The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

France Isn’t In A Civil War Yet, But It Is Close

So, the main police unions in France put out this rather deranged statement:

Now that’s enough…

Facing these savage hordes, asking for calm is no longer enough, it must be imposed!

Restoring the republican order and putting the apprehended beyond the capacity to harm should be the only political signals to give.

In the face of such exactions, the police family must stand together.

Our colleagues, like the majority of citizens, can no longer bear the tyranny of these violent minorities.

The time is not for union action, but for combat against these “pests”. Surrendering, capitulating, and pleasing them by laying down arms are not the solutions in light of the gravity of the situation.

All means must be put in place to restore the rule of law as quickly as possible.

Once restored, we already know that we will relive this mess that we have been enduring for decades.

For these reasons, Alliance Police Nationale and UNSA Police will take their responsibilities and warn the government from now on that at the end, we will be in action and without concrete measures for the legal protection of the Police, an appropriate penal response, significant means provided, the police will judge the extent of the consideration given.

Today the police are in combat because we are at war. Tomorrow we will be in resistance and the government will have to become aware of it.”

So. The bolded part is important: it’s a declaration that the police unions won’t obey the orders of the government if they don’t agree. This is something I’ve been expecting (and seeing) for a while. During the Trucker Convoy in Canada, the police refused to enforce the law and arrest the protestors. That’s why, in the end, the government froze the bank accounts of protestors, because they couldn’t get the cops to enforce the law against people they liked and agreed with.

The same sort of thing happens over and over in the US, where right wing protestors aren’t arrested, often even when they commit violence, but are protected by the police.

Now the riots in France are largely Muslim, though not entirely. The Muslim immigrants have been pushed into suburbs and left to rot, with no effective way to move up in society, and at the same time social services have been repeatedly cut and money has, in France, as in all neoliberal nations, been funneled to the top. This bleeding ulcer is old, about 50 years old, and everyone has noted that it was bound to cause problems. These aren’t the first riots, they’re just the worst.

France has had a lot of riots and protests over the past few years, notably related to Macron’s increase of the pension age and rules, which means that many people will have to work into their 70s. (Theoretically one can retire before then, but for most people, the pension will not be enough without more years of work.) Those protests and riots were mostly white.

One of the topic categories on this blog is “the age of war and revolution”. I put it up in 2000, to indicate what was to come.

The current riots will be defeated. They’re large, but not serious. The rioters are not marching on the government and government officials, which is what would be required to actually overthrow the government. It isn’t a civil war.

But the police indicating they won’t accept legal orders, not just by passive resistance (as in Canada) but in outright defiance of the government is a very dangerous sign. The usual requirements for a successful revolution are an elite faction in support, a popular protest and the defection of at least some of the enforcer class.

France is very close to meeting those requirements: part of the elite agrees with the cops, there is a right wing primarily white conservative populist movement and the police are now showing clear defiance.

So, France isn’t in a civil war yet, but it could be soon.

As for the left, this is a fulcrum point. They need to strike and strike hard as soon as possible, because France’s Fifth Republic appears to be on its last legs. If the right overthrows it, the left will be in exile for at least two generations. It’s the right or the left, and right now the right seems most likely.

More on this and the general situation soon.

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  1. Feral Finster

    As long as the police and army will still shoot when ordered to, Macron can keep partying with Elton John with nothing to fear.

    Far as I can tell, the French security services are just itching to be let off the leash.

  2. Feral Finster

    Years and years and years ago, I had a grad school colleague from France. He told me that he loved the United States and wanted to emigrate permanently.

    I asked why.

    He said that not many Americans would understand, they would not get it, but he was half-Jewish and half-Arab. In America, nobody cared. He pointed out that I understood what this meant in France, but I still didn’t care.

    Lord knows I rag on US policy, but credit where credit is due. So I told him “Welcome home, brother.”

  3. Ian Welsh

    The cops will shoot muslims and the left, but will they shoot if it’s the right?

  4. StewartM

    France has had a lot of riots and protests over the past few years, notably related to Macron’s increase of the pension age and rules, which means that many people will have to work into their 70s. (Theoretically one can retire before then, but for most people, the pension will not be enough without more years of work.)

    The rioters are completely right here, as even “you’ll just have to work a few more years” official shtick is just a lie. What will happen, from the US experience, is “we’ll still lay you off or ‘retire’ you at the current retirement age [or before], the goal is just to make you POORER and us RICHER”.

  5. Soredemos

    Or the police are just being the typical loumouthed , melodramatic blowhards they usually are in all times and places.

    Can we please stop declaring how ‘X country is near a civil war’? It keeps happening in recent years, and it’s never true. It wasn’t true in America, it wasn’t true in Russia, and it very likely isn’t remotely true in France. When everything blows over and absolutely nothing has happened or changed, the civil war declarers just end up with egg on their faces.

