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Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste accuses of ‘left’ Presidential candidate Mélenchon of using far-right rhetoric.

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Accused of being  nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre “la rhétorique de l’extrême droite”.

Reports the Huffington Post French edition.

Leading Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste figure, Olivier Besancenot, said this: one gaff too many?

The NPA has published a virulent – to say the very least – attack on ‘populist’ Mélenchon who standing as a candidate in next year’s French Presidential election and is the leader of a small group, the Parti de gauche (left party), essentially a political club around his own personality.

At present his campaign  « La France insoumise, le peuple souverain. » (internet JLM2017) has become ‘populist’ and aims to be mobilise the ‘people’ against the ‘elites’. (1) He has declared that unless the European Union changes France should follow the UK and leave (Brexit: «L’UE, on la change ou on la quitte», affirme Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

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He is neck and neck in the opinion polls with the Parti Socialiste François Hollande and present President – which is not saying much since at 15% each  not a single poll gives either any chance of winning.

Mélenchon : le dérapage de trop ?

More on this article here:  « Travailleurs détachés » : Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre « la rhétorique de l’extrême droite »  CLAVEL Geoffroy, RAGUET Alexandre.

The reason?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a speech in which he accused workers employed in France, but still formally under the  pay andconditions of their home countries (posted employees), of stealing the bread out of the mouths of local workers.

This is his expression: the  “travailleurs détachés” qui “vole(nt leur) pain” aux travailleurs locaux.”

Travailleurs détachés : les curieux propos de Mélenchon

Je crois que l’Europe qui a été construite, c’est une Europe de la violence sociale, comme nous le voyons dans chaque pays chaque fois qu’arrive un travailleur détaché, qui vole son pain aux travailleurs qui se trouvent sur place. »

I consider that the Europe that has been built is a Europe based on social violence, as we seen in every country when a posted worker comes and steals the bread out of the mouths of the workers who are already there.

As the article title suggests, the original reads just as oddly as the translation which I have rendered into colloquial English.

Many on the French left are now criticising the former leading figure of the Front de gauche, who launched on his own initiative a Presidential bid, addressing ‘The People’,   of being “nationaliste, chauvin, raciste, germanophobe et poutinophile” – nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

(1) Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon.

The polemic continues.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins (New Left Review).

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Critical Notes on ‘New Left Oppositions’. Susan Watkins. Editorial. New Left Review. Second Series No 98. March/April 2016.

“Respectful of NATO, anti-austerity, pro-public investment and (more guardedly) ownership, sceptical of ‘free trade’: as a first approximation, we might them new, small, weak social democracies.”

The Editorial of New Left Review (NLR – accessible here), devoted to “left oppositions”, and “new lefts” offers a sketch of the common background of some very diverse political phenomena. With a mixture of gloom and wishful thinking Watkins outlines the legacy of the late 90’s “late-90s alter-globo movements” “wrong-footed by the harsher international climate of the war on terror”. But, she then turns to how  European anger at the handling of the economic crisis, the collapse of the centre-left, Third Way, parties, and a “blowback” against Western intervention, street protests, such as Spain’s Indignados have, she observes, been followed by the arrival of new forces on the electoral stage.

It is with little surprise that we learn that the NLR list of the contemporary ‘left oppositions’ includes  Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership win in the Labour Party, the Spanish Podemos, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche (PdG).  The US is also  affected, as Bernie Sanders’s strong challenge inside the Democratic Party indicates. More surprising is the inclusion of Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle, which Watkins admits, not everybody considers on the ‘left’. Events and elections, she continues,  have not only brought these forces to prominence, in the ballot box, Parliaments and amongst citizens, they have given rise to new “national political projects”.

A common trait, the Editorial  observes, of these political green shoots, is the rise of ‘charismatic’ leaders, from Pablo Iglesias, Corbyn, Mélenchon, to Grillo. Exactly what the ‘authority’ given by this ‘gift of grace’ is, and how these personalities carry it out, is not explored. Grillo is notoriously the entrepreneur of his own ‘post-modern’ far from immaterial party-business. Iglesias heads up, to his numerous critics, a vertical pyramid party-structure He indulges himself in ‘populist’ efforts to lead the people ‘beyond’ left and right.

