Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Archive for the ‘Front de Gauche’ Category

The Defeat of the French Left: Chronique d’une Débâcle. 2012 – 2017. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis.

with 4 comments

Image result for Chronique d’une Débâcle. 2012 – 2017. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis.

 

Chronique d’une Débâcle. 2012 – 2017. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. L’Archipel. 2017.

How could the French Socialist Party, (Parti Socialiste, PS) fall from the political heavens to the nether depths? Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, was until the 18th of June PS General Secretary of the  opens his Chronicle with this question. 

Cambadélis has no need to dramatise. The political force which broke decades of right-wing rule with the election of François Mitterrand in 1981, helped nudge the previously front-running Communists to second place, and then the sidelines. Until this Spring it has dominated France’s left, culturally and politically,  for forty years, running the country for up to twenty of them, and has been in charge of many levels of local and regional administration. 

Yet this April and May saw a humiliating PS score of 6,35% for Benoît Hamon in the first round of the Presidential elections. It was followed by the reduction of the PS Parliamentary representation from 280 to 31 seats. Cambadélis lost his own Paris constituency.  During the campaign, sensing coming an electoral rout, and fearing the strength of Marine Le Pen, leading members called for going beyond traditional political divisions. That is, he suggests in the book,  meant the revival of a long-standing call for alliances with the centre-right – perhaps, in British terms, seen as the equivalent of the Liberal Democrats (Page 119). In the event, outgoing Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, vocally backed a vote for Emmanuel Macron. Others also welcomed his ‘parti-enterprise’ En Marche! They glimpsed, as the Chronique observes, in the former Minister of the Economy under François Hollande, a “planche de salut” (last hope) as defeat loomed. (Page 118)

Their defection did not stop there. Two Ministers of the newly elected President Philippe Cabinet, Gérard Collomb and Jean-Yves Le Drian, are former leading Socialists. The PS’s Presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, left the party and created the Mouvement du 1er Juillet with ecological policies and ambitions to create a new “common House” for the left. Supported by a number of regional elected figures he was joined last week by two resigning PS Euro-deputies.

Some of the answers lies in the difficulty of the left internationally, where from Latin America to Europe, the “progressives” have not been able to sustain reforming politics in power (Chili is the most recent example), even to mount effective opposition in more than a handful of countries, such as Britain.

But the French case is particular. The disaster for “la gauche du gouvernement’, that is a party which has been capable of governing the country, has taken place amongst a wider fragmentation of France’s left. It marks the end, as Cambadélis puts it, of a “cycle” which began with the creation of modern Parti Socialiste at the Congrès d’Epinay in 1971 and the “stratégie d’alliance” of different lefts. (Page 39) We have a “moral” defeat, where elected politicians have come to think not in terms of strategy but of “careers” in which power has become just an end in itself. (“une simple fin en soi.” Page 10) For those who see a silver lining in the result of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 9.58% and his 17 elected representatives in the Assemblée Nationale, this is of less importance, but Cambadélis gives reasons why the left internationally should not celebrate their presence without reservation.  

With these opening remarks in mind the present book tries to rise above a settling of accounts (a charge many reviewers have made) to consider the failings of the left, both the camp of and his opponents, with the context of wider issues about the future of the French left. It is both narrative and analysis. The Chronique is also very acute account from somebody with a reputation for a “fine political nose”. 

 How Many Divisions?

The French left is famous for its division between a nominally ‘revolutionary’ radical left-wing and a ‘reformist’ wing. Yet during the  period of the Gauche plurielle under Lionel Jospin (1997 – 2001), – which ended in its own splintering – many sections worked together. In this decade, by contrast, the left was divided from the moment François Hollande’s Presidency began in 2012.

The forces at that point aligned in the Front de gauche, notably the Parti Communiste français (PCF), and Mélenchon’s ‘club-party’ the Parti de gauche,  were unwilling to offer it support. The PS’s own opposition, the ‘Frondeurs’, largely but not exclusively drawn from its left, began to act in earnest in the 2014. They took their criticisms of policy to Parliamentary votes and hampered legislation to the point where direct decrees, in the leadership’s view, forced upon them. Most of their only serious left allies, the Green EELV, left when Manuel Valls became PM in 2014 and the government’s “social liberalism” policies became anathema to the left.

But it was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, by  founding La France insoumise (LFI) – a would-be  mass movement with a large virtual Web membership, who fundamentally divided the left. Whether one has more sympathy for Mélenchon or not, it is certain that he has not been out to accomplish is a new “union of the left”. The  theme of “dégagisme”(get out!), a French version of the ‘anti-caste’ strategy of Podemos and other ‘populists, has run through the wider politics of “federating the people”. LFI demands that the whole ‘rotten’ political establishment be removed. That this includes the entire Parliamentary left beyond les insoumises – loudly in the case of the PS and as near as they can publicly say it about the PCF reflects a belief, which Cambadélis hammers home, that only the Sovereign People, that is, themselves, can restore political virtue through a new, 6th, Republic, a theme taken up by Mélenchon in the modestly titled de La Vertu (2017).

