The French-German Tandem

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The German bourgeoisie was among the very first to recognize the political talent and potential of Emmanuel Macron. From an early stage in the French electoral campaign, most of the political class in Germany and almost the whole of the media strongly supported his candidature. Of course, the German bourgeoisie has only limited means of directly influencing a French election. The general public in France follow neither the German media nor what politicians there say. But the French “political elite” necessarily takes note of what is being said and done on the other side of the Rhine. Through their clear stance in his favour, the German bourgeoisie helped to convince the powers that be in France that Macron is a serious and capable politician. This German support for Macron was motivated not only by the will to stop Marine Le Pen and save the European Union. Macron was also the only presidential candidate to make the renewal of the French-German tandem one of the central points of his electoral programme.

Macron takes this Paris-Berlin axis very seriously. According to him France is not yet able to assume its role in such an “alliance”, because it has not yet resolved its economic problems. Only an economically revitalised France, he says, could be anything like an equal partner of Germany. He sees its relative loss of economic competitiveness as the main threat to the stature of France as a global player on an international scale. For this reason, Macron poses the acceptance of his economic programme as the precondition for the constitution of a solid axis with Germany. By posing things in such terms, he has formulated a programme of action which can appear as being at once desirable and realistic to the ruling class of his own country. He presents his “reforms” as the condition for the maintenance of the imperial glory of France, and at the same time as something attainable – because it will be supported by Germany. But by the same token, he has formulated a goal both desirable and attainable to the German ruling class. Whether towards Russia or towards the United States, Berlin needs the backing of Paris. To obtain it, Berlin will have to support the economic “modernisation” of France.

The insistence of Macron on his economic programme as the precondition for everything else does not mean that he has a narrow economic view of the problems facing France. According to an old analysis of one of his predecessors as French president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the main economic problem of France is not its industrial and agricultural apparatus, which produces for the most part efficiently at a high level, but its backward political apparatus, and the rigid, bureaucratic nexus which links politics to its economy (the existing “systeme étatique” in France, which Helmut Schmidt and other German leaders have been criticising for decades). Macron wants to confront this problem today. Not unlike Trump in the United States, he wants to “shake” up the old elites. But he also has to overcome possible resistance from the French working class. Whether or not Macron is able to impose his attacks on the living and working conditions of the French proletariat may well decide whether or not the experiment of En Marche and the Macron presidency ends in success or failure.

Whenever Macron speaks of the French-German tandem, while he always mentions these economic and political dimensions, he insists that it should be first and foremost seen as a military (a “security”) question. In reality, the axis Macron, and Merkel, are speaking of, is not a stable imperialist alliance such as was still possible under the conditions of the Cold War. It is more like a deal based on a greater determination to defend a bigger common policy of certain countries of the EU – expressed by the reaction to the Brexit - and to loosen dependencies on the US in reaction to the "positions" of Trump. The association between Germany andFrance in a leading tandem of the EU is made possible by the complementarity between these two countries. France is the leading military power in Europe, on a par with Britain and really stronger than Germany, and not only because of its possession of the nuclear weapon. The co-leadership with France could benefit to Germany by conferring on it a higher political and diplomatic credibility. On the other hand, France could expect positive spinoffs from an alliance with the economic leader of Europe, mainly a countertrend to the economic / political decline it suffers. And more. The existence of such a co-leadership presents the advantage that it arouses less fear from other EU partners as a Germany assuming the leadership on its own.

The first French-German governmental consultations after the election of Macron decided, among other things: the development of a joint jet fighter to replace both Eurofighter and Rafale; enforcement of “Frontex” against refugees, and the establishment of a joint EU entrance and exit register; under German leadership, the development, along with Italy and Spain, of a European military drone; new investments in modern tanks, patrol boots and space technology. The EU “foreign minister” Mogherini joined Merkel and Macron to declare a European “Alliance for the Sahel Zone”. Germany declared its willingness “in principle” to increase its public and private investments in Europe, and to give financial support to the present French military missions in Africa. All of this under the slogan of “protecting Europe”.

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