Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category
L’ère du peuple: The era of the People.
At the sommet pour un Plan B en Europe in Paris over the Weekend in Paris Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who scored 11.05% of the vote in the first round of the French 2012 Presidential elections, is reported to be already gearing up for the 2016 contest.
Le Monde reports,
On Wednesday, on his blog, he explained that “the European Union remains harmful, hostile to democracy and social justice”. He developed these remarks in a small room of the Maison de la Chimie (7 th district of Paris), where he expounded the view that “in the context of the European fiscal treaty, no progressive policies are possible” and called for “break” within the framework of the current treaties. In passing, he denounced the EU’s “rhetoric” of “Europe that protects” noting the “failures” of the EU in the refugee crisis.
The meeting brought together academics, researchers – largely from other European countries, and a few not very well-known representatives of other left-wing parties such as Podemos, Izquierda Unida, the Greek Popular Unity group, The Danish Red-Green Party, Die Linke, including the respected figure of Oskar Lafontaine,
You can watch and hear Mélenchon’s concluding speech here:
A notable absence was that of Yanis Varoufakis. The former Greek Finance Minister was, it was claimed, unable to attend because of diary problems.
Varoufakis is engaged in a much broader pan-European movement against austerity , a ‘Plan C’. This will be launched in Berlin in February: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Plan C.
Here is a full list of participants (in English) and more details: Internationalist Summit for a Plan B in Europe.
The people addressing the session entitled, Win back our economic sovereignty included Morvan Burel who backs a return to ‘Popular sovereignty’ in place of the European Union.
Last April Burel wrote this on the Front National’s demands: La reconquête de la souveraineté des peuples doit devenir le cœur battant de la gauche
…sortie immédiate de l’euro, rupture avec l’UE, rétablissement des frontières nationales, retour du protectionnisme, etc.
Il est capital pour la gauche radicale de ne pas refuser de s’emparer de ces revendications précisément parce que le Front national les a intégrées à son discours.
,,immediately leaving the Euro, breaking with the European Union, reestablishment of national borders, a return to protectionism. It is essential that the radical left does not refuse these demands simply because the Front National has woven them into its discourse. “
French speakers included members of Mélenchon’s own Parti de Gauche and Cédric Durand, an economist and part of Ensemble, the ‘third’ component of the Front de Gauche.
The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français. PCF) did not participate in the rally.
On Saturday Le Monde published a report on negotiations for the French 2017 Presidential campaign between forces to the left of the Parti Socialiste (Mélenchon peaufine sa candidature pour 2017 – full article read in print edition). While noting that Mélenchon continued to score well in opinion polls (over 15% favourable opinions, January 2015), his populism, calls for a ‘democratic revolution’, hostility to the European Union that focuses on German power, and many of his personal traits are not universally popular amongst his partners on the left.
Mélenchon, a fluent Spanish speaker, has close links with the Latin American left and with Spain’s Podemos. Like the latter he has sought inspiration in left populism. In these respects his discussions with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are of great interest Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon (2012).
During the round table debate with the academic theorists of the “radical democratic imaginary” the Parti de gauche’s use of national symbols, including the French Flag, and references to the French Revolution which dot his appeals to a new democratic Revolution featured prominently (See also: L’ère du peuple. 2014). How far this populism can go is not always clear. In 2015 his book, Le Hareng de Bismarck, le poison allemand, which attacked German ‘arrogance’ was strongly criticised for nationalism (L’Allemagne n’est pas notre ennemie).
The Communists note that one ‘anti-system’ Populist candidate, Marine Le Pen, already exists. There is little space for another.
There is continued talk of a break up of the Front de gauche alliance between the PCF and Mélenchon.
Le Parti de gauche veut Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme candidat puis élaborer un programme, le parti communiste veut faire naître un projet d’une réflexion collective avant toute désignation: leurs stratégies pour 2017 semblent à ce stade irréconciliables.
The Parti de gauche wants Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a (Presidential) candidate, and then they will work out a programme. The Communist Party want a project born out of a collective process of careful consideration before any candidate is chosen: their strategies ap[pear at this point irreconcilable.
Libération. 23rd of January.
You can read more of Mélenchon’s ideas here, on his blog modestly titled, L’ère du peuple: The era of the People.
Kate Hoey MP, from the International Marxist Group and Labour to ‘Grassroots out’: Tories, Farage, the DUP
Kate Hoey MP: Joined IMG as had “better-looking young men” than other left groups.
Brexit Campaign ‘Grassroots Out’ Unites ‘Political Foes’ To Push For UK To Leave European Union
The Press Association reported that around 2,000 people are expected to attend the launch event in Northamptonshire that is being backed by Conservative Tom Pursglove (Corby and East Northamptonshire), Labour’s Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) and Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
Reports the Huffington Post.