Cambadélis calls Mélenchon the “fils du lambertisme et du mitterandisme” (Page 10) This is a helpful reminder not only of the Leader of LFI’s past in one of the most dogmatic, and patriotic French Trotskyist currents, and his cult of the former French President, but of the author’s own background as a student activist member of Pierre Lambert’s OCI, and 1980s transfer to the PS with the benevolence of the Élysée….

Betrayal? 

Yet how has this anti-system left grown? Why has the legacy of 5 years of Socialist Party rule been so toxic, even beyond the traditional quarters ready to cry “betrayal”?

On the balance sheet of 5 years in office Cambadélis tries to find some glimmers of hope. There was a dignified Presidential reaction to the Islamist slaughters that have soiled Europe and above all France in the last years. He attempted some international initiatives to fight Jihadism in Africa and seek peace elsewhere. His Prime Ministers, Ayrault  and Valls, introduced gay marriage, a dialogue on the environment, a faltering reduction in unemployment, better growth rates, and the start of efforts to deal with high rates of national debt. He is less tender towards the proposal to remove French nationality from those accused of terrorism Cambadélis is equally less than sympathetic towards the labour reforms, la Loi El Khomri, largely on the grounds of its unilateral implementation – now pursued by the in-coming Macron.

The Chronique claims there was some effort to control Finance on a European level (in banking), and having kept Greece within the Euro (Page 171) There is nothing to support the idea, held to by some English speaking left-wingers, that French domestic policies – that is the failure to confront ‘neoliberalism’, a tax on the hyper-wealthy aside – are either forced upon them by the EU, or that France subordinates its governance to the construction of Europe.

None of this adds up to a sustainable case for the successes of Hollande presidency, or the Prime Ministers of Ayrault and Valls. Some welcome reforms, some moves towards economic improvement, contestable international interventions, and, nothing to promote the security and rights of working people, the unemployed – very little reform except in the sense of reshaping,  that is weakening existing labour legislation. In short, nothing to shout proudly about from the rooftops.

This lack of reforming deeds, democratic socialist egalitarian economic policies, an equivocal stand on civil liberties, symbolise don the permanent state of emergency, are one aspect of the problem, The other is that Hollande’s ‘method’ appears to have boiled down to an inability to left events dominate his action, wrapped in an immense capacity for self-satisfaction at his residence at the Élysée.

The smugness that lead the President, during his term of office, to sanction the publication of the interminably lengthy Un Président ne devrait pas dire cela (2016), full of causally wounding comments about his colleagues and the tossed our phrase, “il faut un hara-kiri pour le PS”.  stems from this complacency. He engaged in – slatternly – affairs. For those – and they are numerous – uninterested in the details of politics his partner, Valérie Trierweiler’s  enraged response in Merci pour ce moment (2014) gave an unpleasant insight into the man. Amongst many flaws he was not unafraid to patronise the working class poor, the “sans dents” (toothless). Few would be those who would shed a tear over the subsequent ‘Hollande-Bashing’. The two publications rendered him un-re-electable,  a fact which the Head of State took a long time to recognise.

A 5-year term of a President, who wished to be “normal” in abnormal times, was marked by deciding not to decide, and “absence de sens” (page 176) and on the hoof decision-making. This culminated in letting Macron create his own party straight under Hollande’s nose, in the belief that it would weaken the moderate right. (Page 185) In the meantime the Chronique endorses from the beginning to the end the view of many observers that the PS had become addicted to exercising power for its own sake. This attitude was present, equally,  within the ranks of their within their allies during the first years of government. The green EELV  turned from a party into a vehicle for the individual careers of its deputies (Page 177)

Hamon: Green Party Campaign, Green Party Score.

Benoît Hamon’s victory in the Socialist ‘Primary’ momentarily gave a ray of hope for the party. His Pour la Génération Qui Vient (2017) promised to free the land from the “liberal nightmare” a “democratic awakening”, Citizens’ Initiatives, a human centred approach to the technological revolution, and apart from green policies, he advocated Universal Basic Income.

