This atmosphere of hysteria, promoted by the bloodhounds of the Right, Darmanin and Blanquer, selected for that job by Macron, characterises much of French national politics at the moment. It will get worse as Macron moves to make life harder for the Left, as he steals policies from the far Right in the run up to the presidential poll, which is just 18 months away.
He is playing to, and so helping augment, a staged backlash against the past year’s outburst of public anger and activity over sexism and racism in France.
Down in Marseilles, other voices were to be heard. With a new Left and Green majority, ‘Marseilles’ Spring’ elected to the city council last summer and the previous mayor, Jean-Claude Gaudin, now under investigation for alleged corruption, a poignant ceremony took place on 21 February. At the spot where, 26 years earlier to the day, 17-year-old Ibrahim Ali had been shot in the back and killed by a Le Pen activist, his name was finally fixed to the wall, with the street renamed ‘Avenue Ibrahim-Ali’.
Renaming the road so that the crime would never be forgotten was a demand of his family and the anti-racist movement in the city for the whole quarter of a century that Gaudin ruled the roost in the city hall. The new majority alliance hopes that its demonstration of successful popular unity will both be an answer to racist prejudice and violence and to Macron’s manoeuvres.
Another anniversary was marked in Marseilles that weekend with the commemoration of the execution by a Nazi firing squad of the 23 members of the group of Resistance fighters led by Missak Manouchian on 21 February 1944. Ibrahim Ali came from the Comores Islands in the Indian Ocean. Missak Manouchian was from Armenia. Both died at the hands of racists in France.
At the Manouchian remembrance, a poem from the surrealist, later Communist, poet Paul Eluard was cited: “Si nous les oublions, leur combat est perdu” (If we forget them, their combat will be lost). Which is why, in the past fortnight, so many were so deeply angered by Vidal’s, sorry, Macron’s assault on those who try to unpick racism, to explore the scars left by colonial oppression and to analyse the workings of the discrimination and prejudice which still cause so much pain across France.