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Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

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Review: Revolution française. Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation. Sophie Pedder. Bloomsbury. 2018.

Emmanuel Macron is an “anti-Trump”, pro-European and a “liberal internationalist” who unites the centre-left and the centre-right against the extremes. He is a “neo-progressive”, argues Sophie Pedder, whose ideas are “structured around the idea of individual progress for all.” Elected President in 2017, in a run off with the far-right Marine Le Pen, at 39 years old, Macron presented a “a message of hope.” His strategy was “both a means of remaking party politics and a response to the populist threat”. Their campaign laid claim to break the existing party duopoly, and sweep away the existing “political caste”, itself perhaps a “populist” message.

The Head of State’s party, La République en marche (LRM), commands 60% of the seats in France’s National Assembly. It is, like many new ‘parties’ of this millennium, including their rivals La France insoumise (LFI), is less a democratic organisation run by the members than a top-down run movement or ‘rally’. Macron, despite the Benalla affair, and the recent Cabinet resignations of ecology Minister Bernard Hulot and Minister of the Interior Gèrard Collomb, is the master of French politics. He has been, so far, able to carry out his programme. Protests, last year,  against liberalising reform of labour legislation, and the railway service (SNCF), as well as of higher education, failed to have any impact.

Sophie Pedder is Paris bureau chief for the liberal (economically and politically), British weekly the Economist. Largely favourable to the President, the book is unlikely to win a favourable audience amongst those who dismiss Macron as, at best, a “social liberal”. This does not stop Revolution française from being a deft and informed account of Emmanuel Macron’s life and politics.

Modernisation.

Macron, writes Pedder, is a long-standing advocate of “modernisation”. France, from this standpoint, is burdened with regulations that stifle economic initiative. As a Minister of the Economy under Parti Socialiste President Hollande, his 2015 plans (Loi Macron) to loosen the rules on shop opening hours, and rigid legislation governing the ‘liberal professions’ (notaries, pharmacists) were partly thwarted. His Socialist colleagues were to blame, including the influential Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, a moderate social democrat described as the “standard bearer of the Socialist left”.

This experience, Pedder states, led Macron to conclude that the existing party system kept France stuck in the past. A modernising regroupment needed, “to put together two-thirds of the Socialist Party, all of the centrists, and part of the centre-right. That would give us a pro-European market-friendly majority in favour of modernising the social model.” British readers will not fail to observe a parallel electoral logic with domestic ‘centrist’ projects, however tiny the audience for making the UK social system more ‘liberal’ is.

The achievement of that goal was partly due to good fortune. The “normal” Hollande discredited himself, both by his incontinent deprecation of colleagues revealed in Un président ne devrait pas dire ça (2006), and his causal deception of his partner Valerie Trierweiler. As his Presidential bid took off in 2017 his chief opponent on the right, François Fillon, became mired in allegations of financial misconduct. The Socialists chose the left-Green Benoît Hamon, without many allies beyond his own forces. With their political rivals in disarray Macron’s support snowballed. Socialists, centrists and the right, duly defected in his direction. The movement En marche  soon picked up a large number of the professional politicians targeted above, and inspired a, largely middle class, army of volunteers to campaign for him door to door.

Centre Left Reconciled to the Market Economy.

Revolution française equally offers a readable account of Macron’s ideas. Unlike the Macron, un president philosophe (Brice Couturier. 2017) Peddar does not offer a weighty list of influences, from Hegel to Schumpeter. Instead she singles out the influence of Macron’s teacher, Paul Ricœur, his Protestant humanism, and “confidence in mankind” with a dose of Saint-Simon’s advocacy of technocratic progress. Above all, “His roots are on the progressive centre left that reconciled itself to the market economy.” At the same time, noting some of Macron’s verbal tics, she observes that, “his theoretical abstractions and grandiosity came across as pompous. His sentences were convoluted, meandering and went on for ever.” One could expand further on his grating anglicisms.

Will Macron, the “networking machine”, be able to change France? Has ‘liberal globalism’ found a champion who will step into the breach that has opened up after the failure of ‘third way’? Peddar signals the entrenched difficulties of a divided France, mass unemployment, those cast aside in the banlieue and “la France périperifeque”. Can Macron’s grand romantic mission turn this around?

