France – the specter of Weimar

Paris, by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos


The fact that we are continually discussing the earthquake that will probably not happen (the election of Le Pen) contributes to our not becoming aware of the earthquake that has already happened in France and perforce sets the very narrow margins that will be available to its presumed new president, Emmanuel Macron.

Macron, as we know from now and he himself knows, will not only be the President of a minority but will have the majority of the people of France militantly against both himself personally and the policies he seeks to implement.

What is really shocking in France is certainly not that Mme Le Pen (all things being equal)  is going to lose. What is shocking is what is not being written and not being said and what, according to the impressions being created, is not even happening.

For the first time since the Second World War (perhaps with the exception of a few days in May 1968) a clear majority of the people of France today support political forces whose explicit aspiration is to overturn the existing political system and in fact the political regime and the economic policies it espouses, neoliberalism and its European  embodiment, “Euroliberalism”.

In the first round of the French presidential election, the radical, “far” Left won a total of 27.3% of the preferences and the near to  fascist far Right 26.92%. 55% of the French not only categorically reject the neo-liberal, or in our case “euro-liberal” model but now actively support political forces seeking to overturn it. Only 44% of the French continue to support old or new systemic parties and personalities of the left or right.

  1. Macron knows this perfectly well. This is why he has already announced that he will pass his neoliberal “reforms” by presidential decree, ignoring if necessary not only the will of the people but also the will of the parliamentarians themselves. But France is not any old country. It has made ten revolutions in two centuries! So nobody can predict exactly what is going to happen.
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“Electoral statistics” in France too (the “political laboratory” of Europe for the last two hundred years) confirm that, mutatis mutandis and of course taking into account the peculiarities of the present day,  we are entering into a situation comparable to the crisis that shook the Weimar Republic in the interwar period. It is also an indirect, because political, not economic, still strong indication that we are well into the economic crisis that began in 2008 and metamorphosed into a crisis of the EU and that this crisis is not just a usual cyclical one, but a crisis as deep as the crises of 1873-96 and 1929 (those that led to the two world wars of the past, the Russian and Chinese revolutions,  Nazism and the American New Deal).

As in the Germany of the interwar period, solutions to the crisis appear both on the right and on the left. The great irony is that this is happening at a moment when large numbers of people have hastened to promote the definitive burial of the distinction between Left and Right! Among them are many intellectuals and politicians who began their career dispensing leftist ideas and are now anxiously searching for a decent way to change camp. They hoped that the problem would solve itself through the death of the Left he left, but the emergence of “La France Insoumise”, pulverizing the Socialist Party, has left them rather embarrassed and at a loss. But it did something more substantial: it mounted a challenge to Marine Le Pen, the National Front and its monopoly over dissidence.

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Although, as occurred in the interwar period also, the rhetoric of the far right and the far left overlap, the differences in strategic orientation are quite clear. For Marine Le Pen the trajectory is one of authoritarianism and War, which is  being prepared ideologically and politically through her anti-Islamic rhetoric. Totalitarianism, in her analysis, does not stem from the omnipotence of Finance, but from the jihadists.

On the other side, the surging pole of the France Insoumise tries to formulate a progressive, democratic, social and ecological alternative to the crisis.

Both Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in fact came very close to the finishing line. But it is as France has taken fright at the last minute both at the dangerous Lady of the Far Right or of the unprepared leader of the Left.

This evening the representatives of the European establishment will be exulting at the victory of Macron, if the predictions are confirmed. They will present it as the end of the crisis, not the beginning of a new and more intense chapter of is that it will in fact be.

They will thus demonstrate, in their own way, the depth of the crisis of a system incapable of recognizing the problems and finding solutions, exactly like the Bourbons, who learned nothing and forgot nothing.