Archive for the ‘Front de Gauche’ Category
The Anti-Racism and Anti-Imperialism of Fools: the Indigènes de la République against class-struggle.
Ni patrie ni frontières !
This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.
Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.
Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).
Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.
During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.
In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.
We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.
Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.
We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.
The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.
It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.
The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) and their 2005 Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left, various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac) active in those days, and some on the Trotskyist left.
The group was soon criticised by people for whom who I have respect. Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).
As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.
But it has been challenged on the left.
Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).
The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular” French areas,
Paris: Protesting Against the State of Emergency. l’Humanité. 1st of February.
There has been dearth of reports in the British media about the weekend protests – 70 across the country – against the ‘state of emergency’ in France.
Le Monde carried the story prominently: Des milliers de personnes manifestent contre l’état d’urgence.
État d’urgence: pourquoi il est surtout urgent d’en sortir by Laurent Mouloud.
France 24 published this in English: Thousands rally in Paris over extending state of emergency.
But it’s the French Communist Daily, l’Humanité, which has published the most comprehensive report now available in English.
State of Emergency: The Real Emergency Is To End It. Humanité in English.
More than 70 demonstrations were held last Saturday (30 January) organized by more than a hundred associations, to demand the end of the state of emergency , as being a (régime d’exception) that threatens our fundamental liberties, and has proved to be inefficient.
Protest against the state of emergency is bringing the people out into the steets. While the government has announced its determination to prolong the state of emergency for another three months, beyond 26 February, 111 associations and 19 unions will be all marching behind the banner of the collective Nous ne cèderons pas (We will not give up!) at the Place de la République, and all over the country, to demand its immediate repeal. In their view, nearly two months after the bloody attacks in Paris and St. Denis, it is high time to put an end to this régime d’exception that infringes upon our fundamental liberties. Not just for matters of principle, but also for very pragmatic reasons. “The authorities’ response, intended as martial, guarantees neither security nor repect for our liberties”, as emphasized by the associations in their joint declaration.
One single indictment
In truth, measured against its initial objective (“the fight against terrorism”), the state of emergency proves to be as dangerous as it is disappointing. The effectiveness of the exceptional provisions, having been in place since November, is today thoroughly under attack. From a statistical point of view, the figures alone may appear impressive. By January 21, the authorities have made 3189 administrative searches , have placed 392 persons under house arrest, and opened 549 judicial procedures. But the truth is that most of these procedures are common law cases: possession of illegal weapons, drug trafficking, or illegal presence in France. All in all, according to the figures of the Ministry of Justice itself, no more than four investigations have so far been opened for “criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise”, and only one person has been indicted… Since mid December, the daily figure for new house arrests has been close to zero. And the daily average for searches has been no more than ten for the month of January. “These figures prove the obvious inadequacy of the judicial framework of the state of emergency in the fight against terrorism,” the Judges’ Union concludes.
Many observers agree, and point out that the shock and consternation  induced by the state of emergency, which, in the early stage, was one of the Ministry of the Interior’s arguments, quickly faded and has now all but disappeared. “We are less frequently called upon”, a policeman anonymously confirmed. “Those house searches have enabled us mostly to collect local information, to confirm or invalidate certain leads, which may well be useful, but are now useless with regard to the direct prevention of terrorist attacks. The notion of an ’imminent peril’, specific to a state of emergency, can no longer be invoked.”
The fight against terrorism has been weakened
Eventually, the state of emergency might even make things worse. Thousands of civil servants waste their time conducting exceptional searches, only ten per cent of which end in the pursuit of a person, and even then only for minor criminal offences … “Obviously, they would be more efficiently employed in the detection and prevention of averred criminal projets,” the Judges’ Union insists. Some policemen point to another flaw: the furious staging of one search after another may be detrimental to security, by prematurely revealing the information secured by the anti-terrorist departments, thus encouraging potential suspects to even greater discretion. Unlike the former intelligence service (“Renseignements Généraux), the General Department for Home Security has made very little use of administrative searches. For fear, some of its agents say, of “killing off some of our most important investigations”… As another policeman says, it would seem that the state of emergency is no more than political gesturing. Contrary to the government’s repeated assurance, most of the measures (night searches, house arrests, bans on gatherings…) are already possible under common law, notably in connection with anti-terrorist activities, but naturally with the sanction of the judiciary.
The verdict of the Judges’ Union is categorical: “Far from contributing anything to the fight against terrorist activity, the state of emergency tends to weaken its efficiency.” The short – and worst – of it is that it infringes upon our civil liberties, all the while being ineffective in matters of security.
 not subject to judicial authorization
Appeal against the State of Emergency.
L’ère du peuple: The era of the People.
