153. The marrying maiden (IV)
A few years ago, I suggested that France, then in the grip of the gilets jaunes protests, might be the next nation to fall to a populist revolt. This has not come to pass, since I underestimated the inherent tendency for the French to protest; unlike many other countries, it is normal for France to be in low-level revolt against the state. Just as it is normal for Italy to be without a government, so it is normal for Frenchmen to be burning sheep on a motorway or blockading a port: the French system can withstand—possibly thrives on—this protest, protest that which in other countries might herald the imminent overthrow of the system. It is quite possibly a hormetic relationship: that which does not kill France only makes her stronger—and so the sheep are, once again, burned on the motorway for the glory of France.
Yet I still maintain that the tenor of the recent protests reached an unusual pitch, even for the French; since 2016, the West has been in populist turmoil and I think there is a widespread understanding, on all sides of the political divide, that the current situation cannot last. The Western system is broken in some fundamental way and, indeed, seems to wage war on its core populations; for a time, with Brexit and Trump, the system buckled—now she seems to have pseudo-stabilised into some kind of senile sclerosis under Biden. The question is really how and when—not if—this system will break completely.
In some ways, France is in a very precarious position; she was among the first Western countries to be revolutionised and she has never really recovered from 1789. Remarkable events have happened in France since then, but, before 1789, France was the jewel of Europe—after 1789 her history has been one of bloody confusion, demographic collapse, and military defeat. It is from France that the most pessimistic reactionary writers—Céline, Houellebecq, and Jean Raspail—have emerged: these men whose pessimism lends them an uncanny sense of what the future holds. The future is already here: in some Parisian districts, so I hear, the elderly shutter themselves in at night against the new “them”.
If France is the most far-gone European country in some respects, she also holds within her the seeds of revival: firstly, France has a mass indigenous radical right tradition, represented by the RN; secondly, she has intellectuals who can conceptualise anti-progressivism—important because progressivism is a problem of the mind, almost all Anglo-American intellectuals are liberal progressives by default and it is these ideas that guide the competent parts of Western society in actions of self-destruction; thirdly, France has a tradition of coups—whereas in countries like Britain and America a military correction is almost unthinkable, since it has never happened (at least explicitly, Biden came to power through a demi-coup); fourthly, France has an independent nuclear force: this allows her, like Russia and China, to act independently of the American empire to an extent. This is why France was not fully absorbed into the BLM protests last summer. President Macron is a leftist, but he adheres slightly to the French leftism of the Republic, not American progressivism. This older iteration of leftism—a sort of liberalism—will still see any person as French provided they have mastered the language and traditions; and this—being relatively to the right of contemporary American progressive thought—diffuses the influence of the American empire’s eternal kulturkampf.
The salvation of France will not come from the likes of Marine Le Pen; she is, after all, a woman and Le Pen père has given the family shop to his daughter—rarely a happy outcome, as Poujade would probably have said himself. What remains important about France is her independent intellectual tradition, her mass rightist political movements—such as the gilets jaunes—and her tradition of coups; if all these threads could be woven together, France could become the basis for a new Europe.