While attending the Ulster College of Physical Education, she joined the International Marxist Group, one of the few people with an Ulster Unionist background to do so in the 1960s. After relocating to England, she graduated in economics from the City of London College, today known as London Metropolitan University. She was a senior lecturer at Kingsway College from 1976 to 1985, during which time she left the International Marxist Group (IMG).
This is what she now says of this experience, (2nd of January 2016. Guardian)
She also became vice-president of the National Union of Students, and was briefly was a member of the International Marxist Group, because it “probably had better-looking young men” than other radical-left groups.
As ex-IMG myself I can’t disagree with that.
But these are some of her present day opinions,
We also cannot accept the freedom of movement of labour at the expense of often much better qualified people from the Commonwealth. Why should my Afro-Caribbean constituents – most of whom who are third or fourth generation immigrants – find it so difficult to have their relatives visit.
These and many other loyal subjects of the Queen have a genuine affinity with the UK, unlike the thousands coming here from East Europe. The public know the immigration system is unfair, and the EU has made it so.
Daily Mail. 13th June 2015.
Hoey blames her party’s “extremely unpatriotic” outlook for its increasing alienation from its traditional working class supporters. “They feel very strongly about their country and we have been extremely unpatriotic as a party to our country. There’s just a feeling that we’re half-hearted about being British, we’re half-hearted about the monarchy, we’re half-hearted about the way we see our country in the world. I’m very proud of being British and I think the United Kingdom is a force for good in the world and we seem to feel all the time that we have to put ourselves down because somehow that might upset people”.
New Statesman. 17th of June 2015.
By way of a radical contrast, Tendance Coatesy backs the Labour in for Britain campaign to Vote to stay in the European Union.
We also support a number of broad pro-European left campaigns.
Including this: Another Europe is Possible.
Who we are
Another Europe Is Possible is a campaign for a radical ‘in’ vote in the EU referendum.
We have come together as activists and campaigners to build a Europe of democracy, human rights, and social justice. We don’t believe a British exit from the EU offers a path towards the social, citizen-led Europe we so urgently need. That’s why we are saying ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’.
Our campaign is still in development and we will publish a list of supporters when we formally launch in February 2016. Our organising group are also currently working towards a founding conference later this year – watch this space for more info.
From Another Europe’s site:
EU debate: We need to stay in Europe to change Europe. The idea that a social Europe could emerge by quitting the EU is a delusion. There are no quick fixes for neoliberalism, writes Luke Cooper in Red Pepper magazine
7 January 2015.
A date that we will recall and it is coming close.
Our left wing comrades were murdered by the forces of genocidal Islamist reaction.
- Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby, first victim of the shooting
- Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Charb
- Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
- Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist.The only woman killed in the shooting.
- Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
- Philippe Honoré, 73, cartoonist
- Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
- Ahmed Merabet, 42, police officer, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside.
- Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor
- Michel Renaud, 69, a travel writing festival organiser visiting Cabu
- Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
- Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist
Some photos of our fallen comrades.
A wonderful feminist, full of joy.
Cabu: one of the Best People Ever to Walk the Planet.
Charb: Supporter of the Front de Gauche, he fought the Front National with every fibre of his being.
Philippe Honoré: greatly respected contributor to trade union and leftist publications
Bernard Verlhac (21 August 1957 – 7 January 2015), known by the pseudonym Tignous (Occitan for La teigne, which in slang means a gadfly).
Georges Wolinski: Communist and one of the funniest cartoonists ever.
It will have been noted that the genociders took the lives of two Muslims, and that, of the above photos, two of the people are of Jewish origin.
The Porte de Vincennes siege occurred at a Hypercacher kosher superette in Porte de Vincennes (20th arrondissement of Paris) in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting two days earlier, and concurrently with the Dammartin-en-Goële hostage crisis in which the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen were cornered.
- Philippe Braham, 45, IT sales executive
- Yohan Cohen, 22, college student
- Yoav Hattab, 21, college student
- François-Michel Saada, 64, retiree.
We shall not forget our martyred dead.
Is it also the Moment for Momentum?
The radical left party, Podemos, won 21,3% (69 seats) in Sunday’s Spanish General election, just behind the socialist PSOE, at 21,7% (90) With Rajoy’s conservative PP party at 28,7% (123) and the centrist Cuididanos (Citizens) at 14,9 % (40) negotiations for coalition are underway involving smaller regional and other parties (Wikipedia).
Both Podemos and Cuididanos were present in this contest for the first time. Their entry into the Cortes Generales is a political earthquake with Europe-wide implications. Podemos draws on the Indignados movement that began as protests against the political class “la casta”, their corruption, budget cuts and mass unemployment (at the time up to 21%). Cuidadonos’ name also echoes that period, the march dubbed Mareas Cuidadanas – citizens’ tide).