At the sommet pour un Plan B en Europe in Paris over the Weekend in Paris Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who scored 11.05% of the vote in the first round of the French 2012 Presidential elections, is reported to be already gearing up for the 2016 contest.
Le Monde reports,
On Wednesday, on his blog, he explained that “the European Union remains harmful, hostile to democracy and social justice”. He developed these remarks in a small room of the Maison de la Chimie (7 th district of Paris), where he expounded the view that “in the context of the European fiscal treaty, no progressive policies are possible” and called for “break” within the framework of the current treaties. In passing, he denounced the EU’s “rhetoric” of “Europe that protects” noting the “failures” of the EU in the refugee crisis.
The meeting brought together academics, researchers – largely from other European countries, and a few not very well-known representatives of other left-wing parties such as Podemos, Izquierda Unida, the Greek Popular Unity group, The Danish Red-Green Party, Die Linke, including the respected figure of Oskar Lafontaine,
You can watch and hear Mélenchon’s concluding speech here:
A notable absence was that of Yanis Varoufakis. The former Greek Finance Minister was, it was claimed, unable to attend because of diary problems.
Varoufakis is engaged in a much broader pan-European movement against austerity , a ‘Plan C’. This will be launched in Berlin in February: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Plan C.
Here is a full list of participants (in English) and more details: Internationalist Summit for a Plan B in Europe.
The people addressing the session entitled, Win back our economic sovereignty included Morvan Burel who backs a return to ‘Popular sovereignty’ in place of the European Union.
Last April Burel wrote this on the Front National’s demands: La reconquête de la souveraineté des peuples doit devenir le cœur battant de la gauche
…sortie immédiate de l’euro, rupture avec l’UE, rétablissement des frontières nationales, retour du protectionnisme, etc.
Il est capital pour la gauche radicale de ne pas refuser de s’emparer de ces revendications précisément parce que le Front national les a intégrées à son discours.
,,immediately leaving the Euro, breaking with the European Union, reestablishment of national borders, a return to protectionism. It is essential that the radical left does not refuse these demands simply because the Front National has woven them into its discourse. “
French speakers included members of Mélenchon’s own Parti de Gauche and Cédric Durand, an economist and part of Ensemble, the ‘third’ component of the Front de Gauche.
The French Communist Party (Parti communiste français. PCF) did not participate in the rally.
On Saturday Le Monde published a report on negotiations for the French 2017 Presidential campaign between forces to the left of the Parti Socialiste (Mélenchon peaufine sa candidature pour 2017 – full article read in print edition). While noting that Mélenchon continued to score well in opinion polls (over 15% favourable opinions, January 2015), his populism, calls for a ‘democratic revolution’, hostility to the European Union that focuses on German power, and many of his personal traits are not universally popular amongst his partners on the left.
Mélenchon, a fluent Spanish speaker, has close links with the Latin American left and with Spain’s Podemos. Like the latter he has sought inspiration in left populism. In these respects his discussions with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are of great interest Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon (2012).
During the round table debate with the academic theorists of the “radical democratic imaginary” the Parti de gauche’s use of national symbols, including the French Flag, and references to the French Revolution which dot his appeals to a new democratic Revolution featured prominently (See also: L’ère du peuple. 2014). How far this populism can go is not always clear. In 2015 his book, Le Hareng de Bismarck, le poison allemand, which attacked German ‘arrogance’ was strongly criticised for nationalism (L’Allemagne n’est pas notre ennemie).
The Communists note that one ‘anti-system’ Populist candidate, Marine Le Pen, already exists. There is little space for another.
There is continued talk of a break up of the Front de gauche alliance between the PCF and Mélenchon.
Le Parti de gauche veut Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme candidat puis élaborer un programme, le parti communiste veut faire naître un projet d’une réflexion collective avant toute désignation: leurs stratégies pour 2017 semblent à ce stade irréconciliables.
The Parti de gauche wants Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a (Presidential) candidate, and then they will work out a programme. The Communist Party want a project born out of a collective process of careful consideration before any candidate is chosen: their strategies ap[pear at this point irreconcilable.
Libération. 23rd of January.
You can read more of Mélenchon’s ideas here, on his blog modestly titled, L’ère du peuple: The era of the People.
7 January 2015.
A date that we will recall and it is coming close.
Our left wing comrades were murdered by the forces of genocidal Islamist reaction.
- Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby, first victim of the shooting
- Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Charb
- Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
- Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist.The only woman killed in the shooting.
- Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
- Philippe Honoré, 73, cartoonist
- Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
- Ahmed Merabet, 42, police officer, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside.
- Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor
- Michel Renaud, 69, a travel writing festival organiser visiting Cabu
- Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
- Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist
Some photos of our fallen comrades.
A wonderful feminist, full of joy.
Cabu: one of the Best People Ever to Walk the Planet.
Charb: Supporter of the Front de Gauche, he fought the Front National with every fibre of his being.
