I put a lot of thought in the title of this article, which actually is the answer to a question I asked myself during last years and it is literally “what happened to France?”. Finally, I decided to give a very bold answer to my strange and unusual question. Emotions do not matter, there is one truth, France, as we knew it and with all its symbolisms for the whole world, at least in terms of political and social processes, officially does not exist any more. It was a long process and a long validation, since last year’s presidential election, but now we can confirm that the nation which illuminated the world entered a very dangerous and dark age. The ensemble of humanity can grieve on this.
The nation that lit the world
Have you ever considered why France and its capital, Paris, is so attractive to visit? Have you ever thought why there is an Eiffel Tower, so many museums, great architecture, urban history, cultural legends, human made beauty in this corner of our planet which used to be the center of the civilization of a species who managed to take over it? There are a few paradigms in the history of human civilization which are really groundbreaking. One could put in that very short list the ancient Athenian Democracy, the Dutch Capitalism, the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution and of course what we know as France since the mid-18th century, a country where a constant strong political battle took place and shaped the identity which marks not only the society, but even the material or immaterial cultural heritage.
In many occasions I used to say that France isn’t a country or a nation, but an ideal for humanity. If someone tries to be very cynical will not distinguish the unique characteristics of this European state among others. But if we think twice and we try to compare the interest in every single European society, we can easily find out that France is by far more interesting than the countries around, in terms of social evolution, which sometimes was written with a capital “R” in the beginning of this sacred word. France used to be the stage of a constant deeply political battle. The French Revolution, one of the greatest events of our species, was a process characterized by a very pure rising and expression of new and old political thought, which represented the past and future of human societies at the time. The following, 19th century, just kept on this pace, with revolutions occurring one after the other, in order to find their peak at the incredibly interesting political battle of the Parisian Commune, in 1871. Last, in 20th century, this battle found its incarnation at the famous May of ’68, where the movement wasn’t ideologically pure, once more, but it was as political as it could be, with the ideological struggle taking place in its rangs as well as out of them. The politically shaped nation never slept since then… or until some time ago.
One can find this French mentality of political struggle to a very representative and powerful slogan, written in Parisian walls during the Commune. The slogan was “Mort aux voleurs” (Death to the thieves) and it wasn’t any kind of declaration of love to the private property, but it was an awesome demonstration of the necessity to put out the “luben” apolitical masses of any political battle. During the days of the great unrest, many people, mostly from poorer classes tried just to take advantage for their own interest and steal goods. The multi-selective political movement of the communards didn’t fight only the former ruling class, but behaved to these rats as against another pure and clear enemy.
This history created an excellent ground for shaping a country which was able to host any kind of political ideology, a unique openness which served during many decades, one can say centuries, to receive all the ideological refugees of the world, mainly in Paris, by transforming the capital city in a place where the political thought flourished and helped modern philosophy and also scientific thought to make huge steps forward. This is what France represents to all the rest of the world. No country ever had this privilege and it was always a compass, an ideal, in order to build other societies, by people who were inspired and in many times educated in this unique ground.
The nation that switched off its lights
I’ve wrote again publicly that during 20th century and mainly after the great uprise of May 68 and mainly the 80s “Socialist Spring” there were some factors that pulled France through a certain ideological and also nationalistic conservatism. It is not a coincidence that the far right party of Le Pen, the once named “National Front” started to gain popularity at the late 80s, achieved a second round presidential elections presence in the turn of the century and became an important political power during the 10s. This was the result of De Gaule’s nationalism and the transformation of the traditionally associated to the left syndicalist and in general peoples movement.
France in this century is not any more the country which could host a Camus and a Chartre, give the chance to a certain Marie Curie come from another country and shine in sciences, in an era when nowhere something similar was happening. Briefly, France is not unique anymore. Along with the push of the ideological debate “in the UV political spectrum”, the great political battle was transformed in the so-named “apolitical” one. There is no better demonstration of this fact than the election of Emmanuel Macron as president of the Republic. A politician who was made a pop idol by the media some weeks before the presidential election, even if he already served as a quiet unpopular minister before, under the very unsuccessful presidency of François Hollande. An “apolitical” movement was in power and its main rival seemed to be the far right, the racist, fascist wing of French politics. It came a moment when the only response of this great nation to fascism was… a banker from London City.
This recipe, of something “new” which was actually “older than the oldest”, was of course unsuccessful to calm down a people who see its life constantly deteriorating for decades, after the “glorious 30”, these 3 decades that followed WWII. It was obvious that the “important power on the right” will be the next choice of a people in rage. However, that far right part was not able to take this responsibility. It is a fact that even these very willing fascist politicians can be quite incapable to fulfill their catastrophic dreams when the time has come. Nevertheless, unfortunately, this immature and “apolitical” rage was always there, with the progressive forces to be unable to concretize ideologically, as they abandoned this battle some decades ago. History is repeating, then, as a farce and as a nightmare. Whoever doesn’t read the book of last century and the rage of other small-bourgeoisies is condemned to live it again.
An “apolitical” movement was formed in several weeks and it gained strong popularity by the media. Initially it was so immature that it could make someone only laugh, as a joke. However media coverage helped it to be more powerful… and more dangerous, for people. An “apolitical” movement which hided its political color under a “yellow vest” took over and almost paralyzed the …streets of the country every unproductive hour, during the weekends, in the basis of one and only demand: “do not pass the increase in gaz fuel taxation”. With a small historical analysis someone can directly see the nature of this demand, which has nothing to do with the battle of working class, but just a superficial necessity of the small-bourgeois, the consumers of capitalism who are under economic pressure. Do you know any small-bourgeois movement in history which took over the power in strong capitalist countries? Unfortunately history knows and unfortunately history is repeated.
Into this “apolitical” movement even more far right than the “National Front” forces play very well their pure political game. Furthermore, they are generally supported by all the political wings who aren’t on power, the “left” wing Melenchon, the far right wing Le Pen and the former “socialist” president Hollande. It is not something original in Europe, which actually suffers the increasing popularity of fascist parties. All the mediatized movements of “indignants” several years ago hosted this kind of groupuscules and let fascist parties gain power, get into the national administration and even be close to take the governmental power, as happened back in the 1930s.
This narration is at least very disappointing and it is obviously accompanied by a strong pessimism, not only for France, but the future of humanity. However, people who march during these weekends in French streets are not all fascists, are not all enemies of democracy, not even more than the antidemocratic government that they have against them. The problem is there, they are so politically immature, small-bourgeois in class and emotionally raged that they are ready to repeat the nightmare, they will be the authors and actors of this new dark story. The problem is that now they are in France, in the land of the lights of our modern civilization, and the hope doesn’t seem able to come from elsewhere.
These days, this alarming situation, this lost dream in the City of Lights which became City of Political Darkness, not able to hide by the fires lit in its streets and its famous Champs Elysées, is the bell who finally rang for all of us, no matter where we are. I can write it clearly now, that Casablanca’s line “we’ll always have Paris” doesn’t apply to reality anymore. We need to find and build again that France which lit the world, whether it will be in France or elsewhere. Because France is dead and now we need to scream as never before: Vive la France!