  6. Tallifer

    “The Collapse of the Third Republic” from1969 by the journalist William Shirer is quite a shocking chronicle of the lawless tolerance showed French fascists by the police and armed forces in just before the second world war.

  7. NR

    The right is ascendant all across Europe, not just France (Italy is another big example). A big driver of this is migration, an issue that the left has handled very poorly so far. And to be fair, migration is a reasonable concern in Europe. Africa has twice the population of Europe and parts of it are already uninhabitable or nearly so, and those parts are going to expand dramatically over the next decade.

    Europeans can see desperate people trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe almost every day during the warm months. And they can see that more people are doing it now than were a few years ago, so the situation is escalating rapidly. This is a situation that generates fear, and fear pushes people toward “strong” leaders with easy solutions, not those who treat the situation with more nuance.

    I’m not sure what the left can do in this situation as it’s much easier for the right to thrive in such an environment.

  8. Willy

    I worked with a couple guys in Portland who’d befriended each other at a job in Tel Aviv. Up until a lunch we all had together, they’d preferred to be known as the buddies with the Greek surname and the middle eastern surname. When I figured out they were actually a Jew and a Palestinian, they told me they wanted to keep that a secret since “many of our American coworkers aren’t that evolved yet”. That was in the late 90’s, between the two big WTC attacks. Obviously, the cultural environment has gotten worse for those two in recent years.

    It amazes me that the color of the tribe must for so many, be far more important than the PTB importing cheap labor to displace and disempower the native labor. It seems obvious to me that the PTB does whatever it can to influence perceptions away from that fact, with all the resulting civil disturbance. Somehow, the left needs to get the idea that sensible immigration can work well, while the plutocratic right is full of shit.

  9. Curt Kastens

    Some good news is the those who support the right in France are not going to be in power much longer because they will not be alive much longer, along with everyone else.
    It should be pretty clear to those who have been watching things develope that global temperature this June is so high not only because of an El Nino but because the planet has actually reached tipping points that are going to cause a non linear change in the global climate, and the average human life span.
    The world might have enough global reserves of food to get us through simultaneous bad harvests in Ukraine and the US mid west and Asia for the next year. But what about the year after that and the year after that? Maybe industrial civilization will not collapse with this El Nino cycle. But what about the one after this one or the one after that one?
    It looks to me like it is to late for a happy ending. But I can hope for one more surprising tewist before the Curt Ian falls.

  10. Purple Library Guy

    You know, it occurs to me that the cops, both in France and North America, are headed for a problem similar to Israel’s. That is, they’ve gradually shifted from being bipartisan supporters of the establishment in general to partisan supporters of the hard right, and other parts of the establishment are gradually noticing.

    So like, time was Israel had massive and unbreakable bipartisan support in the US from both Republicans and Democrats alike. And Israel was generally fairly nonpartisan in how it interacted with the US. As Israel’s own politics shifted right, the Labour party died and so on, while in the US there was a rise of the religious far right with their massive enthusiasm for Israel, Israel’s politics have increasingly shifted to outright support of the Republicans, and this is one of the sources of Democratic politicians’ support for Israel fracturing. Not that there is now zero support for Israel among Democratic politicians, but it’s weaker; some continue with status quo strong Israel support, some have weaker and more critical support, and some get away with being basically anti-Israel in a way that would have killed their political careers once upon a time. And this is an ongoing process which has not seen its end point, and which seems likely to end up causing Israel significant political trouble.

    A similar thing is happening with the cops; as significant sections of the establishment and middle class feel the cops do not have their backs but are instead standing with the politics of the far right not just in terms of racism but in various other ways such as opposition to “wokeness”, sections of the centre-left and even centrist establishment are ceasing to take the police for granted and starting to see them as a problem. The police are narrowing the societal base they depend on. It could come back to bite them.

    Sure, nobody’s going to “defund the police” in the sense of totally get rid of them. But there seem to be quite a few options floating around for handling most things that currently involve police in other ways; once you start doing those pilot projects and then expanding them and then you do a study saying cops are only called out a quarter as much as before because so much is handled by social workers and mental health experts, the political cover for cutting them way back gets a lot more solid, and if everyone knows they’re a bunch of alt-right bastards who cannot be trusted by the centrist establishment (let alone progressives of any stripe), there’s gonna be motive to do it.

  11. Ian Welsh

    Damn smart comment, PLG. I might make it into a post, if you’re OK with it.

  12. Curt Kastens,have%20vowed%20not%20to%20exceed.

    Oops, I guess the link should have gone in to the open tread because it was to long to link it here and the rapid collapse of the climate has nothing to do with the rapid collapse of the 3rd Frensch Republeich.

