MG in-depth

JUPITER AT THE ELYSEE PALACE

Europe, Africa

France would like to revamp the empire to prevent its own decline

1. France is a state that plays out its destiny as one of the world’s nations. France is a universal idea compressed within its semi-sovereign area. It is a state of mind; it has a dynamic vocation for power deeply rooted in a grandiose history that, in addition to its language, provides the foundations for the country’s identity and global ambitions. In order to exist, France must appear to be more than it is. The country’s symbols, narrative and self-awareness exceed the resources ratified by economists and political analysts. Those are used to measure normal countries.

The République, the only real monarchy among western liberal-democracies, the revolutionary homeland of universal human (French) rights, expresses the specific ecumenical mission that makes it the most intangible power on the planet. Hence France’s conceit in believing it is a timeless undisputed champion and the myth of a France étérnelle evoked by its passionate leader in a Paris liberated from the Nazis. Arrogance? Of course, but when elegantly dressed, it can enchant the world.

One example is an episode safely guarded in the annals of international diplomacy. On February 14th, 2003, in New York City, at a Security Council meeting at the United Nation headquarters held with unusual solemnity, France’s Foreign Minister Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin stood up to speak to a global audience. Nine days earlier, at another such meeting, the American Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, had been obliged, due to his loyal military spirit, to present fake evidence of weapons of mass destruction attributed to Saddam in order to legitimise the catastrophic invasion of Iraq. “A lasting blot” on his conscience as he was to admit later (1). With perfect rhetoric de Villepin opposed Powell with France’s absolute refusal to take part in that adventure.

This refusal was addressed not so much at the United States, a colossus secretly envied and an ally almost since time immemorial, but rather to the “New Europe”. It was addressed to the dilapidated company of former Russian satellite countries, convinced hyper-supporters of NATO, some opportunists and others just servile, organised by the Bush Junior administration in juxtaposition to the Franco-German axis obstinately opposed to the ill-advised Mesopotamian venture. De Villepin pronounced his non! from the height of the nobility of his country’s history. He received extremely rare mid-speech applause, which echoed in that rarefied areopagus where great, average and minimum nations play at being an international community, when he said, “This message comes to you today from an “old” country, France, from an “old” continent like mine, Europe (…) A country (…) that has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind.” (2)

What followed was almost a war of religion between Washington and Paris, which in the long term however confirmed the first respecting the second, and France’s pained commitment to the Number One. France’s covert but appreciated intelligence contribution to the liquidation of Saddam bears witness to this.      

The national-transcendental binomial shared by the French and the Americans in their missionary compulsion, makes compulsory expansive geopolitics structurally inclined to violence. Each participates in a different manner and with the means available, albeit such highly asymmetrical ones. This occurs against a competitive backdrop even in times of proclaimed alliance, because no universalism tolerates others, at least not in logical terms – two ecumenical ideals are a contradiction in terms, let alone in power competitions due to the disparity of objectives and means.  

French history bears witness to this competitiveness, sung in the La Marsellaise, the hymn to its “proud warriors” and confirmed by the opposed and yet always intrinsic relationship with the country’s dizygote twin across the Atlantic, to whose revolutionary and proto-imperial birth French progenitors contributed. They inspired the project – as did Montesquieu in Jefferson! Supporting his friend Washington at Yorktown, they served under the American sword – the one that belonged to the Marquis de la Fayette, the first of eight honorary citizens of the United States of America.

In the background there is Louis XVI’s challenge to British thalassocracy, which thanks to history’s supreme irony sets the last monarch of the Ancien Régime among the fathers of the American republic. This to the extent that he was portrayed in biscuit porcelain by Charles-Gabriel Sauvage, a distinguished sculptor of work produced in Niderviller, as he hands to Benjamin Franklin the alliance treaties signed by France and the United States on February 6th, 1778. This work of art respects roles and proportions, with the wigged Bourbon, dressed in armour to underline the military support provided to the American rebels, with a lilied cloak indicating his royalty, while Sauvage dressess the scientist ambassador with a rather unrefined coat.         

Finally there is Napoleon, an involuntary hero of the future super-power across the ocean. Distracted by his Old Continent imperialism (coloured map 1), in 1803 he sold off to the United States the strategic and immense state of Louisiana, with its decisive share of the Mississippi basin, without which the American empire would have been inconceivable.

Almost two centuries later, François Mitterrand’s geopolitical testament still contained echoes of all this intimate rivalry; “France does not know it, but we are at war with America. Yes, a permanent war, a vital war, an economic war, a war that apparently is without deaths. Yes, the Americans are very tough, they are insatiable, they want unshared power over the world. It is an unknown war (…) and yet a deadly one.” (3) It is the secret phenomenology of universalisms in conflict.