Owen Jones, has expressed the view that the Labour Party is represented in Parliament by a British counterpart of the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE, while supporters attracted to Jeremy Corbyn were more akin to the radical left party, Podemos. Jones, whose pre-election visit to lend support to Podemos’ campaign was reported on the state broadcasters, is one amongst many on the European left who admire its left populist anti-austerity politics. In this view the change in Labour’s leadership (allowed through emulation of the ‘primary’ party elections of the French Parti Socialiste and Italian Partido Democratia, open to all for a modest fee, rather than the structures of Podemos) had brought our politics closer to Spain’s. It suggested that a form of ‘new politics’ has emerged in the United Kingdom, inside the traditional left and now given expression in the open forums of Momentum.
Podemos leader Juliá Iglesias’ entry into Parliament is joined, nobody has failed to notice, by the ‘centre’ group, Ciudadanos. Jones seems to have found a centrist counterpart in Peter Hyman. The former speech-writer and strategist for Tony Blair argued in the Observer that Labour is becoming the “Ukip of the left”, a party of protest and not power, with the prospect of capturing at best 28% of the vote (Observer. 20.12.15). This means that the party “mainstream” will look elsewhere. Corbyn, head of a left wing party, “appealing to mix of metropolitan elites, students and some trade unionists”, a popular constituency in “tribal Labour loyalty”, relying on “big state solutions” will carry on. They will keep trying to win arguments but have no prospect of coming to power. One could note that the British electoral system, unlike Spain’s proportional one, remains an effective bloc to the kind of shake up Hispanic politics has undergone.
Hyman attacks Ed Miliband for opening the door to the left – although it was the modernisers who promoted the idea of One Member One Vote in a ‘primary’ election form. He states that with the “wrong” result, – Corbyn’s victory – there is a “gaping hole in the centre and centre-left of British politics.” It would not take much to extend this to say that against the Podemos road Hayman advocates a British Ciudadanos. This would be an alliance of the centre and the centre-left, “modern progressive values-driven party” with a “commitment to social mobility”. A new ‘project’ would aim for a “leaner, more agile empowering state” that backs “social entrepreneurs” to build “diverse and democratic communities”. This formula, Peter Hayman believes, his appetite no doubt wetted, would have a “fighting chance of winning an election”.
It would be mistake on the left to take the take the analogy with Podemos and the POSOE to heart. Spain has suffered several decades of corruption scandals, affecting the established left, as well as a prolonged ‘dirty war’ against the armed wing of the Basque independence movement, in which Socialist governments were deeply compromised. These scandals continued under the conservative PP, from the 2013 Bárcenas affair, a slush fund to pay party members, and others too numerous to list, including one involving the than leader of the Catalan nationalist leader Jordi Pujol, whose party is now demanding independence.
There has been nothing in Britain to parallel the mass movement of the Indignados, the cradle of Podemos. It is estimated that between 6 and 8 million people participated in these street activities. Those protests made the US Occupy Wall Street look trivial, not to mention the smaller British initiations of the American demonstrations and occupations. A much more successful UK initiative, the anti-austerity People’s Assembly, has mobilised hundreds of thousands and set up large groups all over the country. It was, and is, however closely linked the existing mechanisms of the labour movement. There was none of the loathing for all “politicians” that the Spanish masses expressed. France, where the Podemos breakthrough has been heralded by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the home of the (deceased) writer Stéphane Hessel, whose book Indignez-Vous! gave the Indignados their name – saw, and has seen, practically no movement at all apart from trade union protests.
The comparison with Podemos also runs into obstacles when one considers it more broadly. Its strategic line is said to draw on the writings of Ernesto Laclau. Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1988) offered a critique of traditional Marxism and a freeing of political and social contradictions from rigid class categories. It was widely regarded on the British left as dense theoretical fog for a shift from class politics to the nebulous democratic alliances of ‘new times’. In subsequent writings, generally languishing in academic obscurity, Laclau developed an approach to the specificity of politics. His interest in a left strategy that focused on the discursive articulations of popular democratic struggles and fights for left hegemony broadened into approaches to the – still predominantly ‘discursive’ – mechanisms of politics. Interest in the figure of the ‘People’ against the elite, linked Laclau to some of his earliest writings on Populism, with special reference to Latin America.
In On Populist Reason (2005) Laclau retained an emphasis on the specificity of democratic movements outside and against formal political power. Laclau stated, “populism requires the dichromatic division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole; that this dichotomy involves the antagonistic division of the social field, and that the popular camp presupposes as a conditions of its constitution the constriction of a globalised entity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands.” Put simply populism means pitting the people against an array of forces solidified into a simple enemy – an observation which did not wait for Laclau to be discovered. Interviewed this year in New Left Review Iglesias acknowledged his theoretical attraction to almost Marxist ‘Gramscian’ earlier writings, but that the later work offers a “useful tool” for explaining the “autonomy of politics”. Or, again, to put it directly, it gives legitimacy to a way of constructing politics in terms of friend and foe (Carl Schmitt) using a galaxy of propaganda forms to give this shape. It is widely claimed that Podemos’ consciously utilises this instrument in their strategy: the People are mobilised against the ‘Casta’, the ruling caste. (1)
These ideas, whose abstraction and infinite extension, leftwards and rightwards, critics have not failed to note, should not hide the difficulties of creating a different type of politics. Paul Mason’s post-election claim that the pro-business SNP is part of the same ” radical, populist and nationalist left” only reinforces this impression. (Guardian 21.12.15.)
