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As Marine Le Pen Rises in Polls Criticism of Mélenchon’s Silence Grows.

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Nothing to say on how to fight Marine Le Pen at 41% ( +1).

France 24 reports,

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon forfeited the opportunity to play kingmaker on Sunday night by declining to back centrist (and onetime banker) Emmanuel Macron over anti-immigration europhobe Marine Le Pen in the run-off on May 7.

Heady with the 7 million votes he scored in Sunday’s first round – or disappointed that he fell only 618,609 short of beating Le Pen to a spot in the presidential run-off – Mélenchon took no clear stand on election night, leaving his voters to hash out their choice for May 7 online. Third-place finisher François Fillon, of the conservative Les Républicains party, and Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon both used their concession speeches on Sunday to immediately back Macron for the presidency.

However, Mélenchon’s Unsubmissive France (France insoumise) movement launched a voter “consultation” he promised on its website on Tuesday evening. It gives the 450,000 supporters who signed up on the platform before 10pm on April 23 – when Mélenchon gave his speech, and two hours after polls closed – a chance to express their choices among three options: voting a blank ballot, voting Macron or abstaining. Pointedly, voting Le Pen is not provided as an option “because it is clear to us that the National Front is a danger for the workforce”, Mélenchon spokesman Alexis Corbière explained on Wednesday.

The straw poll will continue until next Tuesday at noon, after which the results will be announced. But Unsubmissive France said on Wednesday that Mélenchon himself would not make public how he will vote personally, even after the results of the survey are released.

A sensation who rose like a shot in polls in the month before the first round, Mélenchon managed the feat of relegating the Socialist candidate to an also-ran. A former Socialist himself who cut ties with the party in 2008 to establish his own movement farther to the left, Mélenchon scored more than three times more votes than Hamon, largely on the back of two charismatic TV debate performances on March 20 and April 4. In those clashes, the 65-year-old political veteran came off as lively, confident, witty and frank. The contrast between his showman flourishes then and his post-election-night silence now is jarring.

Calls to abstain

Mélenchon voters have taken to social media to air their misgivings about voting for Macron, a onetime banker and economy minister under Socialist President François Hollande who quit last year to mount his own independent presidential bid. Many, using the hashtag #sansmoile7mai (“May 7 without me”) have said they simply cannot vote for “le capitaliste” Macron, even against Le Pen; they would rather cast a blank ballot or abstain.

This position, whose ambiguities  we have already outlined is opposed to that of  whole trade union movement. All of the union federations have called for a  vote against Le Pen and the National Front on Sunday May 7. The CGT, Force Ouvriere, Solidaires, the CFDT, FSU and even the Christian CFTC, which only once before, in 2002, have all called on their members to ‘stop the National Front’.

The left, the PCF, Ensemble (in a rather contorted fashion, no doubt to avoid offending the Great Man),  and the French Socialists  have also done so.

Not everybody in La France insoumise is happy with the silence of the Man of Destiny.

Mélenchon’s  stand has raised a storm of protest on the left which has been reflected inside the rally itself.

Monsieur Mélenchon, que diable allons-nous faire dans cette galère ? Libération.

Par Baudouin Woehl, étudiant dans un conservatoire à Paris

Un militant de la France insoumise s’indigne de la non-prise de position de Jean-Luc Mélenchon contre Marine Le Pen.

An activist of La France insoumise is angry at the failure of Jean-Luc Jean-Luc Mélenchon to take a stand against Marine Le Pen.

Dire non au FN, c’est se donner les moyens de poursuivre la lutte, c’est éviter de transformer ce «matin tout neuf qui commence à percer» dont vous parlez, en une nuit toute longue et incertaine.

To say No to the FN, is the way to get the means to continue the fight, that is, to avoid that the “new dawn which has begun to shine”, which you speak about, becomes a long night of uncertainty.

This is in a similar vein: Lettre à mes ami.e.s de gauche qui ne voteront pas contre Le Pen le 7 mai.

This demands that Mélenchon takes off the Red Triangle, sign of solidarity with victims of the Nazi, from his label.

Monsieur Mélenchon, ayez la décence de retirer ce triangle rouge de votre veste.Par Didier Daeninckx, écrivain.

On the British far left, amongst the professional dilettantes (the inevitable Tariq Ali) cheering on Mélenchon  is Kevin Ovenden,  who has been a leading figure in Respect and now appears close to the groupscule Counterfire, with influence in the Stop the War Coalition.

France: an historic moment for the left

He argues against the Vote Contre Le Pen campaign,

The Socialist Party and the Communist Party, in the false name of anti-fascist unity, are aiming to restore their own fortunes at the National Assembly elections, over the corpse of this radical breakthrough by the insurgent left last Sunday.

In endorsing Macron, they do three things. They give political support to someone who will launch an offensive against working people. They help Le Pen – for she wants this political constellation of her against all the old party machines. And they do Macron’s bidding in trying to rip away a part of the “insubordinate left” back to the centre, in return – if they are lucky – for some local pacts to deliver some parliamentary seats.

Instead, willing to share his successful strategy  in Respect Ovenden argues  to back an independent la France insoumise, do not vote against Le Pen in the polling booths, and to for those who supported Mélenchon to start  “providing them with the tools to maintain this insurgency.