This anticipates the theory “Universalism never does exactly what it says nor does it directly state what it does.” by Étienne Balibar, the heterodox Marxist who Emmanuel Macron quotes as the man who taught him Hegelianism when he was young – the elderly professor swears he does not remember him. (4) After all, every universal claim is nationalist and “at the same time” – as Macron would say – cosmopolitan in form and exclusive in substance. Republican humanism serves the cause of the Grande Nation just as its manifest destiny incites the United States to expand.    

It is on this double-edged stigma that the Republic bases its rank, a word that in all languages except one indicates the position something or someone is entitled to within an assigned or dynamic order. In French it means the absolute opposite: “rang” means independence. Paris cannot compete on equal terms with those who, weighed according to the common scales of power, consider themselves equivalent.

In geopolitics, the boxing categories assigned on the basis of conveniently adjusted weighing machines do not apply. If it were so, France would fight in the medium-heavyweight class of those who wish they could but cannot. It would fall to becoming a “great medium power”, an unfortunate turn of phrase that escaped one of its aristocratic former presidents in a verbal slip arising from a sad passion and was instantly adopted in diplomatic slang and added to the table of the most advanced academia. (5)

 Competing with superior powers implies an effort in acting that is often frustrating. The most talented leading player of the puissance, Charles de Gaulle, in confidence once said to a friend, “I am on a stage and pretend to believe it, I make people believe that France is a great country. It is a perpetual illusion.” (6) Macron takes the gravitas of his position equally seriously, albeit not having yet come close to the General’s style or spirit. The eighth president of the Fifth Republic compares himself, with no irony, to Jupiter, believing he is the “the master of clocks”, he enjoys the “verticality of power” derived from the Catholic-clerical gene of Gallic regality; he adores the symbolism of his position.

In opposing all cynical and de-structuring post-modernism, Macron postulates the obligation of the “great narrative”. He writes and rewrites the novel of grandeur. He knows that his is the country of “regicide monarchists” (7). He observes that at least until his advent to the supreme judiciary, “the figure of the king is absent in French politics and basically I do not believe that the French people wished this figure to die. Attempts were then made to fill that void with Napoleonic and de-Gaulle-like phases.” (8) After de Gaulle, “the normalisation of the figure of the president (allusion to his predecessor and mentor François Hollande, later methodically betrayed, Editor’s Note) has reinstated an empty seat at the heart of political life. And yet, one expects that function to be fulfilled by the president of the republic.” (9)

The head of state is King, syllabicates a word that Macron – Napoleon IV according to disrespectful critics (10) – writes and pronounces with a capital letter. He wishes to preside over France, not govern the country from the Elysée Palace, in order to transform it. It is probable that the author of a thesis entitled “The general interest: the interpretation and principles of Hegel’s philosophy of law” considers himself “a cosmic-historical individual”. The heroic interpreter of a superior universalism, intent on seizing the spirit from us invisible humans, knocking on the door of the present. Révolution is in fact the title of his programme-book, an anthology of the presidential vocation, an encouragement for his too many compatriots bogged down by depression, accustomed to breathing an atmosphere of decline. (11)

After a “bling-bling” president (Nicolas Sarkozy) and the hyper-normal Hollande, young Macron wants to project a totally different image of the Grande Nation. We have seen him receive Putin at the Palace of Versailles, seduce Trump with a July 14th parade on the Champs Élysées, so impressive that it led the American president to demand a similar military parade for next July 4th (a prospect that excites neither the Pentagon nor Congress) and then inaugurate a Gulf-styled Louvre in Abu Dhabi (12). In Davos, addressing the most elitist club on the planet, in his good nasal English, he announced “France is back!

It was thus that in 2017, the Soft Power 30 Index of the Portland Consulting Group promoted France to the position of world leader of this impalpable but gratifying speciality, ahead of the United Kingdom, always a brilliant second, followed by the relegated United States and Germany. (13) In the meantime, in Washington, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats has warned the Senate that “Europe’s centre of gravity appears to be shifting to France, where President Macron has taken a more assertive role” and  – incompressible anti-Germanic pointe  – “the recent German elections, I think, enforce that assessment.” (14)

    On this “global” tide, an authoritative and not pro-Macron French geopolitical review, Conflits, drafted an original ranking of global powers based on six categories, each with their own coefficient (10 for cohesion and stability, 15 for territory and inhabitants, for technology and for influence, 20 for military capability, 25 for the economy), which elevates France to fourth place behind the United States, China and Russia – the only “really sovereign” entities – but ahead of its eternal rivals, the United Kingdom and Germany. Italy is ranked twelfth right behind Switzerland and India (table) (15). Conflits’ Editor-in-Chief, Pascal Gauchon, using the mocking subtitle “Cocorico!” (a word used to express French chauvinism, Translator’s Note), observes with pleasure how, economic accounting aside, France overtakes Germany in all other forms of measurement, including its atomic weapons, defence industry and the importance of its armed forces.

