An unlikely alliance of former generals and the far right, in France, could yet spring a major surprise in 2022, on President Emmanuel Macron and the French polity.
A few days ago, a number of former military generals wrote an open letter, to the French President, Emmanuel Macron, stating that unless something is done regarding their concerns with radical Islam and immigration, they will forcibly launch a take over of the state, come next year.
Let’s delve into matters further.
Anyone with a fair knowledge of twentieth century French history will appreciate that France hasn’t always been a democracy — in 1940, after Hitler captured Paris, France became an occupied territory and was run by a pro Nazi group, known as the Vichy government. Fast forward to April 1961, a number of military generals attempted a coup, to prevent Charles De Gaulle, from granting independence to Algeria, the crown jewel, in France’s African territory.
It’s also worth pointing out, that a vast majority of France’s former colonies are in North and West Africa — Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Benin, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger, Togo — are Muslim majority countries and citizens of these countries had played an outsize role in liberating France from the yoke of national socialism during the second world war.
Algeria, was to France, what India was to Britain — a highly strategic settler colony, to which great numbers of French citizens had moved. The likes of existentialist writer, Albert Camus and deconstructionist Philosopher, Jacques Derrida were born there.The European population, known as ‘pied noir’ enjoyed special status, out there, much to the detriment of the locals. Once the Muslim population began to agitate for more political rights, things went south. It was from the agitation for autonomy that the war of independence began, which lasted from 1954–1962.
The atrocities committed by the French army — killing several hundreds of thousands of Algerians, in the war, led to great political instability in France, the results of which, was the return of Charles De Gaulle, the dissolution of the fourth republic and the installation of the fifth republic. De Gaulle, on a trip to Algeria, famously, uttered the words, Je vous ai compris (I have understood you) and set about, liberating Algeria from the shackles of France.
The old generals, who had far right instincts then, were dead opposed to the granting of independence to Algeria hence the attempted coup, exactly 60 years ago.
Following decolonization, a number of these former subjects migrated and made France their home, with their descendants making up the five million Muslim population today.
Given that the vast majority of its African immigrant population live in banlieues (public housing, usually run down), with very little hope for social progression, in a society implacably hostile to Muslims, it should hardly come as a surprise, that very small number of young French Algerians have embraced fundamentalist Islam.
The Generals, their Far Right Allies and French Democracy.
It is against the backdrop, of a number of incidents involving French men of Algerian descent over the last 15 years, such as the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, caricaturing Prophet Mohammed and the recent beheading of a school teacher, that these generals chose to voice their threat in a far right wing publication.
What’s more telling about this whole malarkey has been the support of the head of the National front, Marine Le Pen, who is known for her anti immigration and Islamophobic rhetoric. It’s also pertinent to point out that her father, who had served in the armed forces, was also on the side of the generals, who had attempted to overthrow De Gaulle’s government.
A military coup, in this day and age, in one of the world’s mature economies? Isn’t it beyond the realms of possibility and quite frankly preposterous?
Democracy, in the age of China, Russian hackers and far right wing activism on social media, is being undermined on a daily basis and countries like France, whose political institutions are no where near as robust as its citizens would like to think, are particularly vulnerable to a fascist military take over.
In the 2002 and 2017 French Presidential elections, Jean Marie and Marine Le Pen, respectively, made it to the final run offs, gaining tens of millions of votes against mainstream candidates, in Jacques Chirac and the current head of state, Emmanuel Macron.
But the far right and disgruntled ex generals aren’t Emmanuel Macron’s only concern ahead of the elections in 2022. The group known as Gilet Jaune ( Yellow Vests, in English) has risen to prominence, over the course of his presidency, protesting the increase in fuel tax, but doing so, in a way that has captured popular attention. Using the leadership structure that has served the black lives matter movement, so well, they have eschewed the traditional forms of leadership, opting for a much more informal approach.
In a very short time, Gilet Jaune, have built up a strong power base, which has shaken France and its elite class, to its very core. And it is the triple threat of Gilet Jaune, the far right and the old generals that could yet topple the existing order.
If the events of the 6th of January 2021, when far right protesters stormed capitol hill, are anything to go by, nothing can ever be taken for granted, in these extraordinarily precarious times.
How things pan out in France, next year, will send a very powerful message to the rest of the world.
Thanks very much for reading.