Mélenchon: électron libre.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 11.10% in the 2012 first round of the French Presidential election. He  leads a ‘party’, the Parti de gauche (PdG) founded in 2009 with other former members of the Parti Socialiste. It remains stuck in the mould of a Parti Socialiste ‘club’, a tendency (at its height well below 10,000 members) centred on a ‘chief’. Its inability to develop  has been caused less by the absence of popular protests, the electoral system or “laïciste horror of the headscarf” thwarting its appeal to the ‘banlieue’, than his abrasive personality, which has created a crop of internal divisions to boot.  Mélenchon, his many ill-wishers allege, has a vision of himself as a Man of Destiny, with populist and nationalist ambitions far beyond a “sovereign, alter-globalist, multi-polar defence force”.

Inside the Front de gauche (FdG), which allies the PdG with a number of left groups in an electoral bloc,  it is not only the Communists  of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF,138,000 members) but leftists from Ensemble (2,500),  who have found it impossible to work with this électron libre (1). Sensing little support the leader of the PdG  spurned the idea of presenting himself before the Front’s supporters and the wider left in ‘primaries’ to select a Presidential candidate. Mélenchon has effectively ditched the PdG for a supporters’ network. He is running for President in 2017 with an on-line based team, with some success in the opinion polls. Nevertheless this venture into political cyberspace has had considerably less of an echo in the Nuit Debout ‘mouvance’ (too heterogeneous to call a movement), which is showing signs of both intellectual renewal in a multiplicity of directions and splintering. The CGT led workers’ spearhead of the wider national campaign against the “El Khomri” labour laws and the wider weekly strikes and marches have largely passed Mélenchon by.

Labour’s leader is, by contrast, a Parliamentary chief with a tiny group of MP supporters, and a mass party with a democratic membership structure and large trade union input. If he won the leadership ballot by a landslide, in a campaign of public meetings which created a “dynamic of their own”, Momentum, Watkins solemnly informs us, is a “somewhat diluted version of the 1980s Labour left”, an “organised adversary” of the ‘Blairite faction, Progress. Few perhaps will recall a mass membership 1980s Labour Left, or of any comparable “parallel structure” to dilute from. Fewer still will remember the Labour Party since George Lansbury (Labour leader from 1932 – 35) headed by anybody who had anything  resembling Corbyn’s background in the 1980s/1990s London Labour Left.

Corbyn, like Sanders, is, we learn, “squarely within the social-democratic tradition” – which fortunately covers everything from Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Jean Jaurès, to Harold Wilson. In short, the Editorial dispenses with the customary term, democratic socialism, by which a majority of Corbyn supporters, and Mélenchon’s, would identify in opposition to the compromised ideas that contributed to the policies of the Blair and Brown governments. Are there signs that instead after the ‘retreat from social democracy’ there may be a renewal in a very different directions taking place. Watkins calls the combination of anti-austerity programmes, and scepticism about free trade – not mentioning the defence of social and workers’ rights, the fights for a publicly owned public administration and services – and a failure to confront head-on NATO (on what, Syria?) “weak”.

We might then ask: what exactly is the ‘non-social democratic left’? If Grillo, instead of new forms of democratic socialism, is part of the answer, then what kind politics is that?

Vaffanculo!

Readers will no doubt remain on tenterhooks waiting for the latest radical left model to emerge. In the interim the constraints, self-created or inherited, within which these lefts operate are ignored. Are the furiously hostile forces deployed against them, visible every moment in the British media to be ignored? Watkins casts cautious compromise to the winds. She smiles at Grillo’s no-nonsense Vaffanculo(s), scowls at the French Communists’ local electoral deals to retain control of their remaining municipal bastions (what is the threat of the Marine Le Pen or Nicolas Sarkozy to her?), soundly admonishes Corbyn for his “embrace of the discredited Blair-Brown Labour right” and offers Iglesias advice on a tactical abstention, allowing a possible future PSOE-Ciudadanos government coalition “a chance to demonstrate that it cannot work”.

As we have indicated Watkins offers the skimpiest, and often misleading, outline of the party structures and personalities which support the new left “projects” she attempts to grapple with. Oppositions equally fails to investigate the underlying problem thrown up by the more radical movements that appear to remain her benchmark. That is, their inability to develop more than general declarations within the ‘anti’ globalisation protest, that would make them more than a protest against the subsequent Western interventions and security clamp-downs. If Podemos may be able to show that the PSOE cannot work, what indicates that their alternative can? While we are waiting, the proliferation of an identity politics and culture of the ‘populist’ or sovereigntist right, which this Sunday came within a hair’s breath of winning the Austrian presidency, indicates the need for ideas and strategies capable of understanding and confronting nationalism and xenophobia now. (2)

Shocks and Turncoats. 

