La France éternelle

In 1933, when the Nazis took power in Germany, Churchill pronounced, ‘Thank God for the French Army!’ Subsequent events proved his confidence to be misplaced. But judging from the Bastille Day celebration in Paris this morning, the French military are in good shape. Especially impressive is the amount of French designed, French built hardware on display, from tanks and armoured personnel carriers to helicopters and fighter aircraft.

There was no great procession down the Champs Élysées this year, and fewer military personnel than usual. But the march past – the Dragoons, the Republican Guard, the Foreign Legion, the military academies – were impressive enough. There were lighter moments, as when the band of the Foreign Legion played ‘La Mer’, to the delight of the assembled dignitaries, and the drum major of the Legionnaires tossed his ceremonial mace too high and had to chase after it, to the delight of Macron.

Some of the detachments were led by women, fearsome Hattie Jacques type figures, whom one would not wish to meet on the parade ground. The fly pasts did the job, and all of it set against the magnificent backdrop of the great national monuments of Paris. As usual, the ceremony ended with the unfurling of a giant tricolor, made more poignant this year by an honour guard of health workers, and of course the singing of the Marseillaise.

There is no doubt about it. Bastille Day is a magnificent spectacle, and thanks to wide screen TV and French satellite (useful for those of us with French wives), you can have it beamed into your suburban front room.

But most of all, one senses the collective national pride. I felt it myself. The full panoply of the French state is on display – and it is impressive. This is France. Yet the great paradox remains. On the one hand, we have la Patrie, and la gloire de la France. On the other, we have the same French taking a perverse pride in having unleashed the very forces that would destroy it. Derrida, Foucault, Sartre, Lacan, Barthes, Bourdieu, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Levinas (etc.) – the apostles of deconstruction, postmodernism, and cultural Marxism, beloved of modern academia – were all French.

The paradox is embodied in Macron. He is the ultimate diversifying virtue-signaling liberal, who, in a fit of multicultural virtue, dared declare that French culture ‘does not exist’; and yet he handles state ceremonials with faultless dignity and aplomb, visibly swelling with pride at the Bastille Day spectacle.

In many respects France has followed the same deconstructive, self-destructive, multicultural path as England. Yet the ‘failure’ of France to absorb its Muslim immigrants into a purpose designed multicultural society (which British liberals preen themselves on having achieved here), instead relegating them to ghettos, might be a blessing in disguise. One senses that despite the ravages of multiculturalism, France, and all it stands for, remains essentially untouched.

Unlike in England, one senses that when push comes to shove, there is no question which side will win out. Macron expressed it when, in response to the BLM protests, he pledged, ‘The Republic will not erase any trace, or any name, from its history.’ And no-one could have been in any doubt how the French Republic would respond had any protestor dared to desecrate its statues. Meanwhile, the British authorities boarded-up Churchill and allowed their police to ‘take the knee’. 

The inestimable value of the national day celebration is that everyone, including – especially including – the newcomer, knows where he stands. Bastille Day sense a clear message to those who would ‘deconstruct’ France. But national day military parades are not our style. We have the ceremonial of Trooping the Colour, but its only official significance is that it celebrates the Queen’s birthday. As for St George’s Day, you can forget it. England was long submerged, drowned, in the morass of diverse multicultural Britain.

But at least – for now – France remains France.

Vive la France!

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22 Comments on La France éternelle

  1. Dear David. Yes, we obviously both recognise the methods used in The Soviet Union and China to quell opposition to their tyrannies and, as you say, China is the new foreign threat using sophisticated technological warfare and old-fashioned economic coercion and not the 1950s-1990s nuclear terror.

    The only effective organisation to combat the liberal-left hegemony in Britain is a political party but getting one started is virtually impossible. U.K.I.P was a one-issue party under Nigel Farage and was responsible in forcing the Conservative Party to offer a referendum on the E.U. As soon as it tried to expand into a party with a wider manifesto, internal squabbling destroyed it. Nigel Farage’s subsequent ‘Brexit Party’ was instrumental in securing Brexit from the establishment’s intention to leave in name only but, again, a one-issue party. Defining being a conservative is not easy unlike the emotional leftist sound-bite electioneering rhetoric that wins votes. Our cherished conservative Britain that was the result of centuries of hard-won freedoms under the law was – like ‘Sir John’ at the beginning of the film ‘I’m Alright Jack’ – on its way out in 1960 with no return ticket.

