The Republican Order of Emmanuel Macron

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By JACQUES RANCIÈRE*

The French president does not believe that, apart from counting the ballot papers, there is something like the people he has to worry about

In recent weeks, Emmanuel Macron and his ministers have consciously crossed three red lines at which their predecessors had stopped. First, they imposed a law that the Assembly had not voted on and whose unpopularity was evident. Afterwards, they gave their unconditional support to the most violent forms of police repression. Finally, in response to criticism from the Human Rights League, they suggested that public interest associations could see their subsidies withdrawn if they expressed reservations about government action.

It is evident that these three crossings configure a system and allow us to see with all precision the nature of the power that governs us. The first was undoubtedly remarkable, in contrast to the attitude taken by Jacques Chirac during the strikes of 1995 and by Nicolas Sarkozy during the movement against the First Job Contract in 2006. Neither of them had a very strong social fiber. The first had been elected on the basis of a right-wing reconquest program and the second had made his point, declaring his intention to put France to work.

However, both felt that it was not possible to pass a law that would transform the world of work and that would be massively rejected by those affected. As old-fashioned politicians, they still felt indebted to a subject called the people: a living subject who was not limited to electoral counting and whose voice could not be ignored through union action, mass movements in the streets and the reactions of the public opinion. Therefore, in 2006, the law passed by Parliament was not enacted.

Obviously, Emmanuel Macron no longer shares this naivete. He no longer believes that, beyond the counting of ballot papers, there is something like the people he has to worry about. Marx said, with some exaggeration at the time, that states and their leaders were just the businessmen of international capitalism. Emmanuel Macron is perhaps the first head of state in our country to prove exactly this diagnosis.

He is determined to implement to the end the program for which he is responsible: that of the neoconservative counterrevolution which, since Margaret Thatcher, has aimed to destroy all vestiges of the so-called welfare state, as well as all forms of counterpower coming from the world of work, the in order to ensure the triumph of an absolutized capitalism that subjects all forms of social life to the exclusive law of the market.

This offensive gained a name, that of neoliberalism, which fueled all kinds of confusion and complacency. According to its defenders, but also to many of those who believe they are fighting against it, the word liberalism simply means the application of the economic law of pass pass, and has as a correlate the limitation of the powers of the State, which would be content with simple management tasks, dispensing with any embarrassing intervention in public life. Some more convinced minds add that this freedom of movement of goods and the liberalism of a facilitating and non-repressive State would fit harmoniously into the customs and state of mind of individuals who are now concerned only with their individual freedoms.

However, this fable of permissive liberalism was belied from the start by the police charges on horseback sent by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 to the Battle of Orgreave, a battle designed not only to force the closure of the mines, but also to demonstrate to labor unionists that they had no say in the economic organization of the country. “no alternative” also means: shut up! The program of imposition of absolute capitalism is by no means liberal: it is a warlike program for the destruction of everything that opposes the law of profit: factories, workers' organizations, social laws, traditions of workers' and democratic struggle.

The state reduced to its simplest expression is not the managing state, it is the police state. The case of Emmanuel Macron and his government is exemplary in this regard. He has nothing to discuss with the parliamentary opposition, nor with the unions, nor with the millions of demonstrators. He doesn't mind being slammed by public opinion. It is enough for him to be obeyed and the only force that seems to him necessary for this purpose, the only one on which his government can, in the last analysis, rely, is the one that has the task of compelling obedience, that is, the police force.

Here comes the crossing of the second red line. The right-wing governments that preceded Emmanuel Macron had tacitly or explicitly respected two rules: the first was that police repression of demonstrations should not kill; the second was that the government was wrong when the will to impose its policy resulted in the death of those who opposed it. It was to this double rule that Jacques Chirac's government submitted in 1986, after the death of Malik Oussekine, beaten to death by a mobile brigade during demonstrations against the law that introduced selection in higher education. Not only were the brigades disbanded, but the law itself was withdrawn.