Philippe Honoré: greatly respected contributor to trade union and leftist publications
Bernard Verlhac (21 August 1957 – 7 January 2015), known by the pseudonym Tignous (Occitan for La teigne, which in slang means a gadfly).
Georges Wolinski: Communist and one of the funniest cartoonists ever.
It will have been noted that the genociders took the lives of two Muslims, and that, of the above photos, two of the people are of Jewish origin.
The Porte de Vincennes siege occurred at a Hypercacher kosher superette in Porte de Vincennes (20th arrondissement of Paris) in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting two days earlier, and concurrently with the Dammartin-en-Goële hostage crisis in which the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen were cornered.
- Philippe Braham, 45, IT sales executive
- Yohan Cohen, 22, college student
- Yoav Hattab, 21, college student
- François-Michel Saada, 64, retiree.
We shall not forget our martyred dead.
Is it also the Moment for Momentum?
The radical left party, Podemos, won 21,3% (69 seats) in Sunday’s Spanish General election, just behind the socialist PSOE, at 21,7% (90) With Rajoy’s conservative PP party at 28,7% (123) and the centrist Cuididanos (Citizens) at 14,9 % (40) negotiations for coalition are underway involving smaller regional and other parties (Wikipedia).
Both Podemos and Cuididanos were present in this contest for the first time. Their entry into the Cortes Generales is a political earthquake with Europe-wide implications. Podemos draws on the Indignados movement that began as protests against the political class “la casta”, their corruption, budget cuts and mass unemployment (at the time up to 21%). Cuidadonos’ name also echoes that period, the march dubbed Mareas Cuidadanas – citizens’ tide).
Owen Jones, has expressed the view that the Labour Party is represented in Parliament by a British counterpart of the Spanish Socialist Party, the PSOE, while supporters attracted to Jeremy Corbyn were more akin to the radical left party, Podemos. Jones, whose pre-election visit to lend support to Podemos’ campaign was reported on the state broadcasters, is one amongst many on the European left who admire its left populist anti-austerity politics. In this view the change in Labour’s leadership (allowed through emulation of the ‘primary’ party elections of the French Parti Socialiste and Italian Partido Democratia, open to all for a modest fee, rather than the structures of Podemos) had brought our politics closer to Spain’s. It suggested that a form of ‘new politics’ has emerged in the United Kingdom, inside the traditional left and now given expression in the open forums of Momentum.
Podemos leader Juliá Iglesias’ entry into Parliament is joined, nobody has failed to notice, by the ‘centre’ group, Ciudadanos. Jones seems to have found a centrist counterpart in Peter Hyman. The former speech-writer and strategist for Tony Blair argued in the Observer that Labour is becoming the “Ukip of the left”, a party of protest and not power, with the prospect of capturing at best 28% of the vote (Observer. 20.12.15). This means that the party “mainstream” will look elsewhere. Corbyn, head of a left wing party, “appealing to mix of metropolitan elites, students and some trade unionists”, a popular constituency in “tribal Labour loyalty”, relying on “big state solutions” will carry on. They will keep trying to win arguments but have no prospect of coming to power. One could note that the British electoral system, unlike Spain’s proportional one, remains an effective bloc to the kind of shake up Hispanic politics has undergone.
Hyman attacks Ed Miliband for opening the door to the left – although it was the modernisers who promoted the idea of One Member One Vote in a ‘primary’ election form. He states that with the “wrong” result, – Corbyn’s victory – there is a “gaping hole in the centre and centre-left of British politics.” It would not take much to extend this to say that against the Podemos road Hayman advocates a British Ciudadanos. This would be an alliance of the centre and the centre-left, “modern progressive values-driven party” with a “commitment to social mobility”. A new ‘project’ would aim for a “leaner, more agile empowering state” that backs “social entrepreneurs” to build “diverse and democratic communities”. This formula, Peter Hayman believes, his appetite no doubt wetted, would have a “fighting chance of winning an election”.
It would be mistake on the left to take the take the analogy with Podemos and the POSOE to heart. Spain has suffered several decades of corruption scandals, affecting the established left, as well as a prolonged ‘dirty war’ against the armed wing of the Basque independence movement, in which Socialist governments were deeply compromised. These scandals continued under the conservative PP, from the 2013 Bárcenas affair, a slush fund to pay party members, and others too numerous to list, including one involving the than leader of the Catalan nationalist leader Jordi Pujol, whose party is now demanding independence.