This thanks also to the diffusion of its language of culture among overseas communities – the confetti of an empire that at least on paper attributes an immense oceanic empire to France – undermined at an international level by English, but still co-official in NATO, the EU and the UN (coloured map 2). This occurs above all thanks to France’s image, “the result of a heritage patiently accumulated by about forty kings, two emperors and five republics.” (16) Paraphrasing for Anglo-German users the de Gaulle-styled memento: “There is a twenty-century-long pact between the greatness of France and the world’s freedom.” (17)          

One must not be misled by the rhetoric of the word grandeur. It is the French exception that was once the desire for power and is nowadays above a survival instinct. In a word, without power there is no survival. Macron confesses, “I think that our country is walking along a precipice and I believe it may even fall.” (18)

2. The French are the children of the state. France is the largest country in Europe (675,000 square kilometres including its overseas possessions), second after Germany for number of inhabitants (66 million) – but is expected to demographically overtake its neighbour across the Rhine soon after the middle of the century. Semi-Euclidean with its hexagonal shape, enclosed by borders that are almost all natural ones, France has the Channel to the north, the Rhine, the Jura Mountains and the Alps to the East, with the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees to the south and the Atlantic to the west. That is its geography, which Fernand Braudel elevated to an identity marker, identifying the genesis of state unity in the primordial Rhone-Saone-Seine nexus (coloured map 3). (19)

Economics and geopolitics inform us that the Hexagon’s heart beats in Paris, in the Île de France, the 2.2% of national territory that produces 29% of the country’s GDP. It is the abridged Capetian region set on the continent, which the “obstinately land-oriented” eyes (20) of kings, emperors and presidents wanted to prevail over its potential outlets to the ocean, leaving dominion of the seas to the hated British Empire. “The ocean is British. It saddens me that this sublime field of freedom should belong to another nation,” noted Jules Michelet in August 1831. (21)

It is singular that to remedy such a mistake, the recent and opposed reform plans for the Île de France region intend to include Le Havre, the maritime outlet of important significance, in axis with the capital. This within the framework of Greater Paris, an equally opposed project aimed at making the metropolis, no longer in contrast with the “French desert”, a magnet of global rank in the fields of culture, science, technology and economics (coloured map  4). Also – and why not? – at London’s expense.             

History and the media have taught us that three genders inhabit the Hexagon; women, men and state officials. They are ministers, prefects, cabinet directors, mayors, police officers, academicians and soldiers of every order and rank. They are often well-read, at times haughty – algorithms on two legs devoted firstly to method and then to results. Legend tells us that one day, at the ENA – National School of Administration,  the factory of members of the French elite – an Englishman and a Frenchman competed to solve a problem.

The Englishman found the solution. His colleague protested because it did not follow the method set out in the manuals. The jury of wise men assigned the prize to the Frenchman. A triumph of French theory over Anglo-pragmatism. The Englishman accepted with a stiff upper lip the extrovert heartfelt solidarity expressed openly by an Italian colleague who had watched this clash of civilisations.

The Deep State is formed in the preparatory classes of the great schools, with their saucy argot. Six khâgne – such as Macron at the Henri IV High School in Paris, preparing an unsuccessful admission to the École Normale Supérieure - or hypokhâgne depending on the year attended (from cagneux, an adjective that refers to the deformity of overachievers marked by knees kept close together and feet apart).

A proud tie-wearing race now once again en marche, miraculously healed by Macron, an undisputed champion of all such classes. Technocracy with its distant slang inspired by the classics, genus irritabile that in serving the young president defeats the old political parties, disqualified ventriloquists of the politique politicienne. These are the days of the Macronists. The vanguard or newer theoreticians and/or performers of elitism, optimates convinced that there is one and only one form of politics: technique. It is up to the higher administration, the holder of knowledge, and therefore the truth, to straighten out the state to save the Republic.

There are nations that exist or survive for centuries with no state. Others have been founded on a throw of the dice or a leader’s whim. Not France. The vast majority of citoyens would not perceive themselves as such if orphaned by the institutions.

The nation fears for the status of the state, attacked by the virus of “globalisation”, a difficult one to isolate in vitro, easy to condemn. “France is sad about what it has become and the feeling that it is slipping towards the unknown, that it is no longer in control of its own destiny and losing its identity.” (22) Words spoken by Macron, the king/president who, according to the creator of the Fifth Republic, Michel Debré, “is the superior judge of the national interest in our France, where internal divisions have such power on the political stage.” (23) 

It is curious that seen from the exterior this France can appear to be alive and re-emerging, while instead seems unstable and depressive seen from the inside, even after Jupiter’s arrival at the Elysée Palace. It is a structural crisis. The country, perhaps the most burdened by history in the world, cannot hang on to politically-based redefinitions, to economistic recipes. Should it accentuate decentralisation in the name of an alleged “proximity”, of the ancient principle of subsidiarity of German-Catholic culture?