This doctrine is clearly a thing of the past. The mobile brigades, recreated to quell the yellow vest revolt, were firmly used to repress demonstrators in Paris, as in Sainte-Soline, where one of the victims is still hanging between life and death. And, above all, all the authorities' statements agree that there is no longer a red line: far from being proof of the excesses to which the determination to defend an unpopular reform leads, the brawny actions of the BRAV-M are the legitimate defense of the republican order , that is, the governmental order that wants to impose this reform at all costs. And those who go to demonstrations that are always susceptible to degenerate are the only ones responsible for the blow they may take.

It is also why no criticism of the action of the police forces is acceptable anymore and why our government saw fit to cross a third red line by attacking an association, the Human Rights League, which its predecessors had generally been careful not to attack head-on, as its very name symbolizes a defense of the principles of the rule of law considered binding on any right-wing or left-wing government.

League observers had, in fact, taken the liberty of questioning the obstacles placed by the forces of order to the evacuation of the wounded. That was enough for our Minister of the Interior to question the right of this association to receive public subsidies. But it's not just the chief of police's reaction to criticism from his subordinates. Our very socialist Prime Minister has dotted the i's: the League's reaction to the extent of police repression in Sainte-Soline confirms the anti-republican attitude that made her an accomplice of radical Islam.

After having questioned the validity of several laws restricting individual freedom, which prohibited certain types of clothing or covering the face in public places, the League was indignant with the provisions of the law "that consolidates the principles of the Republic", which restricts indeed freedom of association. In short, the sin of the League and of all those who question the respect for human rights by our police is that of not being a good republican.

It would be wrong to consider Elisabeth Borne's comments as an argument from circumstance. They are the logical result of this so-called republican philosophy, which is the intellectual version of the neoconservative revolution whose economic program your government applies. “Republican” philosophers warned us early on that human rights, once celebrated in the name of the fight against totalitarianism, were not so good. They served, in fact, the cause of the enemy that threatened the “social bond”: the mass democratic individualism that dissolved the great collective values ​​in the name of particularisms.

This appeal to republican universalism against the abusive rights of individuals quickly found its favorite target: French Muslims and, in particular, young high school girls who demanded the right to have their heads covered at school. An old republican value, secularity, was unearthed against them. This meant that the state should not subsidize religious education. Now that it was subsidized, it took on a completely new meaning: it came to mean the obligation to have one's head uncovered, a principle that was also contradicted by young female students who wore headscarves and by activists who wore hoods, masks or headscarves at demonstrations. .

At the same time, a republican intellectual coined the term “Islamo-leftism” to associate the defense of the rights denied to the Palestinian people with Islamic terrorism. The amalgamation between the claim of rights, political radicalism, religious extremism and terrorism was then imposed. In 2006, some people would have liked to ban the expression of political ideas in schools at the same time as headscarves. In 2010, on the other hand, the ban on hiding one's face in public space made it possible to equate the woman in the burqa, the demonstrator with a headscarf and the terrorist who hides bombs under her veil.

But it is Emmanuel Macron’s ministers who deserve credit for two advances in the “republican” amalgam: the great campaign against left-Islamism at the University and the “law to reinforce the principles of the Republic” which, under the pretext of the fight against Islamic terrorism , submits the authorization of associations to “contracts of republican compromise” sufficiently vague to be used against them. It is in this line that the threats against the Human Rights League are inserted.

There were those who thought that the rigors of “republican” discipline were reserved for Muslim populations with an immigrant background. It now appears that they are directed much more broadly at all those who are opposed to the republican order as conceived by our leaders. The “republican” ideology that some still try to associate with universalist, egalitarian and feminist values ​​is just the official ideology of the police order designed to ensure the triumph of absolute capitalism.

It is time to remember that in France there are not one but two republican traditions. Already in 1848, there existed the republic of monarchists and the democratic and social republic, crushed by the first on the barricades of June 1848, excluded from voting by the electoral law of 1850, and then crushed again by force in December 1851. In 1871, it was the Republic of Versailles which drowned the workers' republic of the Commune in blood. Macron, his ministers and his ideologues will certainly not have murderous intentions. But they clearly chose their republic.

*Jacques Rancière, philosopher, is a retired professor of politics and aesthetics at the University of Paris VIII. Author, among other books, of Hatred of Democracyboitempo).

Translation: Luís Branco to the portal left.net.

Originally published on the portal AOC.


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