Melancholic reflections on the French elections

Can we hope that the sacrifice of the Ukrainians will help us dismantle this Stalinist ideological matrix that remains so resilient in France? Can we rid liberalism of all the negative connotations with which it is charged ?

by Françoise ThomDeskRussia — April 20, 2022

The results of the first round of the French elections are astonishing. While Ukraine is desperately fighting to defend its freedom from the armed aggression of its eastern neighbor, more than half of the French voters gave their votes to parties that advocate leaving NATO and reversing alliances in favor of Russia. Are we still worthy of a truly European destiny?

Caricature antiaméricaine de l’époque soviétique
Anti-American cartoon from Soviet times

The French are responsive to the martyrdom of Ukraine, as shown by their commitment to humanitarian action in favor of this country. But they refuse to learn the lessons of the tragedy that Ukraine is experiencing, nor to imagine that the liberticidal passion of Russia could possibly affect France. The Kremlinophile parties are incapable of doing what is the ABC of all politics, establishing a hierarchy of enemies and dangers that threaten France. For them the only adversary is “American hegemony”. It doesn’t matter that Putin threatens the West with nuclear strikes, that Kremlin agents infiltrate our parliament, our think tanks, our parties, or our media. The danger comes from the United States, this country that for nearly 20 years has worked to unload the burden of its international commitments, to the benefit of rogue states prospering in an increasingly chaotic world. This blatant lack of foreign policy judgment bodes ill for their domestic policy.

Such persistent blindness requires explanation. The anti-American, even anti-Western, slant in a large part of the French population has deep roots. That is why it remains immutable, impervious to reality like an inheritance of which one is no longer aware. The origin of this French idiosyncrasy can be traced to Stalinist propaganda. We are now discovering the extent that this propaganda has left its mark on people’s minds in Russia. But its deleterious effect is also still felt in France.

It was during the campaign unleashed by Stalin against the Marshall Plan from the autumn of 1947 that the major themes that still articulate the discourse of the extreme parties of the left and the right were inaugurated. The American architects of the Marshall Plan had a two-fold objective: to lift post-war Europe out of its misery so that it would be less vulnerable to Moscow’s propaganda; to encourage the Europeans to cooperate, and, in particular, to reconcile France and Germany in order to lay the foundations of the European Community. Stalin understood immediately that the success of this policy would sound the death knell to his ambitions for domination of the continent. He undertook mobilization of the European Communists to sabotage implementation of the Marshall Plan.

andrei jdanov

In September 1947, he summoned them to Poland, where Jdanov undertook to dictate the broad outlines of the propaganda to be deployed against the American initiative.

Stalin’s main idea was to appeal to nationalism and to present the USSR as the champion of the sovereignty of European states in the face of a project of “subjugation” of Europe by the United States.

Unsurprisingly, Stalin deployed this argumentationat the same time that he was imposing a communist regime in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, where terror, mass arrests, deportations and show trials became routine.

Andreï Jdanov (1886-1948) Father of the Zhdanov doctrine – Archives Photo.

Let us listen to Jdanov: “The ideological campaign that goes hand-in-hand with the plans for the enslavement of Europe is based on an offensive against the principle of national sovereignty […] to which the idea of a world government is opposed. The purpose of this campaign is to conceal the unbridled expansion of American imperialism, which brazenly violates the sovereign rights of nations, to portray the United States as the champion of universal law and those who resist American penetration as advocates of an outdated and selfish nationalism… The Soviet Union defends the sovereign rights of all nations, small and large. At present imperialist countries like the United States, England and their close allies are becoming dangerous enemies of national independence and the self-determination of nations…The existence of the Attlee-Bevin labor government in England and the Ramadier socialist government in France does not prevent England and France from walking like satellites, as far as the main issues are concerned, in the pothole of the imperialist policy of the United States.” The Marshall Plan is “a project that consists of creating a bloc of states indebted to the United States and granting credits to European countries as a reward for giving up their economic and then political independence… The idea of a ‘world government’ taken up by dreamy and pacifist bourgeois intellectuals, is used not only as a way to pressure in order to morally disarm the peoples who defend their independence against the attacks of American imperialism, but also as a catchphrase especially opposed to the Soviet Union, which tirelessly and consequently defends the principle of a true equality of rights and the protection of the sovereign rights of all the peoples, great and small .” Doesn’t this sound like Le Pen, Zemmour or Mélenchon? In 2008, Marine Le Pen saw some good would come out of the subprime crisis: “The crisis gives us the opportunity to turn our backs on America and turn to Russia.”1

