Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidiere for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle.
Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon
Who knows of the conditions of the French nation of the 1930s? Who among the French today recall the conditions of their grandparents? Who recalls Leon Blum?
Immediately below are excerpts from a history of the 1930s. Look at France in these short quotations, at a time before things got bad. Today the French bemoan themselves endlessly about the evils of America, of England, of Capitalism, of Globalization. In a coming post we'll look at the implications of bird flu. Below we'll look at France then and now. This is the beginning of the beginning of the next round of decline, whether severe or not. What will the French do this time round? What does this portend for the Islamic presence in France?
If we look at the nature of harvests we see that during fat times peasants worry considerably less about rats than they do about feasting themselves. The maggot in the cheese-head laying in the cellar can stay undisturbed if there are many cheese-heads atop it. In the lean times the rats die like rats. We know this. We know the French, like others facing leaness, compete.
Then: "Unemployment was low because France had been shorn of manpower during the war--1.3 million dead and 1.1 million made permanent invalids.... The population problem was obvious, but this did not stop busy "faiseuses d'anges " --angel makers-- from performing perhaps as many as a million abortions per year...." (Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley. New York: Vintage. 2000: p.159)
During 1931 industrial production declined by nearly a fifth. Unemployment rose from 12,000 to 190,000. Over 100 banks closed their doors and business bankruptcies increased by 60 per cent/ Farm prices collapsed.... [F]rom 1928 to 1934 peasant earnings fell by more than half. (p. 165.)
Toward the end of 1933...the jobless numbered well over 300,000. (p. 169.)
Abuses endured in prosperity provoked trouble during times of trial. By the freezing winter of 1932-33 French production had fallen to two thirds of its 1929 level and over 250,000 people were unemployed. (p. 167.)
Intolerable stress...stimulated extremist movements and ushered in a "time of hate." (p. 166.)
And Now: Aug. 30, 2005
La Crise: the depression hanging over a nation going back to work
FRANCE basked in sunshine yesterday, but a sense of gloom descended on the nation as the end of the long summer holidays magnified a belief that disaster lurks around the corner.
La rentrée, the traditional week when France returns to work, strike or school and the media take the national pulse, was proclaimed to be the most fraught for years.
"The French went on holiday with their morale already at rock bottom," the tabloid newspaper said. "They were crushed by the insolent success of the British, their eternal rivals. Growth, consumption, unemployment, Olympic Games — they had everything and we had nothing. Tony Blair was making fun of Jacques Chirac at European summits and the ideas of France and its social model were no longer worth tuppence."
Now things were only worse, it added. Le Parisien offered two pages of tips on "How to escape the September depression". One of them was not "how to make a fast getaway" because the Government added to the gloom at the weekend by announcing a possible cut in the national speed limit from 130km/h (81mph) to 115km/h (72mph) to curb fuel consumption. Le Monde which prefers understatement, noted on its front page: "High unemployment, weak growth, rising petrol prices: the economic outlook is grey at the moment that the French go back to work."
Ouest-France reported that only 30 per cent of the French were optimistic about their future, compared with 59 per cent a year ago. The figure was by far the lowest since the poll began in 1995 — the year that President Chirac won office promising to cut unemployment and revive the sagging economy. Growth and unemployment are the same now as then. Bad news over the past month has sharpened what commentators and psychologists are calling a "state of fear" that is paralysing France. The spate of August air disasters — two involving French aircraft or mainly French nationals — have put the wind up travellers. Hundreds of airline passengers have mutinied in the past two weeks, refusing to board foreign charter aircraft that frightened them.
Two dozen went home from a Paris airport on Sunday rather than continue on a back-up airliner sent by their Turkish airline after all the passengers balked at the first aircraft. The Government yesterday announced a blacklist of five banned airlines, which was immediately attacked as insufficient.
National decline has been a favourite theme of books for the past three years as experts have catalogued the country's sense of losing its soul and prosperity to "Anglo-Saxon" globalisation. Fear is now replacing decline as the diagnosis. Christophe Lambert, the chief of the Publicis advertising giant, has made a splash in recent days with La Société de la peur (The Fearful Society). His book that says that France is petrified with "fear of the future, fear of losing, fear of others, fear of taking a risk, fear of solitude, fear of growing old".
He said yesterday: "Our society is depressed, listless, turned towards the past and negative."
The rejection in May of the European constitution referendum was a perfect illustration, symbolised by the fear of "the Bolkestein directive", he said. This was the draft EU law on services that France feared would trigger an invasion of Polish plumbers.
According to Nicolas Baverez, author of "La France qui tombe," the first of the "declinist" books, agreed with M Lambert. "Confronted with (globalisation), France is the only developed democracy that has been carried away by uncontrolled individual and collective fear."
M Lambert and most other "fear theorists" are modernisers who blame political leaders of both the left and right who have lacked the courage to tell France that its paternalist state cannot survive the free world market. M Chirac has governed by fanning fear rather than by promoting real reform, M Lambert said. The only French politician aiming to wake up the country was Nicolas Sarkozy, star Cabinet minister and leader of M Chirac's Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP), he said. M Sarkozy, a friend of M Lambert, is running to succeed M Chirac in 2007.
M Chirac is blamed by the left-wing opposition for failing to shore up the protective state against globalisation. At beginning-of-term party conferences over the weekend, Socialists, Communists and Trotskyites searched for a saviour to lead France out of its crisis. Among the Communists and the Trotskyites, an informal consensus settled on a potential leader: José Bové, the sheep farmer whose 1999 attack on a McDonald's restaurant turned him into a hero of the left.
Look at Leon Blum. What will happen if there is a flu epidemic that devastates the French economy? What then the ignorant welfare armies that clash by night?