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France: No Agreement between Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon as Communists Make Move Towards…Hamon.

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No Left Unity Between Mélenchon and Hamon.

French left remains divided as no agreement has been reached  between Mélenchon and Hamon for the French Presidential elections.

Or as Libération puts it,

Hamon-Mélenchon : «C’est mort»

While both sides have thrown the responsibility for a failure to reach any kind of accord on the other it is clear that Hamon, the Parti Socialist candidate, was never going to respond to  Mélenchon’s demand that he rejects everybody in his own party that the Leader of La France insoumise does not approve or agree with.

After a  narrow vote to back  Mélenchon last November (53,6%) over the last weeks there has been an intense debate inside the Parti Communiste Français (PCF). They have been clearly not pleased that  Mélenchon wishes them to abandon their own candidates for the Legislative elections (immediately after the Presidential contest) in favour of those chosen by the Leader of the La France Insoumise and his other demands, such as as finance for his Hologram studded electoral campaign.

Matters came to a head last week with this statement.

Un appel intitulé « PCF : sortons de l’immobilisme », qui a recueilli plus de 600 signatures en quarante-huit heures, plaide pour « une candidature commune pour la présidentielle . (le Monde)

This call for a common left candidate was clearly aimed at one target. As a supporter said, “a stratégie du tout ou rien de Jean-Luc Mélenchon » the strategy of all or nothing ” leads nowhere.

A rival appeal,  Les communistes qui soutiennent Mélenchon se mobilisent called for support to the ‘left populist’

Today’s Libé notes,

Et du côté du Parti communiste, pourtant soutien critique de Mélenchon dans cette présidentielle, les choses pourraient aussi bouger cette semaine. La direction du PCF promet ainsi d’«autres initiatives» pour œuvrer en faveur de l’union de la gauche.Ce lundi, à l’issue de sa réunion hebdomadaire, l’exécutif PCF prévoit de diffuser une déclaration visant les conditions d’une possible «majorité politique de gauche».«Jean-Luc Mélenchon a raison lorsqu’il fait un certain nombre d’observations et de propositions à Benoît Hamon, mais son discours général et son positionnement actuel l’éloignent des décisions et des objectifs politiques des communistes»

On the Communist side things could move this week, despite their critical support for Mélenchon in the Presidential election. The leadership of the PCF promise “other initiatives” to work in favour of a  union of the left. This Monday, at the end of their weekly meeting, the PCF Executive will launch a declaration that envisages the conditions for a potential “left political majority”. Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is right to make some points about Benoît Hamon and the positions he takes, but his wider statements and his political positions are distant from the present positions and aims of the Communists

In other words, they have made the first steps towards an agreement with Hamon.

If supporters of the Green Party voted last week for left unity it now looks more than possible that they will also align with Hamon (EELV. 90 % des militants favorables à une alliance Jadot-Hamon-Mélenchon).

Important article arguing that the French radical left should back Hamon: Benoît Hamon : un vote trompe-la-mort.

The journal, Contretemps, is part this ‘gauche de la gauche’.

After an extremely hard attack on Mélenchon’s version of “left wing populism” advanced by Laclau and Mouffe and the politics and personality of the Leader of la France insoumise, is described as a ” républicain conservateur et d’homme d’ordre.”

Thus: a list of things that have sorely rankled with the French left, such as Mélenchon’s “refus de condamner les violences policières en France, sa position sur les réfugiés et les travailleurs détachés, sa mitterrandolâtrie, son chauvinisme” refusal to condemn police violence in France, his position on refugees and posted (that is, migrant) workers, his idealisation of François Mitterrand, and his chauvinism.

And… his, “tropisme anti-étatsunien en matière internationale qui l’amène à traiter avec une certaine bienveillance le régime de Hafez el-Assad, ainsi que le rôle joué en Syrie par Vladimir Poutine, etc.” His anti-American tendencies, which has led him to look with a degree of warmth the Assad regime, and the role of Vladimir Putin in Syria.

On Hamon he says, “Si Hamon ne trahit pas ses engagements sociaux-démocrates de gauche il créera une dynamique positive, interne et externe, qui l’amènera à prendre le pouvoir dans le parti et à regrouper l’ensemble de la gauche.”

“If he does not betray his left social democratic commitments, he will create a positive momentum, both internally and externally (to the Socialists, note), which will help him take the party leadership, and to regroup the whole of the left.”

Marlière has spoken at the LRC AGM. He is at home in the French (he was part the Front de gauche after a background in the Parti Socialiste left) and British left. He teaches at King’s College London and has been published in the Guardian/Observer.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

French Presidential Election: Jean Luc Mélenchon and ‘left populism’.

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Image result for melenchon et son hologram

Virtual Mélenchon.