Why then did the Socialists lose so badly? The ex-General Secretary is harsh on Presidential candidate Hamon. He accuses him of waging a “solitary” campaign, unable to bring together people outside of his circle, not even talking about the world of work – that is appealing to trade union support. The winner of the PS Primary snubbed his own party. He accuses Hamon of wanting to be the leader of an alternative alliance of the left of the Socialists with the Greens and acting accordingly. (P 110) He allowed Mélenchon, with whom he claimed to have few disagreements, to appear, as polls began to show that La France insoumise was ahead, to be the most useful to vote for. He was simply not Presidential, and….he spurned Cambadélis’ own construction, la Belle Alliance Populaire (a grouping of tiny ‘progressive parties’ behind the PS)….

The Chronique has a pithy way of explaining the disastrous the result. With Hamon’s “Green Party” campaign, you got a “Green Party score (“campagne d’écologiste, score d’écologiste” Page 111)

Cambadélis makes a strong case when he argues, from electoral arithmetic, that the French left will not win power back from Macron without unity, or some kind of alliance. This holds however narrow the President’s political support is (as indicated by the massive abstention rates). Or that  strategy of confronting important social layers in the interests of flexible business and ‘modernisation’  is likely to bring about deep conflict. It does not matter that his ‘party’  is virtual’ or his cadres from the upper scale on the class structure. To win you, to build an alternative majority, the left cannot wait for Macron to fail. It is through unity, the capacity to work together, that left parties with democratic structures (he recommends his own…) should work towards.

Left Futures?

Is this probable? Mélenchon, the “orator” the Chavez of Saint-Germain, can laugh at the “coffin” of the defeated PS but, “En brisant volontairement et unilatéralement l’unité des forces de gauche pour prétendre au monopole du peuple, il rend la reconquête impossible”(Page 17) In deliberately and voluntarily breaking the unity of the forces of the left, and claiming to have a monopoly of the People, he has made the Reconquest impossible. 

It would be pleasant to say that this obstacle can be overcome. But, given the PS’s understandable reluctance to reject its entire record of government, and given Mélenchon’s own self-image, it does not look probable that this political log-jam is going to clear in the near future. Perhaps as a girondin believer in decentralisation Cambadélis could pin his hopes on a united front from below

Advertisements

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Le Parti communiste français (PCF), Skirmishes Continue.

leave a comment »

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DJ_Jfk7XkAIo4QE.jpg:large

The traditional  Fête de L’Humam a vast popular event, 550, 000 strong,  organised around the left daily lHumanité, was by all accounts a great success.

But politics did not stop for the music and gastronomy.

Amongst the debates that took place the disputes between the  Parti communiste français (PCF) and La France insoumise (LFI), which claims to be leading opposition to the government of Emmanuel Macron.

A la Fête de « L’Humanité », le PCF et La France insoumise règlent leurs comptes

Pierre Laurent, the national secretary of the  PCF, made a number of critical comments in the direction of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of La France insoumise. He referred to the simplistic slogans of “« les sirènes dégagistes” , the sirens of “get out”!, away with the old guard,  launched by Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen  and Jean-Luc Mélenchon during the Presidential elections.

Laurent defended his party’s decision to vote against Le Pen in the second round of the contest, in contrast to Mélenchon who refused to back the ‘republican front’ against the far-right.

Mélenchon was not present, he is on tour offering his opinions to the French colonial citizens of Martinique.

But some of his supporters, including the Deputy Eduard Coquerel, were displeased at any criticism of their Leader. Coquerel called Laurent’s speech “violent and contemptuous” and that he and his friends had not come to the Fete with this spirit in their hearts.

Laurent however intends to participate, with a PCF ”delegation’ at the ” Marche contre le coup d’Etat social ” organised by La France insoumise (LFI)   on the  23rd of  September. Despite this the Communist leader, while attacking the new President and his policies,   continues to question Mélenchon’s self-assigned role as the “Leading Opponent” (premier opposant) of Macron. (le Monde)

A further report on Laurent’s criticisms of  Mélenchon’s ‘solitary strategy’ here:  La guerre des étoiles à la fête de l’Huma  (Libération).

*******

One of the most recent critiques of La France insoumise and its’ populism’ come the libertarian left here:

Populisme ? « La recette de la France insoumise est usée » CORCUFF Philippe, GRAULE Pauline

In this interview Corcuff states that  Mélenchon’s rally uses the theorists of radical ‘left populism’, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe  as a source of  “légitimité intellectuelle” to back up his claim to be the “leader” in the construction of the “People”.

 Classical Marxism rested on the basis of challenging people’s frustrations into a project of ending exploitation  through positive measures. LFI he notes, faces two  major pitfalls,   moblising resentment against the “oligarchy” around the dead end of conspiracy politics “conspirationnisme”  or devoting themselves to an electoral ‘reformist’ strategy which  is not designed, or capable,   of transforming society in depth.