The more modest and attractive aspect of Podemos has apparently been its openness, its willingness to dissolve traditional political organisational forms into new ones, connected to social media and other ways of vertical communication. But when it comes to decision-making problems arise. US and British experience of cumbersome conformity and construction of new elites inside the ‘structurelessness’ of vertical communication and “consensus decision-making” emerged in the wake of the Occupy movement. Inside Podemos there are widely shared complaints about a very visible “vertical” and top-down leadership. This has not been without its faults, as few members participated in voting on the Podemos electoral programme or candidate selection. By contrast Íñigo Errejón, a defender of their strategy, has talked of leading from in front, and the key role of the charismatic Julias Iglesias, as welcome features of Podemos’ efforts to break the mould of traditional left-right politics, indeed to surpass this “old” division. It is a “fundamental element in building hegemony.” (2)
Labour: a ‘Synthesis’.
The Labour Party is, to say the least, not a ‘new’ party. It is a coalition, or better, a ‘bloc’ of disparate forces. Unlike a true coalition it has not always reached full agreement on a detailed programme of political action. There have always been substantial differences on major issues – the present leader is the best example of this extending to Parliamentary votes. But as a “bloc”, that is to say a common front for elections, it has brought together ‘sociological’ forces – the unions – the Party – the NEC, the Parliamentary Party, professional politicians, an army of local councillors, and small more ideological groups or networks, from Progress to the Labour Representation Committee. In more sociological terms this is often portrayed in terms of a marriage between the radical intelligentsia, middle class social reformers, hard-headed trade unionists, and, it has to be said, patriotic ‘national’ Labour of all classes. It is electoral activity that holds these all together. But the signs are, as Haynes indicates, that as more ideological forces enter the field, from Labour First to and Momentum, disagreements are becoming sharper. Divorce, some say, is the only answer.
This break up may be desirable for some on the left and the right. But Hyman is right to suggest that winning elections is not a trivial affair. For those who want to see a Labour government a split is a disaster. The electoral system is not going to change – with boundary changes it is going to become more difficult for the party to elect MPs. In these conditions the principal problem for an old, not a new party, is not to extend its debates outwards. It is to reach some kind of equilibrium within Labour that holds the apparatus together. In some of the more ideological European socialist parties the idea of a “synthesis” between the different parts of these organisations in the process of presenting an electoral platform is a way to resolve these differences. Jean Jaurès, the towering figure of the 20th century French left, advocated a strongly democratic form of socialism (republicanism), human rights, reforms, social ownership and Marxist principles of class struggle. In short, he combined “evolution” and a revolutionary transformation of capitalism into socialism. The notion of drawing ideas together rather than setting them up for stage battles has, for those who wish to see a Labour Prime Minster elected with a party in support, is surely preferable to a prolonged civil war. (3)
What relevance does Podemos have in this context? Their tertulias (open debating forums) may perhaps inform some of those involved in Momentum. But there the analogy breaks down. There is nothing resembling the common sense of deep social angst and purpose that animated the 15-M Movement. Momentum is recruited around support for the new Labour leadership. Already the operations of small socialist organisations, using the Corbyn’s supporters’ network to promote their own agenda of party building and throwing discredit on Labour MPs and councils, have weakened claims about “new politics”. It seems that one objective, of these bodies, to hector councillors to set illegal anti-cuts budgets, has already met with Jeremy Corbyn’s disapproval. It is doubtful if these people care. These groups believe in making a new left-wing party, of contestable democratic credentials, whether the bulk of Labour Party members and supporters want it or not. The activities of the People’s Assembly, directed at the real enemy, the Conservative government, with the clear backing of the trade unions, engaged in a fruitful and respectful dialogue with sections of the Labour Party, appear to have run out of steam.
