Blog post

After the death of one bourgeois bloc, it’s time to kill off another

Paul Elek argues that the only way to prevent a fascist government in France is a united response from the social and political left.

Paul Elek28 June 2024

After the death of one bourgeois bloc, it’s time to kill off another

This article was originally published by Contretemps on 13 June 2024.


Paul Elek analyses the French political situation resulting from the vote for the EU Parliament and Emmanuel Macron’s calling of snap elections. He shows how the bourgeois bloc is rapidly reorganising around a nationalist and reactionary axis, dominated by the Front/Rassemblement National. He argues that this turn of events demands a united response from the social and political left.



The surprise announcement of snap elections, less than an hour after the results of the European elections filtered through, surprised even the members of what is wrongly called the Macronite “majority” in the National Assembly. While the series of elections in spring-summer 2022 [i.e. including the last parliamentary election] had done nothing to resolve the three-sided political confrontation that has developed since 2017, they did offer increasingly visible signs that the Fifth Republic is falling to pieces.

For two years, there has, in fact, been no stable majority in parliament. Only the authoritarian wielding of the Constitution (and of the procedural rules of the National Assembly) and the poker-game of case-by-case agreements with the right-wing Les Républicains and the far-right Rassemblement National could keep up the illusion that parliamentary business proceeds apace. For two long years, the country has been run without approval by parliamentary vote: the 2023 and 2024 state budgets as well as major measures like the pensions reform were imposed through Article 49.3 [i.e. without a specific vote on the government text]. Now, the searing defeat for Macron’s party at the EU elections — losing more than 1.5 million votes since the previous such vote in 2019 — seems to mark the endgame of the recompositions of the bourgeois bloc which he had so deftly orchestrated since his victory in 2017.

The Macron camp’s strategy of annexing the social base of the political right has played out as the adoption of so many xenophobic and anti-civil liberties proposals that were earlier the stuff of right-wing and far-right forces. But even this has brought into view a seemingly inevitable confrontation between the old “bourgeois bloc”[1] reorganised as a “right-wing bloc 2.0”[2] and the new bourgeois bloc in gestation under the national-reactionary patronage of the Rassemblement National. We may well ask if the ideological alignment of the various right-wing formations around the triptych of (i) neoliberal consensus (ii) the racist fracturing of French society and (iii) authoritarianism could really have led to anything other than the constitution of a new “reactionary arc”[3] able to threaten Macron’s role as the trump card of the bourgeoisie.

When Macron decided to dissolve the National Assembly, this leader of the pyromaniac fire brigade gambled that France’s left-wing forces would remain divided. His aim was to bring down what is called the “Left that brings disorder to parliament.” While a broad left-wing alliance, in the form of the NUPES coalition, denied the president’s party a majority in the National Assembly in 2022, the real target of his attacks is La France Insoumise. Throughout the recent period, La France Insoumise has not only mounted a fierce parliamentary opposition, but above all acted as a lightning rod for the dynamic forces within the social camp — the kind committed to a clear rupture with the neoliberal consensus and its latest racist-authoritarian mutation.

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It is this left-wing show of strength, this determination to engage in a real fight — advanced in two presidential elections by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy — that frightens the bourgeoisie. It surely does not look kindly on the weakening of those other forces on the Left whom it has long been able to rely on as its B team. From the turning point of the march against Islamophobia in 2019 to the revolt in working-class neighbourhoods against police crimes in 2023 — not to mention the fight against the pension reform and the genocide in Gaza — it is indeed La France Insoumise, driven by popular movements, that has confronted the government's agenda. It has become a point of reference for many activists and voters on the Left, whatever their earlier perceptions of it.

How else can we explain the extra one million votes La France Insoumise added to its score in the recent European elections, despite the McCarthyite atmosphere created by the Macron camp? This latter has added Muslims to a long list of designated enemies of state, including all the various incarnations of opposition to the president’s policies: from the gilets jaunes to “Islamo-leftists”, via trade unionists deemed too combative, the supposed “ecoterrorists” of Earth Uprisings [Les Soulèvements de la Terre], and all those who received police summons for “apology for terrorism”. If the government’s supporters are to be believed, La France Insoumise — whose real political proposal in fact mostly resembles the 1972 [Socialist-Communist] Common Programme[4] — is a chimera halfway between Action Directe and Hamas.

In the short term, Macron has weakened his own political centrality by creating the conditions for two new electoral alliances to emerge on the Left and the far right. This may, indeed, foreshadow the reorganisation of French society into two rather than three socio-political blocs. Faced with the risk of a National Assembly dominated by the Rassemblement National, the announcement of snap parliamentary elections has prompted the forces formerly allied in NUPES to set out a new agreement, while Le Pen’s party, buoyed by the 9.5 million votes for the far right in the European elections, is trying to rally “all patriots”. Hubris does not exclude madness, and our Jupiterian president is now chasing after the news, intervening in public debate multiple times a week in order to assert his mere existence amidst the stranglehold that he has tightened around himself. With the collapse of the bourgeois bloc now well underway, the wounds of the unstable “transformism” that allowed it to take form between 2017 and 2022 are today opening up again.

The line from 1936, “Rather Hitler than the Popular Front”, will once again be the bourgeoisie’s outlook on all these upheavals. But the current situation presents itself first and foremost as a new phase in the recomposition of the bourgeoisie’s various chapels. The day after the left-wing parties announced their pact for the snap parliamentary elections, the peripheral battalions of the bourgeois bloc led the panic. The Gaullist party Les Républicains (LR), for seven years torn between the role of Macron's auxiliaries and that of the Rassemblement National’s copyist monks, is today tearing itself apart.

