Archive for the ‘French Left’ Category
French Far-Right Hesitates between Marine le Pen and François Fillon.
France 24 reports,
By overwhelmingly backing former prime minister François Fillon, voters in the primary held by France’s centre-right on Sunday opted for an economically liberal, socially conservative candidate whose vision for France leaves little ambiguity.
Any hope rival primary candidate Alain Juppé had of springing a surprise in the Les Républicains party run-off vote failed to come to fruition, with Fillon taking some 66.5 percent of the vote. If Fillon’s strong performance in the first round of voting could be in part attributed to voters merely wanting to shut out Nicolas Sarkozy, his landslide victory over Juppé on Sunday left little room for doubt: Fillon’s firmly right-wing platform had won the firm backing of the conservative electorate.
The “fight between one project and another”, as the more moderate, centrist Juppé had called his showdown with Fillon, had been decided. Despite attacks by Juppé between the two rounds of voting that had depicted him as both “ultra conservative” and “ultra liberal” economically, Fillon had clearly prevailed.
The Guardian columnist Angelique Chrisafis comments,
The Front National leader has reason to fear the Republican candidate, whose views overlap with some of her key ideas.
The Front National has reason to fear Fillon. His traditionalist and socially conservative line on family values and “the Christian roots of France”, his emphasis on French national identity, “sovereignty” and “patriotism”, his hard line on immigration and Islam as well as a pro-Putin foreign agenda against “American imperialism” all overlap with some of Le Pen’s key ideas.
This could potentially see Fillon steal some of Le Pen’s most socially conservative voters, particularly rightwing elderly people, who always have a big turnout to vote but remain sceptical about the Front National.
“Fillon presents us with a strategy problem, he’s the most dangerous [candidate] for the Front National,” Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the Catholic and socially conservative Front National MP and niece of Marine Le Pen, told journalists this week.
Despite Fillon’s hardline rightwing stances, he is not a populist. “He’s closer to [the former British prime minister] David Cameron than [the Ukip leader] Nigel Farage,” said Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the French far right.
This leaves Le Pen a wide margin in which to go for Fillon’s jugular as she fights a campaign centred on “the people versus the elite”. The Front National has already begun attacking Fillon as a snobbish, political has-been. It argues thatFillon, as Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, was responsible for the failures of the Sarkozy era and cares more about the rich, globalised elite than the working class who have faced decades of mass unemployment.
The battle will largely focus on economic policy. Fillon has promised a “radical shock” for France with free-market reform, major cuts to public sector jobs and reducing public spending. Le Pen claims to represent the “forgotten” French underclass and has an economic line that is essentially leftwing: she is anti-globalisation and favours protectionism and state intervention. Le Pen’s campaign director, David Rachline, has called Fillon’s programme “economically insane” for wanting to slash 500,000 public sector jobs.
Le Pen’s advisers believe Fillon will struggle to appeal to the lower middle class and working class voters who are afraid of losing their jobs. The Front National has slammed Fillon as a symbol of lawless, ultra-free market, globalised capitalism. Fillon, in return, says Le Pen’s economic project is simply “a cut and paste of the extreme left”.
Some on the French far-right are already moving towards backing Fillon (Le conservatisme affiché de François Fillon séduit à l’extrême droite).
Has the French left any chance?
The Socialists continue to hover between indecision and hesitancy.
This weekend the French Communist Party (PCF) voted to back Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential bid (Finalement, les communistes soutiennent… Mélenchon. Libération). They supported his candidacy under the banner of la France insoumise by a slim, at 53,6% for, majority. It is obvious that there was little chance of a the Communists being able to launch their own Presidential challenge. The Party announced its intention of launching their own campaign in support his proposals against austerity. They do not intend to give him ‘carte blanche’ (un blanc-seing).
