Paris City Hall in February, when conservative city councilors accused the left-wing majority of exploiting the anniversary to political ends while ignoring the Commune’s own acts of violence and destruction. Historians and politicians then clashed over the need to commemorate the event, and the French press took sides.

But perhaps the fiercest attack came from the least expected side: the left.

On a chilly March morning, City Hall officials organized the first commemorative event, gathering about 50 Parisians at the foot of the Montmartre hill to carry life-size silhouettes of famous Commune fighters. Anger roared above them, in the tiny square near the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, where left-wing demonstrators had organized their own event, boycotting the official celebration.

“You Versaillais!” a man shouted to the crowd down the hill, using the name given to people living in Versailles, the city where the central government regrouped during the Commune, and the home to French kings until the French Revolution of 1789.

“Those down there, they’re the privileged few,” said Mr. Jamet, the Yellow Vest veteran.

Standing a few feet away, Catherine Krcmar, a 70-year-old seasoned leftist activist, smiled as she watched the protest around her. “Revolutionary Paris is not dead,” she said.

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Macron Closes ENA, in Bid to Diversify France’s Public Service

Mr. Macron embarked on a national debate to fathom the causes of the revolt, and on April 25, 2019, announced for the first time that his alma mater would be eliminated. It was a powerful symbolic gesture, but it met opposition and two years went by without any follow-up. ENA, it seemed, would survive after all.

Earlier this year, during a visit to Nantes, the president announced a program called “Talents” designed to ensure that, when it comes to elite schools for senior public service positions, “no kid from our republic ever says that this is not for me.”

Among the measures announced then was the designation of several spots a year at ENA for students from underprivileged backgrounds, particularly the dismal projects on the outskirts of big cities where many Muslim immigrants are concentrated. Thursday’s statement made clear this program would continue at the new institute.

Mr. Macron has made the modernization of the French state a priority, pushing to eliminate excessive bureaucracy and create a more efficient, performance-based public service. It is a work in progress.

The president has been criticized for focusing his energy on attracting voters to the right of the political spectrum in a bid to head off a challenge from the rightist leader Marine Le Pen. In that context, honoring a decision initially taken in response to the Yellow Vest movement and intended to promote social mobility and greater diversity in senior state posts appeared important.

“Among the vital problems in France, there is one that you are aware of every day: It’s the complete fracture between the base of society — people who work, who are retired, who are unemployed, young people, students — and the supposed elite,” Francois Bayrou, a political ally of Macron, told France Inter radio.

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Eyeing Re-election, Macron Walks a Tightrope Above Swirling Crises in France

PARIS — In a recent meeting with a handful of foreign correspondents, President Emmanuel Macron of France philosophized for 100 minutes on the record, without notes. He dotted his conversation with Americanisms — “game-changer,” “honest brokers” — that must have had de Gaulle turning in his grave. He dissected French “universalism.” He mused on colonial history. He identified hatred, turbocharged by social media, as “a threat to democracy itself.”

The performance was typical of Mr. Macron, and unusual for any head of state, the equivalent of tightrope walking without a net. Yet, the many words revealed little of the man himself. Four years into an often tumultuous term, facing an election next year, Mr. Macron remains an enigma to even his own country.

Backed by the left in 2017, Mr. Macron now has more support on the right. Once a free-market reformer, he now extols the role of the state and protection “at any cost” in the age of Covid-19. Once the leader of a freewheeling movement that swept away old political hierarchies, he now sits comfortably at the pinnacle of power, his authority accentuated by terrorism and pandemic.

“With Macron we have gone to the limit of presidential domination in the Fifth Republic,” said Alain Duhamel, a political commentator.

Islamist separatism,” which Mr. Macron believes undergirds recurrent domestic terrorism.

At a time when identity politics and the anger of some marginalized Muslim immigrants have raised questions about France’s ability to embrace the diversity of its society, Mr. Macron wants to preserve and broaden a French universalism much criticized for disguising forms of exclusion, particularly for Muslims.

“Our universalism is not in my view a doctrine of assimilation,” he told the foreign correspondents. “It is not the negation of differences. I believe in pluralism within our universalism.”

In its subtle parsing, its attempted reconciliation of the irreconcilable, the finesse was very Macron. France has tended to view its model as assimilationist in opposition to American multiculturalism. So, this was a departure. But if pluralism “is not multiculturalism,” what does it look like?

Mr. Macron went on to speak of the millions of French people who are descended from migrants, whose identity and dreams are “totally France” but whose families may have “other languages or other dreams.”

All this, he said, “must be recognized as an opportunity”; and France must understand that in recent years “our integration policies have not worked” and that this failure has been felt most acutely by those who have “a different first name or a different skin color.” Those, he added, who “are different from the majority — I do not like the word minority.”

Like “multiculturalism,” “minority” is a no-no in France, because in its self-image this is a nation of undifferentiated citizens drawn to an ennobling, universal idea. If Mr. Macron can indeed reinvigorate this idea through celebration of diversity, he will have broadened the meaning of Frenchness.

On one subject, Mr. Macron has never wavered: the defense of Europe’s great postwar push for integration to assure peace. He will carry the banner of Europe into his election campaign, at a time when France will have the rotating presidency of the European Union for the first time since 2008.

His priority will be the pursuit of a “sovereign” Europe, with the technology and military capacity to stand up for the values — liberty, pluralism, the rule of law — that he believes define it.

That was courageous in 2017, with the fervor of Brexit and former President Donald Trump’s anti-Europe rhetoric raging; and perhaps, faced by Ms. Le Pen, it is no less so today.

In a time of rising authoritarianism, the French president, like Ms. Merkel, has been a significant democratic counterweight, a strong supporter of multilateralism and free societies.

Mr. Duhamel, the political commentator, identified Macronism as “a civil and democratic Bonapartism, where everything goes up to the leader, and there is a quest for disruption and reform, through the whip.”

And does France, at once a conservative and revolutionary society, like this style enough to give the mystery man five more years?

“The election will be decided between two negative emotions, hate and fear,” Mr. Duhamel sighed. “If hate prevails in May next year, Mr. Macron will be defeated. If it’s fear, after a convulsive period, faced by an uncertain future, then he will win.”

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