Amongst the 500,000 people who have clicked on the Internet and joined LFI (for free, I am, incidentally, a ‘member’), there are many different kinds of people, although, Corcuff  notes, there is little sign of any significant “popular”, that is working class and poor, voice in their campaigns.

There remains some hope, Corcuff concludes, amongst the capacity of local groups, independent of the leadership, who may through their own initiatives create something.  But over the last 20 years, starting with the experience of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA), new movements on the French left have not lasted. and we will see what happens with LFI.

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, as his own EU Fraud Scandal unrolls, Defends French honour in Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup of Jews.

with 3 comments

Image result for melenchon vel de hiv

 

France’s charismatic far-left leader Melenchon embroiled in EU fraud scandal. France 24.

An investigation into alleged misuse of European parliamentary funds by members of a number of French political parties has been extended to include far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

The preliminary investigation – already targeting members of France‘s centrist MoDem party, conservative party The Republicans and the Socialist Party – was opened after a member of Marine Le Pen‘s far-right National Front asked the Paris prosecutor to look into the issue.

Le Pen is herself under formal investigation for breach of trust in a separate case on the same subject.

According to Le Parisien daily newspaper, three people who were Melenchon‘s parliamentary aides while he was a member of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2017, are to be investigated.

Being a target of a preliminary investigation or a formal investigation in France does not necessarily lead to a trial.

Melenchon, now a member of the French parliament, leader of the France Unbowed party and a vocal opponent of the government of centrist Emmanuel Macron, denied any misconduct in a weekly briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

In  a Blog post titled Jupiter déraille Jean-Luc Mélenchon offers his own take on the important questions of the day.

He begins with an extended reflection on the role of the French armed forces, and bemoans the loss of national control over the Force de frappe and the provision of military equipment. Pontificating on Macron’s cuts in funding for these ends, on Trump’s Paris visit (against which, perhaps I am wrong, La France insoumise mounted no public protest) and the reception of the r Netanyahu, the Israeli far-right PM, the Man of Destiny wonders if budget cuts are in line with the strategic objectives of France. Not to mention the land’s national independence, threatened, it appears by an “improbable plan de rapprochement militaire avec l’Allemagne”. he speculates that Trump and Macron share the same goals, “Trump et Macron partagent la même vision à propos des alliances et des guerres en Europe.”

Mélenchon’s real beef is that Macron accepted French responsibility for the round-up of French Jews at the  Vel’ d’Hiv’. “dire que la France, en tant que peuple, en tant que nation est responsable de ce crime c’est admettre une définition essentialiste de notre pays totalement inacceptable.” To say it was France, as a people, as a Nation, was responsible for the crime, is completely unacceptable.

No it was not France, but Vichy.

“Non, non, Vichy ce n’est pas la France !”

For those who are surprised this is the standard Gaullist argument.

Wrong or Right.

What is perhaps more objectionable is the effort to outdo Charles Péguy  in lyrical eulogy and a wrathful defence of France.

We should all remember the words of the leader of La France insoumise.

“…qu’on accepte d’en parler avec le souci de l’amour que nous devons à notre pays avant tout autre.”

That one should speak of such things with the concern and with the love that we owe to our country above all others.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Perry Anderson and the French Left After Macron.

with 3 comments

Image result for perry anderson

 

PERRY ANDERSON AND THE FRENCH LEFT AFTER MACRON.

Part Two of a response to The Centre Can Hold.

In Part One of this critique we suggested that Perry Anderson’s analysis of the result of the French elections barely proceeded further than the affirmation that the “centre left” was a lieutenant of capital, that he lacked any notion of the specificity of different French government ‘neoliberal’, pro-capitalist politics, that his account of Macron’s victory was barely more than a tale of how the electorate was hoodwinked by the media and the establishment.

We noted that Anderson’s analysis of the role of France as a ‘hinge’ in the European Union, which he permits himself some meagre speculation on the potential effects of Macron’s Presidency on the EU. If as he claims these changes will be largely ‘cosmetic’, though one would not imagine that measures resulting from France pressure, to ensure debt relief for Southern Europe would not look like face paint to those affected, what is then the role of oppositions? Our conclusion, which dwelt on the radical utopian alternative of Dardot and Laval, suggested the ambitious scope of radical alternatives to the existing EU.

Anderson’s assumptions about the EU underpin much of The Centre Can Hold. One can note that the theme, clearly stated in 2012 against his critics, that Brussels, led by Germany, “corralled” EU members into fiscal “stability. One of his critics, Jan-Werner Müller, offered at that time an account of the “conscious delegation” of powers that constitute the inter-state body. It may be, Müller indicates, that Germany could, if the will were there, shift towards a more open system of EU decision-making. (1) This premise suggests that rather less than a total rejection of the existing institutions – reform – might be possible. That Europe is indeed a changing body is further indicated in the fate of Anderson’s speculation about the Union as “deputy Empire” of the US. Here does this stand now? No doubt the reign of Emperor Trump, who promoted Brexit, requires a further analysis.