For, “This is actually the moment of the fighting left. The agency for rupturing into a half century political settlement has been someone whose politics are actually closer to the patriotic social democratic left than they are to anti-capitalist revolutionaries.”

Ovenden  seems to be relishing the idea of street fighting if Le Pen approaches power, and no doubt afterwards.

He will no doubt offer his strategic skills to the French Left.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2017 at 1:10 pm

The Ambiguous Silence of Mélenchon on the Front National.

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Image result for contre le front national presidentielles

2002, The Left United Against the Front National.

Time was when Jean-Luc Mélenchon has no words hard enough against the Front National.

He even called, repeatedly, for it to be banned. As in Jean-Luc Mélenchon : «C’est le Front national qu’il faut interdire». 17th April. 1997. And Mélenchon veut interdire le FN 23rd of January 2010.

Now he is ‘resting’ in initially in silence while his supporters decide on-line whether to vote against Marine Le Pen, that is, vote for Macron, in the Presidential run off.

After Sunday’s election the choice between Macron and Le Pen is the only one present in the ballot box.

An on-line vote by supporters of La France insoumise, the rally with 440,000 ‘members’ (Many of whom give a nominal sum and Web involvement), is taking place on their stand on the Second Round on the 7th of May.

On voting choices they will be able to recommend that the movement advocates one of these options:

A blank vote (or spoiled ballot as we would say), abstention or a vote for Macron. 

There is no option to vote for Le Pen.

Je vote blanc ou nul», «Je vote Emmanuel Macron», «Je m’abstiens».

Note the way this is posed: the second round will set against each other, “the candidate of the extreme right and the candidate of extreme finance” (the latter reads as oddly in French as English).

It continues, “none of us will vote for the far right. Even so, should one give a voting recommendation? We said during our campaign that our votes could not be used by anybody else for the second round. Our candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has loyally respected this commitment. Having indicated this since the beginning of our campaign, therefore we have organised this to give a voice to la France insoumise on what position they personally (my emphasis) take on the second round. This  will not be a voting recommendation; the (aim) is to know the position of those in la France insoumise.

La consultation des militants de la France insoumise a commencé. Libération.  More in  Le Monde.

At a Press Conference today speakers for La France insoumise began by emphasising, quite rightly, that they had an exceptional voting score, which reached nearly 20% (nearly as many as the candidate who came 3rd François Fillon).

On the consultation above they noted that already 50,000 people had taken part, and that it was to give supporters an opportunity to express  an opinion, not a voting recommendation. (“n’a pas pour but de donner une consigne de vote mais de permettre aux insoumis de donner leur avis). They then announced,  amongst other things, that they are not a traditional political party but a movement (Nous ne sommes pas un parti politique traditionnel. Nous sommes un mouvement) and that neither Macron nor Le Pen represented their ideas.

Waxing lyrical, if perhaps in a tone some would describe as  shouty if not hysterical, Alexis Corbière stated that they were they only political force to emerge in the Presidential elections (La seule force politique qui émerge dans cette élection, c’est nous”) and that they were also the only people capable of really standing up to the Front National (“La seule force en capacité de tenir tête à l’extrême droite, c’est nous”) and they were the only ones (again!) fighting the FN consistently and convincingly,  while everybody else was chattering away (“Nous, nous combattons le FN sur le fond et nous convainquons. Les autres font du baratin !).

La France insoumise intends to stand alone, against all other left parties, in the June legislative elections.

More from here: .

In the media, the médiacrates as Mélenchon calls them, have been asking his supporters what they think. 

Some are said to agree with Philippe Poutou, the candidate of the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NP), who, with a score of 1,09% (1,15% in 2012) advocates going onto the streets to shout against the FN but to stay away from the polling booths.

Others, will what may be called a firmer grasp of reality, will respond as the rest of the non-marginal French left has done, Voter for Macron, with a heavy heart, “« Tout sauf Le Pen. ». The ‘populist’ movement remains divided. (Macron « à contrecœur », vote blanc ou pour Le Pen, pour le « choc » : les électeurs de Mélenchon tiraillés).  More here: Silence de Mélenchon sur le FN : colère, démocratie ou «faute» ? Libération.

As in:

One of the main reasons for their confusion is that the supporters of La France insoumise are said to be bitterly disappointed that they were not able to reach the final round. Apparently they believed, perhaps alone, that they would face a straight Le Pen Melenchon battle. (L’armée en ligne de Jean-Luc Mélenchon à l’heure de la désillusion. Dans le café virtuel où 20 000 militants ont porté sa campagne en ligne, le débat est intense sur l’attitude à adopter pour le second tour.)

Media which are no friends of the French left – happy to ignore that from the Communists to others on the left of the left will vote against Le Pen (Le PCF appelle à voter Macron, puis à le battre aux législatives) – have seized on the ambiguities of La France insoumise and the Man of Destiny,  Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The New York Times reports,

The National Front is delighted. The party has extended a welcome mat to Mr. Mélenchon’s supporters, pointing out similarities between the candidates.

The Front’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen — kicked out of the party by his daughter partly over his racism — hailed Mr. Mélenchon’s position warmly in an interview on French radio Tuesday.

“This seems very worthy to me, coming from a candidate who made a remarkable breakthrough, and who was — it must be said — the best orator,” Mr. Le Pen said.