There has been nothing in Britain to parallel the mass movement of the Indignados, the cradle of Podemos. It is estimated that between 6 and 8 million people participated in these street activities. Those protests made the US Occupy Wall Street look trivial, not to mention the smaller British initiations of the American demonstrations and occupations. A much more successful UK initiative, the anti-austerity People’s Assembly, has mobilised hundreds of thousands and set up large groups all over the country. It was, and is, however closely linked the existing mechanisms of the labour movement. There was none of the loathing for all “politicians” that the Spanish masses expressed. France, where the Podemos breakthrough has been heralded by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the home of the (deceased) writer Stéphane Hessel, whose book Indignez-Vous! gave the Indignados their name – saw, and has seen, practically no movement at all apart from trade union protests.
The comparison with Podemos also runs into obstacles when one considers it more broadly. Its strategic line is said to draw on the writings of Ernesto Laclau. Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1988) offered a critique of traditional Marxism and a freeing of political and social contradictions from rigid class categories. It was widely regarded on the British left as dense theoretical fog for a shift from class politics to the nebulous democratic alliances of ‘new times’. In subsequent writings, generally languishing in academic obscurity, Laclau developed an approach to the specificity of politics. His interest in a left strategy that focused on the discursive articulations of popular democratic struggles and fights for left hegemony broadened into approaches to the – still predominantly ‘discursive’ – mechanisms of politics. Interest in the figure of the ‘People’ against the elite, linked Laclau to some of his earliest writings on Populism, with special reference to Latin America.
In On Populist Reason (2005) Laclau retained an emphasis on the specificity of democratic movements outside and against formal political power. Laclau stated, “populism requires the dichromatic division of society into two camps – one presenting itself as a part which claims to be the whole; that this dichotomy involves the antagonistic division of the social field, and that the popular camp presupposes as a conditions of its constitution the constriction of a globalised entity out of the equivalence of a plurality of social demands.” Put simply populism means pitting the people against an array of forces solidified into a simple enemy – an observation which did not wait for Laclau to be discovered. Interviewed this year in New Left Review Iglesias acknowledged his theoretical attraction to almost Marxist ‘Gramscian’ earlier writings, but that the later work offers a “useful tool” for explaining the “autonomy of politics”. Or, again, to put it directly, it gives legitimacy to a way of constructing politics in terms of friend and foe (Carl Schmitt) using a galaxy of propaganda forms to give this shape. It is widely claimed that Podemos’ consciously utilises this instrument in their strategy: the People are mobilised against the ‘Casta’, the ruling caste. (1)
These ideas, whose abstraction and infinite extension, leftwards and rightwards, critics have not failed to note, should not hide the difficulties of creating a different type of politics. Paul Mason’s post-election claim that the pro-business SNP is part of the same ” radical, populist and nationalist left” only reinforces this impression. (Guardian 21.12.15.)
The more modest and attractive aspect of Podemos has apparently been its openness, its willingness to dissolve traditional political organisational forms into new ones, connected to social media and other ways of vertical communication. But when it comes to decision-making problems arise. US and British experience of cumbersome conformity and construction of new elites inside the ‘structurelessness’ of vertical communication and “consensus decision-making” emerged in the wake of the Occupy movement. Inside Podemos there are widely shared complaints about a very visible “vertical” and top-down leadership. This has not been without its faults, as few members participated in voting on the Podemos electoral programme or candidate selection. By contrast Íñigo Errejón, a defender of their strategy, has talked of leading from in front, and the key role of the charismatic Julias Iglesias, as welcome features of Podemos’ efforts to break the mould of traditional left-right politics, indeed to surpass this “old” division. It is a “fundamental element in building hegemony.” (2)
Labour: a ‘Synthesis’.
The Labour Party is, to say the least, not a ‘new’ party. It is a coalition, or better, a ‘bloc’ of disparate forces. Unlike a true coalition it has not always reached full agreement on a detailed programme of political action. There have always been substantial differences on major issues – the present leader is the best example of this extending to Parliamentary votes. But as a “bloc”, that is to say a common front for elections, it has brought together ‘sociological’ forces – the unions – the Party – the NEC, the Parliamentary Party, professional politicians, an army of local councillors, and small more ideological groups or networks, from Progress to the Labour Representation Committee. In more sociological terms this is often portrayed in terms of a marriage between the radical intelligentsia, middle class social reformers, hard-headed trade unionists, and, it has to be said, patriotic ‘national’ Labour of all classes. It is electoral activity that holds these all together. But the signs are, as Haynes indicates, that as more ideological forces enter the field, from Labour First to and Momentum, disagreements are becoming sharper. Divorce, some say, is the only answer.
