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Read the preceding articles:
1• The coronavirus also acts as a social revealer
2• The financial bubble boosts the effect of the virus


I’m con­tin­u­ing my game of pick-up-sticks, of jum­bled sen­tences, con­cern­ing the coro­n­avirus. And since the State insists on keep­ing its hand in…

3• And Since the State Insists on Keeping Its Hand In…

These days, I’m hear­ing a sen­tence over and over again: “A States­man will be judged on his way of sur­mount­ing the cur­rent cri­sis.” Anoth­er open door dur­ing this peri­od of con­fine­ment. But not only.

This intrigu­ing coro­n­avirus puts the ques­tion pre­cise­ly to all these expres­sions, run­ning from “nation­al uni­ty” to “Repub­li­can civism”, through a hodge-podge of gen­res between “pub­lic ser­vices”, “State ser­vices”, the Pro­tec­tive State, the Nation­al Econ­o­my, plain old Nation…etc.

Nev­er has it been eas­i­er polit­i­cal­ly for a leader to don the cos­tume of Father pro­tect­ing the Nation, as long as he rests on a cohort of know­ers, since the “sub­jects” turn toward him all at once for an account­ing while, at the same time, he exer­cis­es his “author­i­ty”. For all this, we turn toward the State.

Before going any fur­ther, I must take a step side­ways, not in order to deny the pan­dem­ic and its real­i­ty, but to return to the begin­ning of the columns, with a reminder that the glob­al­ly spooked reac­tion to the pan­dem­ic is only equalled by the exac­er­ba­tion of every inner con­tra­dic­tion in the glob­al cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem and of its finan­cial pilot fish. The reac­tion is one of pan­ic. Reac­tion on which may fol­low every excess as well as deep recon­sid­er­a­tions of the lit­tle that this sys­tem has not yet destroyed or divert­ed on a world-wide scale.

Why would cap­i­tal­ism trans­form itself into a phil­an­thropic sys­tem when, only a few weeks ago, its com­po­nent States respond­ed by vio­lence, tor­ture, death to those ris­ing up in resis­tance on 3 con­ti­nents, or by war. I remind you of the Mid­dle-East. And, pre­cise­ly, dur­ing this cri­sis, the financiers of neolib­er­al­ism could well redis­cov­er the virtues of a State and of author­i­tar­i­an­ism, by learn­ing from the nasty habits of endan­gered pop­u­la­tions and of con­fine­ment. In fact, neolib­er­al­ism and the State have nev­er been ene­mies, and even pros­pered togeth­er under the pre­vi­ous cen­tu­ry’s dic­ta­tor­ship in Chili.

For instance, the French mod­el is one of the pro­to­types of Nation-States pro­pelled across the world, some­times with bay­on­nettes, some­times with can­nons. And as it large­ly melds with the his­to­ry of past cen­turies for liv­ing gen­er­a­tions, it com­bines with the notions of Repub­lic of the State as Provider, of pub­lic ser­vices, of a “social mod­el”. No one expe­ri­ences its “legit­i­mate vio­lence” any­more, except when it is exer­cised with trun­cheons, rub­ber bul­lets, grenades and tear gas. A large seg­ment of French soci­ety has become accus­tomed to denounc­ing the neigh­bors’ trun­cheons while prais­ing the effi­cien­cy of main­tain­ing order at home, in defense of “Repub­li­can val­ues”. Even the French left is jin­go­is­tic, just as it was colo­nial­ist pre­vi­ous­ly, and it con­stant­ly com­bines this with the acqui­si­tion through pre­vi­ous strug­gles of social sys­tems, ser­vices, pub­lic and com­mon goods and of…the State.

This is how, in the pan­ic sur­round­ing the coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic, we nat­u­ral­ly turn toward this State, its struc­tures of gov­er­nance, its police, even its army, in order to “lead the war”.

Notic­ing “at the same time” that this very State and its suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments led aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies, cur­tailed and destroyed com­mon goods to the ben­e­fit “of the wealth­i­est”, and how pop­u­lar was the slo­gan “Pres­i­dent of the wealthy” is a con­tra­dic­tion that Repub­li­can politi­cians sum­ma­rize for us under the expres­sion “a demo­c­ra­t­ic debate use­ful to the Nation’s uni­ty”. Close the quo­ta­tion marks. And so we will wait for the changeover as in Beck­ett, or for the back­lash at the end of the pandemic.

So when a crowned virus arrives in the Repub­lic and appears to threat­en the entire Nation, the annu­ities, the prof­it and the pur­suit of “reforms”, the sys­tem ramps up on all burners.

The word “con­fi­dence” appears as do exam­ples of “incivilities”…Old class reflex­es reap­pear on one side and take off to fill vaca­tion homes or beach­es before the fin­er days run­ning loops of images of heav­i­ly attend­ed mar­kets in low­er-class Parisian neigh­bor­hoods run in a loop, opposed to the “wis­dom and civic behav­ior” in desert­ed streets and pass­es “con­trolled” by the police. These gov­ern­ments have no con­fi­dence in the pop­u­la­tions’ resilience but com­mand it for them­selves, with sanc­tions as support.

The “col­lec­tive” watch­word is stay con­fined, each in your own home. Com­bined with fre­net­ic appeals to “go on work­ing” in order to avoid “eco­nom­ic col­lapse”. Clear­ly, build­ing carts for super­mar­kets, sell­ing cars or con­struct­ing office build­ings are activ­i­ties essen­tial against the coronavirus…All this cacoph­o­ny deserves anoth­er arti­cle, in the form of an inven­to­ry à la Prévert. As it also calls for an arti­cle on all that could be pos­si­ble, col­lec­tive­ly, out­side a frame­work of blind obe­di­ence. Joint resiliences do not nec­es­sar­i­ly match up with war­like stand­ing at attention.

Phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, con­fine­ments, masks are indis­pens­able and nec­es­sary dur­ing this coro­n­avirus san­i­tary cri­sis, just as would have been com­mon goods in suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties in the health sec­tor. Say­ing oth­er­wise is not in order. But what is uncalled for is the fact States are seiz­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty for social polic­ing in the name of supe­ri­or inter­ests, to cov­er their own exit from the crisis.

And bot­tom lines per­sist that augur no good for what will come next. If some aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures are per­force lift­ed out of neces­si­ty, all the screws on the exploita­tion sys­tem are being tight­ened and gov­ern­men­tal mea­sures could very well play on “con­fi­dence” as a means to fin­ish cleans­ing the sys­tem of the social gains made by “labor”. This sys­tem, after hun­ker­ing down at the approach of the san­i­tary cri­sis, will attempt to save itself by “recu­per­at­ing” its loss­es. Trust the sys­tem for that. And let’s not expect the fall of author­i­tar­i­an regimes either…

Noth­ing will be as before, but only worse, perhaps.

Read the fol­low­ing article

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…