“For a return of the honour of our leaders"
A shot across the bows of the French government by retired generals

It is reported by an extreme right French magazine, 'Valeurs' that:
"At the initiative of Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, a retired general in the gendarmerie, twenty generals, a hundred senior officers and more than a thousand other military personnel have signed an appeal for “a return to honour and duty within the political class.”
One of the generals was also a leader of the ‘Gilets Jaunes’. It is instructive to note that there are 540 generals on active service in the French army and more than 5,400 (!) retired generals, receiving an extra payment to remain available for active duty should France be attacked. Quite what they'll do with them all isn't entirely clear!

(My translation of the letter published on 21 April 2021)

“Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen of the government,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Parliament,

This is a serious time, France is in peril, several mortal dangers threaten her. We who, even after retirement, remain soldiers of France, cannot, in the present circumstances, remain indifferent to the fate of our beautiful country.

Our tricolour flags are not just a piece of cloth, they symbolise the tradition, through the ages, of those who, whatever their skin colour or creed, have served France and given their lives for her. On these flags we find in gold letters the words "Honneur et Patrie". Now, our honour today lies in denouncing the disintegration that is affecting our country.

- A disintegration which, through a certain anti-racism, has only one aim: to create uneasiness on our soil, even hatred between communities. Today, some speak of racialism, indigenism and decolonialist theories, but through these terms it is racial war that these hateful and fanatical supporters want. They despise our country, its traditions, its culture, and want to see it dissolve by tearing away its past and its history. Thus they attack former military and civilian glories with statues, analysing centuries-old words.

- This is a disintegration which, together with Islamism and the suburban hordes, is leading to the detachment of many parts of the nation and transforming them into territories subject to dogmas that are contrary to our constitution. However, every Frenchman, whatever his belief or non-belief, is at home everywhere in France; there cannot and must not be any town or district where the laws of the Republic do not apply.

- Disintegration, because hatred takes precedence over fraternity during demonstrations where the authorities use the forces of order as auxiliary agents and scapegoats in the face of French people in yellow waistcoats expressing their despair. This while infiltrated and hooded individuals ransack businesses and threaten these same forces of order. However, the latter are only applying the directives, sometimes contradictory, given by you, the rulers.

The dangers are growing, the violence is increasing day by day. Who would have predicted ten years ago that a teacher would one day be decapitated outside his school? We, the servants of the Nation, who have always been ready to put our skin in the game - as our military status demanded - cannot be passive spectators of such actions.

It is therefore imperative that those who lead our country find the courage to eradicate these dangers. To do this, it is often enough to apply without weakness the laws that already exist. Do not forget that, like us, a large majority of our fellow citizens are fed up with your wavering and guilty silences.

As Cardinal Mercier, Primate of Belgium, said: "When prudence is everywhere, courage is nowhere. "So, ladies and gentlemen, enough procrastination, the hour is serious, the work is colossal; do not waste time and know that we are ready to support the policies that will take into consideration the safeguarding of the nation.

On the other hand, if nothing is done, laxity will continue to spread inexorably in society, ultimately causing an explosion and the intervention of our active comrades in a perilous mission to protect our civilisational values and safeguard our compatriots on national territory.

We can see that it is no longer time to procrastinate, otherwise tomorrow civil war will put an end to this growing chaos, and the deaths, for which you will be responsible, will be counted in thousands.”

I’m not sure that their allegations could be more self-regarding, vague or unsupported by data, but the Generals have spoken. And it seems that they are not alone. In the latest Harris opinion poll, more than 58% of the French people (in their sample of 1613) support their views. Quite what this means, however, is somewhat unclear. According to the same opinion poll, 64% of those questioned had heard of the ‘tribune’, but only 38% of them really knew what it said.  It was explained to them that the main points were that the generals denounced the disintegration of France due to "a certain anti-racism", "Islamism and the suburban hordes", after which, presumably, 58% decided that they agreed. The generals also point to the way in which the government maintains public order, notably their policy regarding the ‘Gilet Jaunes’ as opposed to what they would regard as a hands-off approach in the banlieu.

They warn Macron that the army could decide of their own volition to intervene, as they see it, to re-establish order. On this point, the French people seem to be more divided – a smaller percentage, 49%, are happy with this. On other points in the letter, there is much greater agreement. Eighty-four percent of those asked think that violence is getting worse on a daily basis, even though the crime rate has very substantially declined since the ‘90s. And, of course, therefore, 73% think that the country is disintegrating. It looks as if France is having some sort of nervous breakdown, probably not helped by the failure of the vaccination programme.

I’m sure that the noise created by the letter will reverberate for some time. I’m not though sure how seriously to take it. Marine le Pen has picked up on it and invited the signatories to support her party. That is seen by a good many of the French as blatant opportunism and so it’s difficult to believe that she will benefit very much from all of this in the longer term.

And certainly at the moment, although the opinion polls have her neck and neck with Macron in the first round, she is then soundly beaten in a head to head with Macron in round 2 of the presidential elections. Perhaps it’s a matter of anatomy! But we can go further in trying to see what this amounts to. We have a web-site in the UK which allows petitions to be started on almost any cause close to your heart. Unsurprisingly, it has a counterpart in France: www.mesopinions.com. Currently there are just over 66,000 signatures to a petition on it supporting the generals’ letter.

That number of supporters is quite significant, but looking more closely at the site, I see that the major preoccupation of the people using it seems to be, surprisingly for the French, largely about the mistreatment of animals. Mainly, they want people convicted of cruelty to be banged up – for a long time. There are thousands of such petitions, each with more than 100,000 signatures. But amongst the top petitions we find, at 716,000 signatories, one asking for the removal of President Macron because, if you believe the mathematically challenged petitioner, only 16% of the people actually voted for him. So that’s not democracy!? Actually 45% of those entitled to vote voted for him in the second round, but truth is a secondary consideration to prejudice. 

Second in the rankings, at 571,000, is one calling for imprisonment for the owner of a dog which he had buried alive, but which was saved from death by a passer-by. And at third position (428,000) there is a petition to ban fox-hunting. So then, I’m not sure what this tells us about the French people as a whole. Perhaps it just tells us that the days of the great intellectuals such as Descartes are well and truly over, leaving the French like the rest of us, having great difficulty in looking at things objectively and very divided in their views - something I think we already knew. Mind you Descartes spent most of his adult life in Holland, so France might already have been on a downward path!

Paul Buckingham

4 May 2021

  Happy Birthday Mum!

   (She would have been 106 today)

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