The Jargon of Resistance.

But when it comes to looking at French elections perhaps this is not the point. New Left Review, we have to remind ourselves, has turned into the Organ of Resistance. In an Editorial in 2016 we were treated to a lengthy treatise on Left Oppositions (I will not refer to the article on Poetic Resistance in the same issue). Susan Watkins indicated that “in the last few years” “left oppositions started to produced national political projects with an impact at state level”. This covered Greece’s Syriza, Italy’s Five Star Movement (…), Podemos, Jeremy Corbyn, and apparently, Scottish independence campaigners.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s 4 million Presidential votes in 2012, as the candidate of the Front de gauche (FdG), a bloc of his own group, the French Communists and leftists involved in groups such as Ensemble, figured on this list. He features equally amongst the “charismatic leaders” with his old style “oratory”. A paragraph, informed by sources which can guess not unfavourable to the leader of what was then the Parti de Gauche (PdG) complained of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF). It was “mummified”, a “ball and chain”, and, over egging this already egg splattered account, amongst the faults of the PCF, “In the National Assembly it regularly supports the Socialist government against the positions of the Parti de Gauche.” Writing in this vein the Mélenchonistas were given star rating, along with the thousands attending Nuit Debout rallies – over the, unmentioned, trade union led millions-strong campaign against the El Khomri labour reforms.

With the NLR condescension Mélenchon was judged “in part” social democratic, but with more ‘heterodox elements” “including sweeping constitutional change – not a social-democratic trait”. Those familiar with the Journal’s views on such issues, will realise that the importance they attach to the calls for a 6th Republic, although the Editor fails to mention that the same banner has been raised by a number of the left inside the Parti Socialiste (2014: Appel de socialistes pour une sixième République).

La France insoumise.

Shift forward a year, the formation of La France insoumise (LFI), the effective end of the Front de Gauche, and the 2017 Presidential elections. Against the ‘pale figure” of Benoît Hamon. We have the Grand Orator Mélenchon standing with the backing of hundreds of thousands of on-line supporters and – on the ground – “groupes d’appui”, organised supporters.

“..the change was more than just organisational. Fascinated for some time by the success of heterodox governments in Latin America, he drew particular inspiration from the example of Rafael Correa in Ecuador, like him a former minister of a social-democratic party, who had pioneered the idea of a ‘citizen’s revolution’, rewriting the constitution, redistributing wealth and protecting the environment. This was the way forward, to abandon the exhausted schemas of the traditional European left for a radically progressive populism, summoning the people to battle against the elites in control of a bankrupt political and economic system. Impressed with the strategic insight of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, encountered in Argentina in 2013, Mélenchon set about applying their lessons at home.”

We pause for a moment to consider this.

A Movement not a Party.

La France insoumise is a “movement”, not a party. Mélenchon declares, “Il peut disposer des moyens d’être représentatif de cet ensemble globalisant quest le peuple en réseau de notre époque That is, it can be a network that represents the people globally in our era. Is it democratic? Le mouvement na pas à être « démocratique » au sens basiste que souvent on donne à ce mot dans les organisations politiques où lon doit alors affronter le climat de confrontation des courants et des textes qui les fondent avec les votes contradictories. The movement is not ‘democratic’ in the the grassroots sense of the word in political parties, where different tendencies and resolutions are presented confrontationally, or with oppositional voting. The movement is as collective as possible (cest d’être aussi collectif que possible) In other words, there is no formal debate over competing views, or, more significantly, any means to do so – LFI operates internally through cyber-space with the direction set by.the leadership. For his supporters Mélenchon is the “embodiment” of the programme; there is no need for opposition to him. Inside La France insoumise there are, as yet, not plans for a place for a democratic opposition or channels for one to exist. It is run, as report after report indicates, by a core of close Mélenchon advisers from the PdG.. (2)

A further pause, La France insoumise its admirers claim, is not a tactic, a political start-up adapted to the new era of personalised politics. But what is it? The organisation is more that symbolically linked to other models – we shall discard the reference to Ecuador (which few will have heard of and which counts for even less than erstwhile evocations of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela), but to Podemos. LFI is not, nevertheless, the product of a French Moviemento 15 Mars, no mass street protests preceded its launch, and only the figure of the producer of Merci Patron François Ruffin stands in for the brief flash of the Nuit Debout square occupations.