The ‘nation’ is less important than the people who live in France. There are not many grounds for hope in the recent indications that the richest section of French society is the undoubted winner of the President’s tax reforms. (Les ultrariches, grands gagnants de la fiscalité Macron. Le Monde. 13.10.18). Weakening labour legislation to the point where wage negotiations can take place plant by plant, does not look so progressive from the position of workers in enterprises cut off from national union support. Local tax changes seem designed to weaken municipal finance, not strengthen decentralised initiative. While Macron has tried to stand up to Trump his efforts have few visible effects.

Defeat of the French left.

The French left has yet to recover from the catastrophic defeat of the governing socialists. Hamon was fated, in the words of former PS General Secretary, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis to get the minimal score of left-greens, 6,36 %  (Chronique d’une débâcle 2017). Hamon now has his own party Génération.s. The PS has since seen more defections, this time to Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France insoumise. If LFI won a respectable vote of in the Presidential elections (fourth position and 19.58% for Jean-Luc Mélenchon,  in the first round) , and has, with its allies, 17 deputies, it is far, very far, from securing an alternative majority to Macron. It is unlikely this week’s pantomime response to police investigations into their funding will expand their audience and ‘federate’ the “People”. The left is now so splintered that up to 6 different lists will appear in next year’s European elections. It would appear, if one might say so from a distance, that a long-term war of position to regroup the left into some form of united front would be a better way of building an alternative to Macron that a head on war of manoeuvre. And, unlike LFI,  it is quite possible to be a ‘pro-European’ radical leftist.

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Mélenchon on Police Inquiry into La France insoumise’s funding: “La République, c’est moi!”

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 Mélenchon’s sound and Fury: what does it signify?

Investigations have been opened into allegations of violence and threats against Police agents after incidents during the search of the headquarters of La France insoumise on Tuesday (October 16th).

The case, which arose from allegations of fictitious jobs in the European Parliament (that is, diverting EU funds into the movement’s hands to pay party employees in France) and the other examining funding of Mélenchon’s French presidential campaign last year. ,  and the finance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Presidential campaign of 2017, has created an unholy row.

France 24 reports,

Anti-corruption investigators on Tuesday raided the home and party headquarters of French far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who broadcast the raids live from his mobile phone.

The raids, part of a long-running investigation into the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay party employees, took place at the offices of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) in central Paris and Mélenchon‘s private residence.

Shouting “Resistance!”, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the party’s headquarters to protest against the police action.

Police blocked Mélenchon from entering the premises as the far-left firebrand threatened to break down the door if he was not allowed in.

“Who gave you these orders?” he demanded a police officer blocking the entrance. “I am a parliamentarian!”

Amid the scuffle Mélenchon yelled, “I am the Republic.”

This was the “hallucinatory” scene that ensued,

La France insoumise issued a series of furious statements, stating that the inquiry originated in malicious complaints from the far-right, and the was motivated by President Macron’s wish to discredit his most serious rival (at – at most – around 25% of public support).

They have issued this video of the events claiming that there was a  “will” to intimidate behind the actions.

Coup de force policier, judiciaire et politique

LFI asserts that the French president himself received funding (donations) that infringed laws regulating party finance.

Whatever the truth of these claims (and little can be ruled out in this murky world) Mélenchon’s barking response won the affection of the wits of the Internet.

Here is LFI’s own version of events:

Here is one of the countless parodies:

“You pour water on the tea-bag, you do not put the tea-bag in the water. Never!”

You can see more here, Pose ton  Mélenchon.

Oddly not everybody sees the funny side of this.  Nor have the media and political figures dismissed the unseemly display of anger as “just one of Mélenchon’s little tantrums”.

Showing that after this outburst he has not lost the ability to rub people up the wrong way Merluche yesterday mocked a journalist’s Provençal accent, in a fashion some might suggest was racist….

Mélenchon se moque de l’accent d’une journaliste avec un ton méprisant

The harshest criticism is not the he made a fool of himself but that the leader of the rally, La France insoumise failed to respect the authority of the Law of the Republic ignoring the dictum that, “nul n’est cense ignorer la loi”, (nobody should ignore the law).  Or in plain language, no-one is above the law.

