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Arnaud Montebourg Launches Presidential Bid: Sovereigntists and Political Confusionists.

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Arnaud Montebourg, créateur des miels Bleu Blanc Ruche, sur le marché de Louhans ce lundi 10 juin | Voix du Jura

Montebourg: a Hive of Actitity Behind Presidential Bid.

Arnaud Montebourg is a former member of the French Parti Socialist, a founder of a left-wing current Nouveau Parti Socialiste (NPS). He was  Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances and held other posts under François Holland’s Presidency until 2014 when he resigned. A lawyer by training he quit politics. After some academic teaching, he moved into business. At present he runs a company  Bleu Blanc Ruche, producing ice-cream,  honey and almonds.

Montebourg has developed his own ideas. He first talked of a ” capitalisme coopératif” and then advocated ‘de-mondialisation’ – de-globalisation.  Against globalised capitalism, and for green policies, one of the few explicit lines of thought he came up with were centred on the idea of ​​a strong state, controlling finance, and capable of taking measures vis-à-vis the financial and banking system.

On this basis he stood in 2017 (as head of his own micro-party, Le projet France) in the Parti Socialiste’s ‘Citizen’s Primary’. This vote, open to all who signed a declaration of support for left-wing values,  to choose their Presidential candidate. He came third, behind Manuel Valls and Benoît Hamon (who became the PS candidate) with 17.52% of the vote.

Montebourg has now launched a new bid to stand for French President in the 2022 election.


The ex-Socialist has been discussing the construction of a large front, from the French right to the republican, sovereigntist left,  to oppose Emmanuel Macron. “I am no longer attached to any party”. He has talked to figures on the hard-right Les Républicaines (LR) like the leader of their group in the  European Parliament, François-Xavier Bellamy. LR nationally is less than enthusiastic about a potential alliance, but that has not stopped him trying:

To promote his ideas and Presidential adventure Montebourg has formed a new micro-party,  L’Engagement (named after the book shown below).

Rejoignez le mouvement l’Engagement

Nous voulons le retour d’un État au service de l’intérêt général, libéré de l’emprise d’une minorité. L’Engagement affirme que les préoccupations des Françaises et des Français doivent être les priorités de l’Etat : la réponse à l’urgence climatique, la protection de nos emplois existants et à venir, de nos libertés, l’entraide et le dialogue entre tous.

We want the return of a State at the service of the general interest, free from the grip of a minority. L’Engagement affirms that the concerns of French women and men must be the priorities of the State: the response to the climate emergency, the protection of our existing and future jobs, our freedoms, mutual aid and dialogue between us all.

Who could possibly be against that!

Mediapart has a long article on this venture:

Montebourg, ou l’aventureux pari du souverainisme des deux rives


L’engagement has garnered 2,000 rather heterogeneous supporters: socialists, but also voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 2017, disappointed Bayrou, radicals, executives and entrepreneurs,”

Tomorrow he was due to attend a Conference on the Republic organised by one of the factions that has emerged from the nationalist left, « Nation souveraine ». Cancelled because of the pandemic (perhaps there will be a mass Zoom?) the event featured this characters,

Jean-Pierre Chevènement (former left socialist,  authoritarian Minister in  the Jospin government of the late 1990s a founder of modern French sovereigntist politics), LR MP Julien Aubert (hard traditional right party see above) Henri Guaino, (also LR), the economist David Cayla (blames neoliberalism for populism), Céline Pina, at one point close to the secularist, but nationalist Printemps républicain before joining the red-brown group bringing together far right figures and left nationalists, a kind of heavyweight Spiked.  la galaxie Onfray

One of them would have been this chap,

….former aide to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Djordje Kuzmanovic – who posed with a ’Union Jack to fête le Brexit, en février 2020, avec François Asselineau (has his own Frexit party, L’Union populaire républicaine (UPR)), Florian Philippot (former Front National) et Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (has his own national populist party Debout la France (DLF)…

What a meeting!

It is said that Mélenchon is concerned about this initiative eating into his support.

At least one person thinks he can get into the second round of the contest, the above red-browner Kuzmanovic.

The authors of the Mediapart article helpfully point out , however, that with 2,000 backers Montebourg faces 200 000 parrainages citoyens already pledged for a Mélenchon candidacy.

There are also potential left candidacies from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Christiane Marie Taubira  as well as presence of the (Green) Yannick Jadot. Amongst others…

There is a precedent for Montebourg’s bid..

Jean-Pierre Chevènement led the left socialist current, CERES in the 1970s (a founding force in the French Socialist Party, was the most famous French political figures who moved from any form of leftist politics to sovereigntism. In 2002 he stood for President as a republican nationalist. Declaring his candidacy was neither right nor left,  « ni de droite, ni de gauche » he won over royalists, former supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen or sovereignists), socialists, as well as those close to the far left. He was backed by Régis Debray. Chevènement got  5% of the vote.