If we pick our way through the debates inside and outside the Labour Party there are grounds to imagine that a new ‘synthesis’ or at least co-existence of different strands of thought could come about. The modern Labour Party can make space for social democratic proposals for reform, universal principles of rights and justice, with our modern understanding of racial, sexual and gender equality, and expanded renewed welfare provision, Green issues, and more radical ideas on democratic nationalisation, economic transformation, internationalism, and the promotion of working class interests. Hay
Ideas of greater social mobility, “social entrepreneurs” and “progressive” alliances will look pretty tired faced with proposals for genuine equality, liberty and social solidarity. A rich vein of radical literature, from Pierre Rosanvallon’s studies of equality, Thomas Picketty’s critique of rentier capital, to David Harvey’s undogmatic Marxist approach to capitalism – to cite only a handful of new resources for change – could help debate. Some of the able Labour leaders’ advisers can surely expand this list of ‘tool boxes’ for democratic socialist change. In this sense Labour could present a challenge not to a broadly defined ‘casta’ but to the right-wing business and oligarchies and their hangers profiteering from the privatising-state not to mention their political representatives who are our real opponents.
Activists and Policy.
New Labour was marked by separation between policy and activism, between those who decided and those who carried out the leadership’s decision. This drove people away in crowds. If Podemos teaches us something it is that their brand of leftist populism has clearly reached an audience. It also, unfortunately, indicates that there is more than one way to institutionalise an inability to influence policy.
If Labour wishes to reach outwards it needs more open policy-making. Meetings that count, and not simple get-togethers, or tertulias, stand a better long-term chance of mobilising those new to politics. Nothing can prevent those who wish to grandstand, or find a pretext for criticising the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, coming along. Democracy always means minorities that disagree. But when the stakes, the possibility of making a difference to how a party works and what it is aiming at, are there, the potential for agreement also exists. Drawing a new audience into Labour and not outside it, the feeling that the public is not separated from ‘them’ inside the party, is not easy. But one suspects that it is preferable to a ‘populism’ whose final destination remains unclear.
(1) Page 83 Ernesto Laclau. On Populist Reason. Verso. 2005. Pablo Iglesias. Understanding Podemos. Interview. New Left Review. No 93. 2015. Populisme, Itinéraire d’un mot voyager. Gérard Mauger. Le Monde Diplomatique. July 2015.
(2) Podemos and its Critics. Bécquer Seguín. Radical Philosophy 193. 2015.
(3) Jaurés et le Réformisme Révolutionnaire. Jean-Paul Scot. Seuil. 2014.
The BBC reports,
The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on 6 December as more people voted, according to the ministry of the interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73% to 27.36%. The Republicans increased their share from 26.65% to 40.63% and the Socialists from 23.12% to 29.14%. The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on 6 December to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures are based on a count of 98% of votes so far.
Despite leading in the first round of regional elections last week, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Front party (FN) failed to gain a single region in the second round of voting in France on Sunday.
The head of the FN, Marine Le Pen had hoped to make history on Sunday night by gaining control of a region for the first time. But after winning 28 percent of the nationwide vote in the first round of elections, the FN was pushed back in the second round as voters rallied behind the conservative Les Républicains party and President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS).
The FN had been riding high, exploiting an unprecedented wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago. But that initial success failed to translate into any second-round victories.
The FN was defeated in three key regions where it had come in first place last week: Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine. The Socialists had pulled their candidates out of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur races to defeat the FN and it appears that many of their voters cast ballots for conservative candidates.
Le Pen won around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, while rival conservative Xavier Bertrand took around 58 percent.
Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won about 45 percent in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region against conservative Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54 percent.
In Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine, the Socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret, had refused to pull out of the race, even after trailing in the first round of elections. Despite that refusal to follow the Socialist Party’s orders, the FN candidate in the region, Florian Philippot, was defeated by Les Républicains candidate Philippe Richert, earning 36 percent of the vote against his 48 percent.
After her defeat Sunday night, Marine Le Pen insisted that the National Front was the first party of France. She said the election results would not discourage the “inexorable rise, election after election, of a national movement” behind her party.
Pause for breath – there is worse to come:
“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said after polls closed. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”
Equally defiant, her 26-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who ran in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, urged supporters not to be disappointed. “We will redouble our efforts,” she said. “There are some victories that shame the winners.”
The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.
The election was seen as an important measure of support for Le Pen ahead of 2017 presidential elections.
Tactical voting boosts Sarkozy’s Les Républicains
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party won seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, giving them the largest share. However, it’s almost certain Les Républicains would not have been as successful without the tactical support of the ruling PS.
Conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand acknowledged as much in a speech after his victory against Marine Le Pen in Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.
“I thank the voters for protecting our beautiful region,” said Bertrand. “I also want to thank the voters of the left who clearly voted to create a rampart (against the FN).”
On the left there is not much relief.
Une nouvelle fois, le sursaut républicain a bloqué l’avancée du FN. Mais ignorer l’avertissement serait dévastateur pour les partis traditionnels. Comments Libération.
The Republican ‘surge’ has blocked the FN’s progress. But the traditional parties ignore the warning at their own peril.
L’Humanité notes, “La mobilisation d’une proportion assez importante des abstentionnistes a fait la différence.” But deep difficulties remain: the left has to mobilise amongst the people to fight the far-right’s ideas.
We also observe that the Corsican nationalists now control the regional council in Corsica (le Monde).