It is on this issue that Oppositions is most wanting. The thought that calls a position on the EU referendum vote a “tactical” decision allows only a Leave or abstention as “left” options. The hope that a Leave vote would be a “salutary shock “ to the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” and a Conservative Party in “disarray” is gratuitous irresponsibility. The nationalist and xenophobic Carnival of Reaction of the debates on the EU is paraded every-day. A Brexit  win would bring not just Tory division but the politics of the most reactionary people in the country to power.

The Editorial is deeply insulting to the majority of the left, the democratic socialist left, who support staying in the EU not just out of self-protection against our most forthright and dangerous class and political enemies, but as an arena where common cause can be made with our comrades across the continent. That is, a place of hope and co-operation not of austerity and repression. To top it all, Oppositions attacks all of us through its words against the much-liked Owen Jones. The author of Chavs “turned his coat” for changing his mind, very publicly and very honestly explaining why,  and backing Remain with the campaign Another Europe is Possible. The Editorial’s language in this instance is, not to mince words, despicable.

(1) Mélenchon candidat à la présidentielle : il tourne le dos à l’histoire de la gauchePhilippe Marlière. February 2016

(2) These two weaknesses were signalled by the critic of their French expressions, Phlippe Raynaud in L’extrême gauche plurielle. Tempus. 2006. Whatever one’s views on his generally hostile analysis, these points are if anything more relevant today than a decade ago.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Beats François Hollande in French Presidential Election Opinion Poll.

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Who’s Pedalo Captain Now?

Europe 1 reports on the latest opinion polls for next year’s French Presidential election.

Alain Juppé (Les Républicains  looks an easy winner at present with 35% (plus 4 points since December) in front of Marine Le Pen  26% (minus 2 points). François Hollande only gets 13% (minus 7 pts) Jean-Luc Mélenchon (12%, +1).

In effect Melenchon wavers between 12% and 16% in the polls, according to the survey.

It is important to note that Marine Le Pen is in first place in the case if  Les Républicains (the main right party)  is presented by either ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon or Bruno Le Maire.

Les Républicains have yet to designate, by ‘primary’ elections, who their candidate will be. Deep divisions continue.

But this, one of many identical polls, strengthens Juppé’s hand.

Far-left candidates, Nathalie Arthaud, Lutte ouvrière (1,5%) and Philippe Poutou, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (2,5%) and the Green Party (EELV), Cécile Duflot, (3%) barely register.

Neither the Socialists nor the Front de Gauche (of which Mélenchon remains nominally a member) have decided on their official candidate.

A sign of Mélenchon’s trajectory is that he already has 95,000 people signed up to his personal candidacy and claims that 500 groups exist to campaign for him.

Présidentielle 2017 : Intentions de vote (17 avril 2016) http://www.tns-sofres.com/publications/presidentielle-2017-intentions-de-vote-17-avril-2016:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is reported to be on Cloud Nine (Jean-Luc Mélenchon se sent « sur un petit nuage ») enjoying the taste of success while it lasts.

With his customary generosity and dislike of sectarian point-scoring  Mélenchon has commented, (DL)

Je regarde passer le corbillard des Verts et le Radeau de la Méduse du parti communiste.

I am looking on as the Hearse of the Greens and the Communists’  Raft of the Medusa pass by.

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19).jpg

  Mélenchon is now predicting that he will go to the second round in the Presidential elections:

« Le programme que je porte peut être présent au second tour »

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Nuit Debout: Is France Finally to Have a Spanish ‘Indignados’ Movement?

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On Lâche Rien!

Several thousand people launched an occupation of the place de la République, Paris, at the end of Thursday’s  demonstration against the new labour law. The group, Convergences des luttes (converge of struggles) was behind the initiative. Up to 4,000 people were present at the height of the protest.