Reuters reports (Sunday),

Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon embraced technology during the launch of his presidential campaign at a rally in Lyon on Sunday, with a 3D hologram of him making his speech appearing at the same time at another rally in Paris.

Mélenchon, wearing a Nehru-style jacket, tried to use the hologram technology give a modern look to his launch, which coincided with that of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon opened his meeting, transmitted by hologram to Paris, with a rousing speech. But it was hard to hide that the selection of the radical green socialist, Benoît Hamon as Socialist Party candidate, has created profound difficulties for the leader of La France insoumise.

After Hamon’s victory the French left is divided. While many welcomed the Socialists’ change in direction, for the majority of Ensemble, an alliance of radical left currents and part of the (nearly defunct Front de gauche), Mélenchon remains central to the left’s prospects in France.

On the Ensemble site Roger Martelli writes of the left’s Presidential candidates, (Gauche : et maintenant ?)

Mélenchon:

Depuis une quinzaine d’années, il est de tous les combats majeurs visant à redonner au peuple sa souveraineté et à la gauche son dynamisme. Son programme, dans la continuité de celui de 2012, reprend la logique « antilibérale » et démocratique qui s’est déployée après le choc de la présidentielle de 2002.

For over 15 years he has been there in all the principal battles which have aimed to return to the people their soveriegnty and to the left its dynamism. His programme, consistent with the (Presidential election) of 2012 (when Mélenchon stood, backed by the Front de gauch left bloc), takes up again the « anti-liberal » and democratic logic used since the shock of the 2002 Presidential elections.

Of Hamon:

Au fond, Benoît Hamon incarne la continuité d’un Parti socialiste qui a accompagné les reculs successifs d’un socialisme devenu hégémonique au début des années 1980. Jean-Luc Mélenchon ouvre la voie d’une rupture dont toute la gauche pourrait bénéficier.

At root Benoît Hamon embodies continuity with a Parti Socialiste which has, since it became hegemonic since the start of the 1980s, has been marked by a succession of backward steps. Jean-Luc Mélenchon opens up the prospect of a radical break, from which all the left could benefit.

Martelli’s reference to “popular sovereignty” raises perhaps one of the most serious problems about Mélenchon’s campaign. The leader of La France Insoumise is not only concerned with “une majorité populaire à gauche”. Or a ” dose” of populism into the left, to re-occupy the field of social division, with a campaign that can express a radical protest vote.

Another Adieu au Prolétariat.

Mélenchon’s ambitions extend far and wide as he asserts the need to replace the traditional strategies of the left.

In a series of writings he has talked about L’Ère du peuple in (the grandly titled)  “époque de l’Anthropocène.” (the ‘new epoch’ in human political geography). In this perspective the old ‘hierarchy’ of struggles, centred on the primacy of the proletariat as a political subject, has been surpassed.

In a short history which takes him from the people as a ” multitude ” (without cohesion), the people/working class, as a demand-making category, we have come to the age of « networks » (réseaux). And, in France, more specifically, as he puts it himself, “réseau de soutien à ma candidature et à son programme”. (Réseaux et mouvements. 7th of January 2017)

The network launched as La France Insoumise is  at the core of the electoral and social strategy. Mélenchon is engaged in an explicit effort to capture (in his terms, form), the People, in opposition to the Oligarchy, financial and globalising. It is not shaped only by economic issues, but the with the wider effects of capitalism in society: marginalisation, social division, the long series of cultural contradictions and demands of the diverse oppressed groups. Above all it aims to “net” the concept of the People, and refound the left as a movement capable of structuring it politically as a force for progressive transformation (details of the programme on their site). Membership of what might be called a permanent “rally” does not require payment, only backing.

Supporters put this project in the same political sphere as Podemos, as a movement that aims to expand the field of democratic mobilisation against the political caste (la casta), more commonly called, in French and in English, the elites.

For this venture, which draws on the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, populism is a political logic. The objective is to unify, to create a radical democratic People, not as (it is asserted) through the forms of exclusion and division, between “us”, on ethnicity or nationality and others.

Citizen-Movement and the Leader.

But, as Pierre Khalfa has observed, the “citizen-movement”, La France Insoumise, charged with this objective, organised in hundreds of “groupes d’appui” (support groups) is not democratic in the sense that political parties are – in principle.  (Le peuple et le mouvement, est-ce vraiment si simple?). There are no organised confrontations between different currents of opinion; disagreements only arise over applying the ‘line’ in local conditions. There is, in fact,the worst form of Occupy style ‘consensus politics”, ruling out by fait real dissensus,  wedded to the decisions of the Chief. It is “JLM who decides”. Or, as Laclau put it, the, “..the “symbolic unification of a group around an individuality” is inherent to the formation of a ‘people’ (Page 100. On Populist Reason 2005. ) (1)

Critics point to the lack of coherence in the definition of the would-be “people” a vast category with many internal conflicts between social groups. They also state that it is also highly unlikely that the ambition to remould populist resentment, expressed and solidly articulated in the Front National’s nationalist attacks on globalisation and a whole range of groups, from Muslims to migrant workers, has struck deep into French political reality. Detaching the  ‘floating signifier’ of the People and putting it to a new use is a hard task. It more probable, and Mélenchon’s comments on Europe, migrant labour and the importance of the French ‘nation’, that it will end up more influenced by nationalism than become an alternative to it. Over everything lingers Pierre Khalfa put it the figure of “l’homme providentiel”, the Man of Destiny(Le populisme de gauche, un oxymore dangereux).