His daughter’s top lieutenant in the far-right party, Florian Philippot, said “many voters” for Mr. Mélenchon may now join Ms. Le Pen in the second round, adding that there was a “a kind of coherence, after all” in his refusal to endorse Mr. Macron.

“Among his voters, many will refuse to vote for Macron, and many could vote for us,” Mr. Philippot said on France Info, tying the former economy minister to “finance,” as Mr. Mélenchon does, and to the unpopular government of President François Hollande, in which Mr. Macron served.

“Lots of voters in the electorate that chose Fillon, Dupont-Aignan” — two candidates on the right — “and even Mélenchon are open to a number of our themes,” another top National Front official, Nicolas Bay, said in an internal memo quoted by Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

The coming vote would be a contest between “fans of Mrs. Merkel and the unsubjugated,” he wrote — an apparent reference to Mr. Mélenchon’s movement and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is criticized on both the far left and the far right as pursuing policies that have impoverished European Union states.

One of Mr. Mélenchon’s top aides derided the candidate’s critics in a telephone interview Tuesday. “You’ve got to look at where the criticism is coming from,” said Éric Coquerel, a member of the Paris regional council.

“It’s coming from those whose policies have favored the development of the National Front, from the Socialist Party,” said Mr. Coquerel, referring to the quarrel that divided the French left for five years: the governing Socialists’ mild pro-market turn, seen as a betrayal by France’s far left.

“We don’t want to help Marine Le Pen, but we don’t want to endorse Mr. Macron,” he said.

“He’s the candidate of free trade,” Mr. Coquerel said. “He’s going to assist in the Uberization of society. Everything we are going to fight against in the coming months. There’s no possible rapprochement.”

Farage Gushes over Marine Le Pen; US Left Counterpunch’s Diana Johnstone Praises Front National “patriotic socialist left”.

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Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen speaks in Lyon, France. (Michel Euler, AP)

Attracts ‘Anti-Globaliser’ Fans from UKIP and from US left journal Counterpunch.

Leading contributor to Counterpunch, Diana Johnstone is the best known figure in a would-be ‘red-brown’ alliance.

Against the “global elites” she likes both Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen.

French Elections: Macron versus Le Pen in Run-off. Discredited Socialist Party. A Vote against Neoliberalism Diana Johnstone

The results seem to be just what the polls have predicted from the start: Emmanuel Macron versus Marine Le Pen.  As if the whole campaign brought us right around to the point of departure.

I would add that a significant result of this campaign is the substitution of a new left represented by Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the totally discredited French Socialist Party, which has betrayed all the hopes of its followers by totally adopting the neoliberal economic policies dictated by the Europe Union. This is a renewed and much more vigorous and original left.

The leaders of the failed Socialist Party are rushing to find a place in Macron’s ill-defined movement, “En Marche!”

So now we are faced with the choice between a fake left – Macron – and a fake “extreme right”: Marine Le Pen.

The plain truth is that Marine Le Pen, of a younger generation than her notorious father Jean-Marie, is simply not the same politically.  She has enthusiastically adopted as her main political advisor and number two in the National Front which she inherited, Florian Philippot, who comes from the patriotic socialist left represented by France’s best statesman of the past generation, Jean-Pierre Chevènement.

This difference seems impossible to explain to people who are stuck in the categories of a past that is not longer pertinent.  Emmanuel Macron is an agent of the globalizing elite, from NATO to Goldman Sachs.

As President, he will confirm French subservience to European Union rules which are destroying the French economy as well as to NATO’s policy of war in the Middle East and hostility to Russia.  Marine Le Pen prefers a policy of peace.  I am waiting to learn from my critics how she is the “fascist” whom we must all oppose.

Then we have this:

NIGEL FARAGE: Well, it’s very interesting. The way the international media are portraying this Macron is a centrist. He’s nice. He’s cuddly. He’s the really good guy. Quite why he’s called centrist when he was minister in a hard left, socialist government, I don’t know. And then Le Pen is painted out to be far right. Now, let me just tell you something. The origins of the French Front National may well have been far right, but she’s dragged them, I think, a long way from that. And, in terms of security, in terms of believing in sovereignty, in many of those things, she has a huge amount in common with firstly the Brexit campaign and secondly with President Trump.

“This is a big battle of two huge cultural ideals: one, the globalists who believe in open borders, and the other, those who believe in nation states and protecting their people,” he told the US network.” (from Here).

 

Macron Versus le Pen: Will Left Unite to Defeat Far-Right?

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Unite to Beat Le Pen in Ballot say French Communists.

Nos rêves d’avenir sont désormais inséparables de nos frayeurs.

Our dreams of the future are henceforth inseparable from our fears.

Histoire et Utopie Emil Cioran.

The French Presidential elections were earth-shaking, “In just one year, we have changed the face of French politics,” said a triumphant Macron, whose centrist pitch and so-called “progressive alliance” precipitated the country’s great political shake-up. Equally jubilant, his rival Le Pen said it was “time to liberate the people of France from the arrogant elites that seek to dictate their conduct”. Reports France 24.

Macron came first with 23.75% of the vote. Le Pen second, with 21,53%. Fillon third with 19,91% and Mélenchon fourth at 19.64%.

The Socialist Candidate, Hamon, at 6,35%, a score only slightly higher than their historic low (when they were called the SFIO), Gaston Defferre 1969 5,01 %  represented a party which is now starting disaster in the face (Après la déroute de Hamon, le PS au bord du gouffre).

