The Liberation of Paris, August 1944 (Photo by Photo12)
Artillery Row

The resurrection of France?

A third way to the cynical politics of Macron and Le Pen exists

The new “progressive-populist” divide established in France since 2017 and strengthened in 2022, has won. After their disastrous results in the first round of the presidential elections, the centre-left socialist party and the centre-right party Les Républicains are in ruins and will not recover.

The political gamble made by both Éric Zemmour and Jean-Luc Mélenchon that they could resuscitate the old world of the right and the left on new bases, has also failed. If they have each gathered enough strength to ensure an income for their respective party machines, that will not be enough to win a future presidential election, the grail by which everything proceeds in French political life, and without which the rest is nothing, or far too little.

The new divide has triumphed. Yet it is untenable

The new divide has triumphed. Yet it is untenable. On one side of the spectrum, there is Emmanuel Macron’s central and elitist party with a neo-liberal foundation, with a vertical and statist tendency — which are not incompatible as the Chinese model shows. Like the latter, the elitist bloc is likewise willing to promote all manner of libertarian experiments in the field of bioethics (such as legalising euthanasia) for the benefit of creating a few more markets.

The central party has gained in sociological homogeneity: it is constituted of all the social categories of the highest income groups and most of the pensioners, who are dependent on the state and therefore reluctant to entertain any political adventures. All its voters come from the former right and the former left.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is Marine Le Pen’s party which is of an illiberal nature, a party that is for the moment “lateral” in its approach and benefiting from majority support within the working classes and rural voters, a party instrumentalised both as an ontological scarecrow and as a foil for the central party.

This is democracy, as the French are told. But in both central and lateral thinking, it is unthinkable to vote for the other and for the other to take power, at the risk of precisely exiting democracy. We are seeing a de facto prohibition of a peaceful transfer of power, which paradoxically contributes to the exit from democracy.

For the moment, the central party enjoys the support of a very large majority of the media, relaying quickly, if not servilely, the only authorised message: “apart from us, there is no salvation”. This unanimity will inevitably have consequences. It will only take a change of direction for the hitherto lateral party to proclaim the same sentence, and to pose as a bulwark against the central party.

A deadly logic of “block against block”, which leads many of our fellow citizens to no longer attempting to rise up against an unjust world order, but instead simply seeking to “return their ticket” to use the words of Ivan Karamazov. This results in growing abstention of course, but also in a worrying brain drain that is drastically spreading.

Normally, we could content ourselves with commenting on this sterile cockfight through a combination of disillusionment and a peaceful retreat to tend our gardens. But we face immense challenges, starting with the degradation of our ecosystems and global warming, which are bringing terrifying chaos.

It can only be done on new post-liberal foundations

Faced with this paralysed political game, incapable of making the necessary decisions on key subjects, there is an urgent need to bring about new paths of consensus between people, and develop organisations or institutions from diverse backgrounds, sometimes adversaries yet sharing fundamental and common diagnoses. Industry, agriculture, state, hospital, food, textiles, trade, transport, housing, education, it’s simple: everything has to be re-established.

Democratic life will no longer be about having antagonistic and irreconcilable visions of the world succeed one another on the stage of a political drama in which no one believes, but about forging bonds of trust between “those who do”, as close as possible to the right level of decision-making, in a spirit of subsidiarity.

To bring this about, beyond role-playing games, we must develop modes of governance allowing both the control and the renewal of those responsible, elevating the voice of the humblest, and above making all intelligent decisions that are collective by nature. This new spirit of democratic virtue must renew all institutions, at all levels: companies, churches, schools, universities, associations and of course political forums.

But it can only be done on new post-liberal foundations: where the other is not by nature a threat; where the market and the contract are not the final stage of regulation between atomized individuals; where no one, including the animal world, should be treated as an object or a pure commodity; where each person builds himself through his relationships with others.

It can only be done if the most creative among the “exiters” agree to take on responsibilities, to become “resurrexiters” together. It is indeed through a form of collective resurrection that France needs to face the immense challenges of our time. It is useless to expect it from one of the winners on 24 April in the second round of the presidential election.

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