gilets-jaunes are a heterogeneous bunch. In my region, they’ve been occupying roundabouts, putting up signs with various slogans, and are petitioning for one or two flagship causes. They are overwhelmingly white, generally middle-aged or older, and seem to be primarily unemployed or retired (hence the free time). Interestingly, the society seems to support them (or pretends to). You stop at the roundabout to talk to them for a bit and you are expected to show your support by honking or waving your own yellow vest. One already sees the brittle but potentially overwhelming power of social conformism when a (fairly low) critical mass of ostentatious social signaling is reached. (Reminds you of 1920s armbands . . .)
In other places, e.g. Paris but not only, the gilets-jaunes are associated with violence, but this doesn’t seem to have dented their popularity, perhaps because people associate gilets-jaunes with the actual nice people they meet during their commute to work, rather than the shocking images on social and official media. People liberating themselves from the neuroses of the TV/newspaper clique? Hallelujah!
The gilets-jaunes are a pure democratic, populist, and anti-establishment movement, similar to the Movimento Cinque Stelle in Italy. Both are essentially the product of social media and alternative Internet media. That has been very interesting to see. I was wondering when the Internet would finally manifest itself politically in France, here we are.
The M5S are also quite the mess and have a similarly-vague program of more gibs, direct democracy (referenda, tansparency, civic engagement), and blaming various problems on real or imagined injustice. Hence, M5S Economy Minister, Luigi Di Maio recently accused France’s ties with francophone Africa (notably the CFA franc) of impoverishing Africa and thus causing immigration to Europe. As I’ve argued, someone will have to be scapegoated for the perennial failures of the Convergence Hoax.
Demotism and populism are the products of the pretensions of a democratic system. They are not particularly good in themselves, but may enable a system to change. That is what M5S, rather miraculously, has enabled in Italy, allowing the rise of a nationalist-populist coalition government, where Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has already been able to do a lot of good work. The civic engagement – government by the volunteers, the people who show up – and political renewal enabled by demotic populist movements are very positive developments on the whole.
The gilets-jaunes have a similar potential. Their most ideological demand is for direct democracy. I have encountered gilets-jaunes trying to get into a town hall so as to petition the mayor to support the Civic Initiative Referendum (similar to what exists in California or Swizterland). This is inspired by the doctrines of the mild-mannered high school teacher and blogger Étienne Chouard, who has worked to institute a new French Constitution founded by directly-democratic constitutional conventions. Following Tocqueville and the Ancients, I am skeptical that this will really solve our problems. Nonetheless, Chouard is interesting in demanding, as the gilets-jaunes have done, that civil society avoids any mediation by System representatives such as the trade unions and the media. Instead, he urges, Frenchmen should discuss their future directly with one another, with people of both the (far-)Left and the (far-)Right, without the constraints imposed by the politico-media’s systems parasitic thought-policemen. In the same vein, Chouard praises Alain Soral as a “objectively a resister.”
Direct democracy would in all likelihood make any coherent organization of the European space even more difficult. Macron is a decidedly voluntaristic young leader who wants to make the system work, who wants to push it further. Hence, since his election he has made considerable efforts to get Germany to sign up to a deeper integration of the European Union.
After a year and a half of lobbying, Macron and Merkel have produced the Treaty of Aachen – signed with great pomp and symbolism in Charlemagne’s former capital – a veritable nothing sandwich prescribing more Franco-German “cooperation” (research, parliamentary meetings, cross-border administration and projects between regions on the Rhine . . .). This treaty in this sense is a worthy successor to the Élysée Treaty signed between Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer 56 years ago, an empty statement of friendship prescribing not much more than regular meetings. The Aachen Treaty’s nullity did not prevent the usual motley crew of French “patriots” from reacting hysterically – from Marine Le Pen herself to the conspiracy-theorist François Asselineau (who argues that the EU is effectively a Nazi plot) – implausibly claiming that the text will sell out Alsace to the Germans or abolish France’s seat at the United Nations Security Council (sharing it with Germany).