- The Front National has failed to take over some of the levers of the established French political structure. This is a victory for their opponents. Regional councils, it has been observed, are a relativity cost-free platform for the display of administrative stagecraft. Control of their budgets gives an opportunity to show off policies, reward patrons, and attract attention. Control of one of them would not have tested the FN’s national policies. It would have given the far-right party momentum. They do not have this.
- The cost of the “sursaut républicain” is not to be underestimated. Despite reports that the FN is now attracting members from highly educated and .experienced French administrative sectors (traditional sources of political cadres) the party continues to claim that it stands alone against the other parties, the political elite, the equivalent of the Spanish ‘casta’. With the Parti Socialiste calling its supporters to vote for Sarkozy’s Les Républicains in the regions where they were alone capable of beating Marine Le Pen’s party, the claim will continue to appeal to their electorate.
- The FN still headed the results. Indications that they performed well in the first round amongst young people (34% amongst the 18-24 year olds), the unemployed, workers (43%) , self-employed, farmers and agricultural workers (35%), white collar public sector workers (30%) and indeed all social categories. While the party is most supported amongst the young and the “popular classes” the results suggest a party with a broader national appeal than any other French political force. (Elections régionales : qui a voté FN ?)
- From a rate of 57% in the first round, to 50% in the second, abstention marked these elections. That workers, the out-of-work, and above all the young, are amongst the biggest groups of abstentionists, is thin against the above evidence of their far-right voting. (le Front national, premier parti chez les jeunes… qui votent.Le Monde. 7.12.15.)
- Claims that there is a “left wing’, ‘national’ socialist (protectionist and working class) strain in the far-right’s language in the formerly left North, and a more traditional hard right (xenophobic and morally reactionary) line in the South East, have been eroded in this election. They were always doubtful – given the homogenising effects of modern politics. ( Les trois visages du vote FN Joël Gombin Le Monde Diplomatique November 2015.) But both the protectionist, and above all the xenophobic themes in the FN’s policies have had a nation wide impact.
- The results have produced a crisis on the French right and left. On the right there are growing voices to oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to run again for the Presidency. . The former is a serious political project, led by Sarkozy’s long-term more emollient and apparently more ‘moderate’ rival, Alain Juppé after what is widely seen as a personal set-back for Nicolas Sarkozy (Nicolas Sarkozy face à un échec personnel).
- On the left, there are those in the ruling Parti Socialiste who wish to create a new centre left party free from the historic baggage of the left, and indeed the word socialist. This skirts over the more difficult task of re-connecting with the popular electorate. A government headed by one of the few politicians in France to admire Tony Blair, Manuel Valls, that has failed to offer substantial reforms to improve the quality of life for wage-earners, reduce unemployment, and has been unable to relaunch economic growth, is not in a strong position to appeal to these lost voters.
- The left, taking stock, did not suffer electoral annihilation, although it lost in important regions, including the Ile de France (surrounding Paris, perhaps the consequence of a big, 10.2% drop in the FN vote between rounds). With 5 regions for the left against 7 for the right it may seem as if their formal political strength has stood up. The Socialists, in agreement with the Greens (EELV), 6,81 %, and the Front de gauche, nevertheless did not shine in the electoral scores (around 7%). Inside the Front de gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon has complained that the complex regional alliances and lists that the bloc has entered into prevented getting a clear message across. It is very doubtful if this was a major factor in their results – although perhaps somewhere in France Mélenchon’s personal message of the Bolivarian Revolution, on the Venezuelan model has support. His own refusal to give any recommendation for the second round was not universally appreciated. The Greens lost half their votes – they had 12,18% in 2010. ( Elections régionales : la débâcle des écologistes).
There is no argument that a fundamental reason for the FN’s rise in support lies in its encouragement and use of anti-Muslim feeling. This reached a crescendo after the slaughters of the 13th of November. (Le Front national se déchaîne sur l’islam. Le Monde. 4.12.15.)
President Hollande responded to the massacres with a state of emergency and airborne retaliation in Syria against Daesh.
His personal popularity leapt, but his party, the Socialists, did not benefit.
The FN have been able to take advantage of the popular mood because of a boarder package of polities. This can be seen in the social composition of their electorate. Unless one believes that young people, workers and the unemployed are particularly hostile to Muslims, and that this was the reason for their ballot box choice, we would look into what this demagogy in embedded within.
The theme of “security” against ‘Islam’ and, more widely, “foreigners” is tied to a deeper set of ideas, a national ideology, that animates the party of Marine Le Pen, nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ (the principle that the ‘nation’ should be the source of all political, economic and social decison0making and virtue). Their attraction for the young, the working class and all shades of “precarious” employed people lies in the call to protect the French nation from outside forces, foreigners, refugees, migrants and economic powers. That is, to give them jobs, and preserve living standards, and social security.