Le Monde’s Editorial today there is talk of his “deadly rage”.

The tone is, to say the least, severe.

Voilà un député, qui plus est président de groupe, qui conteste violemment, entrave et veut discréditer une procédure judiciaire, certes spectaculaire et déplaisante pour les intéressés, mais, quoi qu’il en dise, parfaitement conforme aux règles de la procédure.

Here is a member of Parliament, who is also the president of a Parliamentary group, who violently contests, obstructs a judicial procedure, and who wishes to discredit it,. This is certainly spectacular and unpleasant for those concerned, but, whatever he says, the procedures followed in this case are perfectly in accordance with the rules.

A widely shared view is that the leader of LFI has shown himself incapable of self-control, that he loses his nerve in the face of adversary, and is thus unsuited to hold any position of power.

Rumours that he will be appearing in a London pantomime with Ken Livingstone have not been confirmed.

This will no doubt interest those on the British left who brought the leader of LFI to speak at a meeting outside the recent Labour Cofnerence.

Perhaps a world tour, with Jacobin, is on the cards.

In short, his behaviour has obscured the real issues arising from this judicial operation, summarised here;

The row over Mélenchon has become sufficiently loud to reach even the homegrown English language press.

Allegations relate to staff payments and 2017 presidential campaign accounts

French police have questioned leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in connection with two funding probes after raids on his home and party headquarters this week.

The firebrand leader of the France Unbowed party, who has led opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms, was summoned to the headquarters of the anti-corruption bureau in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

Police are investigating allegations that he used EU funds for European parliament assistants to pay staff for work carried out in France. They are also looking into allegations of irregularities in his 2017 presidential campaign accounts.

The 67-year-old MP, who won 20% of the vote in the first round of last year’s presidential election, has denied any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a political witch-hunt.

He reacted furiously to the raids on his home and party headquarters on Tuesday, shouting at police officers, shoving a prosecutor and attempting to force open the door of his party’s offices during the search.

The former Socialist minister has been strongly criticised over his outburst, with members of Macron’s government and centre-right Republicans accusing him of seeking to intimidate public servants and acting as if he were above the law.

Mélenchon, who is famous for his tirades (Note, should have read, “famous for his tirades, full stop”) against globalisation, the EU and elites, admitted later that things “got heated” but said he had “no regrets”.

The Paris prosecutor’s office is investigating him and other party officials for “threats and acts of intimidation against judicial authorities” and “violence against people carrying out public duties”.

Mélenchon’s party has filed a counter-complaint alleging police violence.

French Socialist Party Splits: Emmanuel Maurel and his left leave.

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Image result for Emmanuel Maurel  dessin

Looking towards Mélenchon on “l’immigration” and “la question des frontières.”

This Friday France’s Parti Socialiste, (PS)  which until 2017 under President François Hollande had a working majority in the country’s Parliament, left his historic HQ in the  rue de Solférino near to the National Assembly for more modest premises just outside Paris in Ivry-sur-Seine.

In 2017  their candidate for the French Presidential election, Benoît Hamon, came 5th and won a tiny,  6,36% of the vote. Both before and after the contest a whole swathe of Socialists joined the victor, now President, Emmanuel  Macron’s La République En Marche.  In the legislative elections of that followed they had got only 7,5% of the national ballots, and 30 MPs.

Hamon left the PS and created his own, radical green left  movement, Génération.s.

The former Prime Minister Manuel Valls  went so far as to leave France and  is now seeking office in Barcelona.

The present Macron PM, Edouard Philippe’s Cabinet counts a number of  one time Socialist party figures, , such as the Minister of foreign affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, although the former PS Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, has recently reigned.

Only  37 000 members (out of the already shrunken 42,300)  took part in the vote for this year’s Parti Socialiste Congress.

Under their present General Secretary, Olivier Faure, the PS been unable to define a new strategy to fight back into a position of influence on the French left.

Now the face a new challenge.

The  organisation has haemorrhaged again with the break away of one of their left-wing leaders, the MEP  Emmanuel Maurel  who ran the party current, Maintenant La Gauche which obtained 18.8% of the the ballots in internal PS elections earlier this year.