The left weekly, Politis, says it’s the birth of a new, unprecedented, movement (Nuit debout», acte de naissance d’un mouvement inédit).#

A statement read to the crowd from the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon observes,

Il est possible que l’on soit en train de faire quelque chose. Le pouvoir tolère nos luttes lorsqu’elles sont locales, sectorielles, dispersées et revendicatives. Pas de bol pour lui, aujourd’hui nous changeons les règles du jeu. En donnant au capital des marges de manœuvre sans précédent, cette loi est génératrice de la violence néolibérale qui frappe désormais indistinctement toutes les catégories du salariat et, par là, les pousse à redécouvrir ce qu’elles ont en commun : la condition salariale même.

It’s possible that we are in the middle of doing something. Those in power tolerate our struggles when they are local, by a particular social or employee group, separated, around specific demands. Today they have run out of luck: we are changing the rules of the game. Giving capital unprecedented freedom, this (labour) law creates neo-liberal violence which will henceforth hit every type of employees, and for that reason, pushes workers to discover the thing they have in common: the condition of being a wage-earner.

Le Monde asks if this is the first step towards a movement, which many compare to the Spanish ‘indignados’ (the indignant) which gave rise to Podemos,  that the supporters dream will sweep the country.

The occupiers took decisions on the basis of a 80% majority of support for motions (that is, not “consensus” model that bedevilled the Occupy movement).

A key proposal is to draw up, cahiers de doléances,  the lists of grievances that preceded the French Revolution. They hope to spread the movement across France.

This morning the CRS removed 500 occupiers from the Square.

Est-ce l’amorce d’un mouvement qu’ils rêveraient « lame de fond » ou peut-être « déferlante » ? Est-ce l’annonce d’un « sursaut citoyen » qui mettrait dans la rue des Français de toutes conditions avides de protester et débattre, en criant leur défiance abyssale envers leurs élus et envers un système ? Est-ce le prélude d’un processus dit « révolutionnaire » ?

Whether they carry the “wind of revolution”, as one participant stated, remains to be seen.

The Tendance’s favourite recent French left group, HK et les Saltimbanques, sang.

We wish the young comrades well!

This music really sums up the wrongs of the world and how to fight back.

More here: «Nuit debout» : expulsés à l’aube.

A NUIT DEBOUT NE SE COUCHERA PAS !

Le 31 nous ne sommes pas rentrés chez nous après la manifestation.

Au plus fort de la nuit, nous étions plus de 4 000 Place de la République.

Concerts, débats citoyens et projections ont ponctué cette nuit qui s’est déroulée sous les hospices de la bienveillance et de la fraternité.

Mais à 5h45, la police a encerclé notre rassemblement pacifique, et maîtrisé jusqu’au bout, avant de nous contraindre à quitter les lieux manu militari et sans explication.

Nous nous insurgeons contre cette violence injustifiée étant donné la légalité absolue de notre occupation de la Place.

Nous appelons dès aujourd’hui, toutes les forces progressistes à rejoindre et amplifier ce mouvement en nous rassemblant à nouveau Place de La République dès maintenant ce 1er avril et jusqu’à dimanche soir au moins.

Une assemblée générale est prévue vers 17h. Et ce soir des débats et de la musique encore…

Vendredi 1er avril depuis la Place de la République

NUIT DEBOUT

France Mass Protests: Unions and Students against ‘reform’ of the Code du travail, the “Loi Myriam El Khomri”.

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Students Join Demos Against Plans to Weaken Workers’ Rights.

End of term protests threaten François Hollande’s labour legacy

French president trying to cement his place in history with sweeping reforms to the country’s rigid employment laws.

François Hollande is facing one of the biggest tests of his presidency as his sweeping labour reforms sparked protests by a potent mix of leftwing students and French trade unionists.

Student unions and youth demonstrators were staging sit-ins and street marches on Wednesday, teaming up with unions and striking rail workers in a wide-reaching protest movement that could prove highly toxic for the president. It is the first such collaborative protest against the Socialist government since Hollande came to power four years ago.

Reports the Guardian, neatly illustrating a report with a good reason why leftists do not trust the paper.

The “sweeping reforms” to the “rigid employment laws” were opposed by over a million people who signed this petition below:

Loi travail : non, merci !

Why?

The Petition gives is a list of some of the key measures.

☞  En cas de licenciement illégal, l’indemnité prud’homale est plafonnée à 15 mois de salaire.

In cases of illegal redundancies the amount awarded to those who win their case is limited to a ceiling of 15 months wages.

☞  Les 11 heures de repos obligatoire par tranche de 24 heures peuvent être fractionnées.