La France insoumise was first and foremost the vehicle for Mélenchon’s Presidential ambitions. It was a temporary body, It is secondly an ambitious claim to federate the people into something resembling the left populism of Laclau and Mouffe. Although one should be wary of politicians claiming intellectual authority from fashionable figures (Hamon has also claimed to be influenced by Mouffe: Benoît Hamon, Inspirations au programme), there is more than a little of a demand for “equality and popular sovereignty in LFIs version of agonistic (conflictual) democracy to feel an imprint. In place of class conflict in the sense of a contradiction rooted in a mode of production, classic social classes, we have the opposition between the People (demanding equality and sovereignty) and the Elite/Oligarchy. We have an even more rudimentary opposition between Friend and Foe (Carl Schmitt), beneath this. Political reform, sweeping constitutional change, a citizens insurrection through the ballot box, are designed to clean the institutions of the corruption of the oligarchs and to bring alive the general will inside a new Republic, one that can (and this is repeated) ensure French independence (3)

Le Grand Replacement ..of the Left.

It is finally, a movement whose central strategy is to replace the existing left, not to unite it, not to bring together it for common objectives, but to call for traditional left-wing parties to sod off (dégagez!) For those wishing to pursue this analysis from the numerous criticisms levelled at Mélenchon and LFI, they will find many more critical accounts, so abundant that one might have thought a reference or two might have crossed Anderson’s mind.(4)

LFIs patriotism, and rejection of any reference to class in favour of the conflict between the People and the Oligarchy, can hardly escape the casual observer.

La France insoumise banned red flags and the Internationale for the tricolour and Marseillaise at its meetings, appealing to all patriots regardless of class or age to rise up against the decaying order of the Fifth. Borrowing the cry that drove out Ben Ali in Tunisia, Dégagez!—‘Clear out!’—became the leitmotif of the campaign.”

It takes a strong stomach to digest this, one no doubt fortified by memories of 1950s PCF tricolours and references to national liberation heroine Jean darc. Is there more criticism, at least more than implicit, from Anderson? Perhaps this sentence could still be expanded In reality, the two anti-systemic forces, rather than aggregating to a common populist insurgency, largely cancel each other out. However similar their critiques of the social and economic system, insuperable moral and ideological differences on immigration hold them apart at opposite ends of the political spectrum, where each freely demonizes the other.” Immigration, FN as a ‘scarecrow’ used to rally people behind the Macron and the Republic……..and there it ends…

Or not. Anderson is soon bored by French Politics and drifts back to geopolitical, European, issues. He notes that, “the balance of forces in a  neoliberal but not yet neo-federal system of power militates against dramatic changes”. The final paragraph of The Centre Can Hold talks of the single currency, the Euro, and the possibility of a French exit from it. Recasting monetary union, is, Anderson pats Mélenchon on the back, a “geopolitical” issue, not a technical one. Of that, all we hear that can be brought down to immediate relevance is the question: can there be an effective means to compel Germany to help a reform of the EU?

The future of La France insoumise, as it announces a Convention in the autumn, remains to be analysed. Will it become a real party? Where will it go? Many suggest that Melenchon has still not come to terms with the idea that he will not be President. In the National Assembly, having made a splash, there are strong independent figures in the group of 17   who may have their own ideas about the direction it should take. One thing is certain, neither the PCF (10)  the PS (45 seats), nor the rest of the left, including Hamon’s own new movement, the mouvement du 1er Juillet  nor the extra-parliamentary  left, nor the union federations,  look ready to be “replaced” by Mélenchon. The failure of LFI’s stunt this week, holding on its own, without trade union backing, rallies against Macron’s new labour reforms, indicates the limits of how far its “recuperation” of social movements can go.  (5)

********

(1) After the Event Perry Anderson. Beyond Militant Democracy. Werner Müller. New Left Review. No 73. 2012.

(2) Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Le peuple et le ‘ mouvement ‘ November 2016 

(3) The Democratic Paradox. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. 2005. A much more detailed critique of Laclau and Mouffe’s influence on ‘left-populist’ politics is in preparation. The motif of French independence, militarily, economically, and related themes, such as “producing French”, stand out in the pages of La France insoumise’s programme,  L’Avenir en commun. 2017.

(4) See: La France insoumise – « L’ère du peuple » et « l’adieu au prolétariat » ? jeudi 3 novembre 2016, par JOHSUA Samuel, MELENCHON Jean-Luc Rousset provides the best summary. Mélenchon, France insoumise, populisme : questions sur la séquence électorale 2016-2017 et ses implications ROUSSET Pierre.

(5) La France insoumise se met en chantier – Vers une convention fin octobre ? BESSE DESMOULIERES Raphaëlle

More than a Thousand Activists rally in Paris for La France Insoumise as it launches its own Struggle against Macron’s Labour Reforms.

with one comment

Over a Thousand Rally in Paris for La France insoumise against Macron’s labour reforms. 