  2. Dear David Asquith. Dissenters in the Soviet Union were sent to a gulag where unknown numbers died from exhaustion, starvation, and exposure. Later, mental ‘hospitals’ were the preferred way to silence the more important dissenter to the evil tyranny. In Britain, social engineering over the last five decades has produced the intolerant leftist Britain of today and any dissenter to that left-liberal orthodoxy is fearful to speak up in public for being branded a ‘right-wing extremist’ by his peers or a listing and a visit from the thought police. The more high-profile dissenter – as with Nigel Farage, David Starkey, J.K. Rowling to name but three – are silenced by exclusion from public/media debate and risk losing their status and/or means of making an income so, as in the old Soviet Union, it’s little wonder that so few are willing to lead a fight-back.

    • Dear Derek – your mention of the Soviet Union is spot on, to which I’d add the behaviour of Mao’s Red Guards as another warning from history, and one which seems closer at hand. The present threat may not be as dire as publicity-seekers would have us believe but we cannot ignore it. It is deeply distressing that the present government has not ordered the reinstatement of damaged statues and other public monuments, nor has it condemned the actions of universities and other supposedly learned institutions anxious to bow down before a mob of trouble makers. The question is what can we do to force the government to protect people such as those you name from abuse and harassment.

  3. French soldiers – lions led by cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Are there no scholars left who believe that our social, political and economic practices are a better foundation for civilisation than anything the left and the liberal sentimentalists have ever come up with?
    And is there no one to mobilise them as a body of opinion-formers?

    • The problem, as I see it, is that the social, political, and economic practices espoused by liberal laissez-faire conservatives since Margaret Thatcher have been just as destructive of conservative values as anything the left has mustered. Witness the unholy cross-party alliance on mass immigration and cheap labour. It was only the coronavirus crisis that prevented liberal open-borders free trade conservatives from handing our national security to the Chinese on a platter.

      Kevin Hickson documents the paradox brilliantly in his recent book on Britain’s Conservative Right since 1945 (there is a review in the autumn edition of the magazine).

      My point is that for conservatives, unlike libertarian liberals, the nation state matters, and that this justifies a strong state. The French of course have a different tradition, but in many ways their state is admirable. They have not done too badly in the civilization stakes either.

      • Thank you Alistair for your courteous and helpful response to my, er, ‘cri de coeur’. To limit myself to a couple of further points, I share the belief that Britain still needs its own State but having been one of the first places to form a nation-state, the first into the industrial revolution and the first out of it, we have to accept that in the long term (though certainly not yet) nation-states may themselves be superseded by other constructs. Secondly, what I’d like to see is an articulation of ‘conservatism’ as a forward-looking movement, not just a backlash against the outrageous behaviour of its present opponents. Feel free to say so if you believe me to be mistaken.

        • Thank you, David. Yes – it is the ‘forward-looking’ that is the great conundrum. We can all do nostalgia very well, but so much of the old world and its values has been destroyed that there seems to be little in the way of a secure base to build anything new on. Hickson concludes with, ‘So much of what the Conservative Right [i.e. traditional Tories] desired had already been so seriously eroded that revival was not a viable position … Those of that persuasion have no option in modern times but to be pessimists.’

          I don’t think anyone has an answer to the loss of faith – except possibly forcing everyone to attend church (as in Elizabethan days) and listen to Peter Mullen’s sermons. However, getting back ‘England’ and ‘the English’, even just the words, would be a major step forward. Then at least we would know who we were, and who we are. Ditching the Scots, and even the Welsh, might be the key here – something Richard Body thought necessary. It might just provoke the seismic shift that is needed. Then, somehow, we would need to get to work on education and academia. Vouchers for all school leavers might help. I don’t see courses in ‘critical race theory’, for example, lasting very long. The University of Buckingham (minus Anthony Seldon) might be a beacon of light here.

          The other great question is of course, which political party or movement, and which leader? Simple answer, I don’t know! But the advent of Mrs Thatcher might be instructive. In 1973, she was the token woman in Heath’s cabinet. By 1975, to most Tories’ surprise, she was leader. By 1979, the country was radically changing direction.

          If nothing else, we can at least we can keep the conversation going here.

          • Sorry for the delay in replying. Distracted by other preoccupations.
            To continue the conversation – an attempt to define what we’re trying to conserve. It’s unlikely that I shall have anything blindingly original to say, but here goes.

            To begin with, although human beings are social individuals and their thoughts as well as behaviour reflect this, it is the mind of the individual which does the thinking and is of prime importance in the maintenance of life itself, and civilised living. The individual must therefore be protected, at the philosophical as well as practical level, from oppression by radical collectivists.