The day’s rest day – at present 11 hours per 24 hours – can be divided into sections (that is, distrinuted over the whole day).

☞  Une entreprise peut, par accord, baisser les salaires et changer le temps de travail.

A company can, by agreement, lower wages and change working hour.

☞  Les temps d’astreinte peuvent être décomptés des temps de repos.

Standby time can be counted as breaks.

There follows other technical changes – including those affecting apprentices- essentially allowing employers more ‘flexibility’ and their employees the possibility of working more hours according the employers’ needs.
 Une mesure peut-être imposée par référendum contre l’avis de 70% des syndicats.

This is the key point: a company will be able to organise a referendum on new working arrangements directly  appealing to the employees without the intermediary of the trade unions.

☞  Une entreprise peut faire un plan social sans avoir de difficultés économique.

Laws on redundancies will make it possible to offer a proposal to get rid of people (plan social) whenever they wish.

☞  Après un accord d’entreprise, un-e salarié-e qui refuse un changement dans son contrat de travail peut être licencié.

Anybody who doesn’t knuckle down to the new arrangements can be sacked.

☞  Par simple accord on peut passer de 10h à 12h de travail maximum par jour.

By a simple agreement bosses can increase working hours from 10 to 12 hours a day.

Salarié-e-s ou non : cette réforme nous concerne toutes et tous !

Interpellez la ministre du travail et demandez lui de renoncer à ce projet.

1. Signez la pétition
2. Interpellez la ministre sur http://loitravail.lol
3. Likez la page Facebook de la mobilisation

Signez la pétition et RDV sur http://loitravail.lol

—-

Put simply the project, under the name of El Khomri, but piloted by Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his Economics Emmnual Minister Macron, is designed to introduce as much as possible of the British/US model of “flexible” working.

For an expert analysis,  by an acknowledged authority in the field, see Gérard Filoche:

Intervention au Bn du PS lundi 7 mars : une rupture théorique, juridique, historique, pratique avec un siècle code du travail

Valls, who received a mere 5.63% % of the vote in the 2011 Parti Socialiste ‘primary’ to select a Presidential candidate, has met strong opposition from his his own party MPs and activists. He is described as being, with Italy’s Matteo Renzi, the last of the true believers in the Blair Third Way project – giving priority to  adapting economies to ‘globalised markets’.

The result is that some consider that the PS is on the verge of a split. A more probable result, given that breakaways from the Socialists have a long history of marginalisation, the latest being Jean-Luc Mélechon’s descent into populism at the head of the small (well under 10,000 members) Parti de Gauche, is political paralysis.

To use Léon Blum’s words, the Hollande Presidency will be seen not as a “conquest of power” nor even a successful “exercise of power” but a descent  into manoeuvring to impose the plans of a minority of the Socialist Party and the – majority – of French employers and the Right.

France faces a wave of protests Wednesday over unpopular labour reforms that have divided an already fractured government and raised hackles in a country accustomed to iron-clad job security. Follow our live blog for the latest news.

Youth organisations and unions have called for protests across France over labour reforms on the same day as a rail strike over a wage dispute that is set to cause transport chaos.

High school pupils are expected to take to the streets alongside unions, ecologist movements and university students over the controversial reforms.

France’s Socialist government has faced massive blowback — including from within — to measures that would give bosses more flexibility in hiring and firing, in a bid to turn around a record 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

The reforms spell out simple conditions such as falling orders or sales, or operating losses, as sufficient cause for shedding staff. They would also cut overtime pay for work beyond 35 hours — the work week famously introduced in the 1990s in an earlier Socialist bid to boost employment.

An online petition against the El Khomri draft law, named after Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, has attracted more than a million signatures while a poll showed seven in 10 people were opposed to the proposed changes.

Meanwhile, trains are expected to suffer “severe disruption” due to a strike as workers demand salary increases. The Paris Metro will remain largely unaffected.

France 24.

Ensemble.

It is not at all popular: L’Humanité reports:

French Socialists Face Crisis as Leading Supporters Launch Frontal Attack on Valls Government.

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Trop, c’est trop: Enough is Enough!

The publication of  SORTIR DE L’IMPASSE signed by 17 leading left figures, headed by Martine Aubry, and including  centrist Green, Daniel Cohn-Bendit (MEP), Socialist MPs, Yann Galut, Chaynesse Khirouni, Christian Paul) and intellectuels et économistes Michel Vieworka, Daniel Cohen) is shaking the French political scene.