This break up may be desirable for some on the left and the right. But Hyman is right to suggest that winning elections is not a trivial affair. For those who want to see a Labour government a split is a disaster. The electoral system is not going to change – with boundary changes it is going to become more difficult for the party to elect MPs. In these conditions the principal problem for an old, not a new party, is not to extend its debates outwards. It is to reach some kind of equilibrium within Labour that holds the apparatus together. In some of the more ideological European socialist parties the idea of a “synthesis” between the different parts of these organisations in the process of presenting an electoral platform is a way to resolve these differences. Jean Jaurès, the towering figure of the 20th century French left, advocated a strongly democratic form of socialism (republicanism), human rights, reforms, social ownership and Marxist principles of class struggle. In short, he combined “evolution” and a revolutionary transformation of capitalism into socialism. The notion of drawing ideas together rather than setting them up for stage battles has, for those who wish to see a Labour Prime Minster elected with a party in support, is surely preferable to a prolonged civil war. (3)
What relevance does Podemos have in this context? Their tertulias (open debating forums) may perhaps inform some of those involved in Momentum. But there the analogy breaks down. There is nothing resembling the common sense of deep social angst and purpose that animated the 15-M Movement. Momentum is recruited around support for the new Labour leadership. Already the operations of small socialist organisations, using the Corbyn’s supporters’ network to promote their own agenda of party building and throwing discredit on Labour MPs and councils, have weakened claims about “new politics”. It seems that one objective, of these bodies, to hector councillors to set illegal anti-cuts budgets, has already met with Jeremy Corbyn’s disapproval. It is doubtful if these people care. These groups believe in making a new left-wing party, of contestable democratic credentials, whether the bulk of Labour Party members and supporters want it or not. The activities of the People’s Assembly, directed at the real enemy, the Conservative government, with the clear backing of the trade unions, engaged in a fruitful and respectful dialogue with sections of the Labour Party, appear to have run out of steam.
If we pick our way through the debates inside and outside the Labour Party there are grounds to imagine that a new ‘synthesis’ or at least co-existence of different strands of thought could come about. The modern Labour Party can make space for social democratic proposals for reform, universal principles of rights and justice, with our modern understanding of racial, sexual and gender equality, and expanded renewed welfare provision, Green issues, and more radical ideas on democratic nationalisation, economic transformation, internationalism, and the promotion of working class interests. Hay
Ideas of greater social mobility, “social entrepreneurs” and “progressive” alliances will look pretty tired faced with proposals for genuine equality, liberty and social solidarity. A rich vein of radical literature, from Pierre Rosanvallon’s studies of equality, Thomas Picketty’s critique of rentier capital, to David Harvey’s undogmatic Marxist approach to capitalism – to cite only a handful of new resources for change – could help debate. Some of the able Labour leaders’ advisers can surely expand this list of ‘tool boxes’ for democratic socialist change. In this sense Labour could present a challenge not to a broadly defined ‘casta’ but to the right-wing business and oligarchies and their hangers profiteering from the privatising-state not to mention their political representatives who are our real opponents.
Activists and Policy.
New Labour was marked by separation between policy and activism, between those who decided and those who carried out the leadership’s decision. This drove people away in crowds. If Podemos teaches us something it is that their brand of leftist populism has clearly reached an audience. It also, unfortunately, indicates that there is more than one way to institutionalise an inability to influence policy.
If Labour wishes to reach outwards it needs more open policy-making. Meetings that count, and not simple get-togethers, or tertulias, stand a better long-term chance of mobilising those new to politics. Nothing can prevent those who wish to grandstand, or find a pretext for criticising the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, coming along. Democracy always means minorities that disagree. But when the stakes, the possibility of making a difference to how a party works and what it is aiming at, are there, the potential for agreement also exists. Drawing a new audience into Labour and not outside it, the feeling that the public is not separated from ‘them’ inside the party, is not easy. But one suspects that it is preferable to a ‘populism’ whose final destination remains unclear.
(1) Page 83 Ernesto Laclau. On Populist Reason. Verso. 2005. Pablo Iglesias. Understanding Podemos. Interview. New Left Review. No 93. 2015. Populisme, Itinéraire d’un mot voyager. Gérard Mauger. Le Monde Diplomatique. July 2015.
(2) Podemos and its Critics. Bécquer Seguín. Radical Philosophy 193. 2015.
(3) Jaurés et le Réformisme Révolutionnaire. Jean-Paul Scot. Seuil. 2014.
Mélenchon: With Spring, Flowers Bloom.
Left Front Rethinking.
The Communist Party spokesman Olivier Dartigolles stated on Monday that the Front de gauche (Left Front) had “got it wrong” and would “review everything from top to bottom”. L’Humanité.
“The Left Front was created precisely to avoid what has happened right in front of our eyes in these regional elections, so it’s a failure, we have to review everything from top to bottom,” warned the leading Communist. He said that they could not “start again as if nothing had happened” and talked about “complete overhaul of the Front de gauche”. As for working with the former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he announce that his party had not closed the door on the chief of the Parti de gauche, saying that “there will need everyone”. He preferred nevertheless the idea of “bringing millions of people into battle.”
