The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Putschists-in-Waiting:
A Warning to All Workers

May 10, 2021

The following is the editorial from the workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière, the revolutionary group active in France, for the week of April 26, 2021.

In an op-ed article published by the far-right weekly Valeurs Actuelles, some twenty retired generals and more than a thousand military personnel discussed the threat of a putsch in France.

According to them, the country is under threat from “heinous anti-racism,” “Islamism” and “mobs from the projects.” Their conclusion is menacing: "If nothing is done, laxity will continue to spread inexorably in society, ultimately causing an explosion and the intervention of our comrades in the active forces."

To dispel any ambiguity, the co-authors took care to publish their appeal on April 21, 60 years to the day after the Algiers putsch of 1961, which attempted to replace the already authoritarian power of De Gaulle with a fascist dictatorship.

This is not the first provocation from a fringe group of the fascist far-right—and it won’t be the last! But it is also, and above all, a warning to all workers. The article appeared in an old-fashioned magazine and was signed by an unarmed group of decorated reactionaries, but it expressed the opinion of many active soldiers.

Society is wrought with the racist and xenophobic demagogy used by so many politicians. The police and the army, trained to maintain order, are more attuned to this than anyone else. And, unlike politicians who dream of keeping the country in line but are reduced to making speeches, the army and the police have the means to take action.

The military constitutes an organized, disciplined force at the service of the big bourgeoisie’s social order. In the past, they formed the base of all dictatorships, from Mussolini’s Italy to Nazi Germany, from Franco’s Spain to Salazar’s Portugal. Today, from Algeria to Egypt and Myanmar, many countries are in the same situation. The French military’s declaration was meant to remind us of that fact!

Behind the political games, elections and the smokescreen of democracy, there is a state apparatus that is armed and ready to override national institutions in the name of the homeland in danger.

All soldiers are taught that they are the ultimate upholders and guarantors of the Nation. They are trained with the idea that, over and above the ups and downs of politics, it is their job to maintain order by getting rid of those who do not agree with their views. And let’s make no mistake, the authoritarian regime that they would impose would be an attack on all workers!

The present health, economic and social crises have stirred up a lot of anger and revolts. The generals’ critique reminds us that the capitalist class has watchdogs that are ready to bite. It tells politicians that, if they are incapable of ensuring order, the army can do the job!

For the moment, words and saliva are the only weapons they are using openly, but that could change very quickly. As for the politicians, we can’t count on them to protect us!

The only reaction of left-wing leaders was to ask Macron to condemn the generals’ divisive words, as if they didn’t know that he is on the same side of the barricade as these generals. For Macron and for all those in power, the greatest danger is the workers, the poor, the oppressed, who might cease to accept the hardships imposed on them.

In an attempt to minimize the matter, the Minister of the Armed Forces declared, on behalf of the government, that there was no need to worry, since the army has a duty of “neutrality and loyalty” toward political power!

The military know full well that their so-called duty has never prevented a coup d’état and that power belongs to those who are armed.

Far-right leader Le Pen, despite repetition of her democratic and republican beliefs and despite her strategy to reverse the demonization of her party, has warmly welcomed the declaration made by these would-be faction leaders and has called them to join her party!

We must be aware of the danger that threatens us. The big bourgeoisie knows what it wants and will do whatever it needs to obtain it—in spite of the crisis and even if it means compelling workers to go back to the living conditions of decades ago.

To get what they want, the wealthy may have to rely on the army or on the most reactionary political forces, or even on both at the same time. This should convince us that our fate is in our own hands. No one else will fight for our basic rights, starting with the right to exist. But we are strong enough to win if we organize collectively on the basis of our class interests.