France 24 reports.

French President Francois Hollande and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls are under attack from the left flank of the governing Socialist Party, with leading figures accusing the pair of crippling the country.

With 15 months to go until the presidential election at which Hollande is expected to seek a second term in power, Martine Aubry – a powerful ex-minister and daughter of former European Commission chief Jacques Delors – led the charge.

In a full-page editorial in Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday which was co-signed by 17 other left-wing figures including firebrand former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Aubry blew open the divisions between the left of the party and its reformist side, saying Hollande’s policies were driving France towards “long-term weakening”.

“Enough is enough,” Aubry wrote, asking: “What will remain of the ideas of Socialism when, day after day, its principles and its basis are being undermined?”

Aubry, the mayor of the northern city of Lille, reserved particular vitriol for Emmanuel Macron, the reform-minded economy minister and former investment banker who is a frequent target for the Socialist Party‘s old guard.

Emmanuel Macron? I have just had enough of him,” she said in a later interview.

Aubry insisted however that she has no intention of running for president in 2017 – she claimed her concern was the very future of the party.

Valls hit back on Thursday, saying Aubry had not set out “a single policy proposition” in the article.

“I am the head of the government, I don’t write defamatory editorials,” Valls told Le Monde.

Choppy waters ahead

But many commentators noted that Aubry’s offensive was largely greeted by silence in official quarters. Valls waited 24 hours before responding while Hollande, who is visiting Latin America, has said nothing.

Newspaper editorials predicted that Hollande was about to enter choppy waters.

Some spoke of a “split” in the Socialist Party, others of a “dynamiting” of Hollande’s proposals.

Frederic Dabi, from the Ifop polling institute, said he had never seen “such a strong protest from a faction of a majority party” with just one year to go to the presidential election.

The article comes as Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri is seeking to simplify France’s complex labour laws, which some blame for fuelling stubbornly high levels of unemployment in the second-largest eurozone economy.

Most of the ministers who carry the torch for the left wing of the Socialist Party have left Valls’ government, most recently justice minister Christiane Taubira, who quit over her opposition to the government’s plans to strip terror convicts of their French nationality.

Hollande’s government has been accused by the rebellious leftist flank of veering to the right with the introduction of harsh security measures after the jihadist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead in November.

And a series of economic reforms adopted last year as France seeks to revive its stagnant economy were slammed as overwhelmingly pro-business. Valls had to force the measures through parliament over fears those within the party would sink the bill.

Despite his poor record on reducing unemployment, Hollande is gunning to be the Socialist candidate for the presidential election.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy and one-time prime minister Alain Juppe are among those vying for the right-wing nomination, but all the candidates fear a potentially high level of support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

(AFP)

 

This report is an underestimation of the crisis facing the Hollande Presidency, the Valls Cabinet, and French Parti Socialiste.

Aubry is a former Socialist Party First Secretary, from the modernising “deuxième gauche“, with a reputation for honesty and decency. This has made her criticisms all the more searing.

For Cohn-Bendit, a self-proclaimed “social liberal”, to criticise the present government policies from the left, is another landmark.

The Communist Daily l’Humanité calls the declaration an appeal to “break” with the present Valls government (Un appel de rupture avec le gouvernement).

The effects of the Aubry declaration are already being felt.

Le Monde reports a leading Valls supporter saying,

“C’est la baie des Cochons version PS 2016. Mais qui va appuyer le premier sur le bouton atomique ? Tout ça va mal finir. »

It’s the Bay of Pigs Cuban Missile Crisis. Who is going to press the Nuclear Button? It will all end badly.
Indeed on the right some, like  Roger Karoutchi are already speaking of an “exploded left” ( gauche explosée).

The left – including many in the ruling Parti Socialiste – has been highly critical of the present government’s stand on two issues: the anti-liberal legal measures in the wake of the state of emergency and the liberalising efforts to weaken workers’ rights (the legal structures of the ‘droit du travail’) now being launched in the name of Minister  ­Myriam El Khomri

But behind this is the fear that next year’s Presidential election will turn into a contest between the Right and the far-right, with all sections of the left marginalised.

Aubry now backs the idea of a Primary open to the whole left to select a Presidential candidate for the elections next year.