In these conditions it is little wonder that many of the French  left are not just wary of Mélenchon, but actively hostile to his entire project.

It is equally not surprising that elsewhere would-be People’s Leaders, like George Galloway in Britain, have warmed to La France Insoumise.

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(1)Le peuple et le « mouvement. Jean-Luc Mélenchon (2.11.16. Blog).

“Il n’y a pas de carte. Il ne peut y avoir des cotisations mais seulement des participations financières à l’action c’est-à-dire des dons ou des versements réguliers pendant la durée de celle-ci. Il n’y a pas d’autre discipline que celle de l’action, c’est-à-dire celle que chacun s’impose dans l’action individuelle ou collective.” In other words, la France Insoumise is devoted to the “action” of getting votes.

Momentum for Left Unity with Benoît Hamon grows on French left.

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Image result for benoit hamon affiche

Hearts Beating on French  Left as New Hope Rises.

A few weeks ago commentators were seriously contemplating that  the French Parti Socialiste would reduced to near electoral oblivion in the April May Presidential elections.

Now Opinion Polls give newly elected candidate Benoît Hamon between 16 to 17 %.

From a position as the leading candidate of the Left Jean-Luc Mélenchon has gone from 15% to below 10% and looks like slipping further. (Les Echos)

The Parti Socialiste contender is still 6 points behind the pro-business centre-left Emmanuel Macron.

But with the mainstream right candidate, François Fillon flaying around in all directions in response to one of the biggest fraud scandals to have hit French Presidential candidates, Hamon is a mere 3 points lower than the champion of Les Républicains.

These polls, and the open minded forward looking left-green programme offered by Hamon, have had their effect.

First there is this call today from the Green (Europe Écologie – Les Verts, EELV ) candidate: Yannick Jadot.

Jadot has called  for a dialogue to create a “common project”

Présidentielle 2017 : Jadot veut construire un “projet commun” avec Hamon. Le candidat à la présidentielle a adressé une lettre à ses militants où il explique qu’un dialogue doit être entamé.

Second, the leader of the French Communist Party, Pierre Laurent, has declared that a “grand alliance” of the whole left, is “not impossible”.

Le patron du PCF soutient toujours Mélenchon mais, après la victoire de Benoît Hamon, n’abandonne pas l’idée d’un nouveau contrat majoritaire à gauche.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the Rally, La France Insoumise, has so far demanded that Hamon chooses between supporting those Socialist party representatives that Mélenchon disagrees with, and….Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Jean-Luc Mélenchon demande à Benoît Hamon de choisir « entre eux et nous »)

Benoît Hamon, his Victory, and the Renewal of the European Left.

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Image result for Hamon victoire

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And our time has come.” (France 24)

Benoît Hamon and the Renewal of the European Left.

With 58,88% of the ballot Benoît Hamon’s triumph  in the French Parti Socialiste led ‘Belle Alliance’ primary was decisive (Libération).  The election, whose second round attracted over  2 million voters, was not only a defeat for Manuel Valls – François Hollande’s Prime Minister up till this year.

In his victory speech Hamon announced, “Ce soir, la gauche relève la tête, elle se tourne vers le futur et elle veut gagner.” This evening the left has lifted his head high, looked towards the future, and wants to win.” (Nouvel Observateur)

This victory is first of all a disavowal of the Socialist President’s record in government. Valls lost for many reasons, not least his own record as an authoritarian (a prolonged state of emergency) an inflexible supporter of market economics (labour law ‘reform’).  His harsh words against opposition from an “irreconcilable” left earned him rebukes from the moderate social democratic current, led by Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille. She ended up backing Hamon. High levels of support for Hamon in the poll came from her region, many other working class areas, and in urban centres, both Paris and its banlieue. It was also strong amongst young people.

The balance-sheet of Valls’ years in power since 2014 is thin: some liberal social reforms (gay marriage, le marriage pour tous), budgetary ‘discipline’, an inability or unwillingness to reform the European Union, and to come to the aid of those, like Greece, who had to submit to austerity and privatisation imposed by the Troika.

