Europhile neoliberal Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency over the anti-European far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, taking 66.1% of the votes to Le Pen’s 33.9%. With a poor turnout (24.3% of voters abstained) and a million spoilt ballots (12%), Marine Le Pen was actually in the third place behind the people who refused to vote, according to the Daily Mail’s calculations.

A president for Europe

The 39-year-old banker, who set up his own political party En Marche! only a year ago, is the youngest French president. His landslide was seen as instrumental in halting the spread of populism, especially after Brexit in the UK and Trump’s victory in the US. The markets’ reaction was positive but subdued since Macron’s triumph was priced in last week. 

In general, there was a feeling of relief across Europe since Le Pen, who promised to continue her political fight between “patriots and globalists,” was defeated. Despite her loss, her votes marked a historic win for her anti-immigration party, described by many as anti-Semitic and racist. 

Nonetheless, European leaders were satisfied with the results. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Macron carried the hopes of millions of Europeans, while Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “happy the French had chosen a European future.”

Similarly, President François Hollande was pleased that a “large majority of our citizens wanted to unite around the values of the republic and mark our attachment to the EU as well as to France’s openness to the world”.

Who is Macron?

According to the French philosopher Etienne Balibar, Macron “is an ambitious and intelligent but minoritarian technocrat, the partisan of neoliberalism and the ‘modernisation’ of French society within a European framework, put into orbit by a network of financiers and top civil servants, supported by a generation of young disciples of the ‘third way,’ and who has clearly spoken out on the crimes of colonisation.” 

Macron then represents an intelligent educated neoliberal elite that is open to the European Union and globalisation and which is supported by those who advocate the “third way” position in politics—a combination of right-wing economic and left-wing social policies. 

But this third way indicates that the French political system is in crisis, as Balibar states. We no longer have the normal and traditional exchange of power between a centre-Right and centre-Left, but a synthesis of the two, where the two parties’ policies are now indistinguishable. Balibar correctly writes that Macron’s politics is the synthesis of opposites, and as such, offers no future stability or democratic hope: “Faced with the ‘neither Right nor Left’ of the fascist tradition, he proposes ‘both Right and Left at the same time.’ That could only work if he had the means to appear as a man of providence standing above social forces. Since that is not the case, and will never be the case, the crisis will go on deepening, putting the solidity of democratic ideals in peril.”

An interesting point that Balibar makes, is also his reference to the impossibility of the old opposition between Left and Right, which is now superseded by the alternatives of "nationalism versus globalism" or "open against closed." Both of these generalised binaries obscure real problems and inequalities, making it very difficult for movements to crystallise and represent the real problems faced by those subjected to the logic of financial profitability and globalisation.

It is illogical and dangerous to be faced with two equally bad alternatives. As the French journalist, Aude Lancelin, wrote in her article “Emmanuel Macron, A Putsch by the Stock Exchange,” many believe that between “finance with a cherubic face and Le Pen-ism with a feminine visage,” “there is no longer anything to choose, to think, to try.”

On the one hand, Macron represents a world “of wild deregulation and restrictions on labour rights” and, on the other hand, Le Pen represents “protectionism and hardening borders.” At the European level, where Europe has “adopted the dogma of ‘free and untrammelled competition,’ and its correlates in terms of budget austerity and the immunity of the banks,” the future looks equally uncertain. For Balibar, both France and Europe’s future need to be rethought together: “There will be no ‘another France’ without another Europe.” 

There is no alternative

Margaret Thatcher once said that there is no alternative to global capitalism. The French elections, have proved that this is still the case with Macron’s win. Between neoliberal Macron and fascist Le Pen, the less dangerous of the two won. 

Macron’s win has restored normality and neoliberalism—now, things are the way they should be. There is no alternative. The fascist threat has been stopped from further spreading all over France and Europe, but it hasn’t been totally exterminated, either. The National Front remains alive and strong; it also might rise again. 

But it is not enough to fight against hatred. We also have to fight for all those who remain powerless, and would remain helpless under Macron. Macron was supported by billionaires and bankers. He represents the “return of atomized drudgery under the cover of modernity” and “is the nineteenth century across the ages, together with its complete indifference to the suffering of the popular classes, now slightly spattered with bright colours and shades of the Silicon Valley.” It is modernity in disintegration, the promise of success for the few at the expense of the marginalisation of the many.

In the same way that, “it’s not enough to show that [Le Pen] … is racist and dangerous," or that Macron represents an ambitious technocrat, we also “have to fight for the powerless, for a language that gives a place to the most invisible people." And Le Pen and Macron are not going to do that.