Emmanuel Maurel : « Ce n’est pas un départ du PS, c’est une scission » reports Le Monde today.

In announcing that the Parti Socialiste no longer corresponds to his idea of socialism Maurel stated that hundreds of local lay office holders and local councillors, as well as the senator for Paris,  Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, would join him. Henceforth Maruel, whose socialism includes hostility to ‘no borders’ is looking in the direction of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France insoumise.

An English version of some of this text is given here: Emmanuel Maurel: “It’s not a departure from the PS, it’s a split”

There is a report in English on this site: THE MEP EMMANUEL MAUREL LEAVES THE PS.

Maurel’s politics.

Maurel comes from the “Poperian” tendency within the Parti Socialiste. This current, led in the 1970s by Jean Poperen (1925-1997), embodied, in some eyes, a kind of statist Marxism embedded in the French republican tradition.

Others, more favourable to Poperon, would point to his break with the French Communist Party and activism within both a ‘class struggle’ tradition and leading role in the decidedly non-statist Parti socialiste unifié (PSU).

Le Monde paints Maurel in terms which come largely from the first side of Poperon, “du marxisme et de la tradition jacobine” wedded to the principle of laïcité (Ancienne figure du PS, Emmanuel Maurel veut incarner un « socialisme décomplexé »)

Putting this aspects together we get a “antilibérale, écologiste, républicaine” supporter of  “socialisme décomplexé”, that is, an anti-economic liberal, green, republican unfeigned socialist.

While it is hard to dislike somebody who admires Stendhal’s la Chartreuse de Parme and Baudelaire, there is a distinct ‘Euro-sceptic’ strain in Maurel. (10 choses à savoir sur Emmanuel Maurel).

Recently he declared, “Je suis pour une politique de contrôle des flux migratoires, nous ne sommes pas des “no borders”. La gauche ne doit pas avoir honte de parler de nation, de frontière, de laïcité. On ne va pas laisser ça à la droite et à l’extrême droite. »(Le Monde 25.8.18) I am for the control of the the migratory flows, we are not backers of ‘no borders’. The left should not be ashamed to talk of the Nation, of Borders, and of Secularism (in the French sense, of ” laïcité’). We should not let these issues to the Right and the Far-Right.

This would put him in the line of the nationalist and sovereigntist left represented by the German Aufstehen and Sahra Wagenknecht

Maurel also seems to think well of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France insoumise (LFI)  (Emmanuel Maurel quitte le PS : une double bonne nouvelle pour les « insoumis »).

Stating that his first steps are to create a grouping with his friends in the “ gauche républicaine” one of the main themes aligning him with LFI is not ‘socialism’ but “l’immigration” and “la question des frontières.”

The central objective today, he declares is to prepare a new Front Populaire of the 21st century, “Notre objectif est de préparer le Front populaire du XXIe siècle»)  in which  La France insoumisme has a key part to play. (Libération).

He will be on the LFI lists for next year’s European elections.

Whether he will accept the Leadership of the, er Leader, yes, the Leader, of La France insoumise, today’s Maurice Thorez and  Léon Blum combined, is not at all certain.

 

******

 

See also: Valls, Hamon, Maurel, Lienemann… La fuite des ténors du PS se poursuit

Force ouvrière union federation faces crisis as new Protests are launched in France against Macron’s ‘reforms’.

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A Paris, mardi.

France 24 reports,

Around 160,000 people joined demonstrations across France on Tuesday, the interior ministry said, heeding union calls for President Emmanuel Macron to “maintain the social model”, which has come under threat from his ambitious reforms.

..

Around 20,000 people turned out in Paris, the largest of some 100 rallies across the country.

The head of the hard-left Confederation of Labour (CGT) union Philippe Martinez estimated turnout higher at 300,000 nationwide. The CGT said about 50,000 people marched in Paris at the urging of six of the country’s labour unions.

“We’re not complaining, we’re revolting!” the students, workers and retirees chanted as they marched in the first demonstration since the end of the summer holiday, referring to President Macron’s recent suggestion that the French complain too much.

Libération covers the 50, 000 strong Paris march organised notably by the union federations FO (which has undergone a ‘left’ turn this year) and the traditional left CGT.