Plus d’un millier de militants ont répondu à l’appel de La France insoumise, pour exprimer leur rejet du projet de réforme du Code du travail. Jean-Luc Mélenchon a défendu une opposition frontale au texte et annoncé le lancement d’une campagne pendant l’été.

More than a thousand activists responded to France insoumise’s  call to reject the project of a reform of the Code du travail. Jean-Luc Mélenchon defended frontal opposition to the text and announced the launching of a campaign during the summer.

(Other estimates put the figure at nearly 2,000 attending the major rally in la place de la République.)

Between  300 and 1000 people in  Toulouse, 300in Montpellier, 200 in Lille, around  60  Strasbourg responded to the call by Las France Insoumise.

Fabien Magnenou  France Télévisions.

La France insoumise (FI) claims to be the principal force of opposition to the Macron government and its liberalising measures.

These actions were organised by FI and it alone.

Critics allege that the FI  strategy of “replacement” the rest of the left, now extended  to replacing trade unions, which led the movement against the Hollande/Valls El Khomri reform of the same code du travail, is against the grain of the tradition of left and labour movement unity.

This division is explored in details here:

Meanwhile in the National Assembly the debate over the law reform remains heated: Les députés ont poursuivi mercredi l’examen de la réforme du Code du travail avec de vifs débats sur les indemnités prud’homales et le CDI de chantier. La France Insoumise reste à l’offensive. 

 

Mélenchon on ‘Cloud Nine’ as Left Faces Near Wipeout in French Legislative Elections.

with 8 comments

Projected Seats: French Left Reduced to a Rump. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is apparently, on cloud nine: Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur un nuage

Malgré un nombre réduit de sièges potentiels, La France insoumise devance à nouveau le Parti socialiste dans les urnes.

Reports Le Monde. 

His Movement La France Insoumise (LFI) won 11% of the national vote in Sunday’s first round of the French legislative election, ahead of the Parti Socialiste and allies’ 9,5% and the PCF, which was reduced to 2,7%.

If you add these percentages up, drink five swift glasses of pastis in a row, put on rose-tinted spectacles, burn a scented candle and play the Marseillaise, you can feel great that the total left support, at 22.2% is greater than the Front National’s 13,2% vote.

That is even  if La France Insoumise lost 8 points compared with the Presidential support for the  populist leader of the French People.

The 51,29% who could not be bothered to vote weren’t attracted to his movement either.

Meanwhile in less cloudy territory:

France 24,

President Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (LREM) party topped Sunday’s first-round legislative vote and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament.

Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that barely existed one year ago, were projected to take between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly next week. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II.

The LREM party won 32.32 percent of all votes, according to official final results published by the French Interior Ministry, in an election that was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party finished the night in second place with 21.56 percent support. They were projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly according to a projection by Ipsos for FRANCE 24.

The Communist Party, which has lost its Parliamentary Group, and faces near extinction, diplomatically blames divisions on the left for its poor result: Législatives. Les communistes pâtissent des divisions à gauche.

PCF leader Pierre Laurent announced, Elections législatives 1er tour: Déclaration de Pierre Laurent

La division des forces de gauche se paie en effet très cher. Les forces qui ont soutenu Jean-Luc Mélenchon, se sont retrouvées en concurrence suite aux décisions de la direction de la France insoumise. Elles en subissent toutes ce soir les conséquences. C’est aussi le cas du Parti communiste dont le résultat national est très bas.

A heavy price has been paid for the division of the left. The forces which have supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon found themselves competing against each other, following the decisions of the leadership of la France insoumise. All of them have suffered the consequences this evening. This is also the case for the Communist Party whose national score is very low.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks likely to win a seat in Marseilles, with  34,31 %, in front of Macron supporter Corinne Versini  at22,66 %).

Although it is easy to see why he is overjoyed at what counts most, his future as a Tribune of the People in the National Assembly, there are other factors at work that explain his good mood.

For those wishing to understand why Mélenchon is happy that the French left is reduced to political irrelevance this gives some indications, and develops many of the themes discussed on this Blog.

Quelques réflexions sur la «France insoumise»  VINCENT PRÉSUMEY.

Présumey outlines the ideological core of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI).  The movement does not talk of class struggle, even social classes. They  oppose “le peuple ” (also called the  99% ) to the « l’oligarchie » also called « la caste ». The ‘People’ exists as a  Nation, France, with its national symbols, the Tricolor, and its hymn, the Marseille. To make this into a political force, to ‘construct’ the People from the material of  “individus-citoyens”,  is the objective of LFI.

