When, in a few years’ time, we look back on the attitude of the French ruling class in the early spring of 2024, we’ll hesitate to describe it as cowardly, or pusillanimous, or hypocritical, or oblivious, or useless, or even a traitor to the national interest.

Yet the facts are blinding:

Economically, France is practically bankrupt. More precisely, it is the only country in the European Union with an abysmal public debt, an unbalanced primary budget (i.e. excluding debt servicing), a budget deficit far higher than expected, social accounts in the red, a trade deficit and an out-of-control balance of payments. Italy, Spain and Greece (to name but a few) are doing better than France. Logically, this should lead to a downgrading of France’s credit rating in the very near future, which will ultimately increase the cost of its public debt, as well as that of all private debt, i.e. corporate and individual borrowing.

Politically, France is tilting steadily towards the extreme right, which, if all dimensions are taken into account, is set to win over 40% of the vote in the next European elections, and a little later to win the municipal, presidential and legislative elections.

Socially, France is increasingly a land of injustice, at least in perception. In fact, poverty is spreading throughout the country, particularly among large numbers of young people in urban and rural areas, abandoned without any training or hope of finding a job worthy of their ambitions.

Militarily, France is disarmed; although it has the absolute weapon, it refuses to see that nuclear fire will protect us only inadequately, when we are alone against formidable enemies.

Ecologically, France is one of the countries that will be hardest hit by the climate crisis. And yet, the country has done nothing really serious about thermal insulation of buildings, carbon capture, the fight against waste and land artificialisation, and even less about adapting to the increasingly likely scenario of 4 degrees global warming.

Everyone has known all this for years: not a conference, not a public or private conversation goes by without some mention.

And yet, nothing is being done:

The executive is paralyzed. It even has no legal means to act, since the last budget produced was by another government, overthrown before it had begun to implement it, without the new one deigning to prepare, let alone submit to Parliament, an amending budget which would be ineffective in any case, since this government has no budgetary room for manoeuvre and is doing nothing to regain it, contenting itself with churning out important symbolic measures, without addressing any of the issues that determine the country’s independence, nor launching any of the structural reforms that are needed, nor abolishing useless structures, nor fighting against rents.

Other forms of power are no more active. The legislature indulges in petty procedural wrangling. Political parties are reduced more than ever to places where people can win seats. Nor are the trade unions proposing anything very ambitious. Our defense companies aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders.

Although many people in each of these institutions share this diagnosis and lament the general passivity, no one dares to stand up and propose a program of public salvation. The country seems fascinated by what’s to come and resigned to the fact that, in three years’ time, a bankrupt France will be governed by Marine Le Pen or her junior clone, both of whom are benevolent towards our potential enemies and unprepared for the world’s challenges. While the right, center and social democrats blame each other for their defeats, and the far left continues to chant anti-Semitic slogans in a vacuum.

And yet, nothing is lost yet. France is still a great country. It has a youthful population that is only too eager to mobilize if given direction and meaning. It has top-level engineers, executives, community workers, researchers, teachers, doctors and elected representatives.

Let them rise up, before a bad wind blows them away.


Image: Pexels.