_ Jacques Sapir, director of studies at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). Paris, May 9th 2017.
The post-election France is deeply divided and will not be able to unite under the new President. Whole sections of the population have entered, or are about to enter, into secession, writes Jacques Sapir, Director of studies at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris.
Emmanuel Macron has been elected the new President of France with more than 65% of votes. However, this result is marred by a low turnout (only 74% of French voters casted their ballot) and by a very low level of “blank” vote (around 7,3% to 9,6% of all voters). Mr Macron seems then to have been elected by a minority of French voters, probably around 42%. Something that had been unheard of since the 1969 election won by Georges Pompidou with a very low turnout.
Beyond this result, which makes Mr Macron’s victory a (very) qualified success, this election campaign has been revealing of what most hideous French society has. A small elite, mostly made of wealthy and influential people, has blackmailed the largest part of French society and forced it to make a choice it despised and didn’t like. The low turnout, to which is to be added an exceptional number of blank vote is a testimony of this fact.
This campaign will leave too deep traces. The country is now deeply divided and will not be able to unite under this new President. Whole sections of the population have entered, or are about to enter, into secession. A French sociologist and geographer, Christophe Guilluy, has well and thoroughly analysed the disaster of this so-called anti-fascist so-called thought that serves only as a cover for the interests of the powerful.
What Mr Macron is…
Both candidates share an obvious responsibility in this state of affairs. Mr Emmanuel Macron first, who, by his arrogance combined with his insignificance, has proved to be a product of what is called the “system”, sold to voters as a laundry package is sold (According to the French philosopher Michel Onfray) or a pastry too greasy and too sweet, to consumers in a supermarket. He has raised the bar of indecency in terms of memory instrumentalisation to previously unknown levels. His mistake on mass unemployment in the May 3 debate on television is truly exemplary. By claiming that France is the only country in the EU affected by “mass unemployment”, by forgetting the tragic situation in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, he actually reveals what he has in mind. These countries are no longer regarded as unemployed because they have implemented, either voluntarily or forced by the European Commission, policies of “labour market reform”. That these policies in fact aggravate the situation to which they were supposed to remedy is the fundamental error masked by this formal mistake.
Basically, everything has been said about what Emmanuel Macron’s project represents, his profound submission to neo-liberalism and the worship of the European Union, his retrograde aspects under falsely modern masks. This man is indeed the product, as Aude Lancelin recalled, of a silent putsch of the Stock Market, although she describes only very imperfectly the mechanisms and springs of this putsch. Around him gather all the crooked politicians who have repeatedly failed over the last twenty or thirty years. He was unable to hear what the French were saying to him. Wrapped in his certainties, straight in his boots as the expression calls it, this President will by default be a profound factor of division and a cause of secession among the French. As Francois Ruffin says and writes, he will scarcely be hated to be elected and will not benefit from any state of grace.
But Ms Marine le Pen also bears a great deal of responsibility in this situation. She has proved unable to fully carry out her program, no matter what criticism could be made. This program had coherence and consistencies, being for the first time in National Front’s history a well-articulated program, addressing a wide range of issues. But, by its last minute turnarounds, she contributed to the confusion and plunged her constituents into disarray. This explains her relatively low score. It has to be noted that credited of around 38% after the first round of the election, she ran a pretty good campaign for the next 4 days, climbing to 41%-42%, before she made repeated mistakes and went down to her May 7 level. Her various changes of feet at the end of the campaign, from the issue of Euro to retirement age (a very important problem for French people), were disastrous. She said she listened to economists on many issues, from the euro to globalization, but she obviously did not hear them or understand them.
These examples show, at best, a very great level of amateurism in the treatment of subjects, which are nevertheless essential issues for France and the French. At worst, this reveals an instrumentalist attitude to these issues and, more broadly, to the economic and social issues as well. Her pugnacious style has turned into a boundless aggressiveness. All this does not make her, contrary to what an idiotic assumption claims, a “fascist”, and does not justify the call to make “barrage” against her. I wrote before what to think about all these postures. Nevertheless, she proved to be the best enemy of the ideas she pretended to bear. If she does not reflect on this, and if she does not learn from it, she is lost. However, the despair that this can induce is likely to make the game of policies openly condemnable and otherwise more radical and dangerous.
Political divide risks…
This is putting in place a deep political and cultural segmentation among French voters. It is clear, if you read interviews or public declarations, that supporters of Emmanuel Macron and those of Marine le Pen no longer live in the same country. They inhabit different countries geographically first, with the distinction between France which can be said “peripheral” and another France which can be called the one of metropolisation [Guilluy C., La France périphérique : comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires, Paris, Flammarion, 2014]. But they also live into different countries with respect to cultural and social references. This secession is of an extraordinary gravity and could be the harbinger of very troubled future. When there are no more words in common, the door is open to civil war.
The electors of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and at least a large fraction of those who voted either blank or abstained against Macron, are moving towards another form of political divide. The way in which this electorate has been despised, defamed, threatened to join the “macronist” coalition will remain one of the great scandals and one of the great shame of this election, too. Above all, this hysterical and hateful campaign, a campaign that I denounced recently, will push those who define themselves as “Insubmissives” towards secession from the political system. One understands the objective: to deprive the “Insoumis” of the number of deputies their numerical number would normally entitle them. If this scenario were to emerge, then the secession of the “Insoumis” would become a reality. The final sentences of François Ruffin in his tribune for the newspaper Le Monde are very clear on this point.
There is however a fourth political divide. It is a silent one, but one which occurs at the same time. More and more young French immigrants and young French of Muslim origin reject the principles of equality that founded the Republic. We are here also confronted to a process of secession all the more serious because it is tolerated, either by political patronage or by the will to bring about calm, by politicians of all stripes and colours. This secession manifests itself in the increasing exclusion of women from the public sphere, the lack of schooling of children and the creation of alternative and uncontrolled networks of education. The slow and silent nibbling of secularism by organizations being “false noses” or being close to the Muslim Brotherhood poses a formidable problem for the French political sphere. It will be necessary one day to decide to treat it.
This election has been played. We know then who has been the winner. But we also know who has been on the losing side: a clear majority of French voters. This election has robbed French electors of their will, by the combination of the conscious and organized will of some and by the irresponsibility of the others. But it will settle nothing. To the contrary, its probable result is to aggravate fractures, political divides and risks that already exist in French society – and it is hoped here from all hearts to be mistaken – to turn France into a very dark future.