The crisis that France is going through today is not just another episode in an eternally agitated country. It is about a deep crisis of mode which will be solved only with the beginning of a new society. The country will go through several years of blockage, before embarking on a complete transformation, a revolution that will last at least a generation.
For several weeks, monster demonstrations have followed one another in France. There is no more fuel in the service stations of many departments and hundreds of tons of garbage pile up in the center of large cities.
President Emmanuel Macron has managed to impose a pension reform. His text solves no problem and creates many injustices. For example, people who started working at age 16 will only be able to access retirement with a number of working years greater than those granted to people who started at age 18. In a country that loves equality in law, this text should not have passed.
President Macron has deliberately created a deadlock situation in which no one has a possible exit. His government received all the unions for a year and a half to refuse all of their proposals. He attended mass demonstrations, all over the country, and particularly in medium-sized cities, without reacting. Then, he and the NUPES (left) played on the calendar so that the deputies could not decide on this text at first reading, finally he misused an exceptional provision of the Constitution to impose it at second reading.
To do this, he asked his Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, to hold his government accountable to the National Assembly under Article 49-3 of the Constitution. This one was imagined by its editors for specific emergency situations, unrelated to this one. Undoubtedly Charles De Gaulle and Michel Debré would never have activated it in such circumstances.
At the end of the vote, only 9 votes out of 577 deputies were missing for the government’s motion of censure to cause his resignation. Automatically, the text, which was never put to the vote of the Assembly, was deemed to be “adopted”.
This coup is part of a long line of diktats ranging from measures for the repression of the “Yellow Vests” movement to the confinement of the healthy population during the Covid-19 epidemic, through a succession of orders and misuse of 49-3 (11 times in a year and a half). Even the French who convinced themselves of the justifications for the temporary limitation of their freedoms now find that too much is too much.
Now the country is cut in two. On the one hand, a small third of the population does not encounter any problem and wants Emmanuel Macron to allow the system to work longer to their advantage. On the other, more than two other thirds who are no longer in hostility, but find themselves in the same hatred. This evolution of collective emotions and the unity it engenders are new.
From his point of view, the president has won since his law is deemed “passed”. However, in practice, he lost since he brought together all the unions and what counts as popular political parties against him. Only parliamentary members of his party, Renaissance (ex-La République en Marche), supported him, as well as a few others claiming to be from the former Gaullist party, Les Républicains. 8 to 9 out of 10 French people are opposed to this text and are now convinced that the Executive has nothing to do with them.
The Republic, in the authentic sense of the term, is a regime that puts the general interest above all else. By dividing the country to such an extent, the president has betrayed her. Democracy is a form of institution that gives voice to the people. He also betrayed her. The situation is now blocked and the country has become ungovernable. No more important decisions can be made in the months or even years to come.
Only recourse to the people can unblock democratic institutions. The Constitution of the Fifth Republic provides for several solutions. The President could dissolve the Assembly and call a general election. But, for sure, his party would be pulverized. He could also call a referendum, but he would undoubtedly lose it. He will therefore do nothing and lock himself up to party at the Élysée Palace.
The pension reform marks the failure of the Macron method: the president promised to be above the right/left divide, he simply showed that he did not satisfy either one or the other.
Commentators wonder why Emmanuel Macron voluntarily placed himself in this trap? What was he pursuing? There is no political answer to these questions. Perhaps an economic response: he wants to advance funded retirement by sabotaging pay-as-you-go pensions. Perhaps a psychological answer: he is indifferent to the fate of others and likes to shock them (during his first election, I noted his behavior as a sociopath). If we follow this hypothesis, he will only find respite when he has completely discredited the 1958 Constitution and has acquired the certainty of being the last president of the Fifth Republic.
The political suicide of Emmanuel Macron and his desire to see the country collapse with him mask a very deep crisis. It is not by chance that the French successively elected an American agent at the head of the country, Nicolas Sarkozy, who destroyed the independence of France and violated the result of the referendum on the European Constitution by adopting the same text through parliamentary channels; then a petty bourgeois, François Hollande, who transformed the presidency of the Republic into vaudeville; and finally an investment banker who has made the Elysée Palace a reception hall for cocktail parties for American multi-billionaires. Four times (they re-elected Emmanuel Macron), the French took responsibility for this descent into hell.
Today, they have to deal with food and energy inflation of 20 to 25%. There is no longer a doctor in more than half of the territory and the hospitals are closing their emergency services. Above all, everyone notices that nothing is going right: the level of education has very dangerously collapsed, the police can no longer maintain order, the justice system does not have the means to do anything before two years, the army is unable to respond to high intensity warfare. The problems are so numerous that one does not know where to start.
The French are beginning to realize that public services should not be patched up, but redesigned according to new realities: the computerization of the means of production and the globalization of trade. According to some, the crisis began in 2007, with the vote by Parliament of a text that had been rejected by referendum; or again, according to others, in 2005, with the riots in the Parisian suburbs; unless it was, in 1990, with the French participation in the United States war in the Gulf. Still, the country does not find itself in what its political class has become, and even less in the policy it leads.
Emmanuel Macron, who was elected with the promise of modernizing the country, appears today as the one who is blocking its transformation, who is preventing the emergence of a new society.
The French, who in 1789 took the initiative to overthrow the Old Regime and create modern society, hope to take another initiative to create a new world. They know indiscriminately that at the same time Africa is freeing itself from the domination of French governments and that Russia and China are reorganizing international relations, but they are very little informed on these subjects.
It is very surprising to observe their thirst for a new paradigm and their fear of plunging into a violent revolution. To resolve this crisis, it would be enough for their political class to listen to them, as King Louis XVI did at the very beginning of the Revolution. But we are witnessing a dialogue of the deaf. During all the negotiations on the pension reform, the government conceded nothing at all to the unions. On the other hand, he multiplied the amendments with the parliamentarians, transforming the dialogue with the people into an internal debate of the political class. This attitude has closed all the doors of peaceful exit.
The French have already noted the emptiness of the “great debates” and other “citizen conventions”. President Macron has already called for it. They participated, but their suggestions got lost in a bureaucratic maze. It will therefore not be possible to replay this charming staging for them.
In the months and years to come, nothing can change. The government will no longer be able to have a text adopted by Parliament and, in any case, its officials will no longer obey it. They will put troublesome files at the bottom of piles and drag them around. The French will no longer be able to protest without a savage repression falling on them, as has already been the case with the Yellow Vests.
The European elections, in 2024, and municipal elections, in 2026, will be an opportunity to isolate the host of the Élysée a little more before his departure, in 2027. Unless of course he admits that the only way to unblock the country is for him to resign.