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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One thought on “Macron Shows the Desperation of Centrism

  1. Hmmm… …there are, unfortunately, problems with the premise of this article. Conscription has never been restricted to fascists, or even right-wing politics. Most often, it’s a response to the prospect of war. (The scars of World War II in Finland are such that it’s never felt war was far away, and thus it has never formally ended the conscription process – even though hardly anyone in that nation was alive last time it was at war and even though it’s one of the most liberal nations on Earth).

    It’s when there’s no apparent war brewing, nor an appeal to one – such as when Britain tried to introduce this a few years ago – that fascism (overt or hidden) can reasonably be suspected as the motive. Sadly, given the conduct of Donald Trump and various warmongers in Asia, France (and the rest of Europe) is likely to end up in a World War III few people in Europe actually want, even among its actual fascists, within Emmanuel Macron’s term of office, whether it wants to be at war or not.

    A nation thrown into a modern war without choice tends to have to go onto a war footing in its totality, including full conscription, whether it wants to or not. This is obscured by the majority of American and British warlike conduct being completely voluntary (the only possible exception being the hunt for al-Qaeda, and even that really shouldn’t have needed to have risen to the actual war that eventually happened). I’m talking about a defensive war here, not military adventurism. And if a defensive war is inevitable, it’s simply common sense to start the preparations sooner rather than later. That’s why conscripting youth is something we can now expect to happen across Europe – youth are most likely to need the skills of fighting an actual defensive war.

    Being used as a tool of state is not fun, but the prospect is looking like a choice of being one nation’s tool of state-like actor or another. That’s certainly how it seems, watching the Americans killing off the opponents of Daesh in order to goad Russia. Thanks to the internet making non-geographic militarism (especially information-based militarism) feasible, World War III is likely to be a civil war, so even being a pacifist is unlikely to prevent being pulled into the war on one side or the other. So the entire argument about conscription in 2018 failing because young people deserve to have a say in their future fails – because the counterargument is that we wouldn’t get a say anyway, thanks to increasingly likely future opponents.

    The really ethical approach would be to get peace between Donald Trump, the Asian violence-promoters and the people in all nations willing to fight on both sides with tongue, keyboard and/or physically. However, nobody in the world seems to know where to start with making that a reality. Or if they do, they’re keeping it pretty quiet. If that doesn’t happen, the only way debating new moves towards conscription works is if an alternative and better way of preparing for World War III is proposed.

    The point about centre-right =/= centrism =/= ethical politics is valid and well-made. I would add, however, that economically (though not socially), UKIP is centrist, and to the left of the Conservatives. So it is natural that other economic centrists overlook its flaws, even when not necessarily “allowed” to openly support the ideas they have in common.

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