Jacobin, prefectural, hyper-centralist and impervious to neo-Girodin federalism, the Deep State, barricaded in Paris, believes it has devolved far too much of its power to the regions and to local institutions, thus it is marching determinedly towards re-centralisation. Should “constitutional patriotism” based on the Habermas model be applied to the Hexagon? Nothing could be less realistic. Embrace neo-Reaganomics? This would result in a guaranteed social uprising with extremisms of every possible kind and Macron sent home.

National salvation and France’s come back as a “great power” tout court, which the president intentionally leaves devoid of all other adjectives when speaking to his ambassadors (24) inter-depend on the re-weaving of its frayed social and territorial ties. These cannot be understood or mended without reconnecting them to the history and geopolitics of the state that does not deny its imperial legacy, nor does it renounce its albeit reduced military projection on the five continents.

This involves refined surgery that cannot be entrusted just to the ability of the technocrats/optimates. It is a lengthy cure that will in any case change France’s image, marring or updating ancient certainties. It requires mass pedagogy, not reducible to the exhausted Parisian salons of “politically committed” intellectualism.  

In 2002 a group of professors published a paper entitled The Republic’s Lost Territories, a documented report on the sexism, violence and anti-Semitism of mainly Maghrebian Islamist origin in the capital’s high schools (25). In it they present a detailed report of rising anti-Jewish hatred in the banlieues. It is an imported phenomenon, spread by immigration of Muslim origin and differs from the classical French anti-Semitism of Catholic, nationalist and right-wing origin of which it does however copy some codes. The book was coordinated by the historian Georges Bensoussan, who, like the other co-authors, preferred to use a pseudonym.

Boycotted by the elite media, especially that of the Left, the paperback was republished in an updated version in 2015, following the Charlie Hebdo massacre by the Saïd and Chérif Kouachi brothers. This marked a turning point for endogenous French-Belgian terrorism of North African origin, the expression of rebellious radicalism, drenched with primary jihadism, overloaded with anti-Semite, anti-Christian and Francophobe clichés. In the course of the past five years, intelligence has reported on 78 plans for terrorist attacks in France, of which 11 succeeded, 17 failed and 50 were thwarted, carried out by 140 direct perpetrators (excluding accomplices and those in command).

The bloodbath resulted in 245 deaths and over 900 wounded (26). A strategic outcome resulted in almost two years of a state of emergency – from November 13th, 2015 to October 31st, 2017 – replaced by an anti-terrorism law that preserves the substance, hence sacrificing to security a number of the freedoms at the core of the republican pact. All this while over 10,000 soldiers are deployed all over France in Operation Sentinel, who are not enthusiastic about the police-related duties assigned to then by the state, which is short of informative and repressive means. An additional 4,000 soldiers ready for war preside over the North African pré carré to limit migratory flows and intercept jihadists, not always in friendly cooperation with the Germans, Italians and Americans (coloured map 5)

It is not possible to establish a direct link between jihadist terrorism and violence aimed at the Jews in France, which has increased since the early 2000s (11 victims between 2006 and 2018). The fact remains that in the past decade, out of a community of over 500,000 souls, 60,000 have left the Hexagon for Israel because they feared for their lives or simply because they could not stand the insults and the threats. Many have settled in the Tel Aviv area, some even in the colonies of the West Bank. Some have returned home, also because among the protagonists of this non-spontaneous aliyah there are many Orientals, the tsarfokaïm, a not very gratifying insult with which the (average) Israeli lambda brand French Sephardic Jews of Moroccan origin who are likely to be Arabs.

The rise in immigration, not only Islamic (map 1), and the fleeing of autochthon Jews are the most visible and reported peaks of the ongoing ethnic-territorial fragmentation. In a country that is quite urbanised, communitarian borders cut across districts, divide condominiums, open “black holes” abandoned by the state and self-managed by crime, especially in the banlieues, the real “lost territories of the Republic”.

The geographer Christophe Guilluy has brought “peripheral France” to the elite’s attention, including Macron’s. His French Fractures outlines the partitioning of the working classes, distinguishing between those origining from the Maghreb and extra-European emigration, concentrating on the cheerless homes of the most anonymous metropolitan districts, and native French or other white citizens installed in suburbs not linked to urban centres and in what remains of rural France (27). This results in strident inequalities and violent rivalry between those patronising places of manufacturing and a pleasant life, evacuated by the poor, even among the lower, downgraded and impoverished bourgeoisie.