All this shows the limits both of official Europeanism and short-sighted demotic populism. The goal of both is to distract the French from their real problems, namely their spiritual and demographic collapse. The EU as such is not the source, or even a significant cause, of France’s problems. In Great Britain, the sight of “Brexit” pseudo-polemics sucking up all the nation’s media-political and patriotic energies is a sad spectacle indeed. France does not need this, but rather needs policies guaranteeing the ethnic interests of the indigenous French people.
For all that, Le Pen has been slowly performing a major pivot, declaring to the press recently: “Undeniably, the euro is a burden for France,” adding that withdrawal however is “no longer a priority.” Statements which have the rare benefit of being both politically astute (most French people do not want the economic instability of withdrawal from the common currency) and true (the euro does limit France’s options, but has not damaged its economy nearly as much as those of southern Europe).
We are sadly reduced to wondering who will get elected president in three-and-a-half years’ time, an eternity in politics. Macron’s popularity has rapidly collapsed and despite a small recent uptick, is now as low as the impotent Socialist François Hollande’s after the same amount of time in office. A recent poll has Macron with a 31% approval rating (with apparently symmetrical 69% disapproval), while the gilets-jaunes have a 64% approval rating.
Some gilets-jaunes are going to present themselves as candidates in the European parliamentary elections this year. One poll has them already at 13% of the vote, enough to get in, and might mean they could consolidate as a M5S-style political party, potentially even willing to work with Le Pen’s National Rally. Although France’s winner-take-all electoral system certainly works against such niche parties (gilets-jaunes have to compete for left-wing and non-ideological populist votes with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing France Insoumise [“Unbowed France”] party).
Speaking of which, a relation tells me that Marine’s election in 2022 is inevitable. I am not so optimistic. Le Pen only progressed from 17.9% to 21.3% of the vote in the first rounds of the 2012 and 2017 presidential elections. In the second round of 2017, she only won 33.9%. That’s a lot of ground to cover and I am not sure Le Pen’s rebranding will make much difference. She has a fairly consistent 66% disapproval rating. The glass ceiling remains solid.
I suppose Marine could theoretically break through by selling out even more and presenting as a generically patriotic conservative party. That kind of kowtowing however isn’t how Trump or Salvini broke through. You energize your supporters and terrify the establishment by pushing the envelope, not by playing nice and disowning your own gaddam father and the brand he built over a lifetime.
A President Le Pen would by the way perhaps fare even worse concerning her even more demotic economic promises – essentially of preserving the French economy and welfare system as it is. While targeted protectionism and withdrawing from the euro (no longer on the agenda anyway) would no doubt give policymakers added tools to achieve this, I just don’t think the promises are realistic.
Macron is unpopular. But strangely, no one has been able to capitalize on this. Laurent Wauquiez, the current flaccid leader of the conservatives, has an approval rating of 16%.
I continue to think that, given France’s electoral system, the natural challenger to Macron would be a Sarkozy-style pseudo-patriot who could combine a few identitarian slogans with economic competence. Apparently no one is up to the task. Last time, to my surprise, the competent-looking conservative François Fillon underperformed, having been undermined by a very conveniently-timed corruption scandal.
Macron has time to recover. Critically, as so often with politicians, he will get the credit or blame for an economic cycle which is largely out of his hands. Whereas Nicolas Sarkozy and Hollande suffered from the crisis, Macron will probably continue to enjoy a moderate recovery, with moderate growth and slowly declining unemployment. Of course, it’s perfectly possible that a surprise economic shock could send the Eurocratic house of cards into recession again, in which case more fun times ahead.
In history and politics, there are always surprises. The global elite is nervous. And . . . there are signs. One of Macron’s parliamentarians recently recalled, with a candor not seen in our continent since the days of the Reich: “Europe is our DNA.”