“Olivier Dartigolles continued, that following statements of Parti Socialist General Secretary Christophe Cambadélis that they would finally have a debate on fundamental policies. He hoped that there would be an opening of this discussion “with those that the PS, and they are many, who do not want… (Note: that is existing government strategy)…) and everyone’s on their left. ” “I would also include the trade union left, associative and intellectual forces,” he added, but “certainly not” Emmanuel Macron. ” (Economics Minister).
There are long-standing tensions between Jean Luc Mélenchon and the other parties and groups in the Front de gauche – particularly over the PCF’s agreements with the Parti Socialiste in elections. More here: Après les régionales, le Front de gauche en voie de dislocation.
In the Regional election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon refused to give a recommendation on who to vote for in second round contests, that pitted the Front National against Sarkozy’s Les Républicains. (Régionales : Jean-Luc Mélenchon ne veut donner aucune consigne de vote pour les deuxièmes tours LR-FN).
Mélenchon has called for a “ véritable front populaire ”
In a lyrical Blog post after the Regional election results Mélenchon writes, “Que vienne l’heure du peuple !” – May the Time of the People Come!
Mais je le dis avec espoir : à proportion du danger que vous avez vécu, vous savez que vous êtes appelés dorénavant à prendre votre part à l’autre bataille démocratique qui dorénavant s’avance avec l’élection présidentielle. Il faut qu’elle soit l’heure du peuple contre l’oligarchie, l’heure du rassemblement pour une république qui ne se contente pas de débiter comme un moulin sa devise mais qui fasse vivre réellement l’aspiration à l’égalité et à la fraternité autant qu’a la liberté. Je sais, mes chers compatriotes, que nous avançons dans l’hiver. Mais je sais aussi que toujours le printemps revient. Toujours. Et avec lui, les fleurs et la promesse de leurs fruits. »
But I say this with hope: after the dangers that you have lived through, you know that as the presidential election gets nearer, you are called to take your part in a democratic battle. This contest must be the time of the people against the oligarchy, the time of joining together for a republic that does not reduce its motto to phrase-mongering, but brings into reality the aspirations to equality, to fraternity as well as liberty. I know, my beloved countrymen and women, that we are in the middle of winter. But I also know that spring always returns. Always. And with it, flowers bloom with the promise of fruit.
Mélenchon scored 11.05% in the 2012 Presidential election (first round) as the candidate of the Front de gauche (FdG). He is the founder of the Parti de gauche, (PdG) a split from the French Socialist party.
The original FdG bloc included the Parti communiste français (PCF) the Parti de gauche (PG) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. République et socialisme, the Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique (FASE), Convergences et alternative, Le Parti communiste des ouvriers de France the Gauche anticapitaliste (GA), Les Alternatifs.
At present the PCF, the Parti de gauche, and Ensemble (which regrouped a number of the above organisations together), are the FdG’ s main components.
The Parti de Gauche has been accused of having as its principal preoccupation preparing Mélenchon’s bid for the Presidential contest of 2017.
In January 2014 the PdG totaled 9,000 members, but only 1,700 activists participated in the voting for their annual conference platforms this year. They have serious internal differences on the Euro, with a strong minority calling for France to leave the Eurozone and relations with other sections of the Front de Gauche over electoral agreements with the Parti Socialiste (the party the organisation originated in).
In the Regional elections that just took place the Parti de Gauche obtained 7 councillors.
The PCF has around 130,000 members, and around 29 regional councillors.
While the FdG has its serious problems, it is doubtful if the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste’s response to these results (from a party unable to stand in these elections) will receive any echo whatsoever,
These elections have shown that there is no political representation for the exploited. For the world of labour, the most urgent task is to build the mobilizations, return to the path of struggle: for lifting the state of emergency, which has had the practical effect of silencing the social movement around COP21, Air France, against the NDDL airport, for the defence of migrants, etc. More than that, the building of an anti-capitalist political alternative, a new emancipatory project, remains more relevant than ever.
The BBC reports,
The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on 6 December as more people voted, according to the ministry of the interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73% to 27.36%. The Republicans increased their share from 26.65% to 40.63% and the Socialists from 23.12% to 29.14%. The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on 6 December to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures are based on a count of 98% of votes so far.
Despite leading in the first round of regional elections last week, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Front party (FN) failed to gain a single region in the second round of voting in France on Sunday.
The head of the FN, Marine Le Pen had hoped to make history on Sunday night by gaining control of a region for the first time. But after winning 28 percent of the nationwide vote in the first round of elections, the FN was pushed back in the second round as voters rallied behind the conservative Les Républicains party and President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS).
The FN had been riding high, exploiting an unprecedented wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago. But that initial success failed to translate into any second-round victories.