The FN claims not be primarily ‘anti’ other nations, religions or peoples: it is for France. It claims to be the best political force to protect French citizens from outside threats; not to seek out new areas in which to expand French power. The FN has been supportive of Russian interests (for which they have been rewarded), over the Crimea and Ukraine, which they see in terms of another nation standing up to foreign menaces.
In this sense the Front National is sometimes described as ‘national populist’ , not fascist; defensive rather than overtly imperialist.
Its policies centre on ‘national priority’ for French citizens in jobs, and welfare, stricter controls of immigration, ‘Laïcité’ (secularism) but recognition of France’s ‘Christian’ roots, strict laws on ‘security’ including reestablishing the death penalty, and a long list of measures designed to protect French industry and make French law supreme against EU legislation.
These reactionary ideas are by no means unusual in Europe today.
Many of the FN legislative plans – stricter immigration control and cutting migrants’ right to social benefits – are shared by the mainstream British right, and are policies of the present Cameron government.
The ‘sovereigntist’ approach to the European Union – blaming the EU for France’s poor economic performance and allowing migration are at the heart of the right-wing campaign in the UK to leave the Union.
Before British leftist indulge in their customary lecturing of the French Left there is another aspect of the FN that it’s important to note. Some of the FN’s views on Europe, which see migrant labour as a “tool” of the capitalists to undermine French workers’ living standards, are shared by the anti-EU ‘left’ in the UK. The idea that ‘national’ control of the economy is the way to confront the problems of globalisation is also popular amongst some ‘left-wingers’ here and in France. There is as yet no equivalent of the kind of overt cross-overs from left to right which is a feature of French political life amongst ” souverainistes” but this could easily develop.
Populism, as they say, is about being popular.
In this respect, with 27% of the vote, the prospect of Marine Le Pen emerging at the main challenger in the French Presidential elections on 2017 is strengthened, not weakened by this weekend’s results.
The Communist Party Leader and supporter of the Front de gauche, Pierce Laurent has called for a “new progressive project” to unite the left to stand up against the right and the extreme right, fighting austerity, and engaging in measures to tackle the problems of the world of work (Régionales : Déclaration de Pierre Laurent.).
Ensemble, also like the PCF, part of the Front de gauche, have equally called for a new approach, “Pour rassembler, il faut un projet commun de tous ceux qui à gauche et dans le mouvement social ne renoncent pas et aspirent à une alternative politique de rupture avec le libéralisme, un nouvel espoir.”
There is now the suggestion that the Front de gauche, the alliance of these two forces with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche and others, ism posed to dissolve. Après les régionales, le Front de gauche en sursis. This will leave Mélenchon more free time to campaign against German influence in Europe.
This Blog was amongst the first to signal the possible problems that the participation of organised left groups. who had stood against the Labour Party in the General Election, might pose for Momentum.
We wrote, on October the 15th, Socialist Workers Party to “build Momentum” group for Jeremy Corbyn.
On the 17th of October, after the above story made it into the national media, we asked, After SWP Involvement Makes News, Momentum Publishes Ethical Code – is this enough?
The BBC has just reported,
Under new rules, Momentum supporters who are not Labour Party members will not be allowed to vote or take part in meetings about the Labour Party.
The move is designed to restrict the influence of organisations like the Communist Party, Left Unity, the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
The new rules are due to be finalised shortly, BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said.
The rules will still allow members of the groups – generally to the left of the Labour Party – to attend Momentum meetings on non-Labour Party issues, such as campaigning on Syria.
A Momentum source said: “This is to stop the Socialist Party doing stupid things but we’re trying to be as open and pragmatic as possible.”
Momentum has strongly divided opinion within the Labour Party – shadow chancellor John McDonnell has spoken at a number of their meetings.
There is more on the Socialist Party, in the person of Nancy Taafe, below.
One of their main campaigns, which should be signaled, is to get support for Labour councillors to set ‘illegal’ budgets, and to denounce any council which does not defy the government’s financial rules, as traitors.
This is how they put it,
We demand no-cuts, needs budgets along the lines of the Liverpool councillors in the 1980s.
Patrick Wintour writes in the Guardian today.
Momentum, the group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn inside the Labour party, is to draw up a code of conduct so that members of other parties will not be allowed to attend its decision-making meetings in future, Adam Klug, a national organiser for the group, has said.
A new code is to be sent to local Momentum groups in the next few days after its leadership recognised it was under threat of being discredited by the interference of hard-left groups such as the Socialist party and Socialist Workers party.
It would also mean members of other leftwing parties such as Left Unity and the Communist party would not be allowed to attend its decision-making meetings. Momentum has also decided that office holders in the group must all be Labour members.
