France: the Left, the Future of a Disillusion – Eric Fassin
Hollande: ‘Sarkozy with a Human Face’?
Eric Fassin sociology professor at the ’Ecole normale supérieure (ENS) has written a new book, Gauche : l’avenir d’une désillusion (The Left: the future of a disillusion). It offers a highly critical balance-sheet of Hollande’s presidency.
Interview with CÉCILE DAUMAS
Two years ago François Hollande was elected President of the Republic. Have these been two years of economic realism or of a long disillusionment?
Hollande is “Sarkozy with a human face”, you say in your book: the issue is no longer whether it is still socialist or has passed over to the Social Democracy … you think he is the gravedigger of social democracy . Is this not exaggerated?
The President “admitted” to being a ” social democrat”. The press applauded, starting with Libération . But the “pact responsibility” (Hollande’s key measure this year AC) has been arranged with the employers, not the unions. Social democracy implies a trade-off between capital and labour. Holland has reason to reject those who use the term “social-liberal” (about his policies. AC): his government is hardly “social.” It may well be true that in policies, “the State will take the initiative”; but it is at the service of companies, banks and markets. This is not a liberal but neoliberal state. “Holland has got rid of socialism,” Alain Minc has announced with joy, just as “Mitterrand got rid of communism” .
But Holland hasn’t he proved that the left can be realistic about the economy, something the left is often accused of being incapable of?
It’s an odd kind of economic realism that turns its back on the analyses of economists. We are told that “too much tax kills tax”. It would be better to remember that austerity kills prosperity, except for a few. It reduces purchasing power, boosts precarious employment and promotes … the incomes of rentiers. Who can believe that the money given to companies benefits employment, and not shareholders? What the socialist leaders call realism is a renunciation of the values and intelligence of the left, as if reality was necessarily fixed on the Right.
At Le Bourget, the candidate Hollande called his enemy (“finance”) and declared: “There has never, I mean never, been only one possible policy, regardless of the seriousness of the situation” . Today he says the opposite – as François Mitterrand did in 1983 (when he turned to the Right, AC).
This is the posthumous triumph of Margaret Thatcher and her assertion that “There is no alternative” In other words, there is no policy: the illusion of ‘realism’ ” kills democracy.
Because if there is no alternative, voters choose either abstention or the Front National which has denounced the “UMPS” (the Right-Left’ consensus in power, AC).
You imagine in your book a scenario in which the second round of the Presidential elections (2017) is a duel between UMP (Right) and the FN (far-Right). .. This strategy (by the Socialist Party) of refocusing its goals,, or (as critics allege) its drift to the right, is it doomed to failure?
There are certainly reasons to be frightened ! Since 2002, the direction of endless Socialist Party changes has been always rightward … However, if the government imitates the right in the same way that the right imitates the extreme right, the result is that voters often prefer the original to the copy. We are on this slippery slope towards this. Hollande, for once realistic, has already mentioned that he may well not stand as a Presidential candidate in the 2017 election.
Adapted extracts from Libération.
More on Fassin’s book, and his, call to rebuild links between the Left and the People, Éric Fassin : « Il faut peser plus que notre poids, devenir des minorités agissantes »
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