By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
Paris has been a terrible place to live for over five years now – even tourists can tell.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 (because they just had to draw pornographic pictures of Prophet Mohammad) kicked off a fear-based culture which has culminated in the world’s most over-policed coronavirus lockdown, with over 800,000 citations issued.
But it’s been an endless climb of “culminations” for Parisians:
Installing bulletproof glass around the Eiffel Tower (I used to walk under it going to work each day – impossible now). Did the Bataclan massacre have to result in a state of emergency two years long? Certainly President Emmanuel Macron did not have to legalise it into common police practice. From November 2018 through May 2019 huge swathes of Paris were already on lockdown as every Saturday was an undeclared National Poseur Day: pretending as if lower class protesters weren’t being provoked, gassed, beaten, water cannoned, fined, jailed, crippled and even killed. The marches continued through the failed, record-long General Strike, which collapsed in January.
Trust me when I say that the non-stop police sirens during the two-day manhunt of the Kouachi brothers after the Charlie Hebdo shootings never really ended. In the poor northern area of Paris where I live the sirens became constant – for years everyone complains of “cowboy” police who have been over-empowered, but we have no idea how they could be or if they will ever be rolled back.
And during the Great Lockdown, by everyone’s account, this has gotten even worse… but at least now the rich areas are finally getting a taste of la justice à le cow-boy – that’s the only they’ll ever be rolled back, after all.
It’s not poor-Los Angeles helicopters, but the sirens can be exhausting. As for the “it’s not there” indifference towards all those other culminations – I simply don’t have the acting/posing abilities the aesthetic-minded French have, I guess? But I also don’t have the personal stake in France which – try as they might – the French cannot possibly disguise from themselves? They simply must find it very tiring to live in a country where the government – indeed, the national trajectory – has essentially zero open backers outside the bubble occupied by Parisian elites.
It’s not just the Macron era: Francois Hollande was so unpopular he couldn’t even stand for re-election; when Nicolas Sarkozy left he bitterly said “nobody will hear of me again” because the French so deservedly enjoyed kicking him.
The reality is that – Islamophobia aside – nearly everything I’ve described has been caused by France’s historical insistence on a united Europe.
How long will it take Brussels – and its string of puppets/clients – to kill the ‘French model’?
Anti-Muslim attitude is a problem, sure, but only a class analysis provides a satisfying explanation to the undeniable 21st-century decay of French life: Muslims did not force France to stop being French – collusion among the French 1% did.
(Of course, to avoid regular class analysis discussion the French elite keep insisting: “No, it’s Muslims who are ruining France.” Typical Western fake politics.…)
Ever since Mitterrand made his infamous austerity-embracing U-turn in 1981- on what would have been Western Europe’s most-leftist policy platform ever – France has allowed itself to be fiscally leeched blood-dry over the pan-European principle to try and win over Germany to “more Europe”.
It’s an amazing martyrdom – we shouldn’t denigrate such things completely. And a large part of France’s motivation is also to end the constant German aggression that dates back to 1870.
Recent history is really quite simple: in order to woo Germany away from a neo-imperialist partnership with their Anglo-Saxon American first cousins (which has run from 1945 until today), France keeps fiscally flagellating itself and others in Europe to woo Germany into joining a pan-European project; crucially, this project initially was based on a Gaullist “mixed economy”, but that was jettisoned in favor of Anglosphere neoliberalism, globalisation and hyper-financialisation.
Maybe other Europeans want in on such a project, but Germany does not and should leave: Germany’s role has been entirely negative, their economics entirely Austrian (pro-1%, rabidly anti-socialist), and the groundwork which they have ordered is totally incapable of providing post-corona stability. Few seem to grasp this Washington-Berlin neo-fascist alliance, even though it satisfyingly explains Germany’s essentially 5th-columnist role in the EU.
However, only a blinkered nationalist analysis would stop here. France’s elite is just as 5th-columnist – they have joined Washington and Berlin because that is what neoliberal, globalist capitalism is: an international waging of class warfare.
Macron openly calls to end the French model – he is the new ‘EU patriot’
Because its basis is resolutely neoliberal and thus anti-patriotic (even within its new creation of a misguided “EU patriotism” – the accurate term is “patriotism for the EU’s 1%”), this version of the pan-European project is simply not worth it – all it has done is disregard democratic votes, empower bankers, produce Lost Decades and gut social safety nets. I personally don’t think a united, non-socialist Europe is good for the world, but I know this version of a united Europe is a catastrophe. And I know it is ruining France – I’ve not just lived it but documented it via daily hard news reporting for PressTV.
But Macron is of a new generation whose elite passionately believes that this pan-European project works – it has… but only for Europe’s elite. This unprecedented “neoliberal empire” is thus successfully perpetuating itself.
But it took a lot to get here: Hollande, Sarkozy, privatisation-puppet Chirac, Mitterrand – all of France’s elite kept sacrificing France’s 99% for an ideology of “more Europe”, which was first Gaullist-capitalist then neoliberal. Truly, the same can be said for the elite of all of Europe, but especially Latin Europe – just look at how Germany could afford a corona bailout 10 times the size of France’s bailout.
But since 2015 have no doubt: France’s Lockdown-pre-Great-Lockdown was entirely the result of widespread dissension for Brussels’ fiscal policies – this had to be repressed.
