By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

I predict – along with nearly every poll made on the subject – that 2022 will see a repeat of the 2017 election in France: Marine Le Pen vs. Emmanuel Macron in the second round of April’s vote.

Don’t be mistaken – so much has changed in 5 years! Remember these?

“Two-speed solution for the European Union”, “Frexit”, “sortie de la zone euro!” (leave the eurozone), “non à la dette!” (no to repaying the national/bailout debt), “intelligent protectionism” and who could forget the “French Guian-exit”?

(I was perhaps the only one who wrote about that last one, but it was an actual issue: five years ago French Guiana, an actual part of the EU (a neoliberal empire), was in a multi-week, total blockade which demanded a “new order”.)

Wasn’t “multi-speed Europe” a blast from the past for you? That should remind you how structurally unstable things were five years ago.

It was unveiled just six weeks before France’s crucial popular vote in order to admit to the French voter that Brussels knew what we all knew: The EU doesn’t work, and that only by cobbling together a European “coalition of the willing” could the EU ever become, finally, democratic. Nobody has heard of it since Macron wiped out Le Pen 66%-34%.

Le Pen had flat-out promised a Frexit vote within six months of her election, committed to leaving the euro and said she’d redenominate (and thus default on) 80% of France’s €2.1 trillion public debt, which was 9 times Greece’s national debt, and both of which were inflated by banker bailouts. These are all ideas which the real left agrees with.

All that caused the bond markets – the true foundation of modern Western economies, as they are what provide the money for governments to actually govern (and in all economies the government is the biggest economic force) – on the French-German spread to reach 4-year highs, highs not seen not seen since after Draghi’s “whatever it takes” speech.

Try and remember 2017: It had been less than a year since the election of Trump, Brexit and the coup against Roussef to make sure Brazil was no longer “arrived” as a global power. Surely those unmanageable Gauls were going to take things two steps further than the arch-conservative Americans and English?!

So there were real, huge issues in 2017, let’s not forget.

Don’t want to get vaccinated, or wear a mask, or ever leave your home again without a space suit, or resume seeing family members you’ve mercifully been able to avoid for two years? All that is fine by me, but such issues are simply not as politically important as those at stake in 2017.

And the 2017 French election had historic results: it saw the long-awaited victory of imposing neoliberalism on the French people from above.

The French populace had never – from the 1980s on – been won over to neoliberalism, unlike their elites, and Macron was the young pseudo-royal who was willing to impose it via rubber bullets. Why do you think we had the Yellow Vests?

But here we are…. Le Pen-Macron again

Allow me to please explain how things have changed between these two awful French candidates nobody wants:

What Macron promised in 2017 was nothing and everything. He was the “outsider-insider” who was going to sweep away the French political era running from 1981-2016 (Mitterrand through Hollande). Let’s remember that in the debate prior to the 1st round vote Le Pen had the best zinger, an attack on Macron which had total credibility back then:

“You have a crazy talent: You just managed to speak for seven minutes, and I am incapable of summarising your thoughts – you’ve said nothing. It’s completely empty,” she said, and then turned around to the audience and commented, “It’s an art, huh?”

Yet in 2022 Macron is sure to present himself (when he finally does declare his candidacy) as a total savant and technocrat. What a difference five years makes! Just as Le Pen hilariously, and ineffectively, appeared on the dais for the 2nd round debate with a foot-high stack of papers (to which she never referred, as I recall) in order to appear like a master of information, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Macron do the same in 2022.

And Macron now has a record to run on – vote for him and you know what you will get: social war towards the, and thus also from the, bottom, combined with his adoration by the elite. On newspaper kiosks around Paris now is a poster from right-wing Challenges magazine: “Macron: Why so much hate”. Everyone who has read this far – and all of France – knows why.

Le Pen is not the same candidate – which is to say, a very bad one, and a very undependable one – as in 2017 either.

She’s now fine with staying in the European Union: because the Rassemblement National now has allies in European Parliament, due to the bailouts/austerity-provoked growth of the far-right across Europe.

She’s now fine with paying the bailout-provoked debt: no renegotiations needed, even, and no austerity either, she claims.

She wants to cut taxes for businesses and corporations, but only to allow them to raise salaries for workers via a trickle-down effect.

It’s not 2017: Le Pen has obviously been reconverted to neoliberalism. She didn’t have far to go to return to her roots – the National Front under her father Jean-Marie was always completely Reaganite/Thatcherite.

Marine is using the phrase “ultraliberalism” in a very, very aggravating way, as it’s Western propaganda in plain sight: she is merely a “neoliberal”, as opposed to that awful “ultraliberalism” of Macron’s.

“Ultraliberalism” is being increasingly used to differentiate one’s economic viewpoint from the inhuman rapacity and guaranteed fuel for inequality which was/is “neoliberalism”. “Neoliberalism”, we should recall, was created to differentiate one’s economic viewpoint from the inhuman rapacity and guaranteed fuel for inequality which was/is “liberalism”. “Liberalism” created not just famines, deaths, poverty in the mid-late 19th century but the actual Third World, and provoked World War I and II.

Indeed, it was only via the Great Wars which allowed Western workers to finally win a respite from liberalism, both economic and political – this historical fact is proven by liberalism’s forced acceptance of unions, the establishment of the USSR, women’s political rights, decolonisation, etc. and etc. But liberalism made a comeback in the late 1970s with neo-, and now we have ultra-. Next it will be…?

No matter: It’s all Western liberalism – the only thing that changes is the moral evolution of the world, which puts some limits on what Western Liberal Democracy will allow. All three terms are the same, and all should be opposed by anyone with a history book and a brain.

Only socialists write these things, and we have written them since the mid-19th century, and we have been right all this time. These are the only things which haven’t changed in France since 2017.

Le Pen never truly represented those unmanageable Gauls, who are so very admirable for being (since 1789) unmanageable to those reactionary royalists, liberals and royalists-turned-liberals.

But there was hope in 2017 that she was in tune with the anti-liberalism times – i.e, in tune with liberalism’s latest economic and democratic collapse – and thus she was clearly a better alternative than Macron, who turned out to be essentially what I predicted back then: a radical liberal counter-revolutionary; a “liberal strongman”; a “rubber bullet liberal”.

So even if Le Pen is far less appealing to the Left than she was in 2017, in the second round will she be – once again, and like Trump in 2016 – the “hope vote”?

Is it fair to hope that Le Pen gets in and actually does something for the people of France, Europe and elsewhere; that she sees how they came after Trump and bucks off the system before they can pin her down as an agent of Putin, or Chinese coronavirus-concocters, or whatever?

What’s certain is that a second term of Macron offers no hope on economics, ending Islamophobia, social unity, etc. He is absolutely no centrist, and anyone who said so in 2017 – we have all paid the price here in France.

The only hope Macron gives is that he inspires (and every Yellow Vest I’ve asked has said that he will inspire) a civic explosion even bigger than in 2018/2019. Is that the hope vote?

Those are the two scenarios for France’s 2022 election, and I’ll need to investigate them further in the coming 10 weeks prior to the election.


List of articles covering the 2022 French elections

Catastrophe since 2017: How to cover France’s presidential election? – November 22, 2021

Le Monde’s circus invite: ‘France is a leftist country which votes right’ – January 27, 2022

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 Socialisms 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.


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