Words are important. At a time when words are misused, when nothing seems true or false anymore, it has always seemed important to us to try to leave each word in its place and to use them with the utmost care. Therefore, as Emmanuel Macron reaches the halfway point of his term as President, it seems crucial to us to name precisely the regime currently in place, which could influence the future of our society for many years to come.
At a time when the USA is led by Trump, Brazil by Bolsonaro and the United Kingdom by Boris Johnson, one could consider oneself “happy” to have a person like Macron as Head of State, who could appear modern and measured in the face of the caricatures mentioned above.
But this is what makes it so dangerous. For yes, for the past two and a half years, Macron has been conducting an ultra-authoritarian policy: political opponents mutilated, killed or imprisoned, journalists and human rights observers attacked and legally persecuted, high school students humiliated, ultra-violent and unaccountable militias installed. From week to week, France plunges, without even taking offence, into an authoritarian state. No one is no longer surprised to see hundreds of police officers equipped with weapons of war in the streets of our cities. The norm is now set on the side of a life governed by authoritarian cadres.
What is the definition of authoritarianism? A political system in which authority is established as the supreme value. An authoritarian political regime is one that by various means (propaganda, population control, repression) seeks the submission and obedience of the individuals making up society.
How can France not be considered as perfectly meeting these terms? From now on, the prefect of Paris speaks of being in a camp, and assumes that his party is that of order. The sound of boots is already behind us.
Several decades from now, we will look back on our period and say that in a few months, French citizens have seen their freedom reduced, with the complicit silence of the greatest number of sectors that could have opposed it (political, associative, media...). A period during which it will have been accepted that people will be arrested for simply wearing a yellow vest. Where thousands of citizens were deprived of their right to demonstrate. Or a person in a wheelchair was sentenced to prison because he was present at the demonstration with a weapon (his wheelchair). Where two young Germans were imprisoned for possession of books deemed “too radical” (but nevertheless freely available).
It is also the moment in history when force will have killed, from Steve to Zineb via Aboubacar. And this, without ever being worried since it is part of a clear strategy of the state. There was no burr for all these victims. They were necessary for power.
So yes, for several months now, we have been using the term authoritarianism to talk about the French political system of 2019. It is not totalitarianism, because the plurality of parties and unions is still present. But it is indeed about authoritarianism. And it is already enormous, and too much to be compatible with democracy. Worse. Today we believe that the current power is taking the direction of a post-fascism, that of an ultra-liberal economic system that uses every possible means to maintain itself.
The current government is tolerant, open and modern... as long as it is not questioned. In this, it reminds us of certain dictators who recently fell during the Arab revolutions. In Tunisia, as long as Ben Ali wasn't questioned, everything seemed to be fine. But you can't be partially free. You are free. Or we're not. And today's “democracies” tell us this: “you are free, as long as you don't question the system”.
In France, the unexpected Yellow Vest movement has revealed the true face of power. If its violence had already manifested itself during the movements against the Labour Law, with militias already out of control (Benalla power), everything has burst out in the open and in an obvious way with the GJ movement. The political opponents of 2020 know that they are being hunted down, virtually and on the ground. Hundreds of citizens are behind bars for simply participating in social movements. Others have lost an eye, a hand or a leg. The numbers look like those of a civil war. Because the authorities wanted it that way.
Can we still talk about fascism in France? The “original” fascism was defined, according to Mussolini's own formula, as: “Everything in the State, nothing out of the State, nothing against the State! “The State is thus erected as the ultimate structure to be protected, much more than democracy, or, heresy, humanism, equality, fraternity. At the time, fascism was defined as a reaction to the values of the democratic humanism of the Enlightenment and rejected human rights, communism, anarchism, individual freedoms and liberalism.
Of course, the current power in France is far removed from what Mussolini was able to implement. But it increasingly reveals an objectively fascist colour in its criminalisation of all its opponents, in its desire for absolute control over the lives of its citizens, in the daily terror imposed, in its desire to make the state a structure above justice, above all control, with all rights.
If we take away the decorum of the Fifth Republic, the beautiful images of a modern, young and attentive government, if we look at the facts, the figures (of arrests, wounded, dead) France no longer has much of a democracy. Except for its elections (where the person with the most money and media in his or her pocket wins). Because democracy is not being able to vote every five years.
Definition of democracy? Let's take three definitions:
According to Paul Ricoeur: “a society that recognizes itself as divided, that is to say crossed by contradictions of interest and that sets itself as a modality, to associate in equal parts, each citizen in the expression of these contradictions, the analysis of these contradictions and the deliberation of these contradictions, in order to arrive at an arbitration”. France is clearly not there.
According to Alexis de Tocqueville, democracy is a social state in which citizens are equal: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, equality of consideration.
According to Montesquieu, democracy is a political system based on virtue and in which the people are subject and sovereign. All citizens are equal and their representatives are chosen by drawing lots.
Clearly, on any of these definitions, France cannot claim to be a democracy today.
So yes, words are important. Very important. And that is why we say that it is no longer possible to speak of a democratic state in France. And that it is now essential to call it in the right terms: an authoritarian state, on the path to fascization.
To say this is not a provocative or militant stance, but the only possibility for those who truly respect democracy and fight for it. To say this is also to take note of the situation and draw the consequences in our daily lives. We don't live the same way if we know we are in a fascist state. We resist differently. We make different choices. And that is why it is important not to let the imposture of the media veil of a democracy in France slip through any longer.
This particular fascism that hangs over us, of which we don't know whether we are already in it or not, is also the one that is organized around technological “innovations”. After the arsenal of “intelligence” and anti-terrorist laws of recent years, France is clearly at the forefront of the so-called democratic countries in terms of its legal and police means of surveillance and control of its civilian population. Far from questioning this singularity and assessing the risks in terms of infringements on civil liberties, and at the instigation of the economic actors in the sector, this government seems to be engaged, without any serious public debate, in a blind race to deploy mass surveillance technologies.
For example, we can see today the implementation of numerous local “Smart City” type devices: “Public Tranquility Observatory” in Marseille, “Safe City” from Thalès to Nice and La Défense, facial recognition gantries in two high schools in the Southern region, intelligent video surveillance in Toulouse, Valenciennes, Yvelines or in the corridors of the Paris metro, sound sensors in Saint-Etienne, deployment of drones in Istres (cf. Technopolice project). Behind this harmless name of “Smart City” lies in fact the project to put the entire urban space under total surveillance for police purposes.
At the national level, the tax authorities can now proceed with the mass capture and analysis of data from social networks. And the government wants to give the police access to all nominative data on train, plane and boat journeys. Moreover, the Alicem project, pushed by the government, is clearly the first stone of an administrative identification by facial recognition.
So, insidiously, padlocks are locking around us. Little by little, with “there is no alternative”, with conflicts of private interests, the state, which is now nothing more than a technical government with a police force, is leading us down a path that hinders our fundamental freedoms by calling it progress. But that is not progress. China and its frightening “social credit” system are there to remind us how much the idea – sold to us by the start-up nation – that technological progress would necessarily bring social progress is a fertile lure of a technological market dystopia, a tyranny of those who hold the means of control over the entire population.
Political power can, of course, continue to display its democratic fetishes – universal suffrage, plurality of political parties, separation of powers, secularism – but while the modern neo-liberal state is, in some ways, far removed from the historical fascism of the 20th century, it has incomparable means of arbitrary control and coercion which it is already mobilizing against its opponents. After two and a half years of Macron's rule, the famous second round presidential election dam is looking more and more like a marriage.