Above all in 2016 Prime Minister Valls’ reform of labour laws, la Loi Khomri, which, under pressure from the employers’ federation, weakens employees’ rights (Code du Travail) and unions’ national bargaining power, marked a break with the left and the labour movement. It was opposed by strikes and mass demonstrations. Accompanying them the Nuit Debout movement, organised public occupations and debates on an alternative to “la souveraineté du capital” in the terms of the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon, briefly looked as if might parallel the 15 M protests that led to the formation of the Spanish Podemos.

The Loi Khomri was adopted. Active opposition drained away last summer. But one might note that Nuit Debout was not a replication of Occupy Wall Street protests against liberal globalisation. It raised wider issues about what the theorist and others have called the “tyrannie du salariat” – the tyranny of wage labour. Lordon advanced a politics of “affects” (attachment) to new collective sovereignty, “décider en commun” through a participative state. His attempt to illustrate how ‘belonging’ to such a community, that could ‘de-consitutionalise’ the EU and return issues of “political economy” to the national collectivity has been met with criticism from the left. It is equally hard to see what economic sense it makes. The growth of internationalised production and distribution networks, indicates the need for EU and transnational regulation, and, in the longer perspective, European, cross-country, social ownership and labour movements. It is hard to see what is new or, in view of the rise of the sovereigntist right, about promoting national sovereignty. This stand resembles the arguments of the British Brexit left, whose claims, in the age of Trump and new protectionism, are unravelling by the day.  (1)

Hamon views on the French state and the EU are much less abstract. They focus ion a new republic where Parliamentary power is asserted and on a Union in which an economic relaunch is undertaken. By contrast the questions the Nuit Debout radicals raised about the nature and the status of work, “repenser le travail”, have been at the centre of the contest between Hamon and Valls. (1)

Basic Income.

Hamon’s proposal for a Revenu Universal (Basic Income) – to which is added the 32-hour week has caught the most attention. Jean-Marc Ferry calls it “une utopie réaliste” in the sense that it a source of hope that is not beyond legislative possibility.  (Le Monde 25.1.17). But not only the financial realism of paying everybody 750 Euros a month (estimated to cost between 300 and 400 billion Euros), has been questioned. For some (including the union federation the CGT) it undermines the value of work. The satisfaction many feel they accomplish in their jobs and their achievements. Reducing the working week is, on the evidence of the 35-hour week, unlikely to share out employment. Hamon himself has compared the scheme to the French National Health Service, the principal part of La Sécurité Sociale. Everybody rich or poor is entitled to have his or her health protected, and to be treated when ill. A Basic income would protect people from poverty, without the bureaucracy (and local version of ‘sanctions’). It would enable people to explore new employment opportunities, to experiment on their own if they so wish, take risks, while offering a ‘safe home’ in case they don’t succeed.

This far from the liberal idea that Basic Income would replace all social allowances, in the shape of ‘negative income tax’. For social democrats it is, as above, a completion of social protection for some Marxists it would give works extra bargaining power, for supporters of “décroissance” (alternatives to growth), echoing the writings of André Gorz, it is a way of managing the “end of work” in its traditional form. (Anne Chemin. La Promesse d’une Révolution. Le Monde, Idées 28.1.17)

Hamon has offered, then, an innovative way of coming to terms with the spread of information technology and robotics, in which work in the traditional sense is changing and full employment (despite misleading UK figures) may well not be possible.  Philippe van Parijs talks of how Basic Income would help people cope with the increasing ‘fluidity’ of employment – in other words the rise in part-time, short-term, jobs. (Le Monde 25.1.17).  Valls’ alternative, a “decent income” (revenu décent), effectively some strengthening of the lower floor of social protection, struggled to win an audience. Basic Income may not perhaps answer those for whom work is a “form of citizenship”. Nor does it respond to the charge that it would create a form of ‘revenue-citizenships’ that would exclude migrants.

These proposals are only some of the best known of Hamon’s innovative and forward looking programme, which includes a raft of ideas from an  “ecological transition” to the legalisation of cannabis. Hamon’s views on reforming the European Union parallel those of Another Europe is Possible. He promotes an open Laïcité (Secularism) and is strongly anti-racist.  It hardly needs saying that he has promised to repeal the Loi Khomeri.

Socialism and Power.

Alain Bergounioux, the author with Gérard Greenberg of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir (2005), has complained that the French Socialists may emerge from the Primary incapable of becoming a “party of government” committed to the “exercise of power”. He warns of following either the path of Jean-Luc Mélenchon whose own rally, La France Insoumise, does not aspire to be in power, but to be a tribune of the people and the centrist Presidential candidate Philippe Macron, and his “parti-enterprise, that seeks power for, one might suggest, his own sake (Le Monde 27.1.17) What is at stake, Bergounioux point out, is the ability, of the Socialists, to form a viable electoral alternative, a role they have fulfilled since François Mitterrand’s victory in 1981. Faced with a tri-polarisation, between Right (François Fillon), far-right (Marine Le Pen), we have a left with its own tripolar divisions, Hamon and Mélenchon and former member of the Socialist Cabinet, Emmanuel Macron. That up to 50 Valls supporters in the National Assembly and Senate are reported to be switching to Macron is not a good sign.