  13. Purple Library Guy


  14. Feral Finster

    @Ian W.: The French, European and US establishments are all fine with an alliance between Macron and the Far Right, but only so long as that fusion does not question France’s Atlanticist orientation.

    Much the way Team D cultists suddenly became passionate warmongers and defenders of the National Security State, once they understood that this was the price of getting power.

  15. StewartM


    It amazes me that the color of the tribe must for so many, be far more important than the PTB importing cheap labor to displace and disempower the native labor.

    This goes all the way back to the founding of the US. At first the English gentry tried to re-create its system of ‘nobles and serfs’ using indentured servants, and tried to keep these servants in perpetual servitude by extending their length of service for the smallest of transgressions, but as the country was wild, white indentured servants would run away to either start out on their own, or even to live with Native Americans (at first). Faced with the prospect of their entire labor force running off into the woods, the solution the English gentry seized upon was the importation of African slaves, who were visibly different (well, at first they tried Native American slaves, but they didn’t not to live as long due to contact with European diseases for which they had little immunity).

    Paradoxically, slavery resulted in the rise in status for poor whites. This explains much of US history, why the worst racism is often seen among poor whites who owned no slaves, as they knew that their status depended on blacks staying slaves. In the North, West and even South where “free labor” predominated, anti-slavery sentiment was driven by white free labor not wanting to compete with black slaves (this is the real reason that the Dred Scott decision caused such an uproar in the North and West, as it seemed to indicate that no state or territory could really outlaw slavery, as the decision indicated that they would have to enforce the ‘property rights’ of slave owners bringing their slaves to free states or territories….allowing slave labor to compete with free white labor). Later, this same sentiment resurfaced when blacks migrated north. An interesting fact is that so called “Sundown Towns” (i.e., ‘better no blacks be here after sundown”) were far more prevalent *outside* the South than in it, with the Southern exceptions being Southern Appalachia and rural Arkansas where there were traditionally no slaves.

    Again, this is to keep cheap black labor from competing with white labor.

    But here’s the rub: more labor is overall a good thing. More labor means that we create more wealth, as it is work, not capitalists manipulating paper assets, that really creates wealth. So we all should agree that work should be rewarded more. So having immigrants come in to work, as long as they are being paid as well as the natives, is a good thing. As I’ve said many times, American companies as far as I can see run chronically understaffed. But that’s impossible to do as long as you let employment be at the discretion of a class of ‘useless eaters’ who contribute nothing to the economy, who are looking at increasing their own short-term personal incomes/wealth even more than the well-being of the business firms they control.

    The failure here is that most working-class people have what (I believe) is a ‘peasant mentality’–they see that they’re being screwed, but still believe in the ‘rightness’ of their social system and believe that the fix is going back to a (fantasy) time when everything was done right. They believe this because it’s been drummed incessantly into them that “there is no alternative” to their social economic system. We can rather easily accommodate immigrants and the skills they bring without pulling down anyone’s wages, as long as we aren’t required to also maintain the ‘useless eater’ multi-millionaire and billionaire class. We can indeed afford the former, but not the latter.

  16. Willy

    I remember when layoff day arrived. The boss appeared and the minions were all huddled in the corner with the stronger ones pushing the weaker ones forward.

    Okay, maybe it didn’t quite work like that. The way it worked, was that the elites in charge had well in advance of any layoff days manipulated the minions into believing that those they deemed a threat to their own personal power were to be scapegoated as “evil” or “wrong” somehow by the entire group, regardless of group economics. And so they’d be the first to be fired.

    Sometimes there’s a misfire. On a national conservative level, the mob starts going after illegal Hispanics who’re beneficial to elites (and lesser employers too I suppose) since they’ll work for half the price. And then as if by magic, trans panic suddenly takes hold and the mob goes over there. That’s the part I’m interested in, the magic part, the way that elites use stuff like mob psychology and the science of powerlessness to successfully divert mob attentions away from their own useless eater evils.

    As for more labor, yeah maybe, as long as labor competes fairly and offers a full spectrum of services at every level as you’d think a functional capitalism should. I think of the obvious differences between the medical and dental businesses. My in-law doctor for the large corporate investor-owned medical clinic says TINA, with all its impersonal mechanical dysfunctional money extraction racketeering. Yet my dentist operates the way doctors used to back in (fantasy) times. Expensive, but less so, and with far better product quality and capitalistic accountability since the ownership can’t well hide behind layers of rent-seeking TINA.

    Our current elites (with names like Koch and Wilks) are big into manipulating the minions into believing that anybody they deem a threat to their own personal power is bad for everybody else too and to be scapegoated as “evil” or “wrong” somehow, regardless of group economics. Maybe there’s an antidote?

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