It is a nation that by denying what it is, risks fragmenting into ghettos, while the elites delegitimize the people as “populist”, giving away large numbers of them to the Front National, the uprisings or the state’s total indifference.

The explosion of the fashion of creating militias completes this short circuit. Armed citizens, among them over 250,000 Voisins vigilants (Vigilant Neighbours) stand out; armed groups later rendered more acceptable by the word solidaires (supportive), in a 1 to 1 ratio with the Republic’s regular armed forces.

It is no surprise that in some strategic workshops the military re-conquering of lost territories is discussed, impossible if not accompanied by political strategy and a pedagogy of national re-integration. (28) The slowness with which the Republican elites – in the French sense of the words – react to mortal danger is instead astonishing. One must acknowledge that Macron pointed this out already in Révolution: “For many years, our country has been disintegrating right in front of our eyes.” (29)

If the children of the state no longer believe in the state and carve up its territory to create precarious community refuges, what does it mean to call oneself French? High France has lost confidence in Lower France and vice versa. They will rebuild their country or both will collapse.

3. London, June 1940. “I need a land…a French land. It does not matter where. A French base, a place from which we can begin.” This was General de Gaulle speaking to himself – it happened also when he addressed others. In his mental map he searched for the Archimedes point from which he would move to retake his occupied homeland, which had just suddenly surrendered to the Wehrmacht.

Perhaps it wanted to surrender, as sensed by Marc Bloch in 1944, pointing a finger at the betrayal of the political-military-intellectual elites seduced by the Axis (30). Once the Hexagon was lost, his eyes concentrated on the immense overseas empire (12 million square kilometres on five continents) uncertain whether they should follow Field Marshall Pétain in choosing to cooperate with Hitler. His eyes finally fell on Brazzaville, in French Equatorial Africa, along the River Congo. It was there, and not in London, that on August 28th, 1940 de Gaulle established the capital of Free France, the patriotic platform that, until May 30th, 1943, he assembled firstly Cameroon and the equatorial colonies under mandate, from Chad (which since it bordered with Niger marked the only land border between Free France and the republic of Vichy) to the Oubangui-Chari (future Central African Republic), from French Congo to Gabon. It was once again in Brazzaville, on November 16th, that de Gaulle published in the Official Gazette of his no longer virtual state, managed by the empire’s Defence Council, the “Organic Declaration” that excommunicated Pétain – thereby infuriating Churchill. The embryo of new old France was African. Its capital was named after the Italian-French explorer Pietro Savorgnan di Brazzà. (31)

Nowadays, that African nucleus (after the war organised in the informal and equally precious Françafrique, coloured maps 6 and 7), together with other not only former colonial countries, is part of the International Organisation of La Francophonie and the CFA, the originally colonial franc linked to the euro, still printed by France and the convertibility of which, however, is not guaranteed by the European Central Bank but by the Bank of France.

This is the difference between France and all other states in the European Union, now that the United Kingdom has announced it wants a divorce. The République has above all a global vocation, and not just an African one. It is not a global hyper-power, the privilege of the very particular American empire. It is, however, a well-rounded power, more or less robust, not as independent as it would like to be (especially from the Anglo-Saxons) but respectable in almost all domains of the geopolitical competition, from weapons to culture, from economics to finance.

Adorned by a string of ultramarine pearls, organised in departments/regions (Martinique, Guadalupe, Mayotte, Reunion, Guiana), communities (French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Saint-Barthélémy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon), austral and Antarctic lands (districts in the Crozet archipelago, Kerguelen Island, the Saint-Paul Islands and New Amsterdam, Adélie Land and various small islands spread around the Indian Ocean), as well as New Caledonia, a territory sui generis that on November 4th will decide in a referendum whether or not to become separate from Paris. Finally there is Corsica, geographically close to the Hexagon (even closer to Italy), a territorial community with a particular statute that is experiencing a national-autonomist revival with independentist hints, difficult to accommodate with a bland entry in the Republic’s constitution promised by Macron.

In linking the Hexagon to the five oceans, France boasts the first undersea dominion and the second largest maritime area in the world – for whatever UN taxonomies are worth – thereby participating, albeit with a navy that is not legendary, in the main trade routes and disputes surrounding their control (coloured map 8). New silk roads included. For a state that considers inalienable sovereignty its founding myth, rediscovering and reassessing the extra-European projection, started in the 16th century as primarily anti-British navalism (Americas and Asia), continued in the 19th and 20th centuries above all in anti-German and anti-Italian terrestrial power (Africa), is an inalienable strategy.

This is nowadays perhaps more important than in the past, considering the turbulence in some domains almost abandoned to themselves, from Mayotte to Guiana, and improbable but explicit secessionist ideas (New Caledonia). Not to mention the Corsican issue that is not unlinked to new Sardinian independentism that Rome pretends not to be interested in.

