France is experiencing another revolution

France

Michaela Wiegel

To person

is a political scientist. She works as a political correspondent for France for the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" and lives in Paris. [email protected]

    How little a contemporary today, if he is not at the decisive point by chance, sees of the events that change the face of the world and his own life.

    Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday (1942)
In the past few months, France has moved into the center of the world's public eye three times. The terrorist attacks in January and November 2015 and on the French national holiday in July 2016 caused horror around the world. The Brandenburg Gate lit up in solidarity in the blue-white-red of the French national colors, the New York Symphony Orchestra played the Marseillaise. The attacks gave the impression that France was becoming a privileged arena for an unwanted war.

The "war on terrorism" determines the political debate in the country. It reinforces the French notion that a world is out of joint and with it the post-war order, in which France had asserted itself as a middle-class economic and political power in a peaceful Europe that was growing ever closer together despite its decolonization, which was sometimes warlike. The country has retained the attributes of power - the permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the nuclear armed forces, an operational and willing army. The French agony today has other facets.

France has seldom appeared so divided and socially fragmented as it does now. The ideal of the "one and indivisible republic" as enshrined in the 1958 Constitution has never seemed so distant. France is experiencing an identity crisis of unprecedented proportions. Actually, the country in the heart of "old Europe" sees itself to this day as the heir to the ideals of the French Revolution and as the "cradle of human rights". But "freedom, equality, brotherhood", the motto of the revolutionaries of 1789, which is emblazoned on all public school buildings, has disappeared from the daily experience of most citizens. Indeed, France is pretending to be caught in a broad political and economic downward spiral.

Fear of terrorism

The terrorist attacks since the beginning of 2015 have killed 238 people and injured nearly a thousand. In addition, there are countless attack plans, some of which have only been thwarted by lucky coincidences. There is no doubt: France is experiencing a serious wave of terrorism with a high potential threat. Since the attacks on the editors of the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" and a Jewish supermarket on January 7, 2015, millions marched through the French capital in silence, hugging policemen and gendarmes, singing the national anthem and lighting candles, the political reaction has become increasingly radical.

After the attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris and Saint-Denis, the government not only verbally linked to the era of the Algerian war: it called the état d’urgence (State of emergency) and resorted to laws from 1955, which were developed at the beginning of the unrest in the three French departments on Algerian soil, in order to give the repression a legal framework. Since then, France has partially suspended the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 15. With astonishing ease the government restricted the civil liberties, which are otherwise a quasi "holy" source of the French self-image. The French also came to terms with the situation surprisingly quickly: there is now hardly any protest against the "extraordinary powers" of the executive, which allows house searches to be carried out at day or night without judicial approval, as well as the imposition of curfews and assembly bans. The state of emergency has since been extended four times with broad parliamentary approval and is currently in force until January 26, 2017. It is likely that it will be renewed for the "hot phase" of the presidential campaign.

Even beyond the state of emergency, the government is pursuing an authoritarian approach: When dealing with radicalized people, it relies on re-education institutions, so-called deradicalization centers, who put those at risk between the ages of 18 and 30 on the right path through strict discipline, with a flag roll call and in uniform To bring society. For months there was even talk of revoking convicted terrorists of their citizenship (déchéance de nationalité).

There is fear of terrorism in France. In interaction with the widespread unease in view of the dynamically growing Islamic minority in the country, it superimposes the necessary political and social debate on central issues.

For example, it is consistently suppressed that the perpetrators of the attacks in France, unlike the previous terrorist attacks in London in 2005, Madrid 2004 or on September 11, 2001, were mostly "children of the republic", born in France attended French school classes and experienced the benefits of the French welfare state. Instead of facing these "enemies from within", as Prime Minister Manuel Valls called them, the terrorists are located in distant regions - for example in the Syrian-Iraqi area of ​​the so-called Islamic State, which is being bombed by the French air force - and to " Strangers "stylized. Symptomatic of this repression reflex was the debate about the already mentioned push by the President for a revocation of citizenship for terrorists, which suggested that the terrorist threat could be brought under control through expatriation procedures. The project, which has since been rejected, dominated the public debate for a long time and thus prevented a serious analysis of the breeding ground for terrorism. This was politically wanted, since Prime Minister Valls had expressly forbidden a debate about possible domestic roots of terrorism, as this was tantamount to a "culture of apology".

This nips a public discussion about possible grievances in the education system and the long-term consequences of the permanently high youth unemployment in the bud. Such a process of understanding is urgently needed: According to the report "Inégalités sociales et migratoires" published in September 2016 by the French School Assessment Council (CNESCO), France is the OECD country in which the performance of pupils from a particularly socially disadvantaged environment , which in France includes those with a migrant background, fell the most until 2012; In addition, the performance difference between schoolchildren in France has widened significantly: In 2012, for example, schoolchildren from a particularly socially disadvantaged background only mastered 35 percent of the expected competencies in French before the transition to upper school - in 2007 it was 60 percent - while schoolchildren Mastered at least 80 percent of the expected skills from a socially privileged environment. With this in mind, CNESCO recommends that efforts be made to ensure equality in school acquis to guarantee. But that is not discussed in Paris. The attraction of jihadist propaganda to young French people with an immigrant background and the corresponding prevention options are hardly discussed either.

At the same time, a colonial, Islamophobic mentality has become socially acceptable again, which had largely disappeared from the public eye since the violent detachment of Algeria and which is clearly reflected in the security debate. "Not all Muslims are jihadists, but all jihadists are Muslims," ​​tweeted Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a member of the National Front, at the beginning of July 2016. Former president and primary candidate in the center-right camp Nicolas Sarkozy made a name for himself with the Demand to have all mosques monitored, suspected threats to be forcibly interned and a "total war" to be waged.

The attempt by almost 30 municipalities on the Côte d'Azur and the Atlantic coast to ban beachwear in the summer of 2016 with a view to the full-body bathing suit worn by some Muslim women, which ostentatiously suggests religious affiliation and in times when France is aiming terrorist attacks could lead to the disruption of public order, testified to the potential for irrationality that this mood harbors. Most of the "burkini bans" have been repealed by the competent courts, but the heated debate speaks for itself.