Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Mélenchon on ‘Cloud Nine’ as Left Faces Near Wipeout in French Legislative Elections.

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Projected Seats: French Left Reduced to a Rump. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is apparently, on cloud nine: Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur un nuage

Malgré un nombre réduit de sièges potentiels, La France insoumise devance à nouveau le Parti socialiste dans les urnes.

Reports Le Monde. 

His Movement La France Insoumise (LFI) won 11% of the national vote in Sunday’s first round of the French legislative election, ahead of the Parti Socialiste and allies’ 9,5% and the PCF, which was reduced to 2,7%.

If you add these percentages up, drink five swift glasses of pastis in a row, put on rose-tinted spectacles, burn a scented candle and play the Marseillaise, you can feel great that the total left support, at 22.2% is greater than the Front National’s 13,2% vote.

That is even  if La France Insoumise lost 8 points compared with the Presidential support for the  populist leader of the French People.

The 51,29% who could not be bothered to vote weren’t attracted to his movement either.

Meanwhile in less cloudy territory:

France 24,

President Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (LREM) party topped Sunday’s first-round legislative vote and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament.

Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that barely existed one year ago, were projected to take between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly next week. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II.

The LREM party won 32.32 percent of all votes, according to official final results published by the French Interior Ministry, in an election that was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party finished the night in second place with 21.56 percent support. They were projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly according to a projection by Ipsos for FRANCE 24.

The Communist Party, which has lost its Parliamentary Group, and faces near extinction, diplomatically blames divisions on the left for its poor result: Législatives. Les communistes pâtissent des divisions à gauche.

PCF leader Pierre Laurent announced, Elections législatives 1er tour: Déclaration de Pierre Laurent

La division des forces de gauche se paie en effet très cher. Les forces qui ont soutenu Jean-Luc Mélenchon, se sont retrouvées en concurrence suite aux décisions de la direction de la France insoumise. Elles en subissent toutes ce soir les conséquences. C’est aussi le cas du Parti communiste dont le résultat national est très bas.

A heavy price has been paid for the division of the left. The forces which have supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon found themselves competing against each other, following the decisions of the leadership of la France insoumise. All of them have suffered the consequences this evening. This is also the case for the Communist Party whose national score is very low.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks likely to win a seat in Marseilles, with  34,31 %, in front of Macron supporter Corinne Versini  at22,66 %).

Although it is easy to see why he is overjoyed at what counts most, his future as a Tribune of the People in the National Assembly, there are other factors at work that explain his good mood.

For those wishing to understand why Mélenchon is happy that the French left is reduced to political irrelevance this gives some indications, and develops many of the themes discussed on this Blog.

Quelques réflexions sur la «France insoumise»  VINCENT PRÉSUMEY.

Présumey outlines the ideological core of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI).  The movement does not talk of class struggle, even social classes. They  oppose “le peuple ” (also called the  99% ) to the « l’oligarchie » also called « la caste ». The ‘People’ exists as a  Nation, France, with its national symbols, the Tricolor, and its hymn, the Marseille. To make this into a political force, to ‘construct’ the People from the material of  “individus-citoyens”,  is the objective of LFI.

For the origin of these ideas author notes the debt Mélenchon and his immediate team owe to the “post-Marxists” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe which they have simplified and made into a kind of political tool-kit.

From the former comes the ‘populist’ idea of the People uniting around a Leader , like Argentina’s Peron. LFI denies any such thing, that their Leader is only the “l’incarnation vivante du « programme » que nous avons collectivement produit”, the living incarnation of a programme that we have collectively drawn up. Nobody else is in any doubt that Mélenchon, and his tight band of advisers, are La France insoumise and that he is the – would-be – charismatic chief.

Apparently not charismatic enough to hold into the 8% of the electorate he has lost in a few weeks. Or self-controlled enough to avoid descending   from the hypnotic lyricism of his Presidential speeches to – in the run up to the legislative elections – the more familiar sounds of a barking yap-dog.

Yet….the problems  with La France insoumise are deeper than Mélenchon’s personality.

As Présumey observes LFI rests on a denial of pluralism on the left. Its leader candidacy was the not the result of anybody’s decision but his own. As these elections approached it swiftly dropped the left bloc the Front de Gauche (FdG). It says: come to us, we will lead the ‘citizens’ insurrection’.

But beneath this rhetorical claim the focus is on political representation. There is no sense of a movement that has emerged from working class and social movement self-organisation. Its ‘mass action’ can be reduced to stage-managed demonstrations (as earlier this year on the anniversary of the Commune), social media (chat without decision making power) and, campaigning for electoral contests.

The movement (parties are old hat) claims 500,000 supporters, something you can become, for free, at the click of a button in the Web. Beneath a veneer of ‘horizontal’ organisation, LFI  is  vertically structured around the commands of the leadership. LFI has joined French social movements, such as the protests against the reform of the labour law, were the occasion not to engage in the fight but to publicise their presidential bid, with stickers reading, ” JLM 2017″.

