I walked across Paris the week after France bombed Syria. It was a city at war but it felt like a city on holiday. It was a colonial war hence the festive feeling, I guess.
The locals tanned themselves in the parks, cafés and bistros that define this bastion of civilization – while the tourists packed the museums. The Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo bewitched everyone. And the aperitif on the sidewalk tasted like sex. It was bourgeois Paris at its best.
Bourgeois bombs (bo-bos) fell on Damascus and Homs. And bourgeois bohemians (bo-bos) sat comfortably. Every Parisian knew there was a war on, but life was too good on the Left and Right Banks to give a shit. There was simply too much beauty and love around.
Isn’t this the way colonial wars work in the centers of Imperialism? The comfort zones are untouched while faraway zones are torn to shreds. The cushions provided by metropolitan culture and ideology induce – as well as a joie de vivre – a quietism.
Or is it? Colonialism is a bit different today. Colonial wars are no longer mass based movements. Colonialism isn’t even the issue. The French aren’t settling anywhere else – its the other way round: the Africans and Arabs are settling in France.
The difference this time around is that the metropolitan masses are more or less bystanders when it comes to war. The French President is at war but not Paris. French civilization isn’t at stake.
Of course, this has always been the case. French civilization has always been just a cover for French barbarism overseas. This time though the cover is off: French civilization and the French masses aren’t invited to the festival of blood in Syria. The French President said as much during his recent dalliance in Washington DC.
The nation is a dead end – according to Macron. The French nation isn’t his raison d’être. If the French President doesn’t believe in France then what’s the deal? Who is he fighting for? Who’s doing the fighting? In his eagerness to differentiate himself from Trump’s faux nationalism – Macron exposed, unbeknownst to himself, the class line: its no longer the national interest that counts but the class interest.
Again – this has always been the case but Macron is making love to the idea in public. Indeed in the European Union it is dogma. Nationalism rather than imperialism or capitalism is to blame for everything. The nation rather than the Empire or Capital must be crushed. Therefore the crushing of Greece or Ireland or Portugal after the 2008 banking crisis (still on-going) isn’t a problem for the EU.
The odd thing now is that a European giant – the French state – is dismissing its own national credentials. Its not just the PIGS that are being sacrificed but the Frogs too.
Why? Its a strategic gamble on the part of the French state. Aware that it has lost out to Germany in the race to dominate Europe – the French ruling class seeks now to merge itself completely with global capital. It is an attempt to stay relevant and ahead of the curve in the globalized corporate economy.
In a way “Macron” is the last throw of the dice for French capitalism. In an attempt to outsmart Germany in Europe and to keep up with Wall Street in world affairs the French state is willing to start World War Three. While throwing the dice – French capitalism is throwing away the UN charter. And brazenly siding with the most backward regime in the world – Saudi Arabia.
To stay in the game, French capitalists aren’t just prepared to dump French civilization but civilization in general. This is what attacking and occupying Syria is all about.
French capital however has overplayed its hand. Because while it charges into the sands of the Middle East looking for the promised land of global capitalism – the French nation back in Paris is in the streets fighting for real stuff – like bread and roses. Macron’s foreign metaphysics can’t escape – no matter what he preaches – the consequences of his own domestic shit.
At the end of the Parisian day it indeed is all about class – not colonies. Macron embodies this but he’s so conceited that he believes only his own investment banking class exists. The working class though – that class that doesn’t aspire to be a transnational corporation – is still very much present.
In fact it is everywhere in Paris. And Paris is its war zone – not Syria. That’s because its pensions and working conditions are being bombed by Macron too.
Paris in Spring/Summer is misleading. It is a city at war. But its a domestic class war instead of a foreign colonial war. Just like Syria: France is at war with Macron and his pseudo-French class. In other words, France is the hostage of desperate transnational capitalists (the same way that Europe is the hostage of the EU).
When Macron was bombing and occupying Syria the media in France focused on the domestic class war. Its class based instincts were correct. The profit-obsessed media didn’t fear Assad but the aggressive French trade union the CGT (the General Confederation of Labor). And with an unpopular profit-obsessed freak as President the media has every reason to worry.
Getting the train to Charles de Gaulle airport was a lottery because of the rolling strikes organized by the CGT. And traveling through the north of Paris to the airport forced the tourists to get up close and personal with the targets of Macron’s domestic policies. Sweaty white, brown and black flesh pressed up against each other in the rail-cars anxious about their future status.
Citizens or commodities? Or simply dead meat in a nuclear holocaust? Macron has no use for citizens, so its either B or C? Or both?
Which reminds me of another walk I did across Paris. Back in February 2003, I walked with hundreds of thousands of locals to the the Bastille to protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Wall Street wanted to own the sands of the Middle East. Back then, however, the French President wasn’t on board.
Today in Syria Macron is on board because – as an adjunct of Wall Street – total war (class and colonial) is his agenda. The French and Syrian nations are being targeted. Of course, the suffering of the working classes that makes up both of these nations is no way equivalent. But the grinding capitalist logic imposing itself on both is. Macron personifies it.