This propaganda highlighting the “sovereignty” of nations against “American hegemony” did not remain the exclusive preserve of the french communist party. It percolated as well through the Gaullist party. In the early 1950s, Gaullists and Communists campaigned together against the EDC (European Defense Community) project… in the name of French “sovereignty”. Since then, the need to go it alone, to flaunt one’s “independence”, of course from the United States, has become a must go-to in French diplomacy. Moscow has skilfully exploited this French claim to uniqueness, to the detriment of our alliances and European commitments, and continues to do so with unchanging success to weaken Europe and NATO. President Macron recently welcomed the fact that Vladimir Putin “respects France and makes a distinction with the rest of the West.”

The Soviet regime appealed to nationalism from its earliest days. But it is a particular nationalism, one compatible with domination by Moscow. Kremlin ideologues have confined it to a harmless variant, “nationalist in form, socialist in content”. They have reduced nationalism to parochialism, folklore, “song and dance groups”, embroidered shirts of this or that republic or region, stapled to the social mythology of Bolshevism. This Soviet-style nationalism is in fact a provincialism, which in a way calls for the tutelage of “big brother”. And it is this type of nationalism, steeped in folklore (Joan of Arc, Napoleon, de Gaulle, the Normandie Niemen squadron), which is now being disseminated in the French identitarian right, and which is perfectly Kremlin-compatible. Because it smells musty. Because it perceives in Russia the same will to close doors and windows. Because it is empty of free thought and especially of any attempt to understand the world in which we live, apart from the conspiratorial clichés that are part of its demonology. The acrimony with which this milieu attacks the “elites” is due to the fact that the latter are more oriented towards openness to the world and refuse the complacent navel-gazing of the “populists”, who feel more comfortable in a province tucked away against the winds and integrated into Putin’s Eurasia, rather than part of a nation forced to assume its destiny and its defense in a world of predators, forced to face unpleasant realities, in a European Union that they accuse of not being “protective” enough.

At the end of the communist era, when Russia was in ideological disarray during the Yeltsin period, France temporarily inherited the torch of anti-Americanism and anti-liberalism from Moscow. Apprentice gurus like Dugin turned to the New French Right, from which they borrowed their anti-Westernism (Alain de Benoist, the main theoretician of the New Right, was invited by Dugin to Moscow in 1992). Other Russian experts in France eagerly discovered “multipolarity”, the alpha and omega of the Mitterrand and Chirac diplomacy. Thus French influence fed the most toxic currents of the ideology of the Russian revanche. Our “realists” who preach “multipolarity” are partly responsible for President Putin’s current idée fixe of disruption of the international order to the benefit of the sovereignist dictators swarming the planet, who like Putin, confuse sovereignty and impunity.