While [now-disputed party president] Éric Ciotti has negotiated a coalition with the RN for nearly 80 LR candidates, senior members of the party — starting with the leaders of its parliamentary groups in the Senate and the National Assembly — met in a special political bureau to call for his removal from the leadership and the exclusion of both Ciotti and his supporters. Having locked himself up in the party headquarters like a madman — emptying it of its employees in a deliciously tragicomic moment — the MP for Nice is now sticking to his guns, arguing that he has the support of thousands of party members and that the moves against him are unlawful. It remains to be seen how the old guard, outraged by his initiative, intends to make the best of the situation when everyone continues to vacillate between tacit alliance with the president’s party and waiting for a hypothetical post-Macron recomposition of the Right. The fall of the Gaullist house is thus a foregone conclusion, but the ordeal could last a while.

The right wing of the Parti Socialiste is also seething — and banking on its illusions in [the party’s lead candidate for the EU elections] Raphaël Glucksmann. “Rather Macron than France Insoumise” is the rallying cry of Socialist supporters of colonial solidarity with Israel and the old Hollandiste camp led by [François Hollande’s sometime prime minister] Bernard Cazeneuve. 2022 presidential candidate Anne Hidalgo's supporters and the tiny group Place Publique [soft centre-left/liberal supporters of Glucksmann] have already announced that they are organising to present dissident candidates against the left-wing alliance in Paris constituencies. Finally, the icing on the cake is that, even beyond the near shores of the late bourgeois bloc, the neofascist Reconquête has also fallen out over Marion Maréchal’s proposed alliance with the Rassemblement National. In his fury, Éric Zemmour, the multi-recidivist racist at the head of Reconquête, expelled Maréchal from the party, denouncing it as yet another betrayal in a long career in this field. Fair enough.

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If the bourgeois bloc is crumbling — joined by certain remnants of the political circles which it helped to bury — not everything is done and dusted. A new electoral coalition on the Left could be a necessary step, but hardly a sufficient one. There has been an intense battle over the boundaries of its programme. There are surely sharp divisions between those left-wing formations who merely seek to calm the political crisis, and those committed to a line of rupture with capitalism and the racist social order. A project for collective emancipation remains a long way off. Perhaps the move to create an alliance could help to avoid the worst outcome in parliament. But as the poet said: “When the wheat is under the hail / Who but a fool would / Quibble and / Think of his little quarrels / In the middle of common combat?”[5] This new electoral coalition on the Left could at least thwart Emmanuel Macron's bid to again prevail by posing as a bulwark against the far right, when in fact he has thrown open the “boulevard” for its rise to power.[6]

The political consensus in favour of repressing the uprisings prompted by the police murder of young Nahel, and the media’s one-sided stance for unconditional support for the Israeli colonial state, have turned France Insoumise and the internationalist camp into a besieged citadel. But this has also prevented us from really learning the lessons of the bitter failure of NUPES. We lacked the political space such as could have allowed a real popular intervention in deciding this coalition’s fate. This doubtless already condemned it to instability, amidst the bitter leadership struggle between the moderate and “radical” wings of the broad social camp.

The opportunism of some of the party machines involved in NUPES (the same ones who have formed today’s New Popular Front), incapable of opposing the government’s agenda, hammered the nail into this alliance’s coffin, just to achieve paltry scores in the European elections. Once again, both popular pressure for unity and these party machines’ own narrow interest in self-preservation forced their leaders to “get around the negotiating table” ahead of the snap parliamentary elections. Yet the rapid formation of the New Popular Front in this context is rather different from the genesis of NUPES after the 2022 presidential election.

This time around, there is a striking recognition of the fascist danger, and a resulting jolt to the French body politic. This suggests an opportunity to take the battle beyond the straightforwardly electoral arena and impose some popular accountability over the solemn pledges now being made. The main trade-union organisations opened the show on the weekend with a call to rally against the far right and to “promote the need for progressive alternatives for the world of work”. They were joined by civil society organisations such as the League for Human Rights and ATTAC, which are also joining the fight.

At the very least, the time has come to set up a coordination among the different headquarters of the social camp, even while respecting the autonomy of each party's role. This should be married with a programme of popular intervention in the debate, perhaps in the form of local committees for the New Popular Front. In this regard we can look back to the successful (but already now-old) 2005–6 experiment in local unity committees, around the referendum that rejected the European Constitutional Treaty.

As for the furious political and media debate which surrounds today’s battles, we can find its key terms already in a 1932 text by Paul Nizan. As he put it “When bourgeois thought resists revolution, it feigns to believe, and believes, that it is defending human society against aggression, against barbaric regression.”[7] It’s high time that we put the lie to this wretched claim.

Translated by David Broder


[1] Bruno Amable, Stefano Palombarini, The Last Neoliberal: Macron and the Origins of France's Political Crisis, London: Verso, 2021.

[2] Bruno Amable, Stefano Palombarini, Où va le bloc bourgeois, Paris: La Dispute, 2022.

[3] See Paul Elek, ‘Sur l’arc réactionnaire : quelques thèses à propos de la crise politique en 2024’, #Positions, 14 January 2024 [online].

[4] This government programme, signed by the Socialist and Communist Parties in 1972, undoubtedly had more radical political ambitions on certain economic and social issues, but did not take into account a number of current themes, such as the question of an ecological transition.

[5] Louis Aragon, “The Rose and the Mignonette”,

[6] Sébastien Fontenelle, Macron et l'extrême droite : Du barrage au boulevard, Paris: éditions Massot, 2023.

[7] Paul Nizan, “Les chiens de garde”, 1932.

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