The last time the Front National reached the run off for the Presidential election was in 2002, when Chirac faced Marine Le Pen’s Father Jean-Marie.

Much of the left was swept up in a country-wide mobilisation to the far-right from winning power.

Chirac won with 82,1 %  of the votes

This time both Fillon and Hamon have called for a Macron vote in the Second Round.

Mélenchon’s supporters, who had hoped for a duel between their candidate and Marine Le Pen, vented their spleen at the “« Médiacrates » and « oligarques ».

They have yet to say what to do in the second round.  Mélenchon preferred to announce that he would be consult his movement, by Internet (“Il n’a donné aucune consigne de vote pour le second tour et a expliqué que les 450 000 insoumis voteraient sur ce point.)

There are voices within la France insoumise  calling for a blank vote.

It has become common on the British left, and more widely in the English speaking world, to draw inspiration from Mélenchon and La France insoumise.

There is little doubt that the movement’s candidate is capable of inspirational, lyrical and rigorously argued speaking.

This sour post-election tweet offers a less attractive side to his public personality.

The US publication, Jacobin, has finally published an article which expresses doubts – familiar to readers of this Blog over the last couple of years –  about La France insoumise.

The Meaning of France Insoumise by

Bekhtari is a member of Ensemble, a major component of what was the Front de gauche. Ensemble’s majority  backed Mélenchon by 72%, but did not accept dissolution into the ‘movement’ La France insoumise (Ensemble ! soutient Jean-Luc Mélenchon sans intégrer La France insoumise. November 2016. ). This alliance of left socialist, Trotskyist, green left and self-management currents  has published both supportive and – minority – critical views on the candidate and the structure of this rally.

The following paragraph are particularly worth signaling,

Jean-Luc Mélenchon explicitly draws inspiration from the theories of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe – an official supporter of his – adopting the formulas already used by Podemos, defining the ‘people’ against the ‘caste’ or the ‘oligarchy’. His adoption of this approach is clearly expounded in books such as L’ère du peuple [The Era of the People] or Le Choix de linsoumission [The Choice to Rebel]. Mélenchon no longer uses the term ‘left-wing’, which in his view has been corrupted by the PS’s record in power and unattractive to the wider public. This discourse is also apparent in the position he has taken as a politician who directly addresses the population without the intermediary of a political party and its decision-making structures – not even the party of which he is still a member, the Left Party (PG). He has instead privileged the creation of France Insoumise, a new movement without elected structures whose base unit is the local ‘support group’ backing his candidacy.

…..

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy struggled to unite forces to the Left of the Socialist Party. His Left Front partners did not appreciate seeing him proclaim himself a candidate, or indeed the mechanics of his campaign, which only afforded a consultative role to the parties committing to his cause – thus preventing their leaderships from being able to shape his program and the line he put forward. As well as this anti-pluralist modus operandi, some of his politically problematic media sorties were also a turn-off for PCF and Ensemble! militants, for instance when he spoke of detached workers ‘stealing the bread’ of the French; with regard to migrants, when the first idea he expounded was that he had ‘never been for freedom of movement’; with regard to the war in Syria, seeing Bashar al-Assad as a lesser evil faced with Da’esh; or in terms of his refusal to recognise the existence of a Russia imperialism, itself at work in this conflict. Despite his repeated defensive claims – which have consisted of responding that his arguments and his positions were being mischaracterized in order to damage him – we cannot totally dismiss the argument that Jean-Luc Mélenchon has sought to deploy buzzwords able to attract the attention of disoriented voters tempted either to abstain or else to vote for the Front National.

After noting the breakthrough in French TV debates – it worked for me – Bekharti unfortunately speculates,

He came out of the debate as the most effective left-wing vote among all the ‘big candidates’. Even beyond the Left, he exercises a certain force of attraction among former right-wing voters seduced by his integrity and his calls for a clean break, which are interpreted as a promise to put an end to a system that today profits only the ‘political class’ and the ‘oligarchy’. Thus just days before the election he finds himself in third place in the polls, tied with Fillon. The possibility of Mélenchon reaching the second round – and even winning a run-off against Le Pen – is thus coming into view, against all expectations.

This has not happened.

The following exercise in wishful thinking looks even less connected to reality,

The strategy of social transformation via a revolution at the ballot box leaves a lot of room for doubt. We can expect a violent reaction by the bourgeoisie to protect its power and privileges. But in the current context, the hope of the step forward that could come from France Insoumise taking power, and the possibility that a period of radicalisation would follow, appear better able to mobilize the masses than any abstract warning of the future betrayals that may come from Jean-Luc Mélenchon once he is elected president.

One might still ask if fourth position is still a strong one – though not much of a hope for those who would wish Corbyn to follow this path.

But at present it’s the issue of voting in the second round that dominates the left.

Today the French Communist Daily L’Humanité calls for a united struggle against Marine Le Pen. The ballot box is the central means to stop her.

Nothing that Macron represents “financial circles” and liberal economic policies that have harmed France for decades the Parti communiste français nevertheless states that the immediate task is the following:

To block the road to the Presidency of the Republic of Marine Le Pen, to her clan, and to the threat that the Front National represents for democracy, for the Republic and for peace, is to use the ballot, unfortunately the only way to do so.

Le Parti communiste appelle à battre Le Pen.