A Paris, le défilé organisé notamment par FO et la CGT a réuni 50 000 personnes selon les syndicats. Une mobilisation en ordre dispersée, sans la CFDT, qui a tout de même plus rassemblé qu’au printemps.

The presence of Force ouvrière (FO) in these and other protests, traditionally a cautious union, based on a complex series of alliances between right-wingers, anti-Communists, and the ‘Lambertist’ trotskyist current, has not gone unnoticed.

Last week Le Monde published this article.

FO se métamorphose en « CGT bis »

Michel Noblecourt observes that under the new leadership of  Pascal Pavageau the FO has undergone a “une rupture radicale avec le passé “.

The federation is now dominated by supporters of Pavagau in alliance with a variety of leftists (including for example, Marc Hébert an ‘anarchist’), but above all the sovereigntist ‘Trotskyists’ of the  Parti ouvrier indépendant (POI).

Interestingly Noblecourt also mentions that said POI is now active in the CGT (once closely led by the French Communist Party, the Parti Communiste français, PCF).

That would perhaps explain why a somebody ‘representing’ the ‘CGT’ was present at a sovereigntist Camden rally for ‘left-wing’ Brexit before the UK referendum.

POI are not to be confused with their arch rivals, the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID – how we chuckled at the ‘weighty’ name).

The two split, very acrimoniously, a couple of years ago.

POID ran their own  pro-Brexit beano in Paris around the same time, attended by anti-internationalist forces from British unions, including the Aaron Banks backed Trade Unionists Against the EU, and which received fraternal greetings from the Morning Star.

The two are united in opposing internationalism in general and the European Union in particular.

Both groupuscules, though small in number – not that small, POID have a few councilors, like Christel Keiser, (Seine-Saint-Denis) – live, like the Socialist Party in the UK, from their hold on paid union positions.

Who says Lambertist says the dirty deeds needed to keep these places.

Whether they are linked to this skulduggery or not we do not, as yet, know.

This is the news today about FO, Pavageu’s mates apparently spent their time not just plotting against his predecessor, but building up large files of information against him and his supporters:

Des cadres de Force ouvrière fichés par des proches du secrétaire général, Pascal Pavageau

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Mélenchon’s Mates Biff Back.

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Image result for gloire a toi melenchon

“They nourish national vanity and the love of supremacy by force. “We alone,” they say, each behind his shelter, “we alone are the guardians of courage and loyalty, of ability and good taste!” Out of the greatness and richness of a country they make something like a consuming disease. Out of patriotism–which can be respected as long as it remains in the domain of sentiment and art on exactly the same footing as the sense of family and local pride, all equally sacred–out of patriotism they make a Utopian and impracticable idea, unbalancing the world, a sort of cancer which drains all the living force, spreads everywhere and crushes life, a contagious cancer which culminates either in the crash of war or in the exhaustion and suffocation of armed peace.”

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, by Henri Barbusse, 1917.

 

The Left Should Welcome Mélenchon

Liberals want to smear Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a xenophobe. In fact, they fear his potential to unite the oppressed.

This article contains the following, which some may consider incredibly patronising, even for a graduate of Science-Po a place many consider the homeland of most patronising   arrogant gits on the planet:

Mélenchon’s patriotic tones may sound odd to British ears (as, indeed, may those of Bernie Sanders or Pablo Iglesias). But the Resistance, the Revolution, and the Commune figure far larger in French public life than the Chartists or Diggers in Britain. The Left’s own French-republican tradition owes not (as Dan tells us) to some desire to deny that Vichyite Nazi-collaborators were indeed French, or that France has committed colonial crimes, but the attempt to marginalize chauvinist narratives of French identity.

Historically, this has led to many sins of omission. And yes, Mélenchon should be scrutinized for his failings just like anyone else. But it is mean spirited and not a little bit silly to judge France Insoumise, or its leader, by assembling a series of clipped quotes and assertions of guilt by association. Was Jeremy Corbyn not himself subject to such a campaign, just a fortnight ago? I don’t agree with everything that Jean-Luc (or Jeremy) says either. But a politics of solidarity starts from the future we want to build in common.

