Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

France, “Populism” and the Evaporation of Parties.

with 5 comments

Image result for fillon rassemblement

Weather Reports Indicate Hail and Rain….

In le Monde a couple of days ago Pierre Rosanvallon, (Les propos de Fillon « marquent un tournant populiste dans la campagne) observed that the right’s candidate François Fillon’s ranting against Judges marked a “populist turn” in the campaign.

This “grand rassemblement” today at Trocadéro is billed as in support of Fillon, while in the wake of accusation of fictional employment and other scandals  scores and scores of his elected supporters have dropped their backing for the beleaguered Presidential candidate dizaines et des dizaines d’élus lâcher François Fillon, voire démissionner de son équipe de campagne).

Some have compared this demonstration to those of the 1930s ‘leagues’ who moblised against Constitutional Democracy and the Front Populaire.

Rosanvallon outlines a number of developments that underlie the present crisis in French democracy.

Despite to rally backing Fillon is increasingly distanced in the polls by Emmanuel Macron  who looks like the main opponent to Marine Le Pen, in the first as well as the second round of the elections. Neither of these candidates has  real, democratic, political party behind them. The first has created a ‘movement’, En Marche, which is an ephemeral, if enthusiastic rally , based on Marcon’s presidential campaign. The second has the Front National, which while structured electorally, with many local councillors, and MEPs, though only one MP, has no democratic or debated policy-making process. It remains a ‘family business’, set up by Jean-Marie Le Pen as a “front” to assemble the far-right, whose objectives remain to moblise support on a platform decided by Marine Le Pen and her close advisers.

Rosanvallon also points to the ‘left populist’ campaign of Jean-Luc MélenchoPierre Rosanvallon,. His movement, la France insoumise set up after he decided on a bid to be president, is equally not a party, with competing tendencies, or policy-making outside of the guidelines set down by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his advisers to meet the demands of the Era of the People (as he calls it, L’Ère du peuple).

The historian, who has produced  studies on the gap between popular demands and the evolution of modern political systems (latest: Le Bon Gouvernement 2015), observed that all three candidatures, who dominate the present Presidential election, mark a significant turn in the country’s politics. Not only do not represent parties, but beyond appeals to the “People”, that is the French people, they neither appear to wish to represent a clear constituency, nor have of where this ‘interest’ is going to lead politics to.

This is naturally less of a problem for Macron and Le Pen than for the ‘left’ that supports Mélenchon. They have abandoned the idea that the working class represents the future of the left, they have weakened the broader ties of the left with the labour movement, and what remains?  The ‘construction of the People’ in a political alliance against the ‘Elite’ La Casta, led by the Man of Destiny (homme providentiel)…. Mélenchon.




5 Responses

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  1. Actually what is common to all candidates it’s the nationalist discourse, from Macron to Le Pen, including, Hamon, Mélenchon, FIllon, etc., all appeal to French nationalism, French Republican values, French international role, etc. On this ground there is no difference between the Left, the Right and the Far Right.

    Yves Coleman

    March 5, 2017 at 1:10 pm

  2. And I would add the dramatization about “populism” and allusions to the 1930s is only used to make people and voters show more interest in a very dull campaign only marked by petty scandals and no discussion about who is going to do what. Let’s not forget that the majority of workers abstain as well as the majority of farmers and agricultural workers. Elections mobilize mainly the lower, middle and upper layers of the middle classes… which are the social layers where all parties (including the Far Left and Libertarian- Anarchist-Autonomous movements) recruit and have some influence…. All this fuss about the elections (Presidential, Parliamentary this year not to talk about European, Municipal, etc., elections) are just a way to keep working class people distracted from what is really important: the continuing degradation of working and living conditions… Voting will not change ANYTHING….

    Yves Coleman

    March 5, 2017 at 1:18 pm

  3. I accept that a discourse about le peuple, is, as Michelet indicated, (Le Peuple, 1846) likely to overlap with nationalism.

    But I think we will strongly differ on the use of voting, and the idea that people who abstain represent anything worth having.

    It reminds me of this, posted on anarchist fridges, embroidered on bespoke T-Towels and knitted in muesli.

    Andrew Coates

    March 5, 2017 at 1:25 pm

  4. Plus ça change… Zo D’Axa – a sadly forgotten figure in French radical history – had this to say in 1898:


    “Votez, électeurs ! Votez ! Le Parlement émane de vous. Une chose est parce qu’elle doit être, parce qu’elle ne peut pas être autrement. Faîtes la Chambre à votre image. Le chien retourne à son vomissement — retournez à vos députés…”


    March 5, 2017 at 9:18 pm

  5. In the Rosanvallon book cited above (one of a mini-library of his works chez Coatesy), Le Bon Gouvernement, he cites French revolutionary declarations on the danger of making a confusion between the “people” as a metaphysical ‘single’ principle that underlies the General Will, and the actual people, that is persons, who are multiple.

    Exactly the confusion that populists, more or less deliberately, make.

    Anyway Zo D’axa is another one to chase up on…..

    Andrew Coates

    March 6, 2017 at 5:28 pm

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