The Socialists have just endorsed the same position, putting centreplace the need to beat the far-right, (à battre l’extrême droite).

Ensemble  calls to make May the 1st a Big Day of Action against the NF and for an anti-Le Pen vote, “Le mouvement Ensemble! appelle à la mobilisation, dans la rue le 1er mai, en votant contre Le Pen le 7 mai, pour empêcher l’arrivée au pouvoir de l’extrême droite.”

The FN remains a party of the extreme-right and not just for France, but for the European left and labour movement, it is important that the PCF’s call is heeded.

This does not mean that the problems their vote and deep political roots in France pose is solved by such a vote.

Yet…

Mélenchon is fond of citing Victor Hugo.

On wonders if Hugo would have backed abstention had it been possible to vote as freely as one can in the present French election to stop LouisNapoléon. 

Then we have the legislative elections….June….

And the Mail is jubilant…

 

*****

 

Official first round result

With 106 of 107 departements counted | At 04:49 CEST
Macron 23.75%
Le Pen 21.53%
Fillon 19.91%
Mélenchon 19.64%
Hamon 6.35%
Dupont-Aignan 4.75%
Lassalle 1.22%
Poutou 1.1%
Asselineau 0.92%
Arthaud 0.65%
Cheminade 0.18%.

Second-round projection

Pollsters Ifop asked voters for the main contenders who they would opt for in the second round, if the remaining candidates were Macron and Le Pen. Using the actual first-round votes cast, this would imply a second-round result along the following lines:

Macron 60.63%

Le Pen 39.37%

Macron inherits

43% of Fillon’s voters

70% of Hamon’s voters

50% of Mélenchon’s voters

Le Pen inherits

31% of Fillon’s voters

3% of Hamon’s voters

12% of Mélenchon’s voters

World of Culture Mobilises for French Election: Pamela Anderson Backs Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

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Image result for borat and pamela anderson

Anderson has always had keen interest in Progressive International Politics. 

 

 

“Le Pen et Mélenchon ont tous les deux été espionnés par les États-Unis et les deux sont d’accords pour accorder l’asile ou la citoyenneté à Julian Assange”, a d’abord écrit Pamela Anderson sur son site internet. “Mr Melenchon for President! S’il vous plait”

Le Pen and Pamela Andersonhave both been spied upon by the US, and both agree on giving asylum and citizenship to Julian Assange” wrote Pamela Anderson, on her Internet site. “Mr Mélenchon for President! ! S’il vous plait.”

The candidate for La France insoumise has also impressed Ms Anderson by his work for animal rights (un défenseur de la cause animale) and the cause of climate change.

Huffington Post.

Her grasp of French politics has been, unfairly, criticised:

Counterfire calls for Corbyn to Follow Jean-Luc Mélenchon and “denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU as “capitalist con trick”.

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Rees explains to Corbyn how to follow Mélenchon’s book.

What, the masses, okay, John Rees and the groupuscule Counterfire, ask, should we do about Theresa May’s “gamble”, her all-too-evident desperation.

Well, they reply, to themselves, it’s proof of that agony the Tories are facing.

She has called a General Election.

You can’t get more desperate than that!

So,  Bring it on

Rees is a-buzzin’ at French politics,

Only weeks ago, Marine Le Pen was destined to be stopped only by a Blairite candidate. Now the far-left candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has upset all predictions and, even if he doesn’t make the second round, he has rebuilt the French left.

Jeremy Corbyn should be aiming to make good the poll deficit by similar methods because Melenchon was at least as far behind in the polls when the French Presidential campaign began as Corbyn is now.

So,

….audacity is the order of the day. Corbyn should take a leaf from Mélenchon’s book and denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU, for the capitalist con trick they are. He should unashamedly run as the establishment’s unbending opponent and as the outspoken champion of working people, the unions, and the social movements.

Then, if he fails, at least it will not be by his own hand and at the cost of demoralising the left and working people, their organisations and their hopes.

Yup, Mélenchon’s strategy of replacing the Socialist Party, that is Labour’s sister party, and his struggle for French “independence”, waving of tricolors an all, is just the recipe for a Labour victory.

He could also try a few of the poems Melenchon likes to stud his speeches with,

Mes frères, c’est dans la Paix que nous respirons à pleins poumons
L’univers entier avec tous ses rêves…
Mes frères, mes sœurs, donnez-vous  la main…
C’est cela la Paix.

Yánnis Rítsos.

Or this:

Rees is resolutely upbeat.

There may or may not be a majority Labour government, but that is not the only bad outcome for the Tories. There may be a minority Labour government supported by the SNP. There may be a Tory government with a reduced majority, and that would be a huge disaster for the whole UK ruling class and a huge opportunity for the left.

Those majority Tory governments are surely always an opportunity……

We need to make Theresa May’s election gamble her last, argues John Rees

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Criticism, the Programme, and ‘Federating the People’.

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L’avenir en Commun. Le programme de la France insoumise et son candidat, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Seuil. December 2016.

Before introducing this we have to put the small fraction of our leftist readership who are unaware of this out of their misery.

Mélenchon’s Trotskyist past was as a ‘Lambertist‘, that it the most ‘orthodox’, not to say stultified tradition of French Trotskyism, at the time in the shape of the Organisation communiste internationale (OCI), at the time run by its thuggish leader  Pierre Boussel, best known under his pseudonym Pierre Lambert. 