 Yet Hamon comes from currents inside the French Socialist Party (Nouveau Parti Socialiste onwards), which have hotly contested the record of their party in government. Dubbed ‘frondeurs’ (trouble-makers) for their opposition to budget cuts in the first years of the Valls government (in which Hamon served as Education Minister, before being sacked in 2014 for his criticisms) they come from a side of the party which has not accepted the party leadership’s adaption to markets and liberal economics. To cite a distinction well-known to the author of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir they are concerned not just with what Léon Blum called the “exercice du Pouvoir” but with the “conquête du pouvoir”, that is the revolution in society’s make up, socialism. The conquest of power implies more than forming a cabinet after an electoral triumph, it requires a social movement and a strategy to change the world. (2)

Strategy.

Does Hamon offer such a strategy? The immediate dilemma of the French Socialists is how to make their voice heard in a coming Presidential election in which they figure as also-runs. Yet an opening and gathering of the left is taking place.   Inroads into the Green party, EELV, and their electorate, already divided about their candidate, Yannick Jadot, who struggles to appear in the opinion polls, can be expected.

Hamon’s victory has already had one result: at 15% of voting intentions he has at a stroke reduced Mélenchon to 10% (a loss of five points). Hamon was selected in a competition in which  2 million voters took part, the leader of La France Insoumise only responded to the Call of Destiny.

Hamon has proposed  that these wings of the left unite, offering  Mélenchon and Jadot places in a future cabinet.

Hamon faces a deeper underlying difficulty, another inheritance from Léon Blum. This is the belief that the French republic already contains the instruments for radical reform that a movement and a party can “capture” and use. In the process the distinction between occupying Ministerial posts and effecting genuine change is blurred. Hamon’s own background as a life-long professional politician, suggests that he will find this legacy harder to overcome. (3)

For the European left, not least the left in the Labour Party, Hamon’s candidacy is welcome news. An experienced politician, fiercely intelligent, whose team offers serious new thinking about socialism, ecology and social issues – often far more forward looking than any other mainstream European left, social democratic or labour, party – is now on the French political stage. He has a message of hope. It will help all us to listen to it.

 

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  • Pages 332 – 225. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.
  • Page 133. Alain Bergounioux, Gérard Grunberg of Les Socialistes français et le Pouvoir. Fayard. 2005.
  • Page 125. Léon Blum. Un Portrait. Pierre Birnbaum. 2016.

French Communists and Mélenchon Tear Each Other Apart

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Image result for la france insoumise

French Communists Called to Submit to the Insoumises.

This year will not only see a Presidential election in France.

Following the results in May there will be elections on the 11 and 18 June for the French legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies

Not only is the French Left divided between the Parti Socaliste and the rest (including Greens), but the radical left is itself split.

Last February Jean-Luc Mélenchon decided, with the backing of his political club, the Parti de Gauche, that he would stand for president. Nobody else was consulted.

He launched La France Insoumise last year. This organisation calls itself a “citizens’ movement”. It is not a party. Anybody can join, membership is free. At the grassroots, the “groupes d’appui” (in form similar to Podemos’ ‘circles’ but with no policy making power) can operate, that is to build support,  as they see fit. Its programme was voted on through the Internet with 77,038 people taking part.  What is not up for voting is the leadership and candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Being a member is to identify with the “démarche de Jean-Luc Mélenchon.”

He stands at present at around 14% in the polls. If he may get more support in the ballot box than the enfeebled Socialists, he has little chance of getting to the Second Round of the Presidential election.

This is the general framework for the programme of La France Insoumise.

They stand for a

Sixth Republic; re-distribution of wealth; environmental planning; withdrawal from European treaties; peace and independence; human progress; and “on the borders of humanity” (ocean, space and digital).

Ten leading measures were agreed on in the on-line consultation and a following convention,

Quelque 11 362 votants, signataires de la plateforme jlm2017, ont sélectionné dix propositions pour en faire les principaux axes de leur campagne. « Refuser les traités de libre-échange, Tafta, Ceta et Tisa » est arrivé en tête (48 %), suivi de l’« abrogation de la loi El Khomri » (43,5 %), de la « règle verte » (38,5 %), de la « refondation » de l’Europe et son « plan B » (38 %), de la transition énergétique et la sortie du nucléaire (36 %), de la révocation des élus (35,5 %), du référendum constituant (35 %),de la « protection des biens communs » comme l’air,l’eau, l’alimentation, le vivant, la santé, l’énergie, la monnaie (33,5 %), de la « séparation des banques d’affaires et de détail » et d’un « pôle public bancaire » (31,5 %), et du Smic à 1 300 euros net et la hausse des salaires des fonctionnaires (28 %).

