Macron has managed to see through plans to reintroduce national service in France for 16 year olds with the aim to promote civic duty and social cohesion – an authoritarian prospect.
Young adults will be forced to do one month placement focusing on civic culture followed by three months to a year of work related to heritage, social care or linked to “defence and security”. Essentially teaching 16 year olds how to handle deadly weapons in defence of the French state.
If anyone followed the Young Scots for Independence campaign on armed forces recruitment, they will know the full dangers – both physical and psychological – of putting impressionable young people through rigorous armed forces training. The fact that the aim of this mandatory training is to promote ‘cohesion and duty’ makes the prospect all the scarier. It serves to instil in young people the idea to lay down their lives in defence of the French Republic and its President without question. I reckon Orwell would shiver.
And while young people can ‘opt’ for non-defence related work, it does not escape the fact that work is work. Anyone who uses their labour should be paid for it. The use of what is essentially slave labour to provide social services only undermines those services and workers currently in place.
These plans are a shadow of what Macron had intended. His vision was for full military service for a minimum of one month for 18 to 21 year olds with no option for civic or social activities in their stead.
It’s no secret that Macron fancies himself a modern day Napoleon – a highly militaristic and arrogant individual – who has elevated himself above the people to benevolently rule over them indicated by his belief that he believes he knows what’s best for the young people of today. Ironically, Macron just missed the French draft before it was abolished.
The social cohesion and unity Macron envisages cannot be forced. If it is, it is the mere illusion of unity. A unity that serves the few through the ignorance of the many. Unity is earned through the collectivisation of our ideals, resources, struggles, and actions – not in service of and in allegiance to a state and the few people who inhabit it. The young people of France have demonstrated that in the past with the 1968 student revolt against capitalism and traditional values resulting President Charles de Gaulle fleeing the country. The state is an instrument of the nation – not an ideal.
Young people are more than capable of making decisions for themselves that will benefit them, their communities and society. They do not need the ideals of an outdated ideology forced upon them to advance the ideals of the state. Nor should young people be obliged to give something back. They do through the labour they provide for the rest of their lives.
The young people of France have a history of knowing when something isn’t in their, but the state’s interest. Those ideologies of Napoleon, de Gaulle and now Macron are outdated and nearing their end. The young people of France must oppose Macron through civil disobedience and refuse to cooperate with his regime of forced labour and indoctrination. Younger people are moving forward and we’re taking the world – and everyone in it – with us.