Archive for the ‘Parti Socialiste’ Category
François Hollande: From One Social Democracy to Another.
The sight of President François Hollande as a pudgy Alain Delon, scootering to a gallant assignation with Julie Gayet, has captured the world’s attention. No doubt to be made into a film by the Comic Strip as a hommage to the Nouvelle Vague, this aspect of the Head of State’s life is less important than the other big event last week. At Tuesday’s New Year Presidential Press Conference Hollande announced a major political turn, to “resolutely social democratic policies”.
The former General Secretary of the Parti Socialiste wooed the French employers’, and their organisation, the MEDEF, with pro-“enterprise” proposals. This “pacte de responsabilité” is based on reducing (state) charges on companies. This would be part of an overall reform of taxation, and specifically the gradual abolition of the contribution employers have to make to finance family allowances. Employees will not, he claimed, have to take over responsibility for paying for them. Instead there will be a reduction in state spending and a reduction in the public deficit.
For Jean-Luc Mélenchon this declaration was the worst blow to the left since Guy Mollet (Socialist leader in the 1950s) backed the repression of the fighters for Algerian independence. Hollande, the former Presidential candidate of the Front de gauche, stated, was elected to wage war on finance capital. He has now abandoned the battle (Blog 14.1.14). Indeed he had dropped social democracy, the idea that a left government could help share out the wealth produced by growth. Now Hollande, and his Prime Minister, Ayraud, were in reality “social liberals”.
Indeed many people had the impression that Hollande’s objective was to reach out to the Centre. The “pact’s favourable reception by some on the centre-right, such as Jean-Louis Borloo (Union des démocrats et independents, UDI) , suggested an attempt to reach more formal agreement. But “triangulation” is much more probable, as commentators note that the President is reaching out not to right-wing parties but to their electorate (le Monde 17. 1.14)
Taxation and Cuts
What are the assumptions behind this “pact”?
Nasser Mansouri Guilani of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) in l’Humanité (14.1.14) began by observing that projected growth in the French economy for 2014 satnds at a low 1%, unemployment continues to grow, and investment is also down, France is not prospering.
Holalnde, as Mélenchon notes, criticised the financial system and its responsibility for the 2009 crisis. His Projet Présidential began with a call to assert the sovereignty of the Republic against the market. European measures to protect public services and to regulate banking and finance, including an agency of « notation » were proposed. schemes to reduce youth unemployment, measures to protect the jobs in companies of more than 5,000 employees were taken, and an active industrial strategy – persued by his (left-wing) Minister Arnaud Montebourg, were initiated.
This has not, as we observed, resulted in growth. Guilani puts the responsibility for this on neo-liberal economics. Hollande by contrast has turned to the liberal idea that the « wealth creators » need encouragement. They are held back by too much state taxation. Polices that encourage the « offre », that is those producing for the market, must be put in place. The pact is a way to do this. Much is unclear. The “redefinition” of the principle “missions de l’État” is open to many interpretations. But reducing spending means one thing: cuts
Few have ignored that the basis of the new approach responds to long-standing criticisms from business and political leaders in ‘anglo-saxon’ countries that France is too bureaucratic and the economy is hampered by too much state control. As Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of l’Oréal, put it, these are steps in the right direction (Le Monde. 17.1.14). Next, he stated, is a need to change the taxation rates for high earners.
The protests of the « bonnets rouges » in Brittany and elsewhere against the « eco-taxes » have contributed to this focus on state finance and the « problem » of regulation by public authorities. The right, including the Front National, calls for ever more radical reductions in state spending. Members of the (previously governing) party, the UMP, want to 25 hour week abolished, and privatisations.
With union membership at a feeble 7,6% of employees there is little effective working class opposition. We might even ask that if Hollande’s has proposed a ‘pact’ and the employers have responded yes, whether he feels he needs them. The non Parti Socialiste left, largely the Front de gauche (FdG), has responded with calls for fiscal justice, but, on the evidence, has been little heard. But then reports equally indicate that the Pacte has not been widely greeted by the public either.
A Failure of Equality.
The Socialist Party’s Déclaration des principes (2008) put equality, as the basis for a critique of capitalism, at the heart of its programme. In Les Gauches Françaises (2012) Jacques Julliard asserted that Hollande represented a « third generation » of social democracy. This had the objective of redistributing wealth, from finance capital to employees. Pierre Rosenvallon, from the social democratic « second Left » wrote, in the influential La société des égaux (2011) (partly inspired by Anthony Crosland) of a reformism that would create « common decency » in a more equal society. In this people’s individuality (« singularité ») would be founded in citizenship and community.