The FN was defeated in three key regions where it had come in first place last week: Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine. The Socialists had pulled their candidates out of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur races to defeat the FN and it appears that many of their voters cast ballots for conservative candidates.
Le Pen won around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, while rival conservative Xavier Bertrand took around 58 percent.
Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won about 45 percent in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region against conservative Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54 percent.
In Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine, the Socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret, had refused to pull out of the race, even after trailing in the first round of elections. Despite that refusal to follow the Socialist Party’s orders, the FN candidate in the region, Florian Philippot, was defeated by Les Républicains candidate Philippe Richert, earning 36 percent of the vote against his 48 percent.
After her defeat Sunday night, Marine Le Pen insisted that the National Front was the first party of France. She said the election results would not discourage the “inexorable rise, election after election, of a national movement” behind her party.
Pause for breath – there is worse to come:
“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said after polls closed. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”
Equally defiant, her 26-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who ran in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, urged supporters not to be disappointed. “We will redouble our efforts,” she said. “There are some victories that shame the winners.”
The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.
The election was seen as an important measure of support for Le Pen ahead of 2017 presidential elections.
Tactical voting boosts Sarkozy’s Les Républicains
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party won seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, giving them the largest share. However, it’s almost certain Les Républicains would not have been as successful without the tactical support of the ruling PS.
Conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand acknowledged as much in a speech after his victory against Marine Le Pen in Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.
“I thank the voters for protecting our beautiful region,” said Bertrand. “I also want to thank the voters of the left who clearly voted to create a rampart (against the FN).”
On the left there is not much relief.
Une nouvelle fois, le sursaut républicain a bloqué l’avancée du FN. Mais ignorer l’avertissement serait dévastateur pour les partis traditionnels. Comments Libération.
The Republican ‘surge’ has blocked the FN’s progress. But the traditional parties ignore the warning at their own peril.
L’Humanité notes, “La mobilisation d’une proportion assez importante des abstentionnistes a fait la différence.” But deep difficulties remain: the left has to mobilise amongst the people to fight the far-right’s ideas.
We also observe that the Corsican nationalists now control the regional council in Corsica (le Monde).
- The Front National has failed to take over some of the levers of the established French political structure. This is a victory for their opponents. Regional councils, it has been observed, are a relativity cost-free platform for the display of administrative stagecraft. Control of their budgets gives an opportunity to show off policies, reward patrons, and attract attention. Control of one of them would not have tested the FN’s national policies. It would have given the far-right party momentum. They do not have this.
- The cost of the “sursaut républicain” is not to be underestimated. Despite reports that the FN is now attracting members from highly educated and .experienced French administrative sectors (traditional sources of political cadres) the party continues to claim that it stands alone against the other parties, the political elite, the equivalent of the Spanish ‘casta’. With the Parti Socialiste calling its supporters to vote for Sarkozy’s Les Républicains in the regions where they were alone capable of beating Marine Le Pen’s party, the claim will continue to appeal to their electorate.
- The FN still headed the results. Indications that they performed well in the first round amongst young people (34% amongst the 18-24 year olds), the unemployed, workers (43%) , self-employed, farmers and agricultural workers (35%), white collar public sector workers (30%) and indeed all social categories. While the party is most supported amongst the young and the “popular classes” the results suggest a party with a broader national appeal than any other French political force. (Elections régionales : qui a voté FN ?)
- From a rate of 57% in the first round, to 50% in the second, abstention marked these elections. That workers, the out-of-work, and above all the young, are amongst the biggest groups of abstentionists, is thin against the above evidence of their far-right voting. (le Front national, premier parti chez les jeunes… qui votent.Le Monde. 7.12.15.)
- Claims that there is a “left wing’, ‘national’ socialist (protectionist and working class) strain in the far-right’s language in the formerly left North, and a more traditional hard right (xenophobic and morally reactionary) line in the South East, have been eroded in this election. They were always doubtful – given the homogenising effects of modern politics. ( Les trois visages du vote FN Joël Gombin Le Monde Diplomatique November 2015.) But both the protectionist, and above all the xenophobic themes in the FN’s policies have had a nation wide impact.
- The results have produced a crisis on the French right and left. On the right there are growing voices to oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to run again for the Presidency. . The former is a serious political project, led by Sarkozy’s long-term more emollient and apparently more ‘moderate’ rival, Alain Juppé after what is widely seen as a personal set-back for Nicolas Sarkozy (Nicolas Sarkozy face à un échec personnel).
- On the left, there are those in the ruling Parti Socialiste who wish to create a new centre left party free from the historic baggage of the left, and indeed the word socialist. This skirts over the more difficult task of re-connecting with the popular electorate. A government headed by one of the few politicians in France to admire Tony Blair, Manuel Valls, that has failed to offer substantial reforms to improve the quality of life for wage-earners, reduce unemployment, and has been unable to relaunch economic growth, is not in a strong position to appeal to these lost voters.