Underneath the political conflicts described above and no doubt helping her to make that choice there is a massive decline in Party membership: the Socialists for example have declined from 256 000 members in  2007  to 131 000 in 2015 (Le Monde).

President Hollande (and Jean-Luc Mélenchon) are opposed to this. Supporters of the President and the Valls Cabinet accuse the left of following the example of the Roman plebs and  retiring to Mount Aventine in isolation. A primary of the whole left will only reinforce its inward looking tendencies.

Those who back Mélenchon’s decision to thrust himself forward without consulting the rest of the left may well be in that rocky encampment.

Much of the left, from the Communists, the Socialist ‘frondeurs’, independents, many Greens and a raft of others, by contrast see a Primary of the Left  it as a way out of the present impasse: torn between a discredited government and the uncertain appeal of Man of Destiny Mélenchon.

In other words a primary of the whole left will draw people together.

With two leading opponents, Hollande and Mélenchon, already pitching their camp, it is hard to see the proposal becoming a reality.

French Left in Deep Crisis.

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Caesar of the French Left?

France’s Socialist President François Hollande, and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls continue to try to grapple the results of last December’s regional Elections.

In the first round the Front National (FN) came first, with 27.73% of the vote, the right, Union de la droite, 26,65%, and the Parti Socialiste (PS) led Union de la gauche, 23,12%. The Greens, Europe Écologie-Les Verts (ELEV) and the Front de gauche (FdG), totaled 9,57%, a figure which hides deep divisions between ecologists who stood on joint lists the FdG, and those who stood on their own, often with the clear intention of aligning with the Socialists come what may.

Opinion polls indicate that the far-right’s Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, for the 2017 elections, remains popular enough for a possible second round contest between her party and the right. That conservative wing, Les Républicains (LR), has yet to decide its own candidate. A contest in a “primary” between former President Nicolas Sarkozy (today again embroiled in the legal process over the finances for his 2012 bid for re-election), Alain Juppé, and François Copé, has brought out divisions over Sarkozy’s efforts to appeal to the FN’s electorate by calling for a clamp down on immigration and respect for France’s “Christian roots”. Many simply do not want another term of Sarkozy in office. At present Juppé appears favoured by LR supporters (Le Monde. 16.2.15).

Last week’s Cabinet reshuffle – in the hands of the President – can also be seen as a response to the FN’s popularity. Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls has faced opposition to the State of Emergency and plans to deprive those convicted of terrorist offences of French nationality. 92 deputies in the National Assembly voted against the latter measure, including many from the PS. Inside the governing party, the ‘frondeurs’, those opposed to their own party’s direction, from the liberalisation of labour laws, to the post November Paris massacre clamp-down, are not present in the new government. Nor is the moderate left, with the doubtful exception of former PM Jan-Marc Ayrault, now Foreign Minister.

Greens on verge of Disintegration.

The most striking aspect of the new Cabinet is the entry of three ecologists, including the EELV’s national secretary, Emmanuelle Cosse. The Green Party had left the government with the appointment of Valls – one of the few French politicians to admire Tony Blair and the ‘Third Way’ – in 2014. Without consulting their colleagues the new Ministers negotiated their individual return. They obtained as a reward the promise of a local referendum on the controversial project to build an airport at Notre-Dame –des-Landes. A Poll indicated that three quarters of French electors are unhappy with the make up of the new government, including 50% of the Greens. 59% considered the entry of the ecologists in the Cabinet was a bad thing. 80% were not convinced by François Hollande’s intervention announcing the changes.  (le Point).

The Greens, already suffering from disputes over local alliances with the FdG in the regional contest, the halving of their vote in those elections, are now split again. Inside the EELV opponents of this move have not hesitated to talk of the new Ministers’ “treason”. (Le Monde 13.2.15) The June national party Congress promises to be stormy, with the organisation fragmenting.

The viability of sustaining an independent Green Party in France is now in doubt. Their electorate, described as BoBo – bourgeois-bohemian – with much of its base in Fair Trade buying, ecological sensitive, socially liberal, sections of the urban middle classes, crosses over with the PS’s. It is suggested that the Socialists will attempt to capture what they can of the EELV and, in line with long-standing practice with small groups in its periphery, reduce it to a satellite of the party. The evolution of the overtly ‘social liberal’ German Die Grünen appears probable for the section of the ELEV that is now prepared to co-operate with the market friendly Valls. Without, it must be said, much of the liberalism – as indicated by the resignation of the human rights defender, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira. Those who worked with the FdG in the Regional elecitons may well feel that they want a more clearly independent left-wing party.