A purely hexagonal France would run the same risks as Spain. Both former empires, with the Iberian one incapable of becoming a nation, burdened by internal separatisms – Catalan, but also Basque – while France remains unconvertible to post-national trends and post-state laws, as it would lose its soul and its ambition to compete with superior powers.  

4. Is Emmanuel Macron a Europeanist? Or rather an européiste – seeing how the semantics of this word change depending on the language used? In German it tends towards Proeuropäisch, English opts for Europeanist. These are not really identical to our own Italian europeista. Hence the Anglo-German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf, who described himself as “ein skeptischer Europäer” – scepticism emphasised by his experience as a European commissioner – suffered an oxymoronic transubstantiation in Italian translations that turned the literal “Europe sceptical” into “sceptical Europeanist”. (32)

Before attempting to answer the initial question, if possible avoiding Zeus’ lightning bolts, we will take refuge in the Larousse dictionary, the en ligne version. At the word “européiste”, noun and adjective, one reads, “a partisan of a federal Europe (in opposition to sovereignist)”. (33) Counter-evidence from the same source states that “souverainiste”, adjective and noun, means “partisan of a Europe consisting of sovereign states”. Below this there is a second line, which reassures us we have not ended up in an internet hole in some Walloon, Valle d’Aosta or Swiss-Romande sub-edition, which states “In Québec, partisan of the province’s accession to the status of sovereign state” (34).

Comforted by such weighty definitions, we return to the Elysée Palace’s website and read the title of Macron’s already famous speech to the Sorbonne, declaimed on September 26th, 2017: “For a sovereign, united, democratic Europe”. This is followed, in fast presidential prose, by an apologia of “European sovereignty to be created”. (35) It is now possible to answer the question. Macron is both a sovereignist and a Europeanist. Words that Larousse labels as antipodal.   

There are four possible conclusions one could come to. What the Larousse states is false; Macron strays from the point; the Larousse and Macron are both telling the truth, both violating the principle of non-contradiction, which would allow us to emotionally bear witness to the epiphany of sovereignist Europeanism, a branch of the philosophy of the custom aimed at the creation of a sovereign Europe enlarged to include Quebec.

Or perhaps, the solution we tend to prefer, we have fallen into a Münchhausen trilemma: one does not provide demonstrations of the absolute truth of a root cause (letzter Grund), as it is not debatable. This is a thesis inspired to the German philosopher Hans Albert by the adventures of an ingenious baron who manages to escape the bog he is sinking into with his horse by pulling himself up by his hair (figure) (36).

Translated into geopolitics, Macron’s incoherence confirms that one cannot assign sovereignty to both a republican France and a federal Europe with an undefined political charter and borders. The sovereignist president knows that democracy is unthinkable without a state founded on the nation as a community created in history, the premise for civic-mindedness, the guarantee that the minority will accept the laws of the majority.  

“At the same time”, the Europeanist head of state is well aware that the European Union, envisaged by de Gaulle and promoted by Mitterrand as a national resource to prevent the revival of Germanic imperialism and rehabilitate France to the ranks of a global co-protagonist – Europe like Great France – has instead become a limitation to French power. In order to curb Berlin, Paris has curbed itself.  

It will not be a second Elysée treaty, which Macron and Merkel would like to sign before the end of this year that will revive the tired Franco-German duo.  This because history and culture, long lasting elements, cannot be overturned in the short term and even less so with pointless diplomatic-legalistic manoeuvres.

France exists and, for as long as it lives, will remain intimately Jacobin, nationalistic, interventionist, methodically conceiving universal projects with particular objectives. Germany will not renounce federalising its tribes, governing by consensus, attempting to accelerate the revival of a geopolitical culture worthy of its economic power but compatible with its recent pacifism. France will be careful to ensure that the Krankreich does not oblige it to pay too high a price for Macron’s European re-founding ambitions.

To support such ambitions, however, Paris does not have a sphere of influence comparable to that of the Germano-centric Mitteleuropa, precursor of the maturing Kerneuropa (map 2). Leaving aside miraculous Portugal, what remains of the two pillars of Latin Europe? Spain is fighting to survive, thus to not lose Catalonia. In the best case scenario, Italy is terra incognita, at worst nullius (Bardonecchia docet), whose strategic assets are contestable because our managerial classes, with a few brave exceptions, have lost even the notion. This unless the treaty of the Quirinale, proposed by Macron to Gentiloni to prevent Italy from ending up under Germany’s heal, does not reawaken our ancestral instinct for double tactics: manipulation, manipulation and means. Always very pleasantly, parbleu.   

