by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
In less than three months France will have a presidential vote, and I haven’t written much about it because I’ve been too occupied with what I humbly hope will be the authoritative book on the Yellow Vest movement. The working title is France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values.
It will be published for free in serialised form, like my books on Chinese socialism and Iranian Islamic socialism (but buy a copy anyway!), and it should start getting published soon. As I’ve worked on it I’ve realised how interesting it is to determine the Yellow Vests place in French and global political history, and especially when the alternative is to analyse April’s elections.
In fact, the election is interesting, but not at all in the ways described by the Mainstream Media. After all, Emmanuel Macron is 100% a revolutionist – the 2016 book which laid out his campaign platform was titled (quite unironically) Revolution – but he’s the type of revolutionist only a royalist could love.
And France has many royalists, still. And with guns, money, lawyers and spin doctors the French government certainly supports many hardly-working royals worldwide. But this is mixing too many complicated matters for the Mainstream Media, so rather than using just a bit of logic – such as making actual political structures, slogans and policies the basis for which one can define a country to be “leftist” – let’s play along with their tortured illogic by looking at a new column from France’s paper of record titled, “France is a leftist country which votes right”.
It’s a self-flattering idea which explains less than it confuses, and is only useful for how we can examine it to show that “Western leftism” truly is rather rightist. Let’s look at how Le Monde defines what a “leftist country” is:
“… : a right-wing France, tempted by its extremes, which doubts democracy. We need to take a closer look. And do not confuse the sociological reality of the French with its polling, media and political representations. There is no shortage of visible signs of the progress of democratic values: LGBT tolerance, homosexual marriages, record of inter-ethnic marriages and assimilation of foreigners, feminist movements, increased sensitivity to inequalities and injustices, attachment to the republican motto, etc.”
After covering the US 2020 election I can say this: For two countries which loudly insist on their exceptionalism the political lives of both nations are so very, very boringly similar. I wouldn’t doubt that the mainstream media of both nations are owned by the very same people (or investment management firms), such is the similarity between their mainstream political discussions.
I am analysing this Le Monde article because I assume you don’t speak French, but Anglophones will easily recognise that the French are describing (or their media owners compel them to describe) the exact same problems:
“democratic fatigue”, “crisis of representation”, “society of individuals”, “refusal to vote or a vote of refusal” (well-put!), “society of communication”, “the verticality of institutions” (“verticality” may be too complicated a concept for the US media), “an openly xenophobic media group”, “menace to democracy”, “climate (change)”, “how to reconcile civil society with (Western-style) representative politics”, and with the same exact Salafist answer, merely “return to our forgotten origins”, in the French case Rousseau instead of America’s Founding Prophets-Fathers.
I respond with the ultimate dagger one can thrust in French society: It’s not interesting.
Yet France’s election matters, even if it will be a lesser Cirque du Soleil to America’s 2020 election circus extravaganza, which was truly The Greatest Show on Earth.
Le Monde and the other French MSM are basically pushing quiet-yet-prideful acceptance of the fact that the four leading presidential candidates are all on not just the right but essentially the far-right on either political, economic or cultural issues (or on all three).
This is even though the country saw massive support for a Yellow Vest movement whose essential list of demands was quickly recognised to be traditional West European leftist, and remarkably similar to the platform of the leftist party La France Insoumise, led by Jean-Luc Melenchon. Now that is something which we would like to see the French MSM explain rather than confuse, for a change!
Allow me to skip to the end as quickly and painlessly as possible:
Just like with America, we’d be wrong to accuse the average Frenchman of being an intractable reactionary… even though polls show that leftist voters are outnumbered here 2 to 1 by rightists and equalled in number by independents (who to actual leftists would be called right-wing). Leftism rests upon a fundamentally positive and loving view of humanity: The People have long been denied honest education and instead have been spoon-fed elitist-supporting nonsense, and this historical fact is what leftism must methodically work to overcome.
“We too often forget that democracy is born from the recognition of the individual released from the community shackles.”
“No longer the equality of individuals through similarity and having, but a more-demanding equality through the singularity of being particular. Beyond any condition, belonging or identity, everyone feels more and more the equal of the other by their own ‘originality’.”