 

Reponse

Thursday 27 September 2018, by Julien Salingue

Worse still, in order to justify his refusal of a real opening of borders, Jean-Luc Mélenchon uses the argument of the use of immigration, by the bourgeoisie, “to put pressure on wages and social gains” [9]. That some employers and politicians instrumentalize immigration to reinforce the logic of exploitation is undeniable. But to infer that immigration is “organized by the free trade treaties” [10] in order to reduce wages and grind down social gains, there is a step… that it is difficult to take. Because it is not just a question of confusion between a windfall effect and an organized policy, which we will come back to, but of the legitimization of the idea of a de facto competition between French and foreign workers and, therefore, the questioning, whether voluntary or not, of the possibility of jointly fighting against the employers. However, the fight against the pressure of capitalists determined to increase, at all costs, their profit rates, certainly does not involve challenging, even indirectly, migratory phenomena (“to say that (the waves of immigration) can exert a downward on pressure on wages and be profitable for the employer is not a completely absurd reasoning”) [11] but only challenging… the capitalist system itself, and the frantic race for profit. Besides, all things being equal, we seem to be hearing the arguments of some trade unionists at the beginning of the 20th century, according to which the entry of women, less qualified than men, into the labour market, would be used by the employers to lower wages…

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

The Fractious Background of ‘left Populist’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Guest of ‘The World Transformed” at the Labour Conference.

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Image result for jean luc melenchon populiste charlie hedo

Something Fishy about Mélenchon’s ‘left-Populism’? 

The leader of La France insoumise will soon be in Liverpool.

Why we’ve invited Jean-Luc Mélenchon to The World Transformed

The World Transformed will be welcoming Jean-Luc Mélenchon to speak at its Labour conference fringe. The French politician who inspired the European left with his radical campaign for the presidency in 2017 won more than seven million votes. Since then, despite only commanding 17 MPs in the National Assembly, Mélenchon has emerged as the main resistance to the neoliberal ‘Jupiterian’ presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

The socialist veteran will appear alongside Labour shadow cabinet member Jon Trickett in one of the headline acts of our four-day festival of politics, art and music that has become a mainstay of party conference.

..the real reason for Mélenchon’s invitation to TWT is not because he is Corbyn mark 2. No, it is for the same reason that TWT is happening in the first place: as part of a democratic socialist project to shift power towards the people. The fundamental truth about the two men’s successes is that it’s not about them. It’s about what they, and TWT, represent: the left taking hold of the future.

Mélenchon ‘commands’  15 MPs, there are two allies (Clémentine Autainand Caroline Fiat) from the alliance of small left groups known as Ensemble who form the Parliamentary Group of 17.

The Ensemble site has published material, in the past, highly critical of Mélenchon. In 2016 they put up a text by  Samy Joshua arguing that his strategy of ”federating the people’ dropped the working class for left populism. « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ?

The World Transformed  continue.

This was encapsulated by their 2017 manifestos. It was Corbyn’s left-wing programme of nationalisation, abolishing tuition fees and improving workers’ rights that precipitated his astonishing rise in the polls. Mélenchon’s similarly dizzying rise stemmed from the bold manifesto, L’Avenir en Commun (A Shared Future), which he put forward with his party La France Insoumise (FI).

It was the promise of a Sixth Republic, based on the principles of justice and democracy, which saw young and old flock to Mélenchon’s campaign. Likewise, Corbyn promised a constitutional convention as part of his quiet political revolution. Both seek to distribute power to the people.

Shifts in political power will, however, achieve little without an attendant transfer in economic power. The resurgent left is based above all on one thing: the return of class to politics. As Corbyn put it in a speech last month, Labour is back as the party of the working class. Mélenchon was at the heart of recent protests against Macron’s zombie neoliberal ‘reforms’ targeting the once-powerful French public sector (particularly rail workers). Both would repeal restrictive trade union laws, move to protect people from precarity and rebuild national industry following the ravages of neoliberalism.

This statement lacks any recognition of a long political past, not only before the Ère  du people replaced class as the defining context of Mélenchonian ideology.