- The left, taking stock, did not suffer electoral annihilation, although it lost in important regions, including the Ile de France (surrounding Paris, perhaps the consequence of a big, 10.2% drop in the FN vote between rounds). With 5 regions for the left against 7 for the right it may seem as if their formal political strength has stood up. The Socialists, in agreement with the Greens (EELV), 6,81 %, and the Front de gauche, nevertheless did not shine in the electoral scores (around 7%). Inside the Front de gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon has complained that the complex regional alliances and lists that the bloc has entered into prevented getting a clear message across. It is very doubtful if this was a major factor in their results – although perhaps somewhere in France Mélenchon’s personal message of the Bolivarian Revolution, on the Venezuelan model has support. His own refusal to give any recommendation for the second round was not universally appreciated. The Greens lost half their votes – they had 12,18% in 2010. ( Elections régionales : la débâcle des écologistes).
There is no argument that a fundamental reason for the FN’s rise in support lies in its encouragement and use of anti-Muslim feeling. This reached a crescendo after the slaughters of the 13th of November. (Le Front national se déchaîne sur l’islam. Le Monde. 4.12.15.)
President Hollande responded to the massacres with a state of emergency and airborne retaliation in Syria against Daesh.
His personal popularity leapt, but his party, the Socialists, did not benefit.
The FN have been able to take advantage of the popular mood because of a boarder package of polities. This can be seen in the social composition of their electorate. Unless one believes that young people, workers and the unemployed are particularly hostile to Muslims, and that this was the reason for their ballot box choice, we would look into what this demagogy in embedded within.
The theme of “security” against ‘Islam’ and, more widely, “foreigners” is tied to a deeper set of ideas, a national ideology, that animates the party of Marine Le Pen, nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ (the principle that the ‘nation’ should be the source of all political, economic and social decison0making and virtue). Their attraction for the young, the working class and all shades of “precarious” employed people lies in the call to protect the French nation from outside forces, foreigners, refugees, migrants and economic powers. That is, to give them jobs, and preserve living standards, and social security.
The FN claims not be primarily ‘anti’ other nations, religions or peoples: it is for France. It claims to be the best political force to protect French citizens from outside threats; not to seek out new areas in which to expand French power. The FN has been supportive of Russian interests (for which they have been rewarded), over the Crimea and Ukraine, which they see in terms of another nation standing up to foreign menaces.
In this sense the Front National is sometimes described as ‘national populist’ , not fascist; defensive rather than overtly imperialist.
Its policies centre on ‘national priority’ for French citizens in jobs, and welfare, stricter controls of immigration, ‘Laïcité’ (secularism) but recognition of France’s ‘Christian’ roots, strict laws on ‘security’ including reestablishing the death penalty, and a long list of measures designed to protect French industry and make French law supreme against EU legislation.
These reactionary ideas are by no means unusual in Europe today.
Many of the FN legislative plans – stricter immigration control and cutting migrants’ right to social benefits – are shared by the mainstream British right, and are policies of the present Cameron government.
The ‘sovereigntist’ approach to the European Union – blaming the EU for France’s poor economic performance and allowing migration are at the heart of the right-wing campaign in the UK to leave the Union.
Before British leftist indulge in their customary lecturing of the French Left there is another aspect of the FN that it’s important to note. Some of the FN’s views on Europe, which see migrant labour as a “tool” of the capitalists to undermine French workers’ living standards, are shared by the anti-EU ‘left’ in the UK. The idea that ‘national’ control of the economy is the way to confront the problems of globalisation is also popular amongst some ‘left-wingers’ here and in France. There is as yet no equivalent of the kind of overt cross-overs from left to right which is a feature of French political life amongst ” souverainistes” but this could easily develop.
Populism, as they say, is about being popular.
In this respect, with 27% of the vote, the prospect of Marine Le Pen emerging at the main challenger in the French Presidential elections on 2017 is strengthened, not weakened by this weekend’s results.
The Communist Party Leader and supporter of the Front de gauche, Pierce Laurent has called for a “new progressive project” to unite the left to stand up against the right and the extreme right, fighting austerity, and engaging in measures to tackle the problems of the world of work (Régionales : Déclaration de Pierre Laurent.).
Ensemble, also like the PCF, part of the Front de gauche, have equally called for a new approach, “Pour rassembler, il faut un projet commun de tous ceux qui à gauche et dans le mouvement social ne renoncent pas et aspirent à une alternative politique de rupture avec le libéralisme, un nouvel espoir.”
There is now the suggestion that the Front de gauche, the alliance of these two forces with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche and others, ism posed to dissolve. Après les régionales, le Front de gauche en sursis. This will leave Mélenchon more free time to campaign against German influence in Europe.