To the left of the Socialists the Front de gauche (FdG) is also in trouble. Less than brilliant results in November have not prevented Jean-Luc Mélenchon from announcing, off his own back, his Presidential candidacy. He hopes to repeat, if not better, his score as candidate in 2012 when he obtained 11% of the vote. But with time pressing he had no time for the difficult negotiations for the wider left backing that marked that campaign. Like the EELV Ministers he did not consult his partners in that left Bloc. Mélenchon states that now he does not need the permission of any party to stand.

The Parti Communiste Français (PCF) was swift to point out this lack of consultation. (Jean-Luc Mélenchon prend un raccourci vers l’élection présidentielle. L’Humanité.12.2.15). It bypassed their attempts to organise a « primary » of all the left to select a Presidential challenger. Support for this idea, opposed equally by Fançois Hollande, has drawn fierce criticism from PM Valls. He dismisses critics of his government’s multiple failures – unable to reduce unemployment – the refusal to accept more than 30,000 Syrian refugees, and legitimate concerns about civil liberties that do not come from those who could be accused of complacency towards Islamist Reaction – as the views of the « irreconcilable » left unable to represent the « general interest » (Manuel Valls trace une frontière à l’intérieur d’une gauche «irréconciliable» Libération. 16.2.15)

The other relatively significant section of the FdG, Ensemble, (an alliance of the radical left, including Trotskyists and self-management red/green tendencies) does not wish to burn the bridges with Mélenchon and calls for a new political vehicle for the left. Its spokesperson, Clémentine Autain, observes that this act has « buried » the Front de gauche. This view is shared by the former comrades of many Ensemble members, the Nouveau Parti anti-capitaliste (NPA), who, no doubt in great sadness, saw it as the end for this left alliance. (Front de Gauche : Fin de l’histoire en 2017. Sandra Demarq. 10.2.15.)

This decision to act “outside of the structure of parties” was reached on the basis of what can only be called unbridled ambition. Mélenchon is the leader of a small party, the Parti de gauche (PG) of a few thousand members, little more than a political ‘club’ of ‘friends’ of a faction chief, of a type well known inside his former home, the PS. French comrades do not describe their self-importance with warmth. The PCF has over 120,000 card-carriers, a real union base, and, perhaps more significantly, the votes of those elected officials needed for a Presidential nomination. It might not please our British or other European left friends, but the PCF is a serious force on the French left with a decent left-wing programme, which in contrast to its UK counterpart, stands for a social Europe and, in recent years, has taken action, for democratic and social rights.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon as Saviour?

Philippe Marlière, a former Mélenchon supporter, describes his political evolution as La chevènementisation de Jean-Luc Mélenchon » (Medipart. 15.2.15.) Marlière refers to the 1970s leader of the PS left, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, who has made the journey from Marxist inflected plans for workers’ control and a nationalised economy, to his present ” republican” defence of French national sovereignty. His article, which has received wide coverage, talks of the PdG chief’s windy generalisations, his ‘self-parody’ in the role of a lone fighter.  Mélenchon has become a “souverainiste autoritaire ” out to defend the citizens of France from their domestic and foreign foes.

Instead of a left of ” social transformation”, or of class struggle, the leader of the PG, as Caesar,  has taken to addressing the French People. Mélenchon’s denounces the political ‘caste’ (echoing Podemos). He claims that the source of national problems lies in European Treaties. The campaign calls for a “citizen revolution” to create a New Republic. On this basis he built up a fan base amongst Internauts (40,000 supporters on his site) and the campaign (here)  claims over 200 local groups of supporters. Polls give him over 10% favourable opinions. But…we shall see. The Inrocks (16.2.15.) comments that the Mélenchon launch on Monday, filled with histrionic rhetoric, bore comparison with the 2012 campaign. It illustrated Marx’s comments on the repetition of history, first as Tragedy, Second time as Farce.

From the Socialists to the FdG, to this Populist splash, the French Left looks as if it will be unable to win in 2017.

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In the next article the Tendance will turn to the roots of the failures of the French radical left, from the FdG to the Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, passing by the great bust up in the ‘Lambertist’ current.