‘Dizzying’ is the is the most unlikely word that comes to mind  when describing Mélenchon’s ascension, to a position of a commanding minority (around 20%) of the electorate, and a  history of stirring up deep antagonisms on the rest of the French left. Amongst the most recent is a virulent reaction to Parti Communiste Français (PCF) criticism of his supporters who advocated tougher immigration policies, and serious doubts about his claims to take a hard-line with the EU if other member states reject the LFI’s position on their own economic sovereignty. (LFI: un des fondateurs critique l’«hégémonie» de Mélenchon et sa «posture électoraliste» sur l’Europe. August 2018)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s political career began in the orthodox Trotskyist  current in France known as ‘Lambertist’ after the Leader of a long-standing variety of groups,  Pierre Lambert (real name, Pierre Boussel). As a student he joined, after May 68, the Lambertists, one the most rigid and authoritarian groups on the French left, the ‘Organisation communiste internationaliste (OCI). The future Presidential candidate was head of the local antennae  in  Besançon, between 1974 and 1976.

The present chief of La France insoumise, dropped Leninism for the Parti Socialiste (PS). He became an active Freemason in the Grand Orient de France (GODF). A member of various groups in the Party he ended up creating the ‘Gauche socialiste’ with another former Trotskyist, Julien Dray (from the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR). He was marked by burgeoning admiration for François Mitterrand. Indeed Mélechon is often called a “mitterrandiste “. For a variety of reasons, starting with the former French Preisdent’s role in the repression of the Algerian insurgency, and culminating in the 1983 turn of Mitterrand’s appointed Cabinet to “rigour” and retreat from radical socialism, this makes him an unlikely hero for those who would transform the world.(1)

Mélenchon left the PS in 2008, wishing, he stated, to draw clear lines with the right of the party and to have complete freedom to pursue his own left-wing course.  Forming the micro-party, the Parti de Gauche (essentially a public version of a Parti Socialiste ‘club’, ambitiously named after the German Die Linke)) in 2008,  Mélenchon entered in a long series of alliances, with forces such as the Parti Communiste Français, and smaller left groups. These culminated in the bloc, the Front de Gauche, which was marked by conflicts, over issues such the composition of electoral lists and his own version of republican laïcité.

With the creation of La France insoumise (LFI) in 2016, he has entered into a “war of manoeuvre” for hegemony over the French left. Some have compared this with the old Communist Party’s wish to impose itself over the whole left, and its tactic as to keep its supporters preoccupied by frenetic activism.

LFI is not a Party but a “movement of individual citizens those who recognise themselves in the line of action offered by JLM “un mouvement de citoyens individuels qui se reconnaissent dans la démarche de Jean-Luc Mélenchon “.

That is, is defined by allegiance to an individual.

LFI has no proper internal democracy at all.

Conferences, such as they are, a rallies in which up to 60% of the ‘delegates’ are chosen by lot from the lists of (on-Line) members who have expressed an interests. The rest are made up from those chosen by  what has been called “la petite caste” around the Leader (A La France insoumise, la démocratie interne fait débat). It’s this caste who take all the decisions.

There are no internal tendencies; on-line voting is on a limited agenda set by the central leadership.

LFI’s best known strategic objective is to “federate the people” against the oligarchy dominating French politics. This, a broad enough aim, “includes” the workers’ movement (that is skipping over the organised union federations, the CGT, CFD,  FO, FSU and SUD), just as it does ‘social movements’, like the late Nuit Debout that occupied French squares  in 2016 (freely translated as Woke Nights).

Critics say that the “people” figures in LFI’s plans as actors to follow the LFI script for the Sixth Republic. More abstractly, their disparate discourses are ‘articulated’ (voiced and linked together), in the words of the theorist of Left Populism Chantal Mouffe, to create a new, potentially hegemonic Collective Will.

It is true that those who enjoy inspiring speeches, lacked with poems, from Victor Hugo to Apollinaire, have much to hear from Jean Luc.

But the nationalist overtones of books like the Le Hareng de Bismarck, (2015 above) which rails against the “Le poison allemand” (German poison)  imposed on Europe, l’opium des riches”, un monstre born on the other side of the Rhine, are hard to ignore.