The modern French conviction that discussion-and-even-dissension is more than just tolerable but should be encouraged – this also had to be repressed.
The idea of French workers – foreign to the Anglosphere— that they should have economic stability and political-cultural influence also had to be repressed, thus the endless far-right economic reforms.
As I keep insisting, the global 1% insists that the bad example of the “French model” has to be destroyed and replaced with the US/UK/German model, with all its greater inequality, poverty and dull individual conformities and fears.
The “French model” cannot survive if the 1% is to preserve unaltered this version pan-European project which is resolutely neoliberal. This is proven by the recent diplomatic uproar caused by China’s ambassador to France, who criticised the inequality laid bare by France’s corona response:
“You have a new brand of Chinese diplomats who seem to compete with each other to be more radical and eventually insulting to the country where they happen to be posted,” opined a French analyst, but I get it: a person (in this case a diplomat) comes to France and they hear so very much proud talk about liberty, equality and fraternity… but they see that the first has been so distorted by the privileged class so as to totally eradicate the second and third. The Chinese ambassador is both disappointed and fed-up with France. He has become something Westerners cannot be – politically honest and critical of Western policy – without being condemned as a “radical”.
The French 99% tries to incarnate their post-French Revolution values (within the factual context that their revolution did not stand very long), but their elite do not. Foreigners simply cannot see true French values in action because what they are seeing are 1%er, neoliberal, “EU empire” values in action. The French elites’ values are not French but “European empire”; one cannot ever become elite anymore without displaying total allegiance to this empire.
It’s dismaying, and that is exhausting as well.
But while the future now only looks worse for the 99% across France, I imagine Macron couldn’t be happier.
Corona preserves Macron’s re(de)formist gains & wipes his promise-slate clean
Maybe the coronavirus break was just what everybody needed, not only Macron?
Think about it: a historic two-month General Strike had just failed in late January. Now that the pension reform was passed unemployment reform was planned for this fall, because there is simply no constitutional way to stop Macron. The Yellow Vests certainly weren’t going to stop. How can Macron afford to keep generating such public ill will? Was there going to be another General Strike? How can workers afford to do that?
You simply can’t compute all those facts.
Thus, pre-corona France was truly at a breaking point and exhausted. France was like two wrestlers who had each other in a stranglehold, but instead of letting go both decided to suicidally and murderously maintain their grip.
The Great Lockdown preserves in amber Macron’s pension reforms – it’s over. When France goes back to work they will be rushed through Parliament, and likely amid a ban on groups (protests) of more than a few score. The Great Lockdown gives the public a chance to forget about that fight and the elite a “just move on” filibuster to questioning journalists.
But it also ends the possibility of Macron’s autumn plans for similar deforms to the unemployment system. There’s no way that can go on with the state socialistically-shouldering 60% of the Great Lockdown’s lost revenue. However, France’s 1% has been waiting decades for the pension reform – think they aren’t pleased? Think they can’t wait until autumn 2021, when Macron can make unemployment reform his farewell political legacy amid General Strike 2? You must think the 1% doesn’t play tactical class warfare, which is chess, and instead thinks in nationalisms, which is checkers.
The Great Lockdown is also the single-best thing to happen to Macron’s re-election chances.
How can he now be faulted for failing on his signature promise – to reduce unemployment to 7%? How can he be faulted by the right for any economic failure – France simply has to spend their way out of the corona overreaction? How can he be faulted on the left for any economic failure – France spent a lot on the corona overreaction (again, a pittance compared to Germany and also a bailout weighted to the 1%)? Any fiscal policy promise and failure is thus absolved with this corona overreaction-distraction.
Any social policy failure is also old hat – we must focus on a post-corona world. French PM says coronavirus outbreak ‘under control’ but warns ‘life won’t go back to normal after May 11th’ – of course Macron doesn’t want to go back to normal – his popularity was in the toilet for years; his policy, his style, his bizarre and salacious scandals (highlighted by the Benalla affair, which only French people understand) and his constant elitist gaffes ensured it could only worsen.
But election sniping is such a narrow view, even if it is the dominant Western mindset:
Macron’s entire presidency has been an open assault on the French idea of what is “normal”. Destroying the French model – to satisfy and propel the neoliberal & neo-imperial pan-European project he sincerely believes in – has always been his political raison d’être. Macron undoubtedly will view himself as leaving as a hero for all his “deforms”, whenever he departs in ignominy.
I’ve had offers to work in the US: “Why would I want to be a political journalist covering such an atrocious, atrocious political culture?” But France has become nearly identical – instead of righteous, easily-triggered emotionality the French political talk shows rely on an endless reserve of indifference and sang froid (cold blood) to reach the same neoliberal aims; instead of Trump-Putin hysteria they use Muslim-hysteria.
So what is France’s future? It is Macron versus Marine Le Pen in 2022 – they are just as intellectually and culturally exhausted, bitter and hostile as the US. They would rather repeat corporate fascism than be creative.
Must I work on behalf of Le Pen, claiming that she is a “victory via defeat”? I did that, marginally, for Trump, but I didn’t have to cover the guy everyday! More Macron would be an even bigger defeat than Biden – the Ferguson, Missouri, protests weren’t anything like the Yellow Vest repression.
The West may have all the money but they have no good answers anymore. How could corona have uncovered anything but the truth of their underlying morbidity?
Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020
If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020
Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020
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’.