Of wider interest is the way in which figures of the left have become involved figures clearly on the national populist right. As a comparison Spiked springs to mind, although in France Montebourg has more serious connections,  intentions and ambitions.

Is this a response to the blow against Populism inflicted by the defeat of Donald Trump?

French sovereigntism looks to many like a form of national populism.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2021 at 12:48 pm

First Round of French Local Elections: Set Back for Macron, Greens and Left in Strong Position.

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Second Round May Be Postponed.

The Right wing daily Le Figaro began its report on the first round of the French local elections by citing supporters of President Macron’s Party, LaREM, (1) lamenting their set-back, “Pas bon du tout»«catastrophique»«c’est un échec»…”


(1) I like this Wikipedia explanation, “La République En Marche ![a] (frequently abbreviated REMLRM or LREM, officially LaREM; possible translation: “The Republic on the move!”), sometimes called En Marche ! (French: [ɑ̃ maʁʃ]; English translation: “Forward!”,[11][12] “Onward!”,[13] “Working!” or “On The Move!”)” Some might suggest this indicates a pretty transient name for a political party.

Putting back the Second Round will create a legal headache.

Despite the bizarre conditions in which the vote took place, the left and the Greens have still something to be happy about:

The Greens (EELV) are in a good position in Bordeaux, (an historic bastion of the right)  Lyon, Strasbourg, Poitiers and Besançon as wella s to keep control of Grenoble, where most of the left have gathered on a united list.

EELV are encouraged by the results:

The Paris vote was good for the left.

The Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, (LaREM) did not win in the first round in Le Havre,  his Communist Opponent performed strongly.

Municipales : c’est loin d’être gagné pour Edouard Philippe au Havre

Phillippe scored  43,6 % and his Communist rival, Jean-Paul Lecoq, backed by La France insoumise, won  35,88 %. The Greens, supposed by the Parti Socialiste, got 8,3% and the far-right RN, had 7,27%.

This prediction for the Second Round may be optimistic:

The French Communist Party (PCF) is encouraged more widely (l’Humanité).

Les maires PCF de Montreuil, Gennevilliers, Dieppe, Martigues, Vierzon, Montataire, Saint-Amand-les-Eaux et Tarnos ont, notamment, été réélus dès hier.

The far-right consolidated its position but apart from Perpignan (which is personally saddening) made no gains.

There was therefore no breakthrough for the far right.

Sur fond d’abstention record, la formation de Marine Le Pen a profité comme les autres partis de la «prime» aux sortants. Mais à part Perpignan, elle n’apparaît pas en mesure d’agrandir sa toile.

The election atmosphere is reported to have been extremely odd.

The rate of abstention  was, unsurprisingly,  very high:

Green surge and low turnout as virus fears weigh on French local elections

France 24.

French voters cast their ballots Sunday in nationwide municipal elections marked by record-low turnout after the government imposed stringent restrictions on public life in an increasingly frantic effort to slow the progress of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The report continues,

In the most keenly watched race, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took a commanding lead with 30% of the first-round ballot, 8 points ahead of her conservative challenger; the candidate for Macron’s ruling party was a distant third.

Running for re-election in Le Havre, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe topped the first round but faced the prospect of a tough run-off vote against a united left.

The famous port, Le Havre, was Communist run City until 1995. I visited it, circa 1994, and out of curiosity, went to the union offices in the Bourse du Travail where a T & G card did wonders.

They recommended me the Town Hall, where I was received by the PCF run team with great respect, a snack, and they talked about their municipal politics.

Apart from the shock administered to Macron’s Prime Minister it is good to see how low the far-right vote was in that City.

Notre histoire intellectuelle et politique. 1968 – 2018. Pierre Rosanvallon. Review.

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Notre histoire intellectuelle et politique. 1968 – 2018. Pierre Rosanvallon. Les Livres du Nouveau Monde. 2019.

History, writes Pierre Rosanvallon, has meted out a long series of disappointments, and still bites at our neck. One of France’s leading public intellectuals, who began his career working in the secularised, once Catholic, trade union, the CFDT, developing their radical approach to autogestion, self-management, Notre Histoire starts with reflections on the ordeals of politics today.