For the origin of these ideas author notes the debt Mélenchon and his immediate team owe to the “post-Marxists” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe which they have simplified and made into a kind of political tool-kit.

From the former comes the ‘populist’ idea of the People uniting around a Leader , like Argentina’s Peron. LFI denies any such thing, that their Leader is only the “l’incarnation vivante du « programme » que nous avons collectivement produit”, the living incarnation of a programme that we have collectively drawn up. Nobody else is in any doubt that Mélenchon, and his tight band of advisers, are La France insoumise and that he is the – would-be – charismatic chief.

Apparently not charismatic enough to hold into the 8% of the electorate he has lost in a few weeks. Or self-controlled enough to avoid descending   from the hypnotic lyricism of his Presidential speeches to – in the run up to the legislative elections – the more familiar sounds of a barking yap-dog.

Yet….the problems  with La France insoumise are deeper than Mélenchon’s personality.

As Présumey observes LFI rests on a denial of pluralism on the left. Its leader candidacy was the not the result of anybody’s decision but his own. As these elections approached it swiftly dropped the left bloc the Front de Gauche (FdG). It says: come to us, we will lead the ‘citizens’ insurrection’.

But beneath this rhetorical claim the focus is on political representation. There is no sense of a movement that has emerged from working class and social movement self-organisation. Its ‘mass action’ can be reduced to stage-managed demonstrations (as earlier this year on the anniversary of the Commune), social media (chat without decision making power) and, campaigning for electoral contests.

The movement (parties are old hat) claims 500,000 supporters, something you can become, for free, at the click of a button in the Web. Beneath a veneer of ‘horizontal’ organisation, LFI  is  vertically structured around the commands of the leadership. LFI has joined French social movements, such as the protests against the reform of the labour law, were the occasion not to engage in the fight but to publicise their presidential bid, with stickers reading, ” JLM 2017″.

The article notes another contribution of Mouffe. The focus on the division friend/enemy, taken from Carl Schmitt. This  does not only refer to the People against the Oligarchy. It means that LFI considers everybody else on the left as a foe, potential or actual, from the Socialists to the Communists and the rest of the Green and radical parties. They have poured bile on personalities, from the Socialist  Benoît Hamon, to respected radical left-wing Socialist labour law expert, Gérard Filoche – some names that stick out from a very very long list.

With the perspective of the dissolution of the French left à la Italienne, into a centrist ‘progressive’  Parliamentary bloc, what is their response? Mélenchon’s strategy rests on the “la liquidation des courants politiques issus du mouvement ouvrier”, the liqudation of currents which have come from the workers’ movement.

Noting that inner core of LFI itself is ‘petty bourgeois’, he sums up their ideology as a mixture of populism, and stalinism.

The former is a banner held with pride. The second is less clear. That their culture and policies reflect something of the pre-1991 PCF’s belief in French ‘national independence’ and fondness for an independent nuclear deterrent, or indeed the Communists’ evocation for French national traditions is hard to contest. But, as Présumey also states, Mélenchon  comes from the equally patroitic tradition of the ‘Trotksyist’ faction known as Lambertism, and loses little time in expressing his admiration for the glory of the very anti-Communist President François Mitterrand.

Wherever their original inheritance many of LFI’s activists  share the cast of mind of the “anti-imperialism of fools’. They are, he indicates  at length, recycle the teaming conspiracy theories that have thriven in recent years.  The illusion that they would get into the second round of the Presidential election, when shattered, was met with many a ‘theory’ explaining how ‘they’ has thwarted JLM.

Perhaps, in view of its supporters’ penchant for such conspiracy theories, its links with Vladimir Putin, and its barely concealed support for Assad in Syria, the word confusionisme suits them better.

It is, it goes without saying, immensely saddening that these confusionists will be the largest Parliamentary force to the left of the French Socialists.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be ‘Savages’, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the ‘left’ La France Insoumise ‘calms down’ black children…

with one comment

‘Savages’, that is a word used by  Mélenchon, the hero of the left on Facebook and the subject of various fan articles in various anglophone ‘left’ journals like the oddly named Jacobin. He employed it to to ‘calm down’ a group of young ethnic minority children in Paris.

“Calm down, you look like barbarians. Once filmed you will look like savages. Your parents will not be happy with your behaviour . Back home now.

Calmez-vous, vous passez pour des barbares. On vous filme et après, vous passez pour des sauvages. Vos parents, ils ne seraient pas contents de vous voir faire ça. Tout le monde à la maison, maintenant.”

There are serious questions about the sanity and political judgement of the sovereigntist.

More here.

I need hardly emphasise what using the words ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians’ mean about young black people ‘. They mean exactly the same in French as they do in English.

I pass by his following loony bins comments about Joan of Arc.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2017 at 11:46 am