This follows the decision of the other component of the (now effectively defunct) Front de gauche, Ensemble, to back Mélenchon, Communiqué du Collectif National d’Ensemble des 19 et 20 novembre 2016)
That Mélenchon looks potentially capable of beating a Socialist candidate into fourth place no doubt counts in his favour – although no poll gives him a chance of getting to the run-off.
The reasons for the PCF’s reservations – shared no doubt by many in Ensemble, are not hard to find. Beginning with the personality of the Man of Destiny.
We nevertheless cite a major source of difference which, given the importance of the issue of immigration in the coming contest, will no doubt grow in importance
Philippe Marlière has noted (Guardian),
Despite a steady increase in Euroscepticism in France, the underlying principle of free movement of people across the EU remains broadly undisputed. Apart from in one telling area. There is growing evidence of opposition towards EU migrants and the notion of freedom in what has become known as “social dumping”. This relates to “posted workers”, employees sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis. Those EU workers do not integrate in the labour market in which they work.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an MEP, a presidential candidate in 2012 and running again in 2017, has singled out posted workers in a speech at the European parliament last July. He declared that “posted workers took the bread out of French workers’ mouths”. Part of the French left was stunned by words that could have easily been uttered by Marine Le Pen.
Meanwhile Jean-Luc Mélenchon has insulted yet another section of the left. He has attacked the journalist and Latin American specialist Paulo Paranagua with a series of allegations about his political past in Argentina. The journalist, the Presidential hopeful raved, had been objectively Muse of the CIA – no doubt the reason he was captured and tortured for his association with armed resistance to the 1970s military regimes of the time. Paranagua was only released from an Argentinian gaol and deported to France after an international campaign in his defence.
A protest at these slanders has been launched: “Nous n’acceptons pas de voir notre passé commun insulté par J.L. Mélenchon“. Signatures include Alain Krivine..
Update, Post Primary Opinion Poll:
None of the left gets more than 13% in opinion polls, Fillon, 26% Marine Le Pen (24%) Emmanuel Macron – Centre (14%) et Jean-Luc Mélenchon (13%), t François Hollande9%, François Bayrou, Centre, à 6%. Ecologists Yannick Jadot and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan 3% Far-left Nathalie Arthaud et Philippe Poutou 1% – poll today l’Express.
Pollsters Deny Not Having Foreseen Fillon’s Win.
Sarkozy’s comeback in tatters as he’s knocked out of French presidential primary
Reports France 24.
Nicolas Sarkozy, whose dream of a triumphant return to the French presidency was destroyed at the first hurdle Sunday, failed to shake off a reputation as one of the country’s most divisive figures.
With tough talk on immigration, security and national identity, the 61-year-old tried to woo voters tempted by the far-right National Front with an unabashedly populist campaign.
But the man known universally in France as “Sarko” was humiliated in the rightwing’s first ever primary, finishing third behind the man who served as his prime minister, Francois Fillon, and another ex-premier, Alain Juppe.“I have no bitterness, I have no sadness, and I wish the best for my country,” Sarkozy said in a dignified concession speech.
Sarkozy tried to bury the “bling-bling” image of his 2007-12 presidency by casting himself as a defender of the “down-and-outs against the elites”.
Spare a minute, or an hour, for celebration as we pop open the Leffe.
The great man’s supporters took his defeat calmly. At his HQ they shouted, “it’s the fault of the left” (recycling the claim that left-wingers joined in the primary to vote against their candidate) and added, “you journalists are traitors to France”. (Libération. Au QG de Sarkozy: c’est la gauche qui est «coupable»).
Sarkozy is now, more than ever, embroiled in scandal as these cases remain to haunt him.
A host of legal troubles failed to deter Sarkozy’s bid to take care of what he considered unfinished business.
He became the first former head of state to be taken into custody for questioning when he was charged with corruption, influence peddling and violation of legal secrecy in July 2014.
In what is potentially the most damaging case, he is accused of conspiring with his lawyer to give a magistrate a lucrative job in exchange for inside information on a different corruption probe against him, in conversations on a secret phone registered under an assumed name.