This follows John Landsman’s comments here:
There are many factors that appear to have contributed to distorted coverage, misrepresentation and downright lies including:
- agents provocateurs on social media, hiding behind fake identities, who may be Tories or perhaps even Labour members engaged in ‘black ops’;
- hostile or opportunistic members of other parties like Nancy Taafe of the Socialist Party who stood against Stella Creasy in May (winning 394 votes for TUSC, good for them but, at less than 1%, an utterly pathetic vote for anyone who lives in the real world) but goes on BBC Daily Politics to demand her deselection;
- exaggerated claims by hard right Labour MPs determined to discredit Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn.
However, there undoubtedly are also some people, probably a small number, who think of themselves as being supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and against war in Syria who are guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards MPs – using inappropriate language or photos, abuse, intimidation and even bullying. Many will not be members of Momentum or the Labour Party, but some are which is why Momentum has issued the following statement.
Momentum is disappointed that Parliament voted for Syrian airstrikes. We do not believe that David Cameron made the case that bombs will defeat Daesh or improve the lives and security of Syrians, the UK or our allies, and we fear that they may have the opposite effect.
Nevertheless, we are pleased that the majority of Labour MPs and the shadow cabinet did oppose David Cameron’s proposal, reflecting the policy of the party conference and the wishes of its members, whilst also respecting the right of all MPs to vote as they have done.
Members of the Labour Party and the public have a right to be heard. Momentum is proud that we assisted over 30,000 people email their MP asking them not to vote for bombing. We believe these messages from the public helped convince some of the 153 Labour and 72 non-Labour MPs who voted against bombing to do so. It can never be a threat to express your views to your elected representative
Momentum strongly disapproves of anyone who engages in abusive behaviour towards MPs or anyone else, and threatening or bullying, whether they are outside the Labour Party (as most are) or inside it. We specifically asked our supporters to emulate Jeremy Corbyn, and to keep their messages about the issues and to refrain from any personal attacks.
Nor is Momentum a threat to MPs who voted for bombing. We have made clear that we will not campaign for or support the deselection of any MP and will not permit any local Momentum groups to do so. The selection of candidates is entirely a matter for local party members and rightly so.
This is well put and confirms our impression that those running Momentum have good sense and judgement.
The Guardian further adds
Klug first set out the decision to restrict access to meetings on Sky’s Murnaghan on Sunday and commented further on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Monday.
Klug told Dermot Murnaghan: “Everybody who has a position within Momentum is a Labour party member.” He added: “The governance structure is still being established to be completely clear with all the terminology, but absolutely no members of other political parties are welcome at Momentum meetings. If you are not a member of a political party … your voice is welcomed and heard but the Socialist party, for example, are not welcome to be at Momentum meetings.”
He said the same applied to the Communist party of Great Britain. He said only a tiny minority of people were calling for deselections.
It has also insisted that it is opposed to calls for the deselection of MPs who voted to back the extension of airstrikes to Syria, but such calls have been made at successive local Momentum events, sometimes by Socialist party members.
A Momentum spokesman said: “We have had to take this decision pragmatically. Anyone will be able to attend Momentum public meetings, but at decision-taking meetings it is likely only non-party and Labour members will be able to attend and take decisions. It is ridiculous that the Socialist party are calling for Labour MPs to be deselected.”
In practice, the detail of the new code, and how it will be policed, remains to be hammered out. It also faces difficulties with groups such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, a Trotskyist group that has disbanded to recommence work inside the Labour party.
It is likely to lead to calls for Momentum to restrict its activities to party members.
A Momentum meeting last week in Lambeth, south London, was leafleted and addressed by members of other leftwing groups calling for the local MP – Streatham’s Chuka Umunna – to be deselected for supporting airstrikes in Syria. Momentum said the Socialist party had not been invited to the meeting.
It is to be imagined that the Socialist Party, not to mention the Socialist Workers Party, will reply in these terms,
The strategy from the Momentum leaders to counter this is to subordinate everything to the election of a Corbyn-led government in 2020. This in turn means the left supporting right-wing figures, like Sadiq Khan for London mayor, even though he considers the best way to get elected is to systematically attack Jeremy Corbyn and the left.
This attempt to mollify the right will not succeed but it can help to demoralise and thereby disintegrate the forces that have begun to rally behind Corbyn and McDonnell. This would represent the loss of another favourable opportunity to change the labour movement in the battle against capitalism and its political representatives, the Tories and other forces that base themselves on outmoded capitalism. The political and organisational direction of the pro-Corbyn forces must be urgently discussed at all levels of the workers’ movement.
This is pretty hard to take from parties which were denouncing the Labour Party as pro-capitalists only six months ago and in the case of the Socialist Party had even erected this into the doctrine that Labour was a “bourgeois” party (and not, in classical ‘Leninist’ terms) a “bourgeois-workers’ party.
Not indeed that many care about the distinctions made by a group and their alliance (TUSC) which only got 0.1% of the popular vote in the General Election for 135 candidates.