France is not Spain, nor Macron Sanchez

13 Jun

Reuters headlines of June 10 (above) and June 9

Alexander Mercouris is too well informed on Ukraine and Middle East, and too lucidly nuanced in his reasoning, to be ignored on so trifling a ground as his fondness for the sound of his own voice. That’s why he’s such a steel city regular, usually in duets with Alex Christoforou; peppered with assurances – “I think you’re absolutely right …”  – to his co-host before launching into a monologue as astute and engaging (if you’re not pushed for time) as it is word-profligate.

Yesterday the pair put out a video, at 30:43 short by their standards, on the thinking of French President Emmanuel Macron. Many say the man’s calling of a snap election, after severe losses to Marina Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National in EU elections widely deemed to be referenda on their respective nations’ governments, show a would-be Napoleon throwing toys from pram. Without radically departing from this assessment, the two Alexes add political and psychological nuance. Here are the main points:

  1. France and Spain are two very different kettles of fish. The far-right bogeyman card was always going to play better in a country whose baby-boomers had from cradle to thirty-something known the grim repression of el caudillo,  Francisco Franco. Even the oldest of their French counterparts, by contrast, were still in diapers when Philippe Pétain and his Vichy Government were energetically collaborating with the Nazi occupier.
  2. Political similarities between Macron and other neoliberal globalist players in what Tariq Ali dubbed “The Extreme Centre” are striking. This had Alexander and Alex speculating on a future for M. Macron on the dinner talk circuit, holding forth to great applause and greater remuneration by globalism’s great and good. Maybe he’d even surpass the stellar career path of its gleaming poster boy, Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. They conclude however (in politer terms than mine) that while both men are war criminals who royally screwed their nations to please on the one hand their Washington handlers, on the other a creditor oligarchy, two things set them apart. One, Blair was an arch-manipulator with well honed ‘people skills’, while Macron has the emotional intelligence of a bolt-cutter. Two, Blair did many things to the people of his country but, if he harboured the level of contempt Macron held for his, he did a better job of concealing it.

To which I’ll add a more far-reaching point. These are times of tectonic shift, in which a half century of financialisation in the West has left it, to quote from the Paul Craig Roberts piece cited in yesterday’s post, “corrupt and exhausted” even as Eurasia rises; a 500 year nightmare come true for the West’s rulers, as I noted on the eve of Russia’s SMO in Ukraine, and from a different angle apropos a man Roberts has called “our greatest living economist”.

See, Why read Michael Hudson? Part 3.

That’s the context in which Tariq Ali’s Extreme Centre is in panic over a “Far Right” defined by rentier  elites unwilling or unable to distinguish social conservatism from the Real McCoy, for instance an Azov Battalion they’ve been busily arming this past two and half years.

Above, the Youth Section of the Azov strut their stuff in Kiev prior to February 2022. Below, the grown-ups display a banner bearing not entirely coincidental resemblance to the emblem of Hitler’s Waffen SS.


There’s more to be said on these things, some of it in my long overdue review of Glenn Diesen’s magisterial 2024 work, The Ukraine War and the Eurasian World Order. One leitmotif is that “woke” sentiments have not simply been expediently weaponised by neoliberalism. They align with it at a deeper level. Charges of “Russian homophobia” are too useful to Western narrative managers to be taken at face value but Russian belief, Moscow Judaist and Orthodox Christian no less than Chechen Muslim, in the sanctity of the family is genuine. As is the bemused disgust, shared by the global south, at a West which can send a convicted male rapist, with kit intact, to a women’s jail because “she” identifies as female …

… and fire a civil servant for tweeting her insistence, grounded in science no less than common sense, that sex is both biological and binary. 1

Another is that the tectonic shift I speak of finds expression in a struggle between a Hobbesian vision on the one hand – of state sovereignty whose corollary of international anarchy is held in check by Westphalia and Balance of Power – on the other a “rules based order” imposed by a waning hegemon.

But I’m ahead of myself. Let me close with this from my post last September, Broken: the implicit contract between rulers and ruled:

… in 2023 Michael Hudson published The Collapse of Antiquity. It advances a simple thesis. In the early civilisations of Sumer a new king would start his reign by cancelling debt. Why? Because interest on debt rises exponentially while wealth production – from which debt is paid – can at best rise logarithmically. The inexorable logic is therefore for power to accrue to a creditor oligarchy. The forgiveness of debt derailed this tendency, but the new king had to be powerful enough to force it through. To put this in today’s terms, he had to be the very thing liberals (labouring under the delusion that ours is a democracy rather than a creditor oligarchy) condemn in a Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping.

He had to be An Authoritarian. How else could this new king break the destructive – and ultimately self destructive – power of the oligarchs? 


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  1. In a post of three years ago, almost to the day, I wrote:

    In 2019 Maya [Forstater] lost an employment tribunal case, brought under the Equality Act (2010), when ET Judge James Tayler ruled her approach “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”, calling it “absolutist” and heedless of “the enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering”. Maya, he found, was on these grounds not protected by the Act.

    Yesterday, June 10, Employment Appeal Tribunal Judge Akhlaq Choudhury overturned that 2019 ruling. He found that Maya’s “gender-critical beliefs” do fall under the Act as they “did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons”.

    An Appeal Tribunal ruling in Britain is ipso facto a landmark judgment, enshrined in case law. But in a footnote to this happy outcome to an emotionally draining – I speak from some experience – legal battle with an obdurate employer of vastly deeper pockets, I noted that the Lib-Dem Party had barred, as Starmer’s Labour surely would, Natalie Bird from standing for MP after she’d said a trans woman “is not a woman”. Like Maya, she mounted a legal challenge. I should add that the Forstater appeal ruling favours no given position on transgenderism. Rather, it protects the right of any person to say that sex is – or is not – biologically determined. It is unlawful to discriminate against a Briton on the basis of her belief either way.

    One aspect of this issue that surprised me was the confusing – by smart, well meaning and highly educated friends – of three separable truths. One, to bully or demean others for being transgender is vile. Two, believing sex to be binary and biological, as opposed to “a spectrum”, does not of itself place us in category one. Three, those in category two may coexist in peace and harmony with those who, however flat-earth wrongheadedly, say sex is a spectrum. As with “holocaust denial” and “hate crimes”, the Extreme Centre is taking us down a dangerously slippery slope.

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