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« Trojan Horse (Marshall Plan) », by Soviet cartoonist Boris Efimov (1948) promoted as « People’s Artist »

Today osmosis is so great between the social networks of the French identitarian right and those of the Kremlin that Russian media convey the virulent hatred of Macron carried by the sovereignist movement, to such an extent that Russian observers are astonished. Political scientist Boris Mejuev wonders: “Why is there such a hatred of Macron in Russia? … Why does Macron provoke such a shrill reaction? Sarkozy, who, together with the British, forced the United States to dump Gaddafi, did not provoke such a reaction. Hollande aroused only indifference. Macron is more hated here than Boris Johnson….While to us the only thing that should matter is that of all the European globalists he has taken the most conciliatory stance toward Russia.” After the setbacks of the campaign in Ukraine, the Russian media have returned to basics, insisting increasingly that it is not a question of winning back “the brotherly people”, that the stakes of the conflict are elsewhere, that Russia is in the process of creating an “international anti-globalist coalition”“Russia is waging war against the globalized world order, which has a totalitarian anti-human character, whose economic and cultural policy is expansionist and which denies the multipolarity of humanity. …This global force is like a cancerous tumor. It is difficult to localize, it is not part of the body, it is constantly expanding and spreading everywhere by metastasis. How to stop it? War is like chemotherapy. Sometimes there is no other remedy, but it damages the organs along with the tumor”.

The second main axis of the Stalinist attack against the liberal order that the United States wanted to establish after World War II was anti-colonialism. Let us return to Jdanov: “The crisis of the colonial system, accentuated by the outcome of the Second World War, is manifested by the powerful rise of the national liberation movement in the colonies and dependent countries. By this very fact, the backbone of the capitalist system is threatened. The peoples of the colonies no longer want to live as they did in the past. The ruling classes of the home countries can no longer rule the colonies as before. Attempts to crush the national liberation movements by military force are now colliding with the growing armed resistance of the peoples of the colonies and are leading to long-lasting colonial wars…”

Comintern anti-colonialism is the source of the Third Worldism of the 1960s-70s and today’s “decolonial” ideology. Despite the strident denunciation of “woke” and “cancel culture” by Putin’s ideologues, the Kremlin continues to appeal to anti-colonialist and anti-European feeling, not only in Africa and the Middle East, but also here in its denunciation of the “collective West”. Thus Moscow aims to promote the junction of right-wing and left-wing extremism advocated by Dugin to destabilize Western societies.

Can we hope that the sacrifice of the Ukrainians will help us dismantle this Stalinist ideological matrix that remains so resilient in France? Can we rid liberalism of all the negative connotations with which it is charged, sometimes through the very fault of our elites who have allowed Western civilization to be dragged through the mud by allowing the younger generations to forget all that we owe to it: civic freedom, respect for truth that allows science, disinterested curiosity, tolerance, benevolence that characterizes free societies, which the Kremlin’s propaganda is trying to replace by a culture of suspicion?

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Marioupol population surrounded to be starved or deported – Satellite Maxar Tech. (25 March)

The Azov battalion under siege in Mariupol has been compared to the 300 Spartans defending the entrance to the Thermopylae pass (480 BC) against a Persian army of at least 70,000 men, to give the Greeks time to organize their defense. Greek cities, previously so quarrelsome, had united to face the barbarian invader. During those heroic days, the Greeks became aware of what they defended. Herodotus reports an exchange between two Lacedemonians questioned by the Persian satrap Hydarnes, who asked them why they did not want to become the friends of the “Great King (of Persia)” by putting themselves at his service, which the king would generously reward. The Greeks responded: “Hydarnes, the reasons for this suggestion are not the same for you and for us. You advise us of this position, because you have the experience of it, and because you do not know the other. You know how to be a slave, but you have never tasted freedom, and you do not know how sweet it is. Indeed, if you had ever experienced it, you would advise us to fight for it, not only with pikes, but also with axes.” 

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Street Art – Work by Seth Globepainter (Paris)

The bravery of the Ukrainians reminds us today of this 2500 years old message : words that announce the birth of Western consciousness.

[1] Quoted in : Vincent Jauvert, « Poutine et le FN : révélations sur les réseaux russes des Le Pen », Nouvel Observateur, 11/27/2014 

See also : « Réflexions mélancoliques sur l’élection française » par Françoise Thom in DeskRussie (22 Avril 2022).

Françoise Thom’s publications on DeskRussia (2022)

françoise thom livres bandeau