5 July 2010, following its investigations on the Bettencourt affair, online newspaper Mediapart ran an article in which Claire Thibout, a former accountant of billionairess Liliane Bettencourt, accused Sarkozy and Eric Woerth of receiving illegal campaign donations in 2007, in cash.
On 1 July 2014 Sarkozy was detained for questioning by police over claims he had promised a prestigious role in Monaco to a high-ranking judge, Gilbert Azibert, in exchange for information about the investigation into alleged illegal campaign funding. Mr Azibert, one of the most senior judges at the Court of Appeal, was called in for questioning on 30 June 2014. It is believed to be the first time a former French president has been held in police custody, although his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty of embezzlement and breach of trust while he was mayor of Paris and given a suspended prison sentence in 2011. After 15 hours in police custody, Sarkozy was put under official investigation for “active corruption”, “misuse of influence” and “obtained through a breach of professional secrecy” on 2 July 2014. Mr Azibert and Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, are also now under official investigation. The two accusations carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison. The developments are seen as a blow to Sarkozy’s attempts to challenge for the presidency in 2017.
On 16 February 2016, Sarkozy was indicted on “illegal financing of political campaign” charges related to overspending in his 2012 presidential campaign and retained as witness in connection with the Bygmalion scandal.
In April 2016, Arnaud Claude, former law partner of Sarkozy, has been named in the Panama Papers.
A large shelf of books exists on this subject.
But they look now like the concern of specialists. Or gloaters…..
Now what of the actual result?
These are the figures at the moment (final result later today) ; François Fillon 44,1%, Alain Juppé, 28,6% et Nicolas Sarkozy 20,6%.
Former PM – under Sarkozy’s Presidency, with whom he did not enjoy an always easy rapport – (2007 – 2012) Fillon emerged as a front-runner only in the last few days. It was initially far from a landslide lead. (1)
Now he has swept his opponents aside.
French papers talk of his organised support amongst Catholic right-wingers (catholiques conservateurs, including the overtly anti=-gay, Sens commun, ): he is ‘pro-family’ and (….)opposed to the right of gay couples to adopt children and to have access to artificial procreation (Loi Taubira) and is strongly in favour of opening new ‘private’, that is, Catholic and religious, schools. Fillion is tough on some aspects of immigration, without singling out (in contrast to Sarkozy) any particularly group. On Islam He stands for a big cut in the number of public employees and state spending, as well as measures to increase the working week (continuing his efforts as PM), and ‘free’ up labour laws.
As a conservative (values) and a liberal (economy) Fillon appeals to the widest possible constituency of the right. (le Monde) He is said to have appeared au dessus de la mêlée. Crudely he lacks the hysteria of Sarkozy’s campaign, which became known for the former President’s remarks against not only ‘elites’ but Muslims.
Fillon is also said to enjoy good relations with Russia’s President Putin….( François Fillon et son ami Poutine).
What of the former favourite?
Alain Juppé (71 years old), has a past.
In November/December 1995, as Prime Minister his plan for Welfare State reform caused the biggest social conflict since May 68 and, under duress, abandoned it. He became the most unpopular Prime Minister of the Fifth Republic. ” Juppé has his own – conviction – for corruption, “n 2004, Alain Juppé was tried for the felony of abuse of public funds, when he was head of the RPR and the RPR illegally used personnel provided by the City of Paris for running its operations. He was convicted and sentenced to an 18-month suspended jail sentence, the deprivation of civic rights for five years, and the deprivation of the right to run for political office for 10 years. He appealed the decision, whereupon his disqualification from holding elected office was reduced to one year and the suspended sentence cut to 14 months.
That said, his slogan of l’identité heureuse, (taken as a contrast to France’s answer to Melanie Phillip’s, Alain Finkielkraut’s rant, L’identité malheureuse, 2013 – it is truly dire.) was a welcome stand in favour of tolerance towards religious and ethnic minorities. This morning Juppé’s supporters were claiming that there had been a sustained social media campaign against him alleging that he has close links with ‘Islamists.’