This is perhaps misleading.  Mélenchon’s real political debts, he would be the first to thank us for pointing out, lie towards former president Mitterrand -(Jean-Luc Mélenchon, le dernier mitterrandiste).

This is equally not a background which endears him to everybody on the left.

The below sketches some reasons to be sceptical about Mélenchon.

Unlike  in today’s Guardian we concentrate on the published programme of his Presidential candidacy.

A critical overview of the main axes of the programme of La france insomouise.

This programme, for the 2017 French Presidential elections and for the legislative elections that follow them, addresses the state of France, “note pays”, our country, in a vibrant call to action. Ecological issues, the land’s social disasters (unemployment, poverty and ethnic and religious divisions, ‘communautarismes’) are, writes Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Introduction, three aspects of the same reality, “We are suffocating under the rule of Finance.” Finance governs the world. Its greed, and the free-market, are destroying human beings and the planet.

For the candidate of La France insoumise the priority is to give power to the people (“donner le pouvoir, tout le Pouvoir, au peuple’). Mélenchon calls for an assembly, made up of those who have never before been elected to Parliament, to write a new constitution that will replace the “monarchie présidentielle”. With “ecological planning” a new model will be created. France will become a “universalist nation” (nation universaliste), conquering its “independence”, outside of NATO, acting to create a new alter-globalisation” alliance of the world’s peoples. France will bring a special contribution to green maritime development, to space exploration, and information technology.

Down with the Oligarchy!

The programme begins by observing that citizens’ power is thwarted in the present French politics are dominated by the “oligarchy”, the “collusion between politics and finance”, run by a “caste of the privileged”. The programme proposes a series of measures to stem corruption, to end the connivance between politicians and business, and the influence of lobbyists to break the influence of this financial-political elite. Infringements will be punished with the full force of the law.

The Universalist republic will then be in a position to defend an open approach to French nationality, advance a patriotism that is opposed to racism and all forms of discrimination, and abolish “state and social patriarchy”, including the abolition of prostitution (“abolir la prostitution”, this claim is made on Page 29).

The platform calls for new citizens’ initiatives, referenda, rights to recall MPs, guarantees of media pluralism, the constitutional embodiment of the rights of people at work, protecting common property, “air, water, food, health, energy, the means of life, the currency (..) For young people, after, lowering the voting age to 16, la France insoumise, proposes an obligatory “ service citoyen” (including a military option) or the under 25s, paid at the minimum wage, for nine months.

Particular attention is paid to France’s overseas territories, from the Caribbean to the other ‘confettis of the empire’ in the Pacific, South America and the Indian Ocean, whose equality will be established within the French administrative domain. They will become “pilots” of the ecological planning. In this respect the “économie de mer” from aquaculture onwards, will spearhead development.

L’avenir en Commun promises to out an end to the economic “pillaging” of the Nation (capital letter in original, Page 45). Not only are privatisations and ‘public-private’ partnerships targeted, but the effects of social dumping. In “défense de notre souveraineté industrielle”, “protectionnisme solidaire” is proposed. Trade agreements have to be revised and other measures taken to project social rights and employment, against multinationals and international finance. Production must be re-localised. To fight against unemployment there will be investment in green infrastructure projects…

Fiscal Revolution.

The programme has drawn particular attention for its “révolution fiscale” and other ideas in the industrial/economic field (a more detailed account here) A rise in the minimum wage (16%) parallels a maximum salary for company bosses, on a ratio of 1 to 20 of the lowest wage, restrictions of redundancies, and a return to the contract protection pre-Loi Khomri are amongst measures proposed. There are plans to restore retirement at 60, a continued reduction of the working week, increased holidays, and a wish to ‘eliminate poverty’.

Critics focus on the cost, hidden by a slight of hand in which spending is transformed into a way cost-free boosting the economy (without major tax rises on the ordinary person or indeed much directly on most businesses). Others ask how the economy is going to be radically transformed by government legislation. There is no specific mention of independent working class or social movement initiatives outside of the political framework of the new 6th Republic, or to be exact, how they might engage in working through, from the grass-roots, independent forms of  new economic and social life.

Dead Europe.

Mélenchon prefaces the section on Europe by asserting that the “Europe of our dreams is dead”. The present European Union has become reduced to a single market in which people are submitted to the rule of the banks and finance. Our “indépendance d’action et la souveraineté de nos décisions” must not be subjected to the ideological obsessions of the Commission which have led to this anti-democratic impasse.

La France insoumise intends to renegotiate existing European Treaties. In Plan A it is proposed, amongst other measures, to end the independence of the Central European Bank, devaluation of the Euro, a halt to extending market mechanisms to public services (railways, energy and telecommunications), and a European conference to settle member states’ debts. If this fails, Plan B, a halt to French contributions to the EU budget, and for the Banque de France to take back monetary control and prepare the way for an alternative monetary system to the Euro. It is not specified what will happen if this fails, other than extreme pressure will be put. Potentially, France may leave the Euro and, could possibly exit the EU itself.

What will happen if they try all of this, draw back to the Franc, there is a financial crisis of staggering proportions, and the economy starts to crack, is not explained.

Let us imagine, as some have done, how the various scenarios  for A and B would play out.

