France History – The Origins of Discontent

According to SHOPPINGPICKS, the Socialist Party, in particular, which hardly numbers any more cadres who have left the popular strata and of which many leaders are subject to the tax on large assets, has given the impression of moving to another social planet, light years away from ordinary people.. He proved to be very scarcely sensitive to the wide range of problems – insecurity, marginalization, unemployment, precariousness – that grip France ‘from below’ and unable to feel the powerful and profound upheaval that testifies to “the suffering of this ‘sub-France'”, in the words of journalist Daniel Mermet.

“La gauche plurielle – writes the political analyst Jean-Michel Quatrepoint (La France d’en bas, in La lettre A, April 26, 2002) – has not been able to grasp the symptoms of this movement in depth. Hence its defeat. Clearly, Lionel Jospin was not the right candidate. He campaigned wrong surrounded by the wrong people […]. He handled the Corsican issue in spite of common sense. He manipulated the institutions, in particular by reversing the electoral calendar. Finally, he manipulated the institutions. he became a cantor of communitarianism, or rather of the minority spirit, favoring social reforms (the PACS [ Pacte civil de solidarité, legal recognition of the coexistence of people of both different sexes and of the same sex], equality…) and always trying to manipulate the greens, in the name of calculations of low politics. The mistake of Lionel Jospin and his left is precisely to have privileged the bourgeois against the proletarians. The 35 hours have turned against him like a boomerang since, in reality, it only benefits wealthy employees, those of large groups, in large cities, while, at the base, the measure has often turned into a payroll block or a more binding flexibility. Then there are all those who do not enjoy 35 hours or who suffer them: the unemployed (the real ones), the liberal professions, whose impoverishment is accelerating, all the small entrepreneurs, traders, artisans, farmers,

As for the right, if it is true that some of the politicians consider the far right to be infrequent, it remains equally true that others have not hesitated to make agreements with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National. Didn’t the former liberal leader Michel Poniatowski (Libération, March 20, 1998) say that it is “more immoral to accept the votes of the Communists, guilty of the murder of millions of people in Europe, than those of the National Front”? A perverse reasoning that led some Christian-democratic leaders of the UDF (Union pour la démocratie française) to accept, on March 20, 1998, the votes of the elected representatives of the Front National to secure the presidency of numerous French regions.

While neo-fascism thus insensibly contaminated the gears of French political institutions, it was not illusory to believe that the country would keep itself sheltered from a wave that was upsetting the political life of the closest countries, first Austria, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland and more recently Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal? An exception of France was conceivable when, like these other European countries, French society was subjected, in the name of ‘modernity’, to shocks and traumas of formidable violence, such as, for example, liberal globalization, deindustrialization, European unification, the reduction of national sovereignty, the disappearance of the franc, the abolition of borders, the hegemony of the United States, multiculturalism, the loss of identity, the crisis of the welfare state? All this, then, in a context from the end of the industrial era, characterized by enormous technological changes, a source of general economic insecurity and the cause of unbearable social damage: a context in which – with the logic of competitiveness having risen to a natural imperative – violence and crime of all kinds could only multiply.

Faced with the brutal and sudden nature of so many changes, uncertainties have accumulated, the horizon has blurred, the world has appeared opaque and history has seemed to escape any grasp, any logic. In such circumstances, many French people felt abandoned by right-wing and left-wing rulers, who the media never stopped describing as ‘businessmen’, ‘cheaters’, ‘liars’ and ‘corrupt’.

Lost in the heart of this crisis, many citizens are panicked and harbor the feeling, as Alexis de Tocqueville would say, that “since the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit advances into darkness”. With the favor of this new obscurantism and on a social terrain of this kind – made up of fears, dismay and resentment – the old magicians reappear: those who, based on demagogic, authoritarian and racist arguments, allow the return of the world of yesterday (“work, family, country”), throwing on the foreigner, the Maghrebi immigrant or the Jew, the blame for all the turmoil, all the disorders, all the evils and all the insecurities.

Absurd, hateful and criminal, this speech by the Front National has long seduced, according to certain surveys (Le Monde, April 13, 1996), “more than one in four French”. On April 21, 2002, it received the approval of millions of voters (30% of the unemployed, 24% of the workers, 20% of the young).

France History - The Origins of Discontent

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