In less than twenty-four hours’ time, France will have to choose between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Two things seem crystal clear from our vantage point across the Channel.
First and foremost, Macron must win. The Left, wherever it exists, cannot vacillate in recognising this necessity as loudly as possible. There are few creatures more worthy of contempt than the leftist whose antipathy to racism, Islamophobia and the rest is merely an instrument in the service of his deeper antipathy to liberals. Such a leftist imagines himself to be a Rintrah, pulsing with the righteousness of secret knowledge, but is in fact no more than an embittered runt flinging curdled hatred at all those his ‘superego-driven spite’ deems ‘unclean’.1 Six months ago, it seemed that he was less aware of, and less frightened by, the menace of proto-fascism than were the liberals he harangued head-on and whom he continues to regard as mere prisoners in the cave. Apparently unbeknownst to him, the heat at his back in this case is not the fire of Plato’s parable, deceiving the masses before him, but the fetid breath of the Front National, which — let’s remind ourselves — has railed against the ‘progressive Islamisation’ of France; vowed to introduce a ‘moratorium on legal immigration’; called for the surveillance of mosques; compared Muslims praying in the streets to Nazi occupation; remains anti-Semitic to the core; and backs in Bashar al-Assad the most murderous dictator alive.
It bears repeating, then: against the Front National tomorrow, Macron must win. French women who are thinking of voting in his favour can rest assured that no ‘special place in hell’ awaits them. Meanwhile, those so-called leftists who have joined Jean-Luc Mélenchon in declaring, ‘sans moi le 7 mai‘ should know that if Le Pen winds up in the Élysée, they will ‘face the accusation (based in fact), that [they] lack concern for those sure to be most victimised by a [Le Pen] administration.’2
Secondly, it must be accepted by liberals in France and elsewhere that the vapid Macron is no outsider. He is a career bureaucrat turned investment banker turned Socialist Party government minister who ‘contributed’, during his tenure at Bercy, ‘to some of the worst neoliberal reforms of the last five years’, including extensive deregulation and the anti-labour El Khomri law.3 Now, qua presidential candidate, he promises more of the same. Under Macron, 120,000 public-sector jobs would be nixed; corporation tax would be slashed; defence spending as a proportion of GDP would increase; and public spending would be cut by at least €60 billion over five years, with state healthcare and the jobless slated to be first against the wall. In other words, Macron’s program will be ‘a continuation of Hollandism’, whose referent happens to be the most hated premier in French history.4
Macron himself, then, is the chosen custodian and last hope of neoliberal centrism in France, and these facts should form the basis of any response to the way he has been marketed. Indeed, we mustn’t allow the slick and telegenic vigour of charlatans like Obama, Trudeau and now Macron to distract us from their relationship of fealty to the power elite. ‘[T]hey look very nice and rosy, your healthy young men and women’, but they are ‘Dead Sea fruit’ whose ‘insides are full of bitter, corrupt ash.’ Such always are ambitious politicians of the fabled Third Way. We should not sit spellbound by their charm, for we know whose class interests they are bound to serve.
Yet as Yanis Varoufakis has written, ‘[t]he imperative to oppose racism trumps opposition to neoliberal policies.’ Of course, racism and xenophobia in France did not begin with Marine Le Pen or with her father. The normalisation of Islamophobia was set in train by Nicolas Sarkozy. The praxis-process of oppression that defined life in France’s colonies was transplanted to the banlieues, where millions of people of colour remain imprisoned as second-class citizens. Police brutality is a fixture of existence in these ghettoes, as the world discovered in February, when a young black man was raped with a baton in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
But it seems incontestable, does it not, that under Le Pen all this would stand to become very much worse. It is surely the duty, then, of every French voter concerned by the Right’s advance to vote for Macron and, in the event of his victory, to organise and mobilise in such a way as to drag his party and the National Assembly leftwards and reduce the probability of the FN winning in five years’ time. Crying, ‘ni patrie, ni patron‘ is simply not good enough.