A long Sunday for the presidential election...


I will vote Macron with rage. I will not lecture those too angry or desperate to do so, because I can understand them. Party selfishness and identity intoxication have deliberately led us to choose between plague and cholera. I will not forgive them.

I belonged to a party for a long time. While I never considered voting a duty, I have long associated this act with collective assertion and a long-term strategy. It had both an identity and a cultural dimension. For me, as for millions of people, those days are over. All the candidates who failed to understand this have paid in full for being out of step.

For the past fifteen years, voting has only imposed itself on me in terms of its immediate political utility. This is why I did not vote in the first round of the 2017 election, nor in the second, nor in the regional or European elections.

In 2022, fascism is at the gates of power.

There was only one way to try and stop it in the first round, and that was to vote for the Union Populaire. That was the only political use of the vote on 10 April.

We all know that there is only one way to try and stop it on 24 April: to prevent Marine Le Pen from obtaining an absolute majority. Neither a blank vote (which counts for nothing) nor abstention will avoid this catastrophe. In Brazil in 2018, even though voting is compulsory, there was a 22% abstention in the second round (more than in the first) and 8,608,105 blank and invalid votes (6%). Bolsonaro was elected against a discredited Workers’ Party.

The rejection of Macron is much stronger in France in 2022 than was the rejection of the Workers’ Party in Brazil. Voting for him, and even voting at all, is very complicated for millions of women and men who have suffered for five years the devastation of their lives, the destruction of their rights, the destruction of public services, police violence, racist and Islamophobic hatred, and public lies.

I understand them and I will not lecture them.

Those who thought that an antifascist reflex in the second round would be sufficient, those who think it sufficient to ‘call’ for a barrage and a Macron vote are irresponsible. Politics is not a posturing contest. Being photographed in Odessa and writing ‘Liberté Égalité Fraternité’ on a barricade is not enough to stop the Russian bombing.

I will vote for Macron with rage because these irresponsible strategists, who have not suffered in their personal lives either the trampling on their rights, or the devastation of public services, or police violence, or racist and Islamophobic hatred, have led us to the brink.

I will vote for Macron because I, as an academic, haven’t suffered much in my flesh. I can overcome my hatred to try and prevent the people I live among in my town of Saint-Denis, my grandchildren’s classmates, their families, my neighbours, my friends who are activists in associations and trade unions from suffering even worse. To try and prevent this country from becoming a hell for the most fragile and the most stigmatised.

I will have to vote Macron because fascism is here

Fascism is collective lynching that becomes a principle of national unity.

This fascism is here in Marine Le Pen’s programme: the fascism of racial discrimination, the fascism of segregation, of tearing apart the rule of law.

This fascism is today an option for a section of the dominant classes, faced with the impossibility of building democratic consent to their policy of social devastation.

This fascism can win by default on 24 April.

Faced with this, we must reject any optimism about resistance.

Can we really count on resistance from the institutions? From a police force that has already been largely won over and to which it is planned to grant the presumption of legitimate defence? From a justice system that is divided, to say the least? A constitution that can always be amended?

Can we count on a surge in the legislative elections? There is now the potential for a political majority for Marine Le Pen, from Zemmour to Ciotti, from Pécresse’s voters to some of Macron’s. In the past, fascism has always known how to manipulate the survival reflexes of conservative political personnel and build, at least initially, majority coalitions. The conditions are ripe for this in France.

Can we seriously count on resistance from the ‘fourth estate’, when we know the power already acquired within it by authoritarian finance, of which Bolloré is but one name?

Can we count on a political leap of faith by the left as a whole? We may hope so, but without too many illusions. This last decade has been marked by a wave of abandonment, on the social front as well as that of freedoms and anti-racism, by a section of the left seeking economic, security and Islamophobic respectability. When a section of this left has not simply anticipated calls for a coup de force – the officers’ appeal of 21 April 2021 took up the very terms of the ‘Manifesto of the Hundred’ of 31 October 2020, a real call for an academic inquisition.

I will have to vote Macron and I won’t forgive you

This political situation has not come out of thin air. It is the fruit of an experience of non-stop social destruction and a liberticidal state during three successive presidencies.

Is it an exaggeration to say that from the Sarkozyist right via the Hollandist left to the Macronist ‘neither right nor left’, the social and political violence of the state has been constantly growing?

Is it an exaggeration to say that this continuity is claimed by its agents themselves, a former president mired in legal cases and another who personally nurtured Macronism?

We knew this situation before 10 April. On that day, the inevitable happened. The duel desired by the rulers will take place. But was it desired only by them?

The promptness of certain calls to vote unconditionally for the President, an eye-gouger, a liberticide, a liquidator of public services and the state, and a destroyer of the lives of ‘those who are nothing’, is a warning to us.

Obviously, Anne Hidalgo, candidate of a bankrupt Socialist Party, Fabien Roussel, who has hollowed out the Communist Party, and Ecologist Yannick Jadot, whose party has for several years resembled an agency for recruiting ministers ‘neither left nor right’, expected this result more than they feared it. And they prepared for it with diatribes more often directed against Jean-Luc Mélenchon than against the danger of the far right.

Their discomfiture was not due to a fear of the second round and the cost of their strategy for the country, but to the financial and political cost of this first round for their respective formations.

In retrospect, it is easy to understand why no unity of the left was possible in advance. The three parties with which this unity was conceivable had held aloof from the Gilets Jaunes movement, expressed reluctance, even condemnation, towards the march against Islamophobia, cultivated ambiguity at best vis-à-vis the law on ‘separatism’, and taken part in the demonstration of 19 May 2021 called by the Alliance police union.

