by Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV
One of the joys of France is the openness with which people talk politics here.
In the English-speaking world simple political disagreement leads immediately to judgmental condemnation of one another. Look at the centuries of sensationalism and warmongering from London’s Fleet Street – there’s a big market for intolerance. In the US it’s considered best to not talk about politics, or religion, at all.
But the French do talk politics, and all the time, and well. They prefer abstractions and exceptions to declarations and moral lines, but at least they discuss politics without rancour.
As France goes, so goes the European Union. Since the Great Recession many have suggested that an economic solution to the eurozone’s problems is that Germany should leave, taking their economic neo-imperialism and a strong Deutschmark with them. Nobody says the same for France – their role is indispensable to the European project.
Think back to how vital the past two French elections were, and how they had provided a true bellwether of the continent’s political situation:
In 2017 Marine Le Pen was offering a Frexit vote within six months of victory, repudiation of banker debt and seriously discussed leaving the euro. These are all serious ideas, especially when compared with the three main topics of the 2022 election: xenophobia, Islamophobia and Ukraine. The two mainstream parties were ousted for the first time since Charles de Gaulle – major upheaval.
In 2012 Francois Hollande declared “finance is my enemy” and was going to lead a Latin bloc against Germany and cut austerity off before it could do serious damage. Optimism was high that what many in France insisted was true: that someone as pro-money and monarchical as Nicolas “bling bling” Sarkozy was an aberration. The failure to produce the major upheaval for which Hollande truly had a mandate led to his 4% approval rating, his inability to even run for re-election and the destruction of the Socialist Party.
Less than two weeks until the first round I strain to find election topics of interest to write about. There is a lassitude regarding political matters which is totally out of keeping with French culture, and this does not augur well for Europe.
France will likely have abstention rates not seen since 2002, but France is so politically active that still means an estimated 71%. That would be a big drop from the 79% turnout of 2017. These are scores most Western countries would die for, so there’s no chance that low turnout in 2022 is going to seriously discredit French democracy. What discredited French democracy was the brutal, state-sponsored repression of the Yellow Vests, of course.
So abstention rates don’t tell the whole story in 2022. People tell me – and it’s my job to ask – that they will vote merely out of a sense of civic duty, and without the typical Gallic passion.
2022 is a hollow election in France: The issues which are allowed to be debated are hollow, the candidates are straw men who lack domestic credibility and the vacant look in people’s eyes when talking about the election implies that France is just hollowed out.
Why? This will be the first major Western election since the end of the coronavirus era, and I can only hypothesise that there must be a connection.
Today there simply is no spirit of résistance, which the French can seemingly fabricate out of thin air (this is mostly admirable, though occasionally overly-provocative). It was only two weeks ago that France ended its coronavirus restrictions, after all, and what French people want now is relief and simple pleasures. Embracing politics is to embrace dispute, hard-won compromises and a pleasure which is mental and not immediately tangible – it is to embrace résistance.
Is it possible that the coronavirus lockdowns have simply made people more resigned to their political fate? If so, one should bet on incumbents.
Who could have thought that the French wouldn’t care about the election of such a controversial president? The price of gas (€2 per litre) is now a whopping 25% higher than in November 2018, when that issue sparked the Yellow Vests – it’s illogical that there aren’t even bigger demands for government action now? This is the type of disinterest amid disorder which one only reads about after years of war or revolution – eventually a populace simply can’t generate enthusiasm for political endeavours.
Europe has only one hope that this is a case of French exceptionalism: Is it possible that Macron’s Yellow Vest weekend beatdowns have simply defeated France? Macron’s campaign platform was encapsulated in a book he titled Revolution. It was not ironic – Macron truly is a neoliberal revolutionary willing to wage war on his own people just to institute far-right neoliberalism which even the International Monetary Fund admitted has failed, in a 2016 report. People here view Macron’s re-election as a foregone conclusion – he simply cannot be opposed.
I think we can’t underestimate the way Western mainstream media has turned into total sycophants of the elite. With startling swiftness the new mediums of the 21st century have gone from liberating the average person with a new “freedom to write” to banning dissent, and coronavirus speeded this process along.
The French people do not care about the issues which the mainstream media pushed in this election campaign – they handed control of the agenda to far-right troglodyte Eric Zemmour – but what can people do except tune out and not care? A handful of billionaires control the media here, and US-based social media decide what can and can’t be discussed – Metternich, Austria’s prince of censorship in Europe’s post-French Revolution era, would be jealous.