What we see here is the replacement of both class politics (“having”) and even mere fake-leftist identity politics (“similarity”) with the Western Liberal Democratic emphasis on hyper-individuality, adored by their self-adoring elite.
However, historically and politically the aim of both democracy and leftism was to reduce the power of the monarch, i.e. to place some shackles on the over-empowered individual, both monarch and noble. This is what produced the calls for constitutions and votes and ends seigneurial (feudal) rights, after all.
But in Western Liberal Democracy – or democracy with Western characteristics – “democracy” means protecting what we can call the “over-rights” of the elite – whether you want to call that elite the 1%, the neo-aristocracy, the bourgeois or maybe les seigneurs. Whatever you call it the point is that in a fundamentally disunited “society of individuals” the modern-day lords will always win the maintenance of the current status quo due to their superior resources. The entire point of Western Liberal Democracy’s war on Socialist Democracy has been (and will be) to keep it this way.
There isn’t much more to say than that. I need not quote you the second half of the column, which is a litany of Western grievances with “this way”, i.e. their own system, i.e. that list of societal logjams I bomb-dropped 12 paragraphs above.
They all amount to an admission that Western Liberal Democracy fundamentally rejects class-equitable representation in the halls of political power, and that this power imbalance is brutally enforced by “liberal strongmen” like Macron in “rubber bullet democracies”. Western civil society and the middle and lower classes are thus rendered apathetic, wary of cooperating and de-politicised, and even in a formerly-revolutionary culture like France.
Socialist democracy – i.e., the evolutions in politics represented by the advances from 1917 onwards – are certainly not permitted as an option for discussion in Le Monde, thus the author can only suggest France re-study Jean-Jacques Rousseau. That’s a fine idea, but not if we don’t also study the histories, lessons and ideas around Marx and Mao, Castro and Khomeini, Sankara and Sandinista.
A far more interesting article, by a journalist and not a sociologist, can be found in the current issue of the long-form monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, which has total editorial autonomy from Le Monde (and it shows): “If the working classes were listened to”. A quick recap of the surprising things their interviews with the working class found:
- They don’t care about rising salaries because the cost of goods will just rise commensurately. Who says you need to be an economist to understand how capitalist economics works, LOL? What they want is price controls on essential goods, which France ended in 1987.
- Public debate on education is centred around austerity cuts to government budgets, but what’s driving the average person crazy is the multiplying costs centered around school or outside of school: nurseries, camps, after-school programs, cafeteria food, school supplies, etc.
- The price of entertainment, or should everyone just study/work all the time? Leisure expenses are so high there’s only room in the budget to watch Netflix again. So all three are purchasing power, which has been the number one complaint of French voters since I’ve been here, but – hey – prior to corona the Eurozone’s problem was not enough inflation, right? Sure.
- The alignment of salaries between manual labor and intellectual labor, of which there is zero public discussion in this “leftist” country. It’s another case of unions and other working-class representatives pushing so-called solutions which are fundamentally right-wing. For tough jobs, one worker noted, what’s the point of union discussions of lowering the retirement to 60 – one’s body is already wrecked at 50. Try explaining that to your average French sociologist.
- Getting social welfare deposited directly into the bank accounts of those deemed to deserve it. Tortuous paperwork leads to unclaimed sums for 1 in 3 French families totalling €10 billion, or the total monetary concessions of 2018’s failed effort to buy off the Yellow Vests.
Now that’s a good article, and unlike the Le Monde column it doesn’t totally ignore the biggest development in French politics in decades – the Yellow Vests.
But to a committed Western conservative human politics are based on natural, unregulatable laws, and not on a science of history or reason. Thus your average French voter – which insisted to me prior to 2017’s round 2 that Macron was a “centrist” – gave up on me long ago! “Our top four candidates essentially on the far-right? Ramin, you misunderstand modern Western conservatism!”
Save that for the book – I promise such political explorations will be far more fruitful than this Le Monde column.
List of articles covering the 2022 French elections
Catastrophe since 2017: How to cover France’s presidential election? – November 22, 2021
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV 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 ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.