Juppé still intends to go to the second round on the 27th of November.
Meanwhile the French left still looks as if it is going nowhere.
(1) L’ultime enquête réalisée par Ipsos pour Le Monde, vendredi 18 novembre et publiée sur notre site Web, au lendemain du dernier débat, donnait pour la première fois le député de Paris en tête (30 %) devant Alain Juppé et Nicolas Sarkozy, tous les deux à 29 %. On était encore loin du scénario du raz-de-marée de dimanche soir. le Monde.
2017 Nightmare: Presidents Le Pen, Trump and Putin (Financial Times).
The far-right British ‘newspaper’, the Daily Express, asserts,
DONALD Trump’s election and Britain’s Brexit have paved the way for Marine Le Pen’s Front National to win the French election.
Immediately after Trump was declared the 45th president of the USA Le Pen said: “Nothing is immutable. What has happened this night is not the end of the world, it’s the end of a world.”
And Le Pen’s chief strategist, Florian Philippot, tweeted: “Their world is collapsing, ours is being built.”
Like Trump Ms Le Pen is a populist nationalist and a right wing political outsider. They have similar views on immigration.
Le Pen, 48, was one of the first French politicians to react to Trump’s stunning victory.
“Congratulations to the new president of the United States Donald Trump and to the free American people!” she said.
Marine Le Pen outlined the real parallels between her Party’s programme and Trump’s. They are not, centrally, a ‘tough’ stand on immigration, but concern the assertion of national political and economic ‘sovereignty’ against ‘globalisation’.
In her brief remarks, Le Pen said a Trump White House would assure that the sweeping Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and EU would be rejected.
She added that “more generally, wild globalisation” would be tamed, and she predicted that international relations would improve, “notably with Russia”.
Le Pen said Trump would rein in “the warlike interventions that are the source of the huge migratory waves that we are enduring”.
If Trump keeps to his pledges, they will be “beneficial for France,” she said.
Libération notes in that Marine Le Pen’s hopes to imitate Trump may not work out. (Marine Le Pen espère imiter Trump en 2017)
In moving from a position of saying “anybody but Hillary Clinton” (Tout sauf Hillary Clinton) to her present enthusiasm the Front National has to confront one fact: in polls before the US election 86% of French people preferred Clinton to Trump.
The Trump triumph has weighed heavily on the minds and speeches of other contenders for next year’s French Presidential election.
Today’s Le Monde reports that, « Ce qui est possible aux Etats-Unis est possible en France » – what is possible in the US is possible in France, said, Jacques Chirac’ former Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. (Quand Trump pèse sur la présidentielle française)
President Hollande began by stating that this election has created a period of great “uncertainty”.
Right-wing socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has judged that Trump’s victory shows the need for borders (le besoin de frontières) regulating immigration (réguler l’immigration) and the need, as well, to better distributed wealth and to protect the middle classes who are worried about their declining social position (Le besoin aussi de mieux distribuer les richesses, le besoin de protection pour les classes moyennes qui vivent ce sentiment de déclassement) (Le Monde).
The National Secretary of the Socialist Party, and former Trotskyist Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, states,
« Le national populisme plus ou moins xénophobe hante le monde occidental avec sa peur du déclassement, du remplacement et du métissage. Orban, Brexit, l’AfD en Allemagne, et maintenant Trump ! La gauche française est prévenue : elle continue ses enfantillages irresponsables et c’est Le Pen. »
National Populism, more less xenophobic, is haunting the Western world, with its fear of losing class and racial mixing. Orban, Brexit, the German Afd, and now Trump! The French left has been warned: if it continues its infantile disorder (Note: my translation, others put this as ‘irresponsible squabbling’), it will let Pen in.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign is particularly noted for trying to climb on the Trump bandwagon.