In 2022 the media here is similarly refusing to allow discussion of Macron’s record: economic failure, the worst political repression in a century and an administration which halfway into his 5-year term set the record for cabinet ministers forced out for corruption. This is a politician who polls told us was elected primarily for two reasons: to prevent the authoritarian far-right from wielding police power, and to sweep out the two corrupt mainstream parties. One can only say that there has been total failure on these two points – the problem is finding media allowed to say it!
The war in Ukraine has provided the coup de grâce to discussion of serious domestic issues in this election, sadly.
There’s too many Muslims in France to not perceive surprise regarding the biased treatment in favor of Ukraine, which translates into more indifference and contempt for what’s in the news. While media in the United States insist that all of Europe is cowering in fear from Russian nuclear bombs that idea only produces laughter in Paris – it is absurd, of course. How Ukraine got to be a primary issue in the French election – few care to answer. I can’t help but note that public opinion is allowed to play no role in foreign policy decisions in Western Liberal Democracy, so whatever Paris decides to do regarding Ukraine will be decided among the court of the elite, as it was in the time of kings. Of course, Western Liberal Democracy is fine with autocracy and monarchy.
If France sees a repeat of 2002 it will be the left which surprises this time, but even that provokes looks of disillusion. The talk of a social explosion is widespread here, but it does not appear likely to happen within the next four weeks.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. His new book is ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values’. He is also 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.
“France apathetic about politics?”
Are you? – – Just joking!
1. Would greatly appreciate an update on condition & politics of Hreve Ryssen, who is currently in French Prison.
2. How is Dieudonné faring? How are his Bus Tours doing? What are his main political points? His significance. Is he facing more prison & fines?
3. Lastly, but not leastly, how is Philosopher Alain Soral doing? I very briefly exchanged words (friendly) with him. He does not speak English, & I, French, (my Belgian dad tried to help, but is no longer here to translate & explain). I understand we both have disagreements with Soral; however, he has my respect, & I have learned much from the few videos he has made that are available with English subtitles. He is the author of some 20 books and hundreds of commentaries/essays, (no mean achievement).
There is a sad lack of connection between Americans and the French. I grew up within a few minutes view of the Statue of Liberty, one of the finest gifts we Americans have ever received. Any help/information would be appreciated.
Dr. Peter J. Antonsen – nom de guerre, Durruti
Il voto francese influenzera la politica europea accellerando la sua disintegrazione.
The French vote will influence European politics by accelerating its disintegration.
Western establishment has bent over backwards not to offend Muslims, its a religion of peace ( a warrior religion par excellence) , never a hint of sanctions towards the Wahabbi Saudi Arabia, and always full of excuses for the deplorable behavior of many – not all – Muslims in Europe towards women and gays. In Sweden child marriage and multiple wives is now tolerated and the all-important social welfare payments keep coming.
The worse treated are of course young women from Muslim background – but there are not goodness points gained from defending them, only condemnation from the establishment and accusations of being a Nazi.
The contrast to how Russians are not treated (slavic whites!) is astounding. When the Saker calls them snown*ggers I thought at first he was exaggerating, but I stand corrected.
Well… The winner of the presidential election this year will be the one obtaining his ticket to the second turn, whoever he may be. Macron has a solid 10-15% of the voter in his pocket (voter, not electoral population, mind you).
And a goat would be elected instead of Macron on the second run so much Macron is unpopular.
Who will get on the second turn?
On the far right, Zemmour, a polémiste close to Le Pen, supported by pro immigration and mass media Bollore, whose shaddy deals in Africa and France aren’t glorious. He censored the guignols of the info, a famous comic emission on one of his channels. It was the most popular emission of the Channel and the only place on TV where we could still laugh at the depressing mediocrity of our politicians. Zemmour advocate for a xenophobic programme and his eating at Le Pen electorate.
Then Le Pen on the far right. Years of efforts to “moderate” the extremism image of her party allowed her to be on the second turn in 2017 but her pitiful performance – some say it was deliberate – on the last moment decridibilised her. And now the far right of her party, and even her own niece, are looking up to Zemmour. She had to purge a part of her hq of campaign to go on.
