World in View: Rogue generals send France a chilling message

June 29, 2021

From the July-August 2021 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

This April 21 was the 60th anniversary of a failed coup attempt by French generals opposed to President Charles de Gaulle’s negotiations with the Algerian National Liberation Front. It also marked the publication of a chilling letter to the current government of President Emmanuel Macron.

The letter, signed by 25 retired generals and about 1,000 service personnel, claimed that the nation’s “civilizational values” are threatened by immigrants from Africa and the Middle East; Islamism; “anti-racism”; and attacks on the police and military. It also criticized repression of the gilet jaunes (Yellow Vests) protests.

It said: “Civil war will break upon this growing chaos, and the deaths, for which you will be responsible, will number in the thousands.” The neofascist Marine Le Pen expressed her support for this letter.


A second letter appeared in a right-wing magazine on May 9. It was alleged to represent the views of active duty soldiers who had served in Africa and Afghanistan. It read, “If civil war breaks out, the army will maintain order on its own soil. No one can want such a terrible situation—our elders no more than we—but yes, civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well.”

France has suffered brutal, mass casualty terrorist attacks. The military patrols airports, train stations, and synagogues throughout the country. Macron has made gestures to the anti-immigrant Right. But there is no evidence that the French people desire a civil war.

In the June 20 first round of regional elections, Le Pen’s National Rally party lost support, receiving only 18% nationally. Macron’s En Marche party was devastated, receiving only 10%. There was a record low 33% voter turnout, with most votes going to the center-left and center-right.

Voters rejected both Macron’s current direction, and Le Pen’s reactionary nationalism. The crisis of bourgeois politics reflects the crisis of capitalism, and won’t be settled by elections, but by changed human relations.


As of now, the technocratic elite of the European Union are still able, barely, to block the Far Right from gaining too much power. The Left has little influence and revolution seems a distant prospect.

If French history is any indication, then generals and their arms may well find new patrons among these factions; as they have from the days of Napoleon, the massacre of the Paris Commune of 1871, or de Gaulle’s return to power with the military’s aid in 1958.

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