Their respective apparatuses, mired in internal rivalries, having to manage an electoral implantation and ensure re-election, are more sensitive to the air of the times than to the air of struggles, more suited to the institutional agenda than to the inventiveness of mobilisation.

These are not, therefore, surmountable nuances on the definition of secularism, but deep disagreements over the struggles of the most deprived and the most stigmatised, over the most fundamental freedoms. These are capitulations in mid battle on essential grounds of resistance to the fascisation underway.

Worse, these desertions have been carried like flags. Each week of the campaign brought us another slip-up by the PCF candidate. Whether it was a slip in language (about the risk of Muslims being sent ‘home’) or a slip in substance (about ‘wokism’ or the ‘radicalised fringe of peripheral districts’), the accumulation ended with a certain logic: for Fabien Roussel and his campaign team, popular politics had to be narrow-mindedly ‘French’, hostile to the autonomous struggles of the dominated against domination. Some would say white and paternalistic, even colonial.

For these apparatuses, Mélenchon’s accession to the second round was a mortal prospect against which they each in their own way pitted themselves, privileging their survival over the political urgencies of the day, and their own future over that of the country.

I will be able to vote for Macron because a force of resistance is emerging

I will vote for Macron not because these arsonists are calling for a vote for Macron, but because there was the dynamic of the Union Populaire.

Nothing suggested this a few months ago.

Mélenchon’s previous campaigns for the presidency saw a succession of very different political devices and narratives. The Front de Gauche campaign in 2012 showed its leader’s ability to combine the themes, imaginaries and lexicons of the components of a left still very much marked by its recent past, reluctant to assist the emergence of a more contemporary radicalism. The 2017 campaign of La France Insoumise allied a strategy very much marked by the ‘left-wing populism’ in vogue at the time with a republicanism unwilling to understand the ravages of an Islamophobic ‘laïcité’ in full development. The revolution through the ballot box spelled out in Mélenchon’s great speech of 18 March 2017 at the Place de la République was supposed to solve everything by a democratic refoundation. In the wake of its electoral success we saw that La France Insoumise had not rid itself of a partisan logic in electoral matters. The devastating effects of this were shown in the legislative elections as well as the local ones.

In Saint-Denis in 2020, a list bringing together a wide range of activists from voluntary organisations, women and men from the neighbourhoods, was promoted by La France Insoumise. A real dynamic was set in motion, anchored in these neighbourhoods. It could have prevented the discredit of the outgoing PCF team from handing power to the Socialists. But the distrust of certain Insoumise militants towards these people, their desire to instrumentalise them, their way of presenting themselves and their refusal to share responsibilities did considerable damage. The experiment turned out to be a failure. Coming third, the list neither merged with the incumbents nor participated in the second round. The Socialists took over the mayor’s office with the firm intention of gentrifying this poor and solidaristic city.

Those (including myself) who have been closely confronted with the failings of La France Insoumise initially looked askance at the launch of Union Populaire. It has to be said that this most recent metamorphosis was a pleasant surprise. Mélenchon ‘season 3’ appeared from the outset as a salutary pole of resistance on three points: resistance to the police state, resistance to racism and especially Islamophobia (two essential points in the process of fascisation), and the construction of an authentically social and ecological project that is both radical and credible.

This political clarity has been built over two years: participation in the march against Islamophobia on 10 November 2019, refusal of the ‘separatism’ law by the only unanimously negative group vote in the National Assembly in February 2021, refusal to participate in the police demonstration called by Alliance on 19 May 2021.

Moreover, the puzzle of the link between struggles and politics, a knotty debate among militants for decades, has found for the time being an embryonic resolution: the ‘parliament of the Union Populaire’, a constellation of activists, artists, intellectuals engaged in the most diverse and contemporary struggles.

Of course, the initiative in support of Mélenchon organised on 30 March at Le Franc Moisin in Saint-Denis would probably have been even more massive without the traces left by the hazardous adventure of the 2020 municipal elections. But links have been renewed. A Mélenchon vote in estates of this type was the only possible vote of resistance for women and men despised, discriminated against, and violated on a daily basis, with the indifference or even complicity of a good part of the political world of the left.

A first vote by young people, a tidal wave in working-class towns and communities, and a visible and unexpected rise in participation in neighbourhoods where this wasn’t expected – this new consistency of political subjectivity, this new resonance of institutional issues among women and men mistreated by successive governments, was undoubtedly the key event of 10 April.

This firmness of principle and inclusiveness certainly ensured its success and the diversity of support that built up right up to the last minute: from Ségolène Royal to Houria Bouteldja, from Cyril Dion to the networks of historical activists from working-class neighbourhoods, from academics to Priscilla Ludosky, one of the initiators of the Gilets Jaunes movement, from Caroline de Hass to the rapper Médine.

A pole of political resistance is possible such as the presidential term now ending has not known. It carries the counter-narrative that we have missed so much: at once radical, united, clear and credible in its perspectives.

A long Sunday in April

24 April will be a long Sunday. The hours will tick by as we anxiously await a result that will only open up the perspective of resistance.

Until then, we can at least work to dissuade those who might be tempted to vote against Macron.

Until then, we can at least remember that fascism is often a journey without no peaceful return.

Until then, I will explain to those willing to hear that I will vote Macron because the first round prepared the conditions for a more determined resistance to a new five-year term of the representative of authoritarian finance.

We will soon know whether the famous ‘happy days’ will taste of blood and tears.

As for you, armchair lecturers on antifascism, you who denounced the Gilets Jaunes, castigated the communitarianism of the oppressed, insulted veiled women, condemned single-sex meetings, let the ‘separatism’ law pass, underestimated the violence of the Macronist state, demonstrated along with the police – vote and above all shut up!

It’s the only useful thing you can do.

Regards, 15 April 2022


Translated by David Fernbach

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