Opposition to free-trade treaties, annulment of the recent labour law reforms (loi El Khomri), a green ‘rule’ (ecological guidelines) , “refounding Europe” (changing the basis of existing Treaties), opposition to Nuclear power and its phased withdrawal, laws to allow MPs to be recalled, legislation to allow popular referendums,  protection of common property, from air, water, life (a reference to ownership of genetic material) food, health, energy, to the currency (??? – give up on that one), break up of direct ties between banks and business, creation of a publicly owned leading bank, a rise of the minimum wage to 1,300 Euros, and a rise in public sector wages.

La France insoumise détaille son projet et son calendrier

This Rally, called by its supporters a ‘movement’, has effectively ended the previous united front of parties to the left of the Socialists.

Mélenchon is now pursing a ruthless strategy for the legislative elections.

As Libération reports today the Communists are not taking his behaviour without hitting back:  Législatives : le Parti communiste se rebiffe face aux injonctions de Mélenchon.

Parfois alliés, parfois opposés, les deux partis de gauche se déchirent sur les investitures des législatives pour lesquelles la France insoumise entend dicter ses conditions.

Sometimes allies, sometimes opponents, the two parties of the left are tearing each other apart over the legislative elections la France insoumise wishes to impose its will.

La France Insoumise has decided to present candidates in every constituency  without bothering to seek agreement with  left parties.

To summarise: France insoumise has decided to stand a candidate in each constituency. This means it is prepared to present candidates against the communists. The latter have voted (by a small majority it’s true) to support Mélenchon in the presidential election. No matter. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has asked the Communist candidates – and all those who wish to ally themselves with him – to sign his “charter”. And to give money to his rally. ANd to follow his group’s wishes on where they may or may not stand.

Without going further into the details there are violent rows about particular constituencies, where Mélenchon is prepared to let the right win if the Communists do not agree to his diktat.

Mélenchon is in fact to the right of the French Communist Party on many issues, notably his approval of Russian intervention in Syria (Comment M. Mélenchon nie le peuple de Syrie et ses droits. le Monde)

He is noted for his intemperate comments (Décidément, Mélenchon est incorrigible! 26 November 2016).

The Candidate of La France Insoumise models himself on the ‘populist’ aspect of Podemos. But he has gone further in the populist direction by making nationalist appeals against the European Union in general, and Germany in particular not to mention talk about “les anglo-saxons”.

One can understand why the French Communists are wary of him.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm

French Socialist ‘Primary’ for Presidential Candidate: Debates Begin, Basic Income is One of the Stakes.

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 Gorz’s Ideas in Background to French Socialist Debate.

A total of seven candidates from France’s main left-wing parties will take part on Thursday in the first of four televised primary debates that could make or break the ruling Socialist Party.

The debates, which will be held over the course of the next two weeks, are seen as crucial for a successful turnout in the country’s left-wing presidential primaries on January 22 and 29.

As the first round of voting approaches, there is dwindling support among French voters for the Socialist Party, which has been left fractured by ideological differences and the outgoing President François Hollande’s unpopular leadership.

 FRANCE 24 spoke with Thomas Guénolé, a political scientist and lecturer at the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris, who emphasized the Socialist Party’s divisions ahead of Thursday’s debate.

FRANCE 24: Why are the left-wing primary debates important for the Socialist Party?

Thomas Guénolé: The Socialist Party is historically the main left-wing party in France. But it is strongly divided between its own right-leaning and left-leaning members. François Hollande, the current president of the French Republic, comes from this party, and has governed with a right-leaning agenda. He has decided not to run for a second term, because he feels he cannot unify the left.

There are two things at stake for the Socialist Party. First, they need a high level of participation. Theconservative primary [in November] drew more than four million voters. If, for example, only one million turn out for the left-wing primaries, it will be considered a failure. The second thing at stake is that the Socialist Party is also split among former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who is pro-free trade and deregulation, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who’s a proponent of alter-globalisation [a movement that opposes the negative effects of neoliberal globalisation].

FRANCE 24: Who are the Socialist Party candidates, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Guénolé: There are [four Socialist Party] candidates in the upcoming left-wing primaries. There’sManuel Valls, who was prime minister under Hollande until he recently resigned to run for the presidency. Over the last 10 years, Manuel Valls has been the most right-leaning of the Socialist Party. There are even some who have accused him of being right wing, period. He has backed economic austerity, strict immigration policy… But for this campaign, he is trying to run on a different platform. During his tenure as prime minister, he repeatedly used the 49.3 [a clause in the French constitution that allows governments to force through legislation without a vote], now he says that it’s too brutal. He also says that he now wants reconciliation, whereas he was quite confrontational as prime minister. He’s basically trying to remake his image, even though it’s contradictory.

