Paris, le 22 avril, 2022
“One wonders what the woman who now presents herself as a sweet jammy grandmother busy spoiling her cats will do when the day comes to face real beasts, Putin in particular.” C. Arnaud
Looking forward to April 24…
With its lies and dead ends, Vladimir Putin’s dirty war in Ukraine is a textbook case of national populism. After flattering his people by reminding them of his greatness and the past extent of his empire, an autocrat wants to reach new heights of popularity by starting a new war to “offer” the same people a New Victory. This mirror narcissism – ‘You love me because I am strong, I love you because you are great’ – usually works well until the first defeats herald the collapse.
Grozny was burned to the ground, and Aleppo was martyred consecutively during the second Chechen war and the Syrian civil war, and Georgia was amputated; the new tsar is bringing back lost territories from the former tsarist or Soviet empire to lay them at his people’s feet.
This obscene contract is sure to be a success in history: without comparing the incomparable, it is Napoleon “offering” to the French people a third of Europe, more than Louis XIV and Charlemagne combined, by putting his brothers and sisters on the throne; it is Mussolini “giving back” to the Italians Libya and Tunisia that the Roman Empire controlled, before parts of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea; it was Hitler restoring to the Germans the greatness that the Treaty of Versailles had confiscated from them, by giving them Austria, Poland, the Baltic States, before Holland, Belgium, France and so on – the list would be too long for this article; it was Stalin who “gave back” Poland and the Baltic States to the USSR after having tried to annex Finland and before eating Moldavia and swallowing Albania, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia…
These predations proved effective at first: part of their people adored Napoleon, Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler, the most violent, was even the most loved. There is no doubt that if Marine Le Pen wins the presidential election on 24 April, she would like to implement the same ‘two part’ narcissism. “You love me because I say out loud what you dare not admit. I love you because your restored greatness will ensure my posterity”. So one wonders what the woman who now presents herself as a sweet grandma with jams, busy spoiling her cats, will do when the day comes to face real beasts, Putin in particular. One can imagine that she will not seriously oppose him, given the close ties they have forged. She could also lead to play the greatness card again, by association: you start by shouting “This is your home” in other people’s homes.
And always the populist autocrat boasts of being the son or daughter of the people: Stalin, Hitler, Putin, Le Pen, it’s always the same tagline, I am one of you, I defend you against the forces of money, I am the people. The people only exist at the most burning moments of history – revolts, refusal of occupation, the celebration of victories: for the rest, they are the lever of dictators, terrorists, and national populists. In free countries, it is a sum of sovereign citizens who, let us hope, will not be mistaken next Sunday.