Harsh Kapoor on Fri, 2 Jun 2017 14:43:07 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> French Presidential Election of 2017 France Has Dodg

French Presidential Election of 2017
France Has Dodged a Bullet in its Head: Macron’s Victory Offers a Much
Needed Reprieve Against Narrow Nationalism

by Harsh Kapoor

commentary addressed to progressives and democrats in India

On April 23, the first round of the French elections eliminated the
established parties, leaving two final contenders for the final round
of May 7; Emmanuel Macron, a former economy minister and cosmopolitan
political novice representing his newly created movement called ‘en
marche’ [on the move] and Marine Le Pen leader of the forty year old
Front National (FN) [an anti immigrant and anti European party of the
far Right]. Two opposing conceptions of France were in the race.
Macron won in a landslide with 66% of the vote, yet many voted for him
simply to keep Le Pen out of power.

Macron’s victory over Le Pen is certainly good news for France and a
post-Brexit Europe, but it is naïve to see this electoral defeat of FN
as the beginning of the end for hateful identity politics in France.
Let us say a storm has passed for now, but the dark clouds loom large.

Manifestation anti-FN, place de la République, le 1er mai 2002. Photo
Joël Robine. AFP

Fifteen years ago there was a similar situation: Jean Marie Le Pen the
founding leader of the National Front, had reached the Presidential
run-off. At that time one and a half million people had marched on the
streets in a resounding no to the FN. A republican front of all
parties, left and right was formed and the FN defeated by a record 82%
votes in 2002. Today there is comparably little political mobilisation
against the FN - which has been normalised.

Macron the Maverick’s Big Gamble

Macron hails emotionally from the Left. He is a liberal democrat who
stands for enlightenment ideals, opposes racism and xenophobia, and
offers hope in a common European future by attacking economic
isolation as a reactionary idea. His alliance is made up of
free-market elites, centrists and social democrats.

Macron is bitterly hated by unions for the labour reform law he
brought in under the socialist party govt he was once part of but has
humanist convictions and has had the moral courage to publically say
that: ‘Colonisation is a part of French history. It is a crime, a
crime against humanity … it belongs to a past that we must face up to,
while offering an apology to the people who were on the receiving

Macron, the finance man is a fine example of the intellectual rigour
of people who constitute French political elites. Unlike the RSS
sanchaalak in India who proclaims there was plastic surgery in ancient
times, or the real estate salesman and TV showman in the US who sees
climate change as a conspiracy, Macron wrote a philosophy thesis on
Hegel (supervised by Etienne Balibar); was Paul Ricoeur’s editorial
assistant when Ricoeur was writing his book La mémoire, l’histoire et
l’oubli. Macron’s ideas are influenced by the work of John Rawls and
Amartya Sen on justice and equality of opportunity.

The Far Right, its banalisation and national presence:

France’s two main established political parties have been losing
credibility with the people and facing opposition to their policies.
In consequence they have ceded ground to anti-establishment,
anti-immigrant, anti-European, and anti-globalisation sentiment.
French parties failed to draw the lessons from the shock of 2002.
Instead of trying to combat the FN’s ideas, politicians focused on
shutting them out of power. In 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy kept Le Pen out of
the run-off, but only by peddling identity politics to court FN
voters. The FN’s achievement was the ‘Le Pen-isation’ of other

For its part, the Left resorted to scare-mongering. But what France
needed was to confront identity politics, actively educate and
cultivate a secular, pro-European society that faced terrorist
violence and a xenophobic backlash. The Front National (FN) has been
the key beneficiary of this backlash, becoming the main party of the
working class over the past years. More than half (56%) the
working-class votes in the 2017 presidential election went to Le Pen,
and over 40 percent of them belonged to lower socio-economic
categories and less educated.

[. . .]

FULL TEXT AT: http://www.sacw.net/article13266.html

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