Next there’s Vincent Peillon, who is an esteemed university professor. He’s well known among academic circles, where he’s considered an authority on the issue of secularism. He’s also a former minister of education. He’s unbeatable when it comes to three subjects: secularism, education and defending the rights of France’s Muslim minority. But beyond that, he doesn’t have much to say.

Then there’s Arnaud Montebourg, the former economy minister. He’s got one strong position, which is that he wants to do the exact opposite of Hollande and Valls when it comes to the economy. He basically wants to copy [former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt] and the New Deal. He’s really selling it hard. His main challenge will be to address other issues than the economy.

Last but not least, there’s Benoît Hamon, who is running as the most left-leaning Socialist Party candidate. He has proposed such audacious measures as introducing a universal basic income, and the 32-hour workweek. His main weakness is that he can be easily attacked on how he plans to finance these proposals.

Each candidate has their own weakness to overcome. Valls has a credibility problem, Peillon lacks breadth, Montebourg is strong on economy but doesn’t have a diverse enough platform, and Hamon has a feasibility problem.

It is worth noting how Basic Income has become a major subject for debate in France.

As le Point notes:  Le revenu universel (Basic Income) oppose les candidats à la primaire du PS

Basic Income has many supporters, from right-wing odd balls, to  left wing Greens. I associate it with André Gorz, for the very simple reason that the first time I heard about it was from people from the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU) influenced by Gorz.

This is brought out in the recent beautiful written biography of Gorz, Willy Gianinazzi, André Gorz. Une vie, (La Découverte, 2016). Amongst many topics Gianinazzi describes how Gorz moved from support for autogestion (workers’ control) to wider ideas about changes in the world of work and the how to end “heteronomy” (the rule by technical and economic reason) over people’s lives.

As Peter Frase has written,

The French writer André Gorz was a longtime proponent of the basic income, and is also responsible for a well-known theorization of its utopian transformative potential. In one of his early works, Strategy for Labor, he attempted to do away with the tired Left debate over “reform or revolution” and replace it with a new distinction:

Is it possible from within—that is to say, without having previously destroyed capitalism—to impose anti-capitalist solutions which will not immediately be incorporated into and subordinated to the system? This is the old question of “reform or revolution.” This was (or is) a paramount question when the movement had (or has) the choice between a struggle for reforms and armed insurrection. Such is no longer the case in Western Europe; here there is no longer an alternative. The question here revolves around the possibility of “revolutionary reforms,” that is to say, of reforms which advance toward a radical transformation of society. Is this possible?

Gorz goes on to distinguish “reformist reforms,” which subordinate themselves to the need to preserve the functioning of the existing system, from the radical alternative:

A non-reformist reform is determined not in terms of what can be, but what should be. And finally, it bases the possibility of attaining its objective on the implementation of fundamental political and economic changes. These changes can be sudden, just as they can be gradual. But in any case they assume a modification of the relations of power; they assume that the workers will take over powers or assert a force (that is to say, a non-institutionalized force) strong enough to establish, maintain, and expand those tendencies within the system which serve to weaken capitalism and to shake its joints. They assume structural reforms.

Gorz is perhaps more famous for his Farewell to the Working Class (1980 – Galilée and Le Seuil, 1983, Adieux au Prolétariat). This argued that the traditional agency of left politics, the working class, was no longer capable of bearing the hopes that Marxists and other socialists had placed in them.

To put it simply, the idea, adopted by Serge Mallet and many in the PSU (see above) that there was a ‘new working class’ which, led by technicians and the skilled, would form the vanguard for workers’ control (autogestion) was out of date. The working class, had not just been dispersed but completely altered in new economic and social relations. Growing numbers of people never became ‘workers’ in stable traditional sense.

This meant a more serious crisis that has seen the decline in the weight of the traditional occupations, erosion of union membership, and capacity for militancy this involved. The Forward March of Labour was not halted by bare statistical change; it was a transformation in the nature of work itself which had sapped the foundation of this form of left politics.

As he wrote, “Just as the rise of capitalist production created the working class, so its crisis and decay are creating the ‘non-class of non-workers‘, encompassing ‘all those who have been expelled from production by the abolition of work. . . It includes all the supernumeraries of present-day social production, who are potentially or actually unemployed, whether permanently or temporarily, partially or completely.”

As Richard Hyman noted at the time (Socialist Register 1983), Gorz refined the goals of the left within this framework.