            If the thinking individual is the core value, it is nevertheless important to acknowledge the social ‘we’, because the cultural significance of England, or Britain, or Europe is the product of the many rather than the few, over a long period of time.

            In fighting off those who currently denigrate the history and the culture into which those alive today were born, we cannot deny the sins of our forebears. For myself, however, the only responsibility I accept for those sins is not to repeat them; no token apologies, no ‘reparations’. I do however share the instinct common among human beings worldwide to help those in extreme need – the starving stranger at the door, or a continent blighted by famine or disease.

            The hard choice is of course to define the limit of help. However ‘selfish’ it may seem, each ‘self’ has as much a right to exist as any other and has no obligation to destroy its capacity to help others beyond those seeking help at any particular moment. Just as individuals limit their donations to one good cause or another, Britain as an organisation should limit its efforts to those which don’t threaten the survival of its philosophical or practical capacity to play a beneficial role in future.

            All comments welcome.

  4. The fact is that Western Europe has been sentenced to death. The roles of Judge, jury and executioner have been played by the Left, which infiltrated our institutions and smeared the people with collective, inherited guilt for the crimes of the Third Reich. These it has spuriously connected with the Atlantic slave trade, which is denounced as if it were the only such trade in history. Such is the power of today’s left that even to mention Stalin or denounce Lenin is called “relativizing the Holocaust” – a view they sustain even when it is argued that Stalin is not being presented as an excuse for the Nazis, or as worse than them but as just as bad. Meanwhile, to point to the Islamic slave trade or invoke Wilberforce is called “denial”. All such views now cost their sponsors both reputation and career. The process has taken such a long time and advanced by such petty steps that objections have been stymied at the time by the complacent and now look as though they are too late.

    • You are correct, Percy. It particularly saddens me to hear conservatives submissively using nonsense terms like ‘woke’. Once you adopt your enemy’s terminology you are already half-beaten.

    • >point to the Islamic slave trade or invoke Wilberforce is called “denial”.

      Surely, NOT mentioning these facts is true denial?

  5. Until a watershed event for me in 1997, I had always hoped for Britain to turn away from the socialist/Marxist addiction that had overtaken the British trait of self-reliance and responsibility that the fabled ‘Dunkirk spirit’ peddled and for the Conservative Party to begin rolling back the growing tide of tawdry crass culture and Marxist inspired legislation that had corroded away the Christian based society that had been the hallmark of Englishness. I can now see no way back even though Brexit unexpectedly happened and the collapse of what had made ‘Great’ Britain is now an embarrassment to the inheriting generation.

    France affords me some of those liberties that Britain has trashed but its basic governance is authoritarian in nature and the E.U. is steadily enhancing it. Will the much vaunted Priti Patel kill off the European Arrest Warrant legislation on January 1st 2021 and restore the compromised treasure of Habeas Corpus?

  6. Mr Miller: I hope you’re right that France isn’t beyond hope. But I spent a few minutes this morning (July 14th) solemnly remembering the sufferings of the victims of the French revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848. If one adds the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and the two World Wars, France seems to be a nation of perpetual victims.

    The good news is that the spire of Notre Dame is to be replaced with an exact replica, not with a rooftop swimming pool. The bad news is that the enemies of France aren’t being repatriated from France any more than the enemies of Britain are being repatriated from Britain.

    Many of my comments include a book recommendation, but this time I’ll recommend a set of CDs instead. François Couperin le Grand, selected keyboard works, performed on a modern piano by Angela Hewitt in three volumes. Pre-revolutionary truth and beauty for our times.

  7. What drivel. We should be thankful we don’t have this sort of stuff parading through our streets. And of course, national hero he may be, but we have erased from history some if Churchill’s more cruel and psychopathic actions. But that only suite some people’s doesn’t it.

    Yes, Britain is multicultural and always has been. There’s Welsh, Scottish and English culture for a start. England also a cultural mix, everything from Morris dancers to Millwall supporters, surfers to headbangers.

    • I think a trip to Paris is urgently needed to widen Werdna’s limited horizons. He is a spiritual citizen of the mythical world commune, but unfortunately lacks the cultural hinterland to understand or appreciate its real inhabitants and their differences. His manners leaves a lot to be desired too. An ex-Millwall supporter perhaps?

    • I don’t hold syntactical errors against Werdna. “Suite” is a very minor boner and understandable since, for all we know, Werdna was masterbaiting when he wrote it.

      • John Henry
        With one hand on his Google Book Of Knowledge though. Bowing out of this one now. I think he may be here to observe how adults communicate in order that he may impress his imaginary friends.