It is hard to see how this will come about under François Hollande’s Presidency. As Serge Halimi has commented neither he, nor his Prime Minster, Ayrault, have shown any « pugnacity » in challenging neo-liberalism (Le Monde Diplomatique. January 2014). This, Halmi asserts, reflects a long-term accommodation to market economics, going back to the time of François Mitterrand in the mid-1980s. After efforts to introduce a state-led socialist programme and nationalisation faltered, they changed direction. Under Mitterrrand’s Prime Minister Laurent Fabius (1984 – 1986) – now Foreign Minister – the Socialists encouraged “winners”. Entrepeneurs such as Bernard Tapie came into Mitterrand’s orbit. We will be watching with interest to see if anything similar happens now.
The French Socialists’ modest proposals to change the course of European Union policies have not been heard. Social democracy is weak in Europe and has become weaker still in recent years. That the German Chancellor and her SPD partners have welcomed Hollande’s latest moves indicates that it is the French Socialists and not the European right that have been persuaded to alter direction.
Equality in any form is no longer a priority. With all due sense of proportion, one could say of this latest turn to the market, as Ernest Bevin might have remarked, that once you’ve opened this Pandora’s Box you never know what Trojan ‘orses might jump out.
President François Mitterrand was the personality who indelibly marked the French Socialist Party’s transition from a party of opposition to a regular participant in government. His socialism, such as it was, barely developed beyond Victor Hugo’s warm calls for social justice. The ‘Sphnix’ was also famously ambiguous. Apart from a hidden double marital life, Mitterrand harboured more grudges than an entire mountain Albanian clan. (Mitterrand. Philip Short. 2013)
François Hollande had a reputation for normality, good humour, and a more ideological socialism, or rather the social democracy represented in the Parti Socialiste’s humanist critique of finance capital. In the last week we have learnt that he too has a compartmentalised life, and that his political comrades know little of his private character (Kim Willsher. Observer. 19..12014). It is now being said that anybody that does not follow the new line will be excluded from power, though there have been grumbles from inside his own party, and partners such as the Greens, (EELV).
Hollande’s presidential campaign was an echo of Mitterrand’s 1981 success. He presented himself as a force tranquille. Is January’s move another copy, this time of the former President’s efforts to divide the right ? Will he act equally ruthlessly against his enemies ? Is this move to the market the sign of abandoning any reformist politics?
Of more importance: will the left, which was paralysed during the Mitterrand years, be able to respond with vigorous opposition?
We certainly hope so.
Written by Andrew Coates
January 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm
A Bit of Recent History.
Some of the English-speaking media seem to think that the ‘affaire’ surrounding François Hollande’s relations with Julie Gayet is a rare example of a French Politician’s private life being brought out in public.
Plenty of articles have shown that this is not true, though it may well have been true during the Mitterrand years.
But not for a long long time.
One has less sympathy for Valérie Trierweiler when we look at some of her own past.
Entre deux Feu (2012) covered -in great detail – Hollande’s early relations with Trierweiler, and the (to say the least) thorny relations between her and Hollande’s former partner, Ségolène Royal (Parti Socialiste Presidential candidate in 2007) – the mother of his four children.
Then there was this last year:
Miss Trierweiler sparked a political storm last week with a Twitter message in which she wished “good luck” to the Socialist dissident rival of Miss Royal, 58, the mother of President François Hollande’s four children, in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
While Miss Trierweiler was initially defiant about the tweet, she admitted on Wednesday that she “made a mistake” after Miss Royal was comprehensively defeated. Mr Hollande was reportedly “furious”, letting her know “it can never happen again”.
Miss Royal had already said she was “wounded” by the “violent blow” from Miss Trierweiler.
But today she went much further, claiming that Miss Trierweiler had been angling behind the scenes to undermine her political career for years, ever since starting a relationship with her ex-partner.
He won with 62,97 % of the vote.
There’s plenty more to say.
This perhaps explains why Trierweiler does not evoke universal sympathy – no more than Hollande for that matter.
Le manifeste des 343 « salauds » casts a shadow over the debate on Prostitution.
The BBC reports today,
Can a country eradicate prostitution by punishing not the people who sell their bodies for sex, but the people who buy them?
That is the ambitious premise behind new legislation to be debated soon in the French National Assembly.
The bill tabled by the ruling Socialist Party (PS) contains more than 20 articles. Most of them are aimed at disrupting foreign pimping networks, or helping sex workers who want to stop.
There were two pages of extremely rigorous debate in le Monde on Friday.
Nathalie Heinich made a well-argued feminist case against the law.
