Liberal centrism did not win in France

Incoming French president Emmanuel Macron, despite his rhetoric of hope, won the election based on the public’s fear of an even greater threat than neoliberalism.

 

It is intellectually dishonest to call Emmanuel Macron a centrist. Everything about his background, record and platform suggests his economic policy will be one of unfettered neoliberalism. His discourse that he is “neither left nor right” and seeks to transcend political divides to take the best from each side has its own tradition and antecedents that do not escape us.

 

The Left in France is heavily criticised for being insufficiently enthusiastic in its support for Macron in the run off. We are told that fascism must be opposed. Thank you for reminding us, this is a more prominent part of our political tradition than it is yours.

 

We are told that after the election will be the time to build a long-term political project capable of offering a true alternative. Indeed, we have been doing this for at least six years, often alone and always under attack.

 

Jean-Luc Melenchon’s party is the only true political alternative on offer in France

 

We too are fearful of fascists taking control the state apparatus to carry out violence and brutalisation against migrants, refugees and their families. But we are also lucid about the racialised violence that is already being carried out by police forces; the permanent state of emergency and the racist policies being adopted by everyone from the right to the centre-left.

 

The Front National would drastically escalate the violence done within France to people of colour by the state. But we on the Left have also opposed the industrial-scale violence unleashed by our current governments against people of colour in other states, and have consistently been alone in doing so.

 

There was little outrage when open neo-Nazis took on ministerial office in Europe for the first time since 1945 following the toppling of the Ukrainian government. In this instance, US geopolitical interests trumped anti-fascism.

 

Le Pen is not too great a problem for some people. French shares have been buoyant since the first round in the knowledge that it is Le Pen—Macron in the run off. Whatever were they afraid of before?

 

Neoliberals like Macron also have a peculiar need for Le Pen – without a political programme, they define themselves simply by being better than the Front National, and can win any run off without the need to offer a serious political project. When there is an exception to the entire political class from the right to the left endorsing Macron within 90 minutes of exit polls, it is traumatic for those who want the Left to quickly forget it embodies a radical alternative and wish to see us disappear within the amorphous neoliberal consensus.

 

Marine Le Pen’s Front National plays a vital role for neoliberals intent on maintaining the status quo (Photo: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)

 

La France Insoumise is the only political project that stopped the Le Pen reaching 1st round scores up to 10 points higher, as had been predicted. Everywhere else on the political spectrum, great pomp and ceremony has been invested in successive elections to create the impression of a radical break with the past – only for the same variant of neoliberal policies to be implemented, accumulating the suffering for voters and citizens. We should not be surprised, then, with the automatic outcome that more and more people are disgusted with politics – its language, symbols and leaders – and turn eventually towards non-voting or, the ultimate false alternative, the far right.

 

If I had been in France I would have voted for Emmanuel Macron to keep out Marine Le Pen. However, I would have done so with the grim conviction that everything Macron embodies and will implement will strengthen the Front National such that, in 2022, talk will not be of them registering a high and worrying score, but rather of having a serious strategy to conquer political power. Opposing Macron from day one is not an empty slogan. The real second round will be the parliamentary elections.

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