As Frédéric Lordon explains,

I think that comrade Mélenchon, if he did reach power and if he really intended to combine words with actions, would find himself facing very great adversity indeed. For over the last thirty years, capital has got comfortable and has no intention at all of letting all the freedoms it has conquered, all the comfort it has secured, being taken away again. We have to understand what entering into confrontation with capital again means. There we really have political battles…

Himself not immune to dreams of establishing national sovereignty Lordon imagines,

So both to protect Mélenchon and to keep watch over him, his election must be just the beginning of a political process of a whole different dimension, necessarily proceeding by way of popular mobilisations. I do not know if that means re-awakening the old memories of the Popular Front or whatever… but all the same…

This ends up, for the moment,  in an interminable argument about a possible exit of France from the EU.

Or not.

As perhaps his hero Mitterrand realised in the early 1980s, exiting European , not to mention global financial and commercial constrains is not so easy…..

Perhaps he should consult Jean-Pierre Chevènement….

As more recently noted, (FRÉDÉRIC LORDON CRITIQUERAIT-IL LA STRATÉGIE DE JEAN-LUC MÉLENCHON ?)

Quand Jean-Luc Mélenchon dit qu’il veut « sortir des traités », cela a un sens. Ça ne peut signifier qu’une seule chose: si on sort des traités, on sort de fait de l’UE.

When Jean-Luc Mélenchon says he wants to leave the Treaties, that has a meaning. It has only one sense: if we leave the treaties we leave, in fact, the European Union…

Or not.

And so, on and on, in ever expanding and revolving  circles.

French Independence.

As part of his wider plans for sovereignty, and keen to assert the “indépendence” of France in the world, the platform, as cited, envisages not just renegotiating existing EU Treaties (or annulling them) but leaving NATO, but the IMF and the World Bank.

Yet we are promised that French overseas territories will join organisations for regional co-operation such as the Cuba and Venezuela ledAlliance bolivarienne.

In place of the existing military alliance, which drags European states behind the USA, France will be able to defend herself and act freely. In this sense a “coalition universelle”, UN mandated, to eradicate Daesh in Syria, has a part to play in establishing peace in that land, with free elections and a negotiated end to the civil war. Perhaps the reintroduction of military service will help France fulfill its part in the forces needed to meet this aim.

The programme wishes to continue to support the ‘two states’ solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict which is welcome.

The idea of France, a country which is a pillar of the international economic and military system, with a heavy colonial past, is an odd place from which to claim ‘independence’. One might say that the above objectives appear to give priority to a leading role in international affairs, not to freedom from overseas commitments.

There are many other measures in L’avenir en commun, on international co-operation to resolve the underlying causes of the different migration crises, for durable development, employees’ rights, a re-affirmation of secularist principles (laïcité), opening up education, and a ideas on health issues. The document includes a including a proposition to legalise, within regulated structures, cannabis. Asylum will be offered to freedom fighters (“combattants de la liberté”) such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (Page 89).

These are worth discussing on their individual merits, some of which (green policies, workers’ rights, legalising cannabis) are shared by his Socialist rival, Hamon indeed are better expressed by him.

The People….

This is the most contentious element in the platform of La France insoumise. In contrast to traditional left wing programmes there are no proposals for large-scale nationalisations. Economic strategy, apart from its green and social inflection, is centred on production in France within an expanded regulatory citizens’ right-based framework. It is the role of the people’s, re-formed, 6th republic to transmit these into practice.

The ‘sovereignty’ of the People as translated into this Sixth Republic, with the “transition écologique, are at the core of L’avenir en commun, ideas which also stand out from past radical left platforms, which have affirmed the central importance of the labour movement, or the working class and oppressed. Critics have not been slow to point out that the “L’ère du peuple” is not the epoch of the proletariat. What is less than clear is what The People are made of. French socialism, in the shape of the SFIO,  was founded as a citizens’ party,  not a class one, but recognised the importance of class interest. Apart from being against the oligarchs and elites nobody seems sure what the people is, positively, for, other than the accumulated traditions all so often evoked, a stance that has something in common with the 19th century non-Marxist current around the Revue Socialiste of Benoît Malon which considered socialism a broad stream of progressive thinking that extended to all people of good will. 

In the construction of the People, its ‘federation’ into an ‘us’ against the Oligarchs, the ‘them’, this ‘humanist populism’ relies on some ideas, perhaps better described as emotions, that are open to serious question. The first is the claim to republican  ‘patriotism’.

recent interview with Raquel Garrido, one of their spokespeople, elicited this response.

We are patriotic, not nationalist. Patriotism is love for one’s own, while nationalism involves hatred for others. In fact, according to the literary and political definitions, that is the difference. The far right is nationalist. We are patriotic. And patriotism is an empathy, an affect towards one’s compatriots. We really think that, insofar as our nation has been a civic nation since the French Revolution, it is not defined by any religion or skin colour or even language, it is universal. Our homeland [patrie] is republican.

Our patriotism is universalist. It is a patriotism of the Enlightenment. We think that precisely what our patriotism allows is the affirmation of citizens’ right to govern themselves. That is what our national sovereignty is, first of all meaning a popular sovereignty. Before anything else it is the question of the people’s political power. And fortunately for us, in our national history these two things are linked. That is why we think that the far right is not truly for sovereignty, because it supports only national, not popular sovereignty. It is for Marine Le Pen having power, not the French.