But these exchanges have been overshadowed by this,
Le manifeste des 343 « salauds »
A “Manifesto of the 343 bastards” against laws seeking to punish prostitutes’ clients has caused an uproar in France amid an intense debate over legislation on buying and selling sex.
The movement’s slogan, “Hands off my whore” (“Touche pas à ma pute”) echoes the catchcry of a 1971 campaign by 343 women supporting legalised abortion. The men’s group opposes government moves to punish the buying of sexual services.
The petition says some of the signatories, who include prominent figures such as author Frederic Beigbeder and lawyer Richard Malka, are men who “have used or are likely to use the services of prostitutes”.
“We do not defend prostitution, we defend freedom,” reads their petition, to be published in monthly opinion magazine Causeur in November. “And when parliament gets involved in adopting rules on sexuality, everyone’s freedom is threatened.”
The text continues, “We consider that everyone has the right to freely sell their charms – and even to enjoy doing so. All together, we declare: Hands off my whore!”
Some of the ‘signatures’ complain that they didn’t sign the declaration.
We note that the magazine that published it is Causeur, founded Elisabeth Lévy, for the “réacs en tout genre” (reactionaries of all kinds) , (she comes from the nationalist ‘chevènementiste’ left). It is inspired by The Spectator and The American Conservative. (Le Monde).
The greatest offence is caused by the name of the Manifesto, inspired by this,
That of the 343 “slags”, published in April 1971 by the Nouvel Observateur. It defended the right to abortion (I declared I’ve had an abortion).
Anybody familiar with the history of feminism in France know the importance of that brave act.
The 343 « salauds » …well, where to begin……
Split in the Front de Gauche?
The National Front won the first round of the ‘cantonal’ by- election at Brignoles in the Var. Its candidate, Lawrence Lopez, got 40.4% of the vote to the UMP candidate , Catherine Delzers, who came second with 20.8% of votes.
The two left candidates, Communist Party, (PCF) (14.6% of the vote) and the Greens EELV (8.9%) were eliminated in the first round of voting in this district won by the left in 2012. A right-wing dissident candidate, Jean-Paul Dispard, having obtained 9.1% of the vote, far right meets a total of more than 49% of votes in the first round marked by a low turnout (67%).
According to Le Monde the Communist Party blames the Green Party for this result.
But this result has stirred up an already serious division on the left, inside the Front de gauche (FdG), in which the PCF is the largest party.
L’Humanité notes today that the PCF the Parti Socialiste (PS) have called for a “Front républicain” to block the election of the far-right FN by voting for the UDF in the second round. The Socialists had in fact called for a PCF vote in the first round, and not their government partners the EELV.
But this morning on France Inter Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leading figure in the Front de gauche, and leader (inside the alliance) of the small Parti de Gauche (PG) said that the Parti Socialiste was to blame for the far-right vote.
The Socialist President, François Hollande was the cause of the far-right surge,
“le principal pourvoyeur des voix du FN est à l’Elysée”. Il a refusé de choisir entre le parti de Marine Le Pen et l’UMP au second tour de la cantonale du Var.
“the main source of the FN vote is at the Elysee.” He refused to choose between the party of Marine Le Pen and the UMP in the second round of the cantonal du Var.
He went on to claim that the reasons for the rise of the extreme-right lay in,
“The deep divisions on the left which have created despair and resignation. We elected a President of the Republic on a social democratic basis, and what does he do? He dismantles the social achievements of the country,” he said citing the pension reforms.
“People are living out the opposite of what they expected. Why are they constantly cuddling up to the bosses?”
On the call for the Republican Front, he said that both the UDF and the Front National throve on the same calls to hate. There was nothing to choose between “the devil and the deep blue sea” (la peste ou le choléra, literally plague and cholera).
Mélenchon stated that the Front de gauche was not just interested in elections, but in “mobilisation”. This was the way out of despair, and the ground of hope for the future.
Pressed to explain what these views meant for next year’s local elections he weighed in with support for “autonomous” FdG lists, rather than agreements with the Socialists.
It is well known that the PCF councillors only survives in many municipalities because of electoral pacts with the Parti Socialiste.
They are not likely to throw away this at Mélenchon’s command.
Earlier on France-Inter this problems this is causing inside the Front de gauche were discussed.
Disagreements between Mélenchon and the PCF came to the fore at the end of the summer, with the Communists’ leader, Pierre Laurent, complaining about the language used by the Jean-Luc against his own views.
Mélenchon has only partially patched his relations with the Communists up.
He has no doubt noted that some opinion polls (such as one in June) that le Front de Gauche could get 15 % in next year’s European election, the same as the Parti Socialiste. But before this the municipal elections take place in March.
For those interested in the detail of what these local elections mean can be seen here.
The Parti de Gauche has 12,000 members.
It has one European Deputy, 17 regional councillors, 11 general councillors, 1 metropolitan councillor, 2 Paris councillors and leads 7 communes of more than 3,500 inhabitants.
The Parti Communiste Français claims 138, 000.
It has 13 MPs and 19 senators, 10 000 councillors (at various levels) in 800 councils, 89 mayors of towns with more than 9, 000 inhabitants.
It does not take much to realise why the PCF takes local elections very seriously.
They may be prepared to split on this.
There is not much sign of any mass “mobilisation” in France to pull them away from this position.
Behind this are other issues.
At his best Mélenchon is an inspiring speaker.
His anti-racist speeches last year, during the Presidential election campaign, in favour of “Métissage” (mixing) and secularism, stand in stark contrast to the failure to confront these issues on the British left.
At his worst the leader of the Parti de gauche sounds like a believer in a messianic mission for the French Left, with 19th century revolutionary ‘patriotic’ overtones.
It was unfortunate that on France-Inter today Mélenchon referred to his Socialist Party opponents “barking” (aboyer).
This is how he often comes across: a satirical show has him breaking into barks every second sentence.
And that is without his widely reported habit of calling those that cross him, “connards” – whose meaning can be easily guessed.
Many on the European left admire the Front de gauche – we are amongst them.
We hope this can be sorted out.
One piece of advice.
If Mélenchon continues to rail against ‘les anglo-saxons’ can we suggest that he stops using some products of linguistic “métissage” – nord, sud, est and ouest,
They are 12th century additions to the French language from the English: North, South, East and West.
Parti de Gauche on the Brignoles result here, with the view that the Socialists are largely to blame for the far-right’s success. They also affirm that this shows the need for “le FDG a plus que jamais la responsabilité d’offrir une nouvelle voie, claire et autonome ” – to stand out on their own (without agreements with the PS).
After Die Grünen, the EELV (Europe, Ecologie, Les Verts)…
Noël Mamère, former Presidential Candidate of the French Greens, les Verts (2002, 5,25% of the vote), has just resigned from the party.
I decided to leave the EELV because I do not recognize the party that I represented for the presidential elections in 2002. Our party does not create anything: it is a prisoner of its tactical calculations and its cliques. We have become a trade union for our councillors and MPs. I feel that we stuck in denial about the the role we can play in society. That will not stop me from leading a municipal election list at Begles, I do not need the party label. For me the page has turned. I am quitting without regrets, without any particular emotion. This is the result of observation and analysis. Le Monde.
This follows the decision of Pascal Durand, their National Secretary, elected as part of the fusion between Europe Ecologie (led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit) and the Green Party, not to stand again for this post.
Mamère holds a grudge against the leadership of the French Greens,
The real bosses are the so-called “firm” that is, Cécile Duflot and friends. Although Cécile Duflot is a good minister, she did not let go of the control of the Greens. But the Greens were not created to be dependent on the wishes of one particular party grouping. This is the opposite of what environmentalists defend.
Cohn-Bendit says he shares Mamère’s feelings,
I share this feeling of being utterly fed-up with the clannish, terrifying couples who rule EELV. “Christmas Mamère (…) represents all the contradictions of political ecology. he is a reformist mayor which, through small steps, is trying to change , to reform, to make avandces for his town of Begles. At the same time, ipolitical ecology is completely commited to being a parliamentarian, and a spokesperson for radical humanist ecology.
Cohn-Bendit referred to the case of Pascal Durand.
Others have noted that Mamère has quite a history of making similar gestures. His less than principled participation in the manoeuvres that led to the annulment of the Presidential candidature of left-wing Green, Alain Lipietz is not forgotten, here at any rate.
Underling this is are a number of problems facing the French Greens.
They have a very high ratio of elected representatives to their membership.
In 2012 EELV claimed 14 869 full members and 17 371 supporters (‘co-operants’), (the figure has gone down since, many of the latter joined only for the Presidential election campaign).
It has 18 deputies in the National Assembly alone, and hundreds and hundreds of local councillors at all levels.
Some claim that the ratio of real members to those holding some kind of office is as high as one to four, and that most ‘activists’ hold some kind of elected position.
Critics alleges that as a result the driving force of the party has become the interests of these politicians, which is, unsurprisingly for many, their careers (Mamère not excepted)
That is before we look at the policies of the present Socialist-led Government and President Hollande.
But it should be noted that Mamère is not a critic of Hollande’s aggressive stance on Syria: like Cohn-Bendit he, as the New York Times states, backs a Western intervention to the hilt.