Gerald Warner: The twilight of Fifth Republic

Celebrity news magazines headlining on French President Francois Hollande. Picture: AP
Celebrity news magazines headlining on French President Francois Hollande. Picture: AP
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FIRST came the French Revolution – several of them in fact; now comes the Counter-Revolution, which will not be nearly as much fun for lefties and psychopaths. All historically significant events rely on a number of factors coming into simultaneous congruence, like a planetary alignment. Unless all are present, little of note will occur.

Now, however, for the first time, all the necessary conditions for a major political upheaval in France have coalesced. There is a widespread perception that President François Hollande is in trouble. That underestimates the portentousness of the situation: it is the Fifth Republic that is in possibly terminal trouble.

Just as the weakness of Louis XVI facilitated the French Revolution, the crass ineptitude of Hollande is a major contributory factor to the travails of his administration. From the start of his government he knew he faced enormous economic challenges; he chose to exacerbate them by embracing a socialist “solution”. Then he quite unnecessarily kicked an anthill by inaugurating a culture war, railroading through a law on homosexual marriage and adoption in defiance of 60 per cent of public opinion. The scale of the public demonstrations against this law startled and appalled the government, which nevertheless rushed it through.

The next surprise was that, instead of accepting it was “time to move on”, the protesters changed their objective to repeal of the law, the result being that the size of the demonstrations after it was enacted was larger than before. Youthful protesters ran rings round the police, briefly closing Paris roads during the rush hour then pedalling off on bicycles when warned by mobile telephone of the approach of the police. The brutality of the police in suppressing demonstrations against homosexual marriage was so severe that France is now the first European nation to have its police force subjected to investigation by a United Nations tribunal.

Next came the demonstrations by the “bonnets rouges” from Brittany. Such is the historical illiteracy of British journalists it was reported in the media that the protesters’ red caps represented the Phrygian “cap of liberty” worn by Jacobins during the French Revolution. In fact they derive from the Breton headgear of protesters in a famous tax revolt in 1675. They too are still in the field against Hollande. On Remembrance Day the president was booed as he laid a wreath at the national war memorial; he and his ministers had to be bundled into cars and rushed to safety as rioting broke out along the Champs Elysées, with 70 arrests.

With unemployment at 11 per cent and a quarter of all French youth jobless, Hollande’s government elected to pursue a policy of provocation, like the Tory modernisers but on a much more aggressive scale. The current French government is full of extravagant ideologues. The most extravagant is the education minister Vincent Peillon who believes “The French Revolution is not ended.” His ambition is to turn all French schools into hothouses of indoctrination, to detach pupils from all other allegiances – to family, religion, social milieu – to make them intense “republicans” devoted to the “republican religion” of secularism. His aim is to expunge Christianity from French life. To hear him speak is to listen to a reincarnation of Robespierre, including the cant and the infantile secular “religion”.

Even anticlerical Frenchmen are becoming concerned about the associations that government ministers have with freemasonry. On 17 December Christiane Taubira, the justice minister who forced through the same-sex marriage law, attended a conference of the Grand Orient. That sits ill with democratic pretensions. So does blatant government control of the eunuchs with laptops whom the French call journalists. The latest episode in the lingering death of socialist France is the scandal engulfing President Hollande’s personal life. It is supposedly an axiom that the French disregard sex scandals. This one, however, is exceptional.

Hollande attempted to install his mistress as “First Lady”(!) of France, a position unacknowledged by the constitution. She has a staff of five at the Elysée Palace, costing the taxpayer a quarter of a million euros annually. Now it transpires she is not even his mistress; just as she usurped Ségolène Royal, mother of Hollande’s four children, she now appears to have been ousted by an actress. The French may be relaxed about sex scandals, but when the plot thickens to involve public money, security issues and the Corsican mafia they may become positively agitated.

The Front National is leading the polls in France. Marine Le Pen has already negotiated alliances with foreign Eurosceptic parties with the declared aim, after May’s European elections, of bringing down the EU like the USSR. The Fifth Republic too may eventually be replaced by a very different France from the sewer presided over by François Hollande. «

Twitter: @GeraldWarner1