Apart from being one of the hoariest definitions of patriotism going, love of one’s own is many things, but by definition it is not love of ‘others’.

In constructing the ‘figure of the People’, Mélenchon and his allies, apart from their fuzzy progressivism, also appear to have much in common with the mid-19th century “internationalist republicans”. They wish to free the land from the forces of global capital, not Kings but the aristocrats of finance. But national histories have been profoundly affected by globalisation and there is little evidence that tearing up its roots is an easy task. How can we talk of the ‘national’ economy in the world today? What exactly is French ‘independence’?  What is the ‘national’ culture in a multicultural reality, not a policy but a fact.

It is hard to find  more substance in the programme of La France insoumise, that clarifies the meaning of ‘popular sovereignty’. People’s Power is about as precise as the evocation of a national General Will.  Of, as Garrido asserts, ‘the French’….

If it has any meaning it is largely negative, a desire to be ‘free of’ outside institutions, from EU Treaties to NATO.

Such a goal, of national independence and sovereignty, now stamped with green and social measures, and raises many issues if any moves are taken towards the end.

If the people is Mobilised to confront the rule of the “political caste” ‘finance’, EU Treaties, and the Commission (not capitalism as such), what is its future?  If La France insoumise ever swept the “oligarchy” from the Republic, how they could ever bridge the gap between their ‘universal’ aspirations, those in France who oppose their plans for the People, and those of other Peoples? Who would ‘federate’ them? What kind of universalism  would negotiations with the ‘non-civic’ nations and institutions result in?

The other set of issues concerns leadership.

What is there perhaps a role for a Chief, the Lider Maximo, of this left populism? Laclau whose work is freely drawn upon in the political logic of the project of La France insoumise, explicitly placed this role at the centre of his later writing on populism (On Populist Reason. 2005). It is right to ask, as Joshua Samuel has done, if  this is not the explicit intention behind constructing a movement, not a party, to support Mélenchon’s candidacy. (La France insoumise – « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ?)

This issue has not gone away, as this article illustrates, noting that the cult of the Man of Destiny is not part of French left-wing political culture, for all his claims to deny that he indulges it, while claiming to gather together the People and not the Left. “Le culte de l’homme providentiel accompagne le candidat sur son passage, ce n’est pourtant pas l’idée que l’on se fait de la politique à gauche, et dont il se défend lui-même. Certains parlent de césarisme, sinon de chavisme à la française. L’inquiétude est à son comble quand il prétend rassembler le peuple et non la gauche.”( Mediapart.  FRÉDÉRIC LUTAUD)

The author observes that  Mélenchon’ has a worryingly high number of fanatical, dedicated followers devoted to  his own personality…

There is plenty of evidence to back this up.

capture

Interplanetary Missions.

In the final chapter, La France aux Frontières de l’Humanité a sketch of some of the features of a “nouvelle ère” of international co-operation is offered. It only increases the suspicion that this programme is marked by national messianism. Space-exploration, including a European-Russian Moon Base, support for a publicly owned Arianespace, and interplanetary missions, including to Mars, feature prominently. The development of France’s role as a “maritime power”, creating 300,000 jobs, in such areas a aquaculture and the French merchant navy, as well as the French role in robot and information technology, are some of the ideas for a people with a “special and passionate responsibility” (une responsabilité particulière et enthousiasmante!” (Page 119).

These ideas make it hard to not to think of the jibe against such claims of French special universal responsibilities, “A particularism masked as a universalism”.

Other material: Excitement in the French elections: the meaning of Jean-Luc Mélenchon  John Mullen

…if myself and my Trotskyist revolutionary friends were to decide to build a perfect mass campaign out of Lego, there would be a number of Mélenchon’s priorities we would leave in the box. He goes in for a particular brand of left patriotism: Insubordinate France distributes French flags at some rallies and the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, is sung. The words of the anthem were written as a call to arms against tyranny during the French Revolution, and Mélenchon’s line is that the real France is the tradition of the fight for republican equality and fraternity, the Paris commune and the welfare state established after world war two by the national committee of resistance. In addition, he puts great store on the positive influence that he says France has sometimes had in international diplomacy, and the positive role France could play in the United Nations in moving against war and against the great imperialist countries. Moreover, he is not opposed to France retaining its nuclear arms. Obviously, these are positions which revolutionaries would contest, and there are more objections too. Though he regularly denounces anti-Muslim prejudice, he tends to think, wrongly, that a Muslim fundamentalist threat is widespread in French society, and he has joined in misinformed speculation about the “real meaning” of a Muslim headscarf.

Overhauling French Politics

“At stake in Sunday’s French election is the specter of the far right, the neoliberalism of the extreme center, and Mélenchon’s challenge to the system itself.”

A useful interview with    if  marked by the initial  claim about the world historical effects that French protests against the reform of the Labour code last year, “These spectacular strikes, blockades, and demonstrations, notably Nuit Debout, really rocked the world’s stage, but especially the French stage, just one year ago.” Not to mention the puerile term, “the extreme centre”…

there is the fact that he identifies with the French state in every aspect. He really sees the French state in its republican form as defending the common interests of humanity. On one philosophical level, this is a sort of extension of the French Revolution’s emancipatory gesture, but it also translates into an identification with the French state in its actual repressive form.

And a much less favourable analysis: Anti-German, soft on Putin – Mélenchon is no saviour of the left.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm