Macron Shows the Desperation of Centrism

The French President wants to impose compulsory military service for all young people – and that doesn’t sound fascist at all.

Emmanuel Macron is trying to push ahead with his plans to bring back compulsory military service for young people in France. Yet, his own politicians seem to have no clue as to how he will actually be able to do this.

Practicalities aside, the plan is absolute bullshit. Young people shouldn’t be forced into yet another system they may have no desire to be a part of. What’s more, young people aren’t tools of the state. Trying to impose the military on them, and use them as props for nationalism would be a betrayal of a generation. Yet, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Macron is not the liberal hero that has saved Europe from fascism. He’s just a very weak version of the same right wing problems that Europe (including Britain) have right now.

Macron barely managed to beat an out-and-out fascist. He didn’t inspire people to come out to the polls. His victory was merely a relief for people because Le Pen lost. He was the same old boring, insipid choice that politics always throws up. He’s a placeholder President. Someone that stopped the swing from left to fascism, until France makes up its mind which road it truly wants to go down. The problem is, centrists are the reason the right rose again at all.

“His victory was merely a relief for people because Le Pen lost”

His Presidency might be a case of style vs substance (a bit like with Blair, if middle-aged white people from Norfolk are dictating what counts as ‘style’), but it will have a very real impact, even if the President himself hardly seems to acknowledge it.

‘Centrism’ is usually about dressing up the right wing as something slightly more liberal. It’s definitely not left wing. It’s about making the right seem nice. It’s how we were told time and again the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition was centre-right politics. It really wasn’t. Our social security was ransacked, our NHS left in tatters and then there was the bedroom tax. It’s truly amazing really how many Remainers think centrism will save us from the horrors of Brexit and yet, where were they when disabled people were protesting against the DWP?

Centrism is nothing more than making individuals the core of their own galaxy, and convincing them that this kind of mild selfishness can be virtuous and nice, so long as you look pleasant and can get a few photos with Trudeau. But centrism is what led the UK to Brexit, and Europe to growing intolerance. For years, it was the centrists in Labour who kept pushing a pro-capitalist agenda, failed to tackle the rising inequality but then allowed the scapegoating on migrants instead of blaming bankers, exploitative employers and financial mismanagement from global leaders. It was centrists who kept defending UKIP’s right to say whatever the hell they wanted, without challenging them on facts, and then watched in horror and shock when Brexit won the referendum.

Bringing in compulsory military service for young people will simply increase intergenerational contempt. Young people deserve a say over their future, not gimmicks from someone trying to pacify the right wing rather than stand up to grotesque nationalism. Young people’s futures are already treated with casual indifference. Millennials and Generation Z have lived with the financial crisis limiting their futures. Climate change will be our burden to bear. Young people aren’t fodder for France’s imperialist nostalgia.

Young people deserve better than a President pandering to the right. Compulsory military service should be resigned to the past. It is an abuse of power, and robs young people of their autonomy. If Macron cared about ethics though, he probably wouldn’t be a centrist as then he would actually be required to stand for something.

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