May 1, the tradition fête des travailleurs et travailleuses, turned out not be quite as apocalyptic as the authorities had warned, perhaps exaggerating a bit in order to frighten away potential marchers. Neither was it the convergence des luttes that Jean-Luc Mélenchon had called for. Most of all, it did not signify a renewal of the trade union movement, as Philippe Martinez, the leader of the CGT, had to be exfiltrated from the line of march, or rather one of several lines of march, by his security service when he was caught between the CRS and a contingent of Black Bloc anarchists. Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen hid out in Metz, where she bizarrely denounced the EU (which she now, with her customary habit of acronymic punning, calls “l’UERSS”) for perpetrating an “economic, social, and identitarian Chernobyl,” while her father as usual paid homage to Joan of Arc at the place des Pyramides, but now to general indifference.
In short, this year’s May Day signified nothing so much as the chaotic political landscape that Macron faces in the wake of the Gilet Jaune uprising and the Grand Débat National. The parties of the Left remain in devastated disarray, and yesterday’s chaos demonstrated once again that Mélenchon’s dream of uniting them under the banner of LFI is a fantasy. The Yellow Vests continue to produce marchers without achieving any clarity of purpose, and increasingly they are instrumentalized by the Black Blocs bent on violence. The unions, whose partnership Macron needs to push ahead with his program, seem as disoriented by the protests from below as the politicians themselves. They find themselves on unfamiliar terrain, literally–being forced to march from Montparnasse to la place de l’Italie (where a degeneration of the demo led to an invasion of the Salpetrière hospital) instead of Bastille to République–as well as figuratively. Just as Macron seems prepared to renounce his Jupiterian idea of the presidency, society seems to be dissolving into dust, atomizing itself in a way that may require a Jupiterian response to hold things together.
Taken together, the signs are not encouraging. This May Day seems to have been a collective expression of Mayday, the international distress call (from the French m’aidez!). “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” But at least spring is here. Aidez-nous!
Photo Credit: Scott L, LAPD May Day Protests, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0
Hello and thank you for this look at our 1er mai! I was in London then, so not in the Paris demonstration (not in any Londoner one either).
“The Yellow Vests continue to produce marchers without achieving any clarity of purpose, and increasingly they are instrumentalized by the Black Blocs bent on violence.” Yes. The GJ LREM debate is more and more about violence itself, freedom and demonstration themselves, which is weird. (But not so new, many political conflicts seem to be about the conflict itself, when the aim is lost or unclear). So, the aim looks like lost. Any hypothesis might look like plausible in such a situation. One of them: it’s all about confiance, confidence. Too many people – say, more than two thirds – just won’t believe that the people at the top *try to* act for the common good (left apart agreement or disagreement on policies). If this hypothesis is right, you have several options, including changing the Prime Minister for somebody non-Macronian who would be widely considered as someone of good faith (a little bit like the new Ukrainian president); or: changing institutions in order to grant “the people” more direct control on policies. So far Mr Macron rejected both ways.
“society seems to be dissolving into dust, atomizing itself in a way that may require a Jupiterian response to hold things together.” Yes, dissolved societies often re-unite by “magnetic” polarization around one common leader or against one common enemy. But even more direct control by government (policemen, data files, influencing broadcast media, and the like), as Macron / Castaner try to implement it, cannot do the trick.
“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” But at least spring is here” -> thanks for the direct reference to “Bataille de la Marne”. “Situation excellente : j’attaque” – ok, it was September 8th, 105 years ago. Maybe we need the European elections moor and a Summer rest, before counter-attacking.