Sarkozy, Trump, même combat contre la «pensée unique» (Libération).
Sarkozy’s campaigners claim to be against the liberal multicultural ‘elite’, the ‘correct’ way of thinking, for a firm control of immigration, heightened security against terrorist threats, and to be the spokesperson for the ‘silent majority’ (majorité silencieuse ). The link with Trump does however suffer from the fact that as long ago as ….March this year he dismissed the would-be Presient as without interest marked by “populisme” and “vulgarité”.
Sarkozy is, despite his ‘defence’ of the Nation and hostility to immigration, not opposed to Globalisation, or in favour of protectionism, or wishes France to have its own ‘Frexit’. and leave the EU.
He is also trailing in the polls behind the more centrist Alain Juppé to become the French right’s presidential candidate in 2017.
To return to the FN: Marine Le Pen is not given to making the same relentless torrent of outrageous sexist, racist remarks, mixed up with sheer stupidity as Trump.
As France 24 also observes,
Le Pen is continuing her drive to sanitise the FN’s image.
Gone is the overt anti-Semitism and race-baiting of the past — her rhetoric on Muslims and migrants is softer yet still resonates in a country and on a continent reeling from an unprecedented terror threat and the Syrian crisis.
But she cannot escape her father’s embarrassing comments that the Nazi gas chambers are a “detail of history” and her party’s pledge to pull France out of the euro has drawn scorn from economists.
The FN has blamed the EU for much of France’s ills and pushed for a “Frexit” referendum on France’s EU membership.
Last year, the party topped the poll in regional elections with 28 percent.
Although Marine Le Pen has certainly won a lot of attention after the Trump result (TRUMP : L’ONDE DE CHOC PROFITE À MARINE LE PEN) opinion polls have yet to register a change in her rating, between 26 to 30 %.
The prospect of a defeat in the Second Round of the Presidential election next May remains, for the moment, probable.
The Era of the People: Without the PCF?
Le Parti communiste dit non à Jean-Luc Mélenchon reports Libération.
The hard choice before the assembled ‘cadres’ of the French Communist Party, (PCF) at their National Conference, was between Jean- Luc Mélenchon or a Communist . Pierre Laurent, PCF National Secretary voted for the first option. André Chassaigne, MP and potential presidential candidate, backed the second. The 535 delegates, mandated by their PCF federations, cast their ballots 55, 7% for the ‘internal candidate”. The final decision will be put to the whole membership at the end of November.
The defeat of the PCF leadership’s recommendation is extremely unusual.
But hostility to the leader of the Parti de gauche and owner of his supporters’ ‘movement’, La France Insoumise, ran high. ” Some present declared, “je ne soutiendrai jamais Mélenchon» où «je n’aime pas la France Insoumise».”, I will never support Mélenchon” or “I don’t like La France Insoumise”. Those who backed voting for him argued that it was “political choice” (that is, there being no other candidate to the left of the Socialists who is visible in opinion polls). To which one delegate replied, “Le refus de soutenir de Jean-Luc est dû à son glissement au niveau des idées, pas sur sa personne. Le cœur du parti n’est pas d’accord avec son positionnement politique.” Refusing to support Jean-Luc is due to his shift in his ideas, not about the individual. The heart of the Party is not in agreement with his political position.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who refuses to meet Pierre Laurent, has made a show of ignoring this decision.
The same story lead the morning news bulletin on France-Inter this morning (Le PCF ne soutiendra pas Jean-Luc Mélenchon).
From the outside one can observe that there are plenty of people around who certainly do not like the Man of Destiny, as an individual, a politician, as well as heartily disagreeing with his present politics.
A review by Raphaëlle Besse Desmoulières of Mélenchon’s newly published le Choix de l’insoumission in Le Monde (31. 10.16) is a useful introduction to how many on the left feel about the self-proclaimed Presidential candidate.
Desmoulières describes Mélenchon’s background in the ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyist Organisation communiste internationaliste – a big black mark to start with. The leader of La France Insoumise expressed adulation of Francois Mitterrand, described as a “guide” and Le Vieux’ (a term normally used in these circles for….Trotsky) , and his uncritical enthusiasm for Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. It mentions that Mélenchon remains a Freemason (the lambertist leader Pierre Boussel, generally known by his ‘party name’ Pierre Lambert was staunch Freemason).
These aspects of Mélenchon are not universally admired.
This is La France Insoumise’s ‘Projet’ which gives further reasons not to admire him.
It begins with the words, ” l’ère du peuple” “doit commencer ” – the era of the people must begin. This “citizens’ revolution” must overthrow the ” l’oligarchie financière et de la caste” – the financial oligarchy and the elite (caste, directly borrowed from Podemos, has as little resonance in French as it does in English).
It promises to share the wealth of the country, to transform the taxation system, and “Protégeons de la finance les salariés et la production en France. ” Protect wage-earners and production in France (my emphasis) from Finance”.
It proposes “ecological planning”.
The ‘project’ proposes to leave European Treaties that impose on us ( nous) austerity, and the affirmation of “la souveraineté” against the decisions of the EU Commission.
We (nous) must be freed from following “des folies impériales des États-Unis et de leur outil de tutelle militaire : l’OTAN” the imperialist follies of the USA and their tool of military subordination, NATO. Our (Notre) anchor must be with the Mediterranean peoples and the Francophone countries of Africa.
There are words about “progrès humains” (human progress) and “autres modèles de vie ” (other models for living).
Anybody who has got this far is in for a treat: the conclusion,
Je connais aussi la force d’entrainement des grands enthousiasmes collectifs. La France est le deuxième territoire maritime du monde, et la deuxième nation pour la cotisation individuelle à la conquête de l’espace ! Voilà qui fait de nous un peuple qui a une responsabilité particulière, enthousiasmante, aux frontières de l’humanité ! Ici se trouvent deux immenses gisements d’emplois, d’inventions et de progrès écologiques pour la France et la civilisation humaine.
I also know the power that great collective enthusiasm can bring in its wake. France is the second largest maritime territory in the world, the second nation, per individual contribution, in the conquest of space! This has made of us a people with a special responsibility, enthusiastic, at the cutting edge of humanity (1). Here one can find two massive sources of employment, inventions, and ecological progress, for France and for human civilisation.
(1) I justify this somewhat free, though equally lyrical, translation by reference to the text linked to, “Comment porter la France aux avant-postes de l’Humanité ?“
The programme of La France Insoumise is clearly ‘populist’. Whether it is ‘left’ is up for the ‘people’ to judge.
Le Projet focuses on an ‘elite’, a fusion between finance, politicians – in short, ‘them’. It has no reference to class struggle arising in production and distribution. It rests on a picture of a world in which exploitation and bad social conditions are the result of malevolent decisions by this upper crust, and foreigners, beginning with the EU, and extending, O so extending, to the US. Once rid of that lot, and “we”, the “special” people of France, will no doubt colonise the Moon…
A more comprehensive demolition of this approach, which begins with the basis of a new movement to answer the crisis of the “party-form”, extends to the dropping of the working class as a reference and its replacement by the ‘people’ and ends with the personalisation of the France Insoumise project around the Leader (“la nécessité d’une incarnation personnelle du processus) si given by Samy Johsua in « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ?
All I can say after that is, yuk!
In Le Monde today Election présidentielle : la Conférence nationale du PCF refuse de se rallier à Jean-Luc Mélenchon continues the saga.
After outlining the above vote, Desmoulières speculates that the PCF may support the Socialist candidacy of Arnaud Montebourg, a contender in the PS’s ‘primary’ selection process to designate their own candidate. Above all he notes that this decision marks a definitive divorce between the PCF and Mélenchon.
Some might say, echoing the PCF delegates, from the outside, about time!