Today’s Russia: the 21th century incarnation of the Gaullist dream?

The original article was published by Ria Novosti

good friend of mine recently told me how disappointed he was when he learned that new French president Francois Hollande had dismissed his minister of ecology Nicole Bricq.  She had recently been promoted until when she wanted to interrupt Shell’s drilling for ecological reasons.

My friend concluded that our President had submitted to the powerful energetic lobby and that this proved the French political class could not afford anymore to fight any powerful economic lobby.  

This discussion took place a few weeks ago as recently, a very interesting debate took place in a famous French television show called ”Ce soir ou jamais” (Tonight or never). This show is animated by broadcaster Frederic Taddei and the debate reminded me of the discussion I had had with my friend in a small cafe near Trubnaya  square. One of the guests of the show was Marie France Garaud, one of the most famous Gaullist French intellectuals. She explained in her own way, the brief History of French politics after the war. Her explanation probably surprised young French generations.

According to her, the modern political two party system that exists in France today between left and right wings is a very recent phenomenon. Before that, there was on one side the President’s party (the Union of all the French who trusted General De Gaulle), and on the other side some nostalgic people who wanted to get back to the 4th French Republic and its political system made of small political parties.  

The “two party system” hat later appeared in France was based on one simple single simplification: the left wing was supposedly closer to the working class while the right wing was more conservative and bourgeois. But from 1999 the Gaullist heritage was betrayed and the French sovereignty was cheaply sold off via, in particular, the European integration process. A new split appeared very quickly, that divided the right wing as well as the left one. In each of those blocks, a Europhile majority emerged, as well as a minority in favor of national sovereignty. Both co-existed chaotically and continue to co- exist chaotically.

  The sovereignty partisans, whether they were leftists or rightists, viewed the two parties system as allowing in theory a political change of power. But this was only in theory, because the leaders of the two ruling Europhile parties agreed on almost everything. For them no matter which Europhile side ruled, as long as the transfer of the French state sovereignty in the direction of the European Community authorities increased, would it be political, economic, financial or about border control.

Consequently, France today cannot be seen as a nation anymore, as it is now facing a total lack of sovereignty, while sovereignty is the most essential attribute of a state. Can one imagine a sovereign nation without a sovereign state?  

Most of the sovereign state’s attributes are endangered today in Europe, like the right to control its borders, to strike coins, to deal out justice and to decide whether or not to go to war. Unfortunately for the European populations, their political elits have recently voluntarily engaged in a political system where they will not even be able to control their national budgets. One could discuss for a long time, why and how this happened. Yet de Gaulle summed it up very well, while at the end of his career, this helpless two party systems already appeared, saying: “The tragedy of France is that the left wing is not about working class anymore, and that the right wing is not national anymore.”  

While the European integration happened by diluting the sovereignty of the states, Russia, since the beginning of this century, seems so far to follow another road. Much have been said in the foreign media about Russia’s non-compliance to human rights or about the violence with which the state has resolved the war in Chechnya.

But little has been said for example about the fact that this war was above all an internal and regional conflict aiming at restoring the Federal sovereignty and at crushing the separatist risk. That same separatist risk threatens a lot of European states today. Also, little if nothing has been said by the foreign press, about Russia’s economic policy and its obsessive refusal of external debt. And though this political choice is a hard one, there is no doubt that the future Russian generations will thank their present Russian politicians for it.   Whatever the western mainstream says, Russian businessmen who were imprisoned for embezzlement (some of the famous oligarchs) illustrate a very clear message: nowadays in Russia, the politic rules over the economy, and not the contrary, despite all the shortcomings that this can cause. The Pikalevo lesson in 2009 coud set a legal  precedent. The massive restructuring plans of the army or the nationalization of the two largest energy companies in the world demonstrate that the Russian state wishes to remain fully sovereign as well in front of the Russia
capitalists as in front of the multinationals. The “Russian multipartism” (i.e. the governance of only one main political party including many various political trends) might be called the Party of the Majority, and could easily be compared with the rule of the majority Gaullist party in France under General De Gaulle, at the moment of the founding of the 5h Republic.

This comparison is not new, as the visionary French Sociologist Emmanuel Todd already envisaged this Russian Gaullism in 2002.

In his book After the Empire, he predicted the slow fail-out of America and wrote: “At the time of the debate on globalization and on universal interdependence, Russia could emerge, in the most optimist scenario, as a huge democracy balancing its external accounts and having an energetic independence, that is to say, being in a world dominated by the United States, the incarnation of the Gaullist dream.”

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