The Eurozone is the theatre for the economic war between the incompatible fiscal and monetary cultures of France and Germany. With Berlin committed to leading the small group of Nordic countries in the competitive deflation in order to punish the over-indebted southerners, Italians in primis, together with their cousins across the Rhine. The 28-nation EU, while waiting to be reduced to 27, suffers the resurgence, especially to the East and the North, of petty nationalisms, ill-concealed racism and territorial revisionisms inherited from World War I or other unforgotten pasts.

All this takes place during demographic contraction – with rare exceptions, among them France – the mark of every decline, while acute social inequalities divide Europeans along both economic and geopolitical coordinates. The vast majority of French citizens are well aware of these dark prospects and not longer trust the EU (56% against 33%). They are not exactly euro-enthusiasts and less so than any other members of the community (graph 1).

For the moment the counteroffensive launched by the Europeanist Macron, slowed down by rising social movements opposing neo-liberist and en même temps state reforms at home, is rather of a voluntary nature. “Let us put an end to this European civil war we do not have the courage to acknowledge (…) We must be open to new ideas, including some than have so far been taboos. France insists that treaties cannot be changed. Germany does not want any financial transfer.

We must abandon these old ways of thinking. (…) I believe that the objective should be that of creating an area that protects us and helps us survive in the world.” Hence defending the combination “between democracy and economics, individual freedoms and social justice, how can we expect the United States or China to defend these values?” (37)

Washington and Beijing both simultaneously having the same anti-European stance? Perhaps over-interpreting this and other ideas expressed by Macron, a few commentators have enrolled the newly-elected president in the “de Gaulle-Mitterrand-styled” party, brought together in a cold passion for a geopolitics of relative independence between and with the Great Powers. According to its advocates, this had been betrayed by Sarkozy and Hollande, French-styled neo-conservatives; moralists and warmongers.

5. It seems that in commenting on the Treaty of Tordesillas (map 3) with which, on June 7th, 1494, Pope Alexander VI bisected the extra-European world along a meridian off West Africa, assigning the eastern hemisphere to Portugal and the western one to Spain, an offended Francis I observed: “I would be curious to see the clause in Adam’s will that excludes me from the dividing up of the world.” (38) Pope Clement VII was to correct this injustice, establishing how the principle of Tordesillas was only applicable to lands already discovered. It was thus that France, under King Henry IV, Richelieu and Colbert, began to build its global empire.

It would be madness to envisage a repeat. But, if one day France were to establish that in order to survive and prevail in Europe – a necessity and a possibility of its geopolitics – it needed to rethink its vision of the world, it might perhaps discover, with a degree of amazement, that it owes something to Macron. This because the dialectics of the “same time” can become wasteful, inconclusive and even suicidal. Or instead emancipate with intentional ambiguity the national strategy of its tetanising Germanic obsession, in order to rediscover in distant waters and neglected lands the reasons and resources of its eternal desire for power.   

 

(translated by Francesca Simmons)

ENDNOTES

 

