France Is Spiralling Out of Control

The cold-blooded execution of two prison guards at a Normandy motorway toll on Tuesday has shocked France. It is for many commentators and politicians incontrovertible evidence of the ‘Mexicanisation’ of the Republic.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has told the escaped prisoner and his accomplices that they will be hunted down and punished, but it better be done quickly. With every passing hour that they remain at liberty, it reinforces the image of a state that, in the words of Senator Bruno Retailleau, ‘has lost control’.

Other politicians are talking of a ‘war’. Eric Zemmour told an interviewer the country was engaged in ‘a civil war’, while Francois-Xavier Bellamy of the centre-right Republicans said that the ‘state is in the process of losing the war’.

This is not political hyperbole. Last week, two policemen were shot and wounded in their station in the 13th district of Paris, and in the east of the country, three officers were injured when a driver rammed a vehicle checkpoint. A few weeks ago in northern Paris a mob of 50 attacked a police station with Molotov cocktails and other projectiles.

Exactly three years ago a warning of civil war was sounded by members of the French military. First a group of retired senior army officers wrote an open letter to Emmanuel Macron, outlining their fears for the country because Republican law was being so routinely flouted.

That was followed by a second letter, this one from serving soldiers, who told Macron that ‘civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well’. Do something, they urged the president, before it is too late. ‘We are not talking about extending your mandates or beating opponents,’ they said. ‘We are talking about the survival of our country, the survival of your country.’

Nothing has been done. France is not yet a failed state, but with its surging debts, soaring violence and crumbling infrastructure it feels increasingly like that day might not be far off.

A disturbing glimpse of what may await France has this week been unfolding in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory in the Pacific.

Macron declared a state of emergency on Wednesday evening after two days of urban warfare that has left four dead, including a gendarme, scores wounded and dozens of building firebombed or looted. Terrified residents have described a state of ‘civil war’ with armed militias taking control of parts of the island.

Hundreds of police reinforcement are on their way from France with orders to restore ‘Republican order’.

The violence erupted suddenly on Monday over an issue that might at first glance appear trivial: an electoral reform that will extend the suffrage to include residents from mainland France who have settled on the island this century.

The violence is allegedly being orchestrated by a radical left group committed to independence, even though three referendums have been held in the issue in the last six years, all returning negative results.

The rioters claim that the electoral reform has been concocted by Paris in order to build a strong base of voters opposed to independence. Essentially, then, the conflict is one of identity.

Eric Zemmour has for a number of years referred not to the ‘Mexicanisation’ of France but its ‘Lebanonisation’. He first made the comparison in a television debate in 2021, predicting that France will be a bigger version of the Lebanon where communities no longer peacefully live side but confront each other face to face. He predicted this will be the case by 2050 but he may have been too conservative in his estimate.

Though Zemmour was pilloried by much of the press for his prognosis, a similar scenario had been sketched in 2018 by Gérard Collomb when he resigned as interior minister from Emmanuel Macron’s first government.

Collomb didn’t reference Lebanon but he did warn of a bleak future for France unless the country confronted the insurrectional element within.

Macron shirked the responsibility, just as his predecessors have done this century. In 2011 President Nicolas Sarkozy declared multiculturalism ‘a failure’ and said the priority in future must be the promotion of French identity.

This never materialised, prompting president Francois Hollande to confess in 2016 that levels of immigration, particularly from Islamic countries, was far too high. ‘That there is a problem with Islam is true, no one doubts that,’ he said. ‘How can we avoid partition? Because that’s what’s happening: partition.’

Sarkozy was from the centre-right, Hollande from the centre-left and Macron is a pure centrist. None of them have had the courage, honesty or will to confront this ‘partition’.

For Macron this is turning into the bleakest of weeks. It had begun so well, with the announcement of record investment in France, but the days since have been anarchic and bloody.

A local paper quoted that a ‘heavyweight’ member of the government assessing the weakness of the president: ‘He was a banker and a former minister of the economy, and that’s why he was elected. His premise was that growth and full employment would solve the country’s problems.’

Macron loves the glamour and the power that comes with being president. He gets a thrill from rubbing shoulders with royalty and he enjoys doing deals with business leaders. But when it comes to law and order his political inexperience and his social naivety have been brutally exposed.

That is why France is spiralling out of control.


The Spectator

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