It is this thinking which leads Dan Davidson to accuse him of a “drive to tap into French patriotism rather than build international working class solidarity” (The British Left Should Be More Critical Of Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

Mélenchon defines himself as socialiste républicain. In French terms this means a belief that the Republic is the prime vehicle for socialism. The Sixth republic, in the ‘era of the People’, needs radical reform. It is hard to see how any of the political reforms proposed bring the state into the hands of the People, there is little in way of socialising ownership under self-management to start with.

As such he puts the Sovereignty of the People/France, at the top of his priorities.

The EU must change or we will leave it, was his reaction (some interpreted this as a welcome at the shock) to the Brexit result.

On international issues he is anything but an internationalist. His priority again is the national interest,  defending the French independent nuclear force outside of NATO.

The Leader of LFI has faced accusations of  conspiracism (he has been known to claim that Daesh  was created by the US) , of complaisance towards Vladimir Putin, and a failure to defend democrats (although he has taken a serious stand in defence of the Kurds)  in Syria. 

He continues to support the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

He should not be welcome at the World Transformed, still less a Labour Conference.

****

(1) Covered from his side  in Le Choix de l’insoumission, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marc Endeweld. 2016. Less complimentary background is given by another former Lambertist, 68, et Après. Les héritages égarés. Benjamin Stora. Stock. 2018.

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Friends, accused of ‘anti immigrant’ rhetoric will not go to the Fête de l’Huma.

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Image result for jean luc melenchon dans la neige

 Mélenchon: Virtue Lies in Not Talking to Left Critics.

Ian Brossat nous insulte” : les Insoumis snobent la Fête de l’Huma.”

Exasperated by the criticism of the Communist Party against Mélenchon’s  speech on immigration, La France insoumise will not send a delegation to the Courneuve where the PCF holds the Fête de l’Huma this weekend,  the biggest popular annual event on the French left wrote  in l’Obs yesterday.

Image result for l'humanite fete 2018

 

The cause?

The fall out from Sahra Wagenknecht’s anti-immigration law and order Aufstehen continues to hit the European left as the leader of the French Communists’ (PCF) European List, Ian Brossat, accused the ‘left populist’ party of indulging in anti-immigrant rhetoric.

 

Some flavour of the rancour involved can be seen from this petulant tweet by  apparently a LFI MP.

The Tweet attempts to rebut criticism of LFI slip towards a hard line position on immigration controls by attacking the PCF’s Brossat for referring to his family history,f aced with Nazism. Apart from rounding on Brossat’s  vulgar “insults” the thin-skinned LFI deputy fears, he alleges “incidents”, if they turned up in front of a left audience wider than their own movement.

This is the article LFI object to:

Ian Brossat: “An anti-migrant left does not exist, it’s like a vegetarian lion.

Ian Brossat : “La gauche anti-migrants, ça n’existe pas, c’est comme un lion végétarien”

Extract:

In France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has changed his line on immigration since the last presidential election. The leader of the LFI proposes on the one hand “to assume the duty of humanity” towards the refugees and on the other hand to “fight against the causes of migrations”.

During his speech in Marseillehe he echoed the idea that immigration is used by employers to put pressure on wages: “Yes, there are waves of migration, yes, they can pose many problems for the countries of the world….. This poses additional difficulties, above all when some exploit the situation to make profits on the backs of the unfortunate  … […] If you read Jean Jaurès and the thinkers of socialism, they have always said: ‘You use immigration to lower the cost of wages, you use it to fight against social gains.’

Brossat had the outrecuidance to object not only to Wagenkecht’s line but to this mealy-mouthed apology for pandering to racism!

Today Libération claims that LFI was simply looking for an excuse not to turn up at an event which they do not run, and where they may bump into people on the left they do not agree with, including those with do not admire Jean-Luc Mélenchon!

Fête de l’Humanité: «Les insoumis ne voulaient pas venir et ils ont trouvé une excuse»

Unsaid – so far – in this row is the belief by more than a few on the French left that LFI is indeed moving in the same direction as Auftsehen’s founders, with its claims to moblise “popular sovereignty against the markets” serving as a cover for much more overtly nationalist politics.

   asserts that they are on the road to a full blown “red-brown” alliance. France Insoumise: une crise à la croisée des chemins bruns

Her controversial article needs to be read in full to judge, but there is little doubt that the present dispute adds fuel to the fire.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2018 at 10:50 am