…he defines his objectives as ‘the liberation of time and the abolition of work’, insisting that within capitalism work is always an externally imposed obligation rather than self-determined activity.

Second, he relates the contrast between work and autonomous activity to that between exchange-value and use-value. Thus the progressive abolition of waged work implies the reciprocal liberation of productive activity from the domination of commodity relations.

Third, he argues that the abolition of work is already in process, as a result of mass unemployment. Current trends offer the alternatives of a society sharply divided between a mass of unemployed or those in casual and marginalised work, and an advantaged minority in relatively secure employment; or one in which socially necessary labour is spread thinly among all who are available to work, freeing the bulk of people’s time for self defined activities.

Fourth, Gorz stresses the inadequacy of the ‘right to work’ as a political slogan. Full-time employment for all is no longer possible, nor necessary or desirable. A guaranteed income for all, as commonly demanded by the Left, would merely represent ‘a wage system without work’: exploitation by capital would give way to dependence on the state, perpetuating the ‘impotence and subordination of individuals to centralised authority’ (p. 4). Instead, the aim should be ‘the right to autonomous production’: access to means of production (in the form defined by Illich as ‘tools for conviviality’)~ so that individuals and grassroots communities can produce directly for their own use. One consequence would be to break down the division between social production and domestic labour.

Hyman’s critical analysis still bears reading.

But in point of fact Gorz did come to advocate a form of basic income as can be seen not just from Gianinazzi’s book but in more detail here: Pour un revenu inconditionnel suffisant  (Transversals 2002). He also mooted the idea of “autogestion du temps”, free organisation of free time.

But there remain real problems:

  • How, for example, is the “non-class of non-workers” going to be mobilised for these objectives?
  • Is there really such a deep seated change that all hope for trade union led movements has evaporated?
  • Is, as Hyman indicated, there any sense of talking of a political constituency for change when the focus is on organising ‘
  • autonomous production’, and (as eh alter called it) free time, both outside capitalist relations?

Having said this it is startling to observe how this idea has now come to the fore in French Socialist Party debates.

It is a key dividing issue as the very recent  Le Point report indicates:

Primaire: le revenu universel oppose les candidats (Selection of Socialist candidates, Basic income divides the contenders):

Benoît Hamon voit dans le revenu universel une réponse à la “raréfaction probable du travail liée à la révolution numérique” mais aussi la possibilité de choisir son temps de travail pour “s’épanouir dans d’autres activités que l’emploi”.

He sees basic incomes as a response to the changes – the decrease – in available work linked to the revolution in information technology which also allows people to chose their working hours and to develop their interests beyond employment.

Apart from Benoît Hamon,  the idea is defended by Jean-Luc Bennahmias.

By contrast Arnaud Montebourg, Vincent Peillon and Manuel Valls  are opposed, both for budgetary reasons and on the fundamentals of the principle.  Arnaud Montebourg has affirmed his faith in the value of labour, and, for his closest supporters, Basic Income is a way of accepting mass unemployment. Manuel Valls has warned of a something for nothing society, and proposes a 800 Euro minimum income for the lowest earners.

See also: Benoît Hamon : le revenu universel, “un moyen d’éradiquer la pauvreté”

It goes without saying that the issue is a subject of debate across a much wider section of the French Left.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Marine Le Pen, France’s would-be Trump.

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Another ‘Populist’ as rich as Croesus. 

Le Pen follows Trump’s lead with vow to bring car industry back to France.

France 24.

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Tuesday she would seek to repatriate production of French motor vehicles and other industrial goods – just as President-elect Donald Trump hopes to do in the United States.

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Tuesday she would seek to repatriate production of French motor vehicles and other industrial goods – just as President-elect Donald Trump hopes to do in the United States.

Marine Le Pen also wishes to enjoy good relations with Russia.

Marine Le Pen insists Russian annexation of Crimea is totally legitimate (Independent)

Vladimir Putin’s forces swept into the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in February 2014.

As the opinion polls stand it still looks possible that Marine Le Pen will fight the Second Round of the French Presidential elections.

But is is not sure if she will be up against the traditionalist and economically liberal right-wing candidate François Fillon.

For the April First round she currently stands at 23%. Fillon’s support has declined to 26%

But at 16 to  24% Emmanuel Macron the ‘centrist’ candidate is now snapping at Fillon’s heels. (Nouvel Obs)

Some might hope that she will be eliminated and the Second round will be a duel between Macron and Fillon.

All of which is (filling many pages in the French media) speculation on a grand scale…

Needless to say with the Socialist Party about the choose their candidate by primary elections at the end of this month, and the real possibility that Jean-Luc Mélenchon stuck around the 14-15%, will get more votes than them,  the French left looks unlikely to be serious contenders.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 10, 2017 at 5:17 pm