French Socialists Face Crisis as Leading Supporters Launch Frontal Attack on Valls Government.
Trop, c’est trop: Enough is Enough!
The publication of SORTIR DE L’IMPASSE signed by 17 leading left figures, headed by Martine Aubry, and including centrist Green, Daniel Cohn-Bendit (MEP), Socialist MPs, Yann Galut, Chaynesse Khirouni, Christian Paul) and intellectuels et économistes Michel Vieworka, Daniel Cohen) is shaking the French political scene.
France 24 reports.
French President Francois Hollande and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls are under attack from the left flank of the governing Socialist Party, with leading figures accusing the pair of crippling the country.
With 15 months to go until the presidential election at which Hollande is expected to seek a second term in power, Martine Aubry – a powerful ex-minister and daughter of former European Commission chief Jacques Delors – led the charge.
In a full-page editorial in Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday which was co-signed by 17 other left-wing figures including firebrand former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Aubry blew open the divisions between the left of the party and its reformist side, saying Hollande’s policies were driving France towards “long-term weakening”.
“Enough is enough,” Aubry wrote, asking: “What will remain of the ideas of Socialism when, day after day, its principles and its basis are being undermined?”
Aubry, the mayor of the northern city of Lille, reserved particular vitriol for Emmanuel Macron, the reform-minded economy minister and former investment banker who is a frequent target for the Socialist Party‘s old guard.
“Emmanuel Macron? I have just had enough of him,” she said in a later interview.
Aubry insisted however that she has no intention of running for president in 2017 – she claimed her concern was the very future of the party.
Valls hit back on Thursday, saying Aubry had not set out “a single policy proposition” in the article.
“I am the head of the government, I don’t write defamatory editorials,” Valls told Le Monde.
Choppy waters ahead
But many commentators noted that Aubry’s offensive was largely greeted by silence in official quarters. Valls waited 24 hours before responding while Hollande, who is visiting Latin America, has said nothing.
Newspaper editorials predicted that Hollande was about to enter choppy waters.
Some spoke of a “split” in the Socialist Party, others of a “dynamiting” of Hollande’s proposals.
Frederic Dabi, from the Ifop polling institute, said he had never seen “such a strong protest from a faction of a majority party” with just one year to go to the presidential election.
The article comes as Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri is seeking to simplify France’s complex labour laws, which some blame for fuelling stubbornly high levels of unemployment in the second-largest eurozone economy.
Most of the ministers who carry the torch for the left wing of the Socialist Party have left Valls’ government, most recently justice minister Christiane Taubira, who quit over her opposition to the government’s plans to strip terror convicts of their French nationality.
Hollande’s government has been accused by the rebellious leftist flank of veering to the right with the introduction of harsh security measures after the jihadist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead in November.
And a series of economic reforms adopted last year as France seeks to revive its stagnant economy were slammed as overwhelmingly pro-business. Valls had to force the measures through parliament over fears those within the party would sink the bill.
Despite his poor record on reducing unemployment, Hollande is gunning to be the Socialist candidate for the presidential election.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy and one-time prime minister Alain Juppe are among those vying for the right-wing nomination, but all the candidates fear a potentially high level of support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
This report is an underestimation of the crisis facing the Hollande Presidency, the Valls Cabinet, and French Parti Socialiste.
Aubry is a former Socialist Party First Secretary, from the modernising “deuxième gauche“, with a reputation for honesty and decency. This has made her criticisms all the more searing.
For Cohn-Bendit, a self-proclaimed “social liberal”, to criticise the present government policies from the left, is another landmark.
The Communist Daily l’Humanité calls the declaration an appeal to “break” with the present Valls government (Un appel de rupture avec le gouvernement).
The effects of the Aubry declaration are already being felt.
Le Monde reports a leading Valls supporter saying,
It’s the Bay of Pigs Cuban Missile Crisis. Who is going to press the Nuclear Button? It will all end badly.
The left – including many in the ruling Parti Socialiste – has been highly critical of the present government’s stand on two issues: the anti-liberal legal measures in the wake of the state of emergency and the liberalising efforts to weaken workers’ rights (the legal structures of the ‘droit du travail’) now being launched in the name of Minister Myriam El Khomri
But behind this is the fear that next year’s Presidential election will turn into a contest between the Right and the far-right, with all sections of the left marginalised.
Aubry now backs the idea of a Primary open to the whole left to select a Presidential candidate for the elections next year.
Underneath the political conflicts described above and no doubt helping her to make that choice there is a massive decline in Party membership: the Socialists for example have declined from 256 000 members in 2007 to 131 000 in 2015 (Le Monde).
President Hollande (and Jean-Luc Mélenchon) are opposed to this. Supporters of the President and the Valls Cabinet accuse the left of following the example of the Roman plebs and retiring to Mount Aventine in isolation. A primary of the whole left will only reinforce its inward looking tendencies.
Those who back Mélenchon’s decision to thrust himself forward without consulting the rest of the left may well be in that rocky encampment.
Much of the left, from the Communists, the Socialist ‘frondeurs’, independents, many Greens and a raft of others, by contrast see a Primary of the Left it as a way out of the present impasse: torn between a discredited government and the uncertain appeal of Man of Destiny Mélenchon.
In other words a primary of the whole left will draw people together.
With two leading opponents, Hollande and Mélenchon, already pitching their camp, it is hard to see the proposal becoming a reality.