And finally we have the left, with Jean Luc Melanchin, a shadd/pragmatic leftist whose ideas are to reform the republic made by de Gaule, the 5th republic, made at gun point on the threat of a military coup, to something more democratic with less powers to the president and more to the assembly. And whatever means and changes to is discourse, as long as he comes to power to apply this programme, will be justified to his eyes.
In 2017, he did a strategy of leftism populisme, inspired from the ideas of bonapartism instead of Marxism. Then after the campaign he cleansed the party of the supporters of bonapartism rhetoric to adopt a new line, a tad bit “woke” with the “creolisation”. The France Insoumise us an undemocratic movement (not a political party) lead by an authoritarian figure using all means with cynisism to apply a democratic program…. If the FI was democratic, the movement would have been pulled to populism or extremism..
The whole left and the media are spitting on Melanchin… But it’s because they are mainly scarred of him stealing their privileges. The man built a movement from almost nothing but his charisma and rhetoric, doing better at general elections (not local ones) than the socialist party, which was the center of the left after the death of the French communist party.
One of those three will get to the second turn.
If Macron is elected, the little democracy in France will die out and a dictature will take place with “measures of exception”. Zemmour and Le Pen are candidates whom will ensure the status quo. Melanchon might bring some good change, even though I don’t like him.
And unlike what Ramin wrote, no candidate except for François Asselineau, has ever had article 50, leaving the EU, in their presidential program.
They all promise to change the existing agreements of the EU which are totally empty promises because those can only be changed with unanimous votes. If even one of the 27 votes against a change that is good for France but not for them it must be clear that change is impossible.
Asselineau wants to leave the EU, the euro, NATO and the Schengen agreement. But the French are afraid of this because they think that this will totally isolate the country. They don’ t understand that the remaining and still existing 6500+ agreement from before the EU will assure the continuation of business as usual.
I am French and live in France.
This is not apathy at all. It is a very great and dull concern.
Everyone in France hates Macron (except his 8% base) – even more than Sarkozy.
But the electoral system means that, since all the opposition mechanisms are trusted by Macron and McKinsey, even with 8% Macron can be re-elected. The majority in France actually believe (because of manipulative polls) that Macron can be re-elected – and that makes them desperate. The majority believe that Macron has the power to rig elections: he has the police, the judiciary, the media. The political opposition surprisingly does not oppose. Everything is locked in.
It’s pure anxiety. Not apathy.
Depressing article indeed.
When the public realizes they vote but it’s not counted, there’s no point keeping up the charade.
Anyone think Macron won last time? No one I know. Anyone think Biden won his election? No one I know.
If Putin wanted to oust Macron, now is the time. Just cut off NG to France, see gas and NG prices sky high, and he’ll get in third position (meaning no run-off for him) …
Notice that any of the three followers is in favor of leaving NATO and rapprochement towards Russia.
Election of “Unsubmissive France” (La France Insoumise) leader Jean-Luc Mélanchon would be good for a change and would bring ‘some’ more democracy to the country – if by any chance he stuck to his promises afterwards (which is not a given in Paris). Notice that his having been called a “Bonapartist”is no good omen for more democracy, anyway … c’est la vie!
Which IMF report? annual or another? There are a few so it would be good if you could tell us, or put up a link? Thank-you
Hi Brother Ma,
“Even the IMF Now Admits Neoliberalism Has Failed”
To bring down the reactionary regime of Macron who is a tool of the NWO financial cabal maybe France needs a “Bonapartist”
I think that worldwide machinery of GOEBBELS NEWS corp. start cracking on real freedom of speech (it’s obvious long time to see things what going to happen in future ) and anybody who stand up against it will be ridiculed – put aside in system *CANCEL CULTURE * What a shame
It is rather a paralysis born out of a media landscape that, out of fear of a Mitterand 2.0 culture, is courting the two nationalist candidates for the sole reason that their candidate Macron will win the election.
Zemmour was groomed for the second round by the media to reinstall Macron. Everyone knows that the French would never give themselves the nerve to be considered nationalists, which, ironically, they are. But banal nationalism is a betrayal of the French Revolution, which, like a cliché, feeds this very patriotism.
The power of the French president is unlimited compared to that of other Western countries.
The hope that the looming economic disaster can only be prevented by Macron is greater than the hope that a menchelon could provide more social justice.
Since the submarine disaster deal, many see no benefit to NATO membership, which has been reinforced by its inflexibility in peaceful negotiations in the face of Russia’s demands and a fairer security architecture in general. The outcome of the election has already been decided.