Friday, October 6, 2017


By now everyone throughout France and Navarre knows that Emmanuel Macron accused some obstreperous workers of seeking to "foutre le bordel" instead of looking for work. Hence Jupiter, who wants to be compared de Gaulle, has been increasingly compared to Sarkozy. The lofty words of the Sorbonne speech on Europe, meant to inspire a generation, have been replaced by the overheard ejaculation at GS&M and compared to the "casse-toi pauvr' con" of two presidencies past.

Cruel fate. The French feign to have forgotten the de Gaulle who said "La réforme oui, la chie-en-lit non." A certain military bluntness was part of the general's character. Macron seems to want to appropriate this side of de Gaulle as well, the de Gaulle whose often gruff table talk was faithfully reproduced by Alain Peyrefitte. Macron's provocations are too frequent to be accidental. The man himself is too disciplined to let slip words like illettrés and fainéants and foutre le bordel. He is a man of many voices, one when he is flattering Paul Ricoeur, another when he wants to ingratiate himself with CEOs (and project firmness to the nation beyond--he could hardly have failed to notice the boom mike hovering above his head when he made his "off-the-record" remark).

The many Macrons have yet to coalesce into a single clear image, which may never arrive. The scattered oppositions are trying to hang various images of their own around his neck. For France Insoumise he is "the president of the rich." Meanwhile, as Thomas Legrand perceptively noted this morning, the Republicans are trying to paint him as un déraciné, harking back to the language of Maurice Barrès. They have formed a new mission, "La France des Territoires," as the spearhead of their quest to reclaim the voters lost to the Front National. They see their new majority in rural and small-town France, which they contrast to the "rootless cosmopolitan" France that, in their telling, elected Macron. Echoes of the 1930s overlay the Barrèsian imagery.

Meanwhile, François Baroin has made himself the apostle of the communes of France, combining the identitarian thrust of La France des Territoires with the resentment many local officials feel because of Macron's drastic cuts in the budget for local and regional assistance. He appeared on RTL this morning singing this tune while Legrand was reading his editorial on France Inter. For him, Macron is the ultra-Jacobin "recentralizer," against whom he is raising the banner of Girondin resistance. The eternal recurrence of certain narrative clichés promises a revival of la société bloquée.

Thus the "social fractures" between urban and rural France, between globalized and protectionist France, between thriving and suffering France, so evident in the voting returns, have begun to find expression in the rhetoric of resistance to Macronism, as everyone tries to foutre le bordel un peu partout.


Robinson said...
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Robinson said...

Baroin is an opportunist, of course, but he's right to see an opportunity here. What Gauchet says about Macron is true. Unlike what some commentors here say or imply, Macron is not an empty suit without ideas. He has strong ideas, essentially about the liberalization of the economy, and he has a plan to implement them. Macron lacks anything convincing to say to "la France qui va mal." When he throws them a bone it seems like a coup de comm' because it is a coup de comm' and nothing more. This will not matter if the French economy really takes flight, and there have been a few promising signs of late.

Still, for me to believe that would require more faith in the efficacy of Macron's reforms than I have, particularly after the depressing German election results. I don't think that Macron's liberalizing reforms will do enough to jump-start the French economy without corresponding "socializing" reforms in the Eurozone, and those are not on offer: Macron evidently said that he was "dead" if Merkel partnered with the FDP. I fear that he was right.

Unknown said...

This and the previous post are excellent examples of passing on the culture while analyzing what happened this morning.

The above comment is convincing but I'd say that Macron has strong ideas about European integration and geopolitics as well as economic reform, if not yet the experience. He's a former banker and economics minister but has a much wider range. One guide to what's going on is that foreign leaders are taking him seriously.

Massilian said...

About the way de Gaulle spoke, vs the way Macron or Sarko express themselves, you probably remember the brief strange encounter between de Gaulle and Gl. Massu, May 29th 1968 on the German Baden Baden Airport and de Gaulle asking Massu : - Alors Massu, toujours gaulliste ? - Toujours aussi con, mon général! , answered Massu. Si non e vero e ben trovato, but as said Malraux, " between the truth and the legend, trust the legend ".

Robinson said...

@Ronald Tiersky: I agree that Macron has excellent ideas for the future of Europe. What he lacks is the ability to convince the Germans to accept them. On the other side of the Rhine, French proposals about the Eurozone are always interpreted as: Germany must give France and southern Europe more money. Macron was better placed than Sarkozy or Hollande (or, certainly, any of his electoral competitors except perhaps Fillion) to persuade the Germans to make meaningful concessions. However, the Germans are unwilling, and Merkel unable, to make meaningful concessions even to Macron. So Macrons Euro-ideas are academic: if Lindner accepts any of Macron's Eurozone proposals, he will twist them into measures for enforcing ever greater austerity on Germany's partners.

As for Macron's language- the problem isn't that it is salty. It is that Macron, like Sarkozy, seems to think that the poor and unemployed are lazy. His insults - like Sarkozy's - may project firmness, but they project a few other qualities as well.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that foreign leaders are taking Macron more seriously than they came to take Hollande: Trudeau, Putin, Modi, Trump and various Arab and South American heads of state. All of them "tough guys" (Trudeau of course excepted). Trump evidently was so impressed with the July 14th parade that he wants to have an imitation version in Washington!

I'd be curious to hear Art's opinion about Macron's "geopolitical" vision. Is it worth France's while to have such an expensive army, one with nuclear weapons and the ability to intervene in Africa and (piano) in the Middle East? What does France really get out of this, besides chauvinistic pride and the "respect" of Putin, Trump, Modi et. al.? Particularly as Germany seems to have little desire to help pay for a European army.

Anonymous said...

Bordel was used in the context of people complaining instead of learning where companies that cannot fill jobs' req are - low skilled jobs that is.
An element of truth, the lack of mobility of the frenchs when it comes to reaching a job ? partly due to paperwork bureaucracy, caf, cpam

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Robinson,

If Macron has highly developed ideas in which he genuinely believes, he should share them with us instead of speaking in generalities and god-like platitudes. If he has actual plans, as you suggest, then he should propose them so that they can be put into law and he and his presidency can be judged on the results. Otherwise, I will continue to see Macron as nothing more than the sum of his ambitions.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Massilian,

I actually see nothing unlikely in that exchange between De Gaulle and Massu, particularly in light of his refusal to join the revolt of the generals and his later statement: “I would never have marched with the putsch, because I have always been with De Gaulle, whatever.”  Whatever Massu’s faults (and they were many and serious), he remained loyal to De Gaulle and to a certain conception of France that had no truck with the scum of Vichy.

What I have always found interesting in the exchange is the obvious subtext in a time of social upheaval spiced with the constant threat of assassination and military coups.  Particularly in view of how Massu was seen by the public, the fears of a military coup in Paris and in view of his role as head of the perversely named Committee of Public Safety.  

I don’t doubt that the words were exchanged; what interests me is whether it was a spontaneous private message of reassurance intended specifically for Massu’s old friend or whether it was a public declaration of loyalty and a message from one of France's most important generals to certain factions within the army and to the powerful forces of the extreme-right among France’s elites seeking to overthrow De Gaulle and replace him with a version of Vichy that would encompass all of France this time.