Devolution and Integration

This article by Yohann Rimokh in Le Figaro, published in December 2015, draws some national conclusions from the sectarian and separatist tensions in France’s permanently grumbling appendix, Corsica.

Tension in Corsica: one more symptom of the ‘French Suicide’

Yohann Rimokh, barrister at law, sees in the tensions in Corsica a disintegration of the state and a refeudalisation of the country.

❝I would point out that at Byzantium, they were occupying themselves with the sex of the angels when the Turks were already storming the ramparts… ❞, wrote Céline, beginning the last paragraph of his Rigodon. It is basically the same story, often the same performance, the same concatenation of events. The sequence that our century replays is not without precedent. Probably the only thing that is new and peculiar to the 21st century, is the incalculable quantity of wool that is pulled over our eyes. Difficult not to be spun around, not to become entangled in the web of facts; difficult not to pull up the wool without bringing down every kind of anathema. Difficult to concentrate on the real.

The reality that returns to us practically every day always juxtaposes the two great challenges we have to face: on the one hand, the unravelling of the “centralised state”, the state as we’ve known it for a very long time — Jacobin, strong, omnipresent in the national territory, and concentrated in Paris. On the other hand, there is the question of Islam; of the possibility of integrating it in France. These two questions push us around; they are profoundly linked, so closely interconnected that in many respects they appear as the two sides of the same coin.

The events in Corsica last weekend should not deceive us: they were not just a big night out, nor did they mark a new development in the conflict between separatists, muslims and the authorities. On the contrary, they testified to their current local relevance. The trashing of a [muslim] place of worship in reprisal for attacks and abuse is an act that carries a name: it is revenge, violence repaid directly. A vendetta, a wergeld. Revenge is a response of immemorial pedigree: it is the least civilised of reactions, the most brutal, the most condemnable, but it arises when no law appears sufficiently strong to stop it or to deter it. It testifies above all, this spontaneous revenge, to a disintegration of the state on yet another piece of the national territory. The prefect, the state prosecutor, elected officials and all the state representatives have intervened, but they were, and now ever shall be condemned to react after the event, within a framework more and more precarious and, in truth, with a legitimacy that is more and more contested.

A short time ago in these columns, we defended the last act of “decentralisation”: dividing the country into thirteen regions, giving each a regional president, also creating fiefdoms at the disposition of a “regional boss”. This however has engendered a new dissipation of power, a further step in the disintegration of the state. Even the term ‘decentralisation’ is a fraud; it doesn’t evoke adequately the reality, because this new division entails de facto a re-feudalisation of the country, that is, a transfer of power to provincial agents (presidents of the regions), who will finish up believing themselves to be independent, and treating their remit and their territory as part of their patrimony.

Feudalism is not a dirty word; the system that it supposes is certainly not locked in the past, nor is it condemned to lie motionless in the museum of fenced-off histories. It was, this system, in operation for centuries in France. There is no reason why it should not be revived. The gradual disappearance of the state necessarily allows room for other forms of government and administration to take root in the territory.

In consequence, what is astonishing is the lack of any historical bearings in a government and a political class seized by a sort of avidity, a willingness to devolve the power and sovereignty that the nation has entrusted to them. This pronounced tendency is not peculiar to France; it touches the whole European continent, from the Flemings in the north to the Corsicans in the south, while taking in the half-hearted debate on Breton independence. From this standpoint, how is it possible not to be seriously perplexed when political authorities on the one hand call for more firmness from a state that, on the other, they themselves void of all substance? Put another way, how to criticise Corsican nationalism while at the same time encouraging the conditions that facilitate its rise? How to justify the state narrative of ‘firmness’, in a state that appears no longer to value its most essential attributes: to know how to exercise authority and power?

At this stage, at stake is not just to defend what we call the ‘centralised state’, to condemn this or that pretension to independence, or to propose an alternative or a utopian federalism, such as has never taken hold in France. At stake is to expose things for what they are, and to lift the veil on the two great social phenomena that are turning our country upside down.

Here lies the difference with Byzantium, which had no choice, which was condemned by its defeats to fall and to disintegrate: we have no ‘Turk’ and there is no army ‘storming the ramparts’ of our frontiers. [No Turk? A careless metaphor, perhaps. The Turkish threat was already well visible when this article was written. — Ed.]

It is perhaps a novelty of this century, an historical irony: an anticipated disintegration – or as [Eric] Zemmour says, the tale of a French suicide. §