  1. S.R. WEISMAN, “Powell Calls His U.N. Speech a Lasting Blot on His Record”, The New York Times, 9.9.2005.
  2. de VILLEPIN – “Discours prononcé à l’ONU lors de la crise irakienne – 14 février 2003”, https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki
  3. Thus confessed the president a short time before his death to the journalist Georges-Marc Benamou, who reported his words in his Le Dernier Mitterrand, Paris 2005, Plan.
  4. BALIBAR, “Sur l’universalisme – Un débat avec Alain Badiou”, inaugural speech at the encounter organised by the School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine, 2/2/2007, Mediapart, 9.12.2014,  https:/blogs.mediapart.fr/segesta3756/blog/091214/etienne-balibar-sur-l-universalisme-un-debat-avec-alain-badiou
  5. Speech by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing at the 31st meeting of the Alliance Française on January 28th, 2009, http:///www.canalacademie.com/ida4119-Valery-Giscard-d-Estaing-au-31eme-Colloque-de-l-Alliance-francaise.html
  6. in D. VERNET, “Une certaine idée de la France”, Le Monde, 13.2.1988.
  7. BRINKBÄUMER – J. A. HEYER, “We Need to Develop Political Heroism”, interview with E. MACRON, Der Spiegel, 13.10.2017, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/interview-with-french-president-emmanuel-macron-a-1172745.html
  8. FOTTORINO - L. GREILSAMER – A. VAN REETH, “J’ai rencontré Paul Ricoeur qui m’a rééduqué sur le plan philosophique”, Le 1 Hebdo, 8.7.2015, https://le1hebdo.fr/journal/nuero/64/j-ao-rencontr-paul-ricoeur-qui-m-a-rduqu-sur-le-plan-philosophique-1067.html#
  9. Ibidem.
  10. -B. NOÉ, “Napoléon IV”, France en marche? (by M. KORINMAN), Paris 2017, Collection Outre-Terre, L’Esprit du Temps, pp. 23-27.
  11. MACRON, Révolution. C’est notre combat pour la France, s.l. 2016, XO Éditions.
  12. ZARETSKY, “The Louvre Isn’t Just a Museum. It’s a Power Tool”, Foreign Policy, 10.11.2017.
  13. “The Soft Power 30. A Global Ranking of Soft Power”, 2017, Portland, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, https://softpower30.com
  14. “Intel Chief: Spying in Space, Space Weapons a Growing Threat; FBI & Intel Chiefs Senate Intel Committee”, CNN Newsroom, 13.2.2018, http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1802/13/cnr.03.html
  15. “Indice Conflits de la puissance globale”, an exclusive report by Conflits, no. 17, April 2018.
  16. GAUCHON, “Cocorico!”, Conflits, no. 17, April 2018, p. 62.
  17. General de Gaulle’s warning to the French in Great Britain, gathered in London on March 1st, 1941. See the editorial entitled “The impossibility of being normal”, Limes 3/2012, “France without Europe”, pp. 8-9.
  18. Thus spoke the president as reported by E. CARRÈRE, “Macron according to Carrère”, IL 97, 11.2017, http://24ilmagazine.ilsole24ore.com/2017/11macron-secondo-carrere/
  19. F. BRAUDEL, L’identité de la France, Paris 2011, Flammarion p. 269, in which he states his debt to the great geographer Paul Vidal de la Blache.
  20. Ivi, p. 310.
  21.  
  22. MACRON, Révolution. C’est notre combat pour la France, s.l. 2016, XO Éditions, p. 53.
  23. DEBRÉ, “Discours devant le Conseil d’État”, 27.8.1958, http://mjp.univ-perp.fr/textes/debre1958.htm
  24. MACRON, “Discours du Président de la République à l’ouverture de la conférence des Ambassadeurs”, 29.8.2017, http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/discours-du-president-de-la-republique-a-l-ouverture-de-la-conference-des-ambassadeurs
  25. Cfr. E. BRENNER (pseudonym used by G. BENSOUSSAN), Les territoires perdus de la République, Paris 2002, Pluriel.
  26. Cfr. il dossier “”2013-2018, an x-ray of terrorism ‘made in France’”, Le Monde, 29.3.2018.
  27. Cfr. C. GUILLUY, Fractures françaises, Paris 2010, Bourin.
  28. Cfr. “Angles morts stratégiques et vulnérabilités françaises”, La Vigie, 17.1.2018.
  29. E. MACRON, Révolution. C’est notre combat pour la France, s.l. 2016, XO Éditions, p. 153.
  30. In April 1944 the author of Étrange défaite wrote, “The day will come (…) and perhaps soon, when it will be possible to shine a light on the intrigues organised in our country between 1933 and 1939 in favour of the Rome-Berlin axis to leave to it the dominion of Europe, destroying with our own hands the entire edifice of our alliances and our friendships.” Cfr. M. BLOCH, Cahiers politiques, no. 8, “Á propos d’un livre trop peu connu”, L’étrange défaite, p. 253. Quoted in exergue by A. LA CROIX-RIZ, Le choix de la défaite. Les élites françaises dans les Années 1930, Paris 2010, Armand Colin.
  31. Cfr. The quote redacted by E. JENNINGS, “La France libre naît en Afrique-Équatoriale”, in the miscellaneous book curated by P. BOUCHERON, Histoire mondiale de la France, Paris 2017, Seuil, pp. 621-624.
  32. Cfr. R. DAHRENDORF, Perché l’Europa?Riflessioni di un europeista scettico, Roma-Bari 1997, Laterza. Original title Warum EUropa? Nachdenkliche Anmerkungen eines skeptischen Europäers.
  33. “Européiste. Nom et adjectif – Partisan d’une Europe fédérale (par opposition à souverainiste)”, Dictionnaire Larousse, http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/europ%C3%A9iste/10910946
  34. “Souverainiste. Adjectif et nom – Partisan d’une Europe consituée de nations souveraines. Au Québec, partisan de la province du Québec au statut d’État souverain”, Dictionnaire Larousse, http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/souverainiste/74002?q=souverainiste#73172
  35. “Initiative pour l’Europe – Discours d’Emmanuel Macron pour une Europe souveraine, unie, démocratique”, Présidence de la République française, 26.9.2017, http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/initiative-pour-l-europe-discours-d-emmanuel-macron-pour-une-europe-souveraine-unie-democratique/
  36. Cfr. Among others H. ALBERT, Traktat über kritische Vernunft, Tübingen 1968, J.C.B. Mohr Verlag.
  37. See endnote 7.
  38. T. N’DIAYE, La langue marche des peuples noirs, Paris 2002, Publibook, p. 107.