The article notes another contribution of Mouffe. The focus on the division friend/enemy, taken from Carl Schmitt. This  does not only refer to the People against the Oligarchy. It means that LFI considers everybody else on the left as a foe, potential or actual, from the Socialists to the Communists and the rest of the Green and radical parties. They have poured bile on personalities, from the Socialist  Benoît Hamon, to respected radical left-wing Socialist labour law expert, Gérard Filoche – some names that stick out from a very very long list.

With the perspective of the dissolution of the French left à la Italienne, into a centrist ‘progressive’  Parliamentary bloc, what is their response? Mélenchon’s strategy rests on the “la liquidation des courants politiques issus du mouvement ouvrier”, the liqudation of currents which have come from the workers’ movement.

Noting that inner core of LFI itself is ‘petty bourgeois’, he sums up their ideology as a mixture of populism, and stalinism.

The former is a banner held with pride. The second is less clear. That their culture and policies reflect something of the pre-1991 PCF’s belief in French ‘national independence’ and fondness for an independent nuclear deterrent, or indeed the Communists’ evocation for French national traditions is hard to contest. But, as Présumey also states, Mélenchon  comes from the equally patroitic tradition of the ‘Trotksyist’ faction known as Lambertism, and loses little time in expressing his admiration for the glory of the very anti-Communist President François Mitterrand.

Wherever their original inheritance many of LFI’s activists  share the cast of mind of the “anti-imperialism of fools’. They are, he indicates  at length, recycle the teaming conspiracy theories that have thriven in recent years.  The illusion that they would get into the second round of the Presidential election, when shattered, was met with many a ‘theory’ explaining how ‘they’ has thwarted JLM.

Perhaps, in view of its supporters’ penchant for such conspiracy theories, its links with Vladimir Putin, and its barely concealed support for Assad in Syria, the word confusionisme suits them better.

It is, it goes without saying, immensely saddening that these confusionists will be the largest Parliamentary force to the left of the French Socialists.







8 Responses

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  1. Is there any hope at all for the PCF? It’s still the largest group in membership terms to the left if the PS, isn’t it?


    June 12, 2017 at 4:45 pm

  2. Yes, the PCF has an experienced activist core of all ages, and a large – often elderly – membership one of whom sometimes comments on this Blog. It has also evolved into a pluralist and a democratic socialist party, in its majority, not without faults, but considerably saner and more in line with the kind of left politics that the Labour left supports than LFI. It is internationalist for a start, and critically pro-EU with a kind of Another Europe is Possible line, unlike LFI’s sovereigntist positions.

    My intention in writing this and other posts on the topic is not just just to describe French politics, on the basis of long-standing links with the French left, but to disabuse those on the English speaking left who think La France insoumise is wonderful.

    Andrew Coates

    June 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm

  3. I hope this isn’t really off-topic, but I have two questions for you.

    1. How do you explain the record level of abstention in this particular election? Is it that for a significant number of people on the left who perhaps are uneasy with or wary about the populism of the LFI, coupled with the collapse of the PS, there was really no one else to vote for? Or do you see some other set of factors at work?

    2. Do you feel that over the next year or so, we’ll be witness to the rather bizarre spectacle of various forms of populism all competing with one another in French politics? I’m thinking here not only of the FN and the LFI, but even the LREM, which, it seems can present a kind of faux-populism by including so many “non-professional” politicians in high government offices? During the campaign, even Macron, a graduate of Sciences Po btw, seemed to be able to present himself as an outsider when he wanted to.


    June 12, 2017 at 6:20 pm

  4. I will wait for more in-depth studies before properly commenting on the abstention rates, but

    This is a list of reasons people give for abstaining: this poll says that 30% of French electors no longer have any faith in their elected representatives, or are too disappointed to vote,18% were otherwise occupied on election day, 16% said they were not convinced by any programme, 18% said that any result would not change things 9% thought Macron’s party would win anyway and 9% were not interested in politics.

    One could ask a lot of questions about the 30% who have lost confidence in electing representatives, beginning with the wave of financial and other scandals which have hit France recently, Fillon at the head.


    Andrew Coates

    June 13, 2017 at 11:53 am

  5. What’s going on with/inside the French Socialist Party in the aftermath of the Hamon campaign, the Hollande administration, and Macron’s victory? Seems like the low turnout in the parliamentary elections and the Mélenchon cult’s strong showing are two symptoms of the same thing: yooj numbers of people giving up on politics and political struggle.


    June 16, 2017 at 10:01 pm

  6. Read somewhere the LO got €1 million for there campaign, how did a party that once had 5000 members at best get so much money? Also did the NPA not campaign for the LO? Or did they back other candidates instead?


    June 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

  7. Thank god for the French Communist Party’s critique of authoritarian hierarchies on the Left, combined with a Pabloite’s wise words on the Left’s failure to win support at the ballot box. Really constructive


    June 21, 2017 at 1:53 am

  8. Le Militant est une association, créée en 2004, issue de la tendance trotskiste internationale « Militant » de Ted Grant, dont ils ont tiré un bilan critique.

    8 Références

    “En 2007, la rédaction de Militant a fusionné avec celle de La Lettre de Liaisons, animée par le socialiste Vincent Présumey, par ailleurs secrétaire départemental de la FSU de l’Allier.”

    Andrew Coates

    June 21, 2017 at 11:49 am

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