The shades of the defeat and marginalisation of the French left, with Macron wiping the floor of the left in the Presidential contest of 2017, the once-governing Socialists down to just above 6% in the 2019 European elections, and the populist left of Jean Luc-Mélenchon at 6,3%, hover for the reader of a book originally published last year, at the start, the middle, and the end of these pages. Yet, the author, asserts, despite the widespread feeling of powerlessness, the left should not wallow in pessimism, however lucid. Beyond sterile political managerialism, and posturing Rosanvallon aims to offer a renewed effort towards a “perspective émancipatrice”

The present volume is a balance-sheet of decades of public intervention, above all, post 1981, in the French governing left, and more books and articles than one cares to count. Rosanvallon “combines positions in the power in the academy, prominence in the media, patronage in publishing; enjoys close connections with the worlds of business and politics” Perry Anderson continued in 2009, a social liberal “embellishing the new”, and engaged in a “work in progress” towards a “liberal future”. (1)

One of the many merits of Notre Histoire is to put that angle firmly in its place. Rosanvallon lays claim to the influence of Cornelius Castoriadis on his 1970s work for the CFDT and development of ideas about autogestion, and close relations with the Socialisme ou Barbarie (SouB) thinkers. His approach to labour history was influenced by E.P.Thompson and Gareth Stedman Jones and History Workshop. He was informed by Michel Foucault’s ideas on liberalism as a “une technologie politique”, and the writings of Jacques Rancière, André Gorz and Marcel Gauchet. Rosanvallon, fortified with these influences, could he be conveniently classed amongst the hysterical anti-Marxist nouveaux philosophes. Not does Rosanvallon refuse to called an ‘anti-Marxiist, but for him totalitarianism was a wider phenomenon of modernity, marked by the abolition of politics as an autonomous realm, and a disregard for democratic processes.

The critique of totalitarianism, began by another SouB writer, Claude Lefort, did not imply a sense of self-satisfaction with liberal democracy The liberalism which he began to defend could be better seen in terms of the image of sovereignty as an “empty place”, which all can compete to occupy. There is a permanent revolution in democratic invention, ‘indeterminate” (that is, never fixed) propelled by movements and demands for rights and recognition. Rosanvallon’s writings, on “counter-democracy” far from waddling off into ever more complex sovereignties, are intended to offer this radical supplement. This is far from the “anti-political” liberalism of the unfettered free-market.

Second Left.

The Second Left (deuxième gauche), with which Rosanvallon was identified with in the 1970s – an “organic intellectual” – had a more immediate target, the “social-étatism” of the French Communist Party (PCF), and sections of the French Socialist Party, (PS). Yet, as he recounts, in the 1980s, during François Mitterrand’s Presidency, neither the statists nor his own side, from the CFDT to Michel Rocard, succeeded in imposing their ideas. Rocard took stock of economic reality and backed the turn to “rigour” in the 1983 turn from the PS’s plans for a Keynesian national relaunch. Yet this “realism” became a kind of “religion” for this current, at the expense of any plans to change to society (Page 207). As Prime Minister from 1988 to 1981, Rocard began France’s ambitious decentralisation programme, and made steps toward an inclusive universal social security system. But the Second Left itself, in the wake of the CFDT’s dropping of autogestion and socialism, no longer existed as a coherent political force to confront the challenges of neoliberalism. Following others he paints a picture of the PS clinging to Europe as the theatre for their ambitions, a – flawed – construction that compensated for the lack of national ambition. This limited their approach to democratic and social issues. (Pages 217 – 219).

Notre Histoire would no doubt be the cause for some cackling in pro-Brexit New Left Review circles if it remained fixed at this point. But Rosanvallon has another narrative, of wider importance, the rise of sovereigntism. From leader of the PS’s marxisant CERES to government Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement developed a “republicanism” from 1986 onwards in Socialisme et République which gradually obliterated all reference to socialism. This went with a return to the Nation, and the ponderings of Régis Debray on the soul of France and the manes of Gaullism.

Notre Histoire observes that the rediscovery of republicanism could also be found visions of “civic republicanism” described by the historians of ideas such as John Pocock and Quentin Skinner – reprised more recently by Chantal Mouffe. Yet this was not an academic detour. Identifying globalisation (with a heavy accent on ‘Americanisation’) and the European Union, this current has developed a defensive and restrictive concept of secularism (‘Laïcité’), a conservative vision of education, and a fundamentalist stand on sovereignty. (Page 256) Chevènement now is part of a small movement, Le Mouvement républicain et citoyen, (MRC), whittled down to The Republic defended against all.

The ‘anti-68’.

Rosanvallon outlines the “pensée anti-68” which parallels the retreat of this part of the left (including his old comrade, Marcel Gauchet) to ideas that seem closer to the anti-cosmopolitan right than to an emancipatory left. The writings of Christopher Lasch on the “culture of narcissism”, influential in France, and Lipovetsky’s critique of hypermodernism and individualism (a coupling, some would say, ignores that writer’s more optimistic moments), writers on the breakdown of community and traditional solidarity, the left-behind in La France périphérique, and the critique of the “rights culture” are cited to indicate an anti-68 “populism”. Perhaps it is in this nébuleuse that one can see some of the most significant “passerelles” (bridges) between the left and national populism. It does not take long to see parallels amongst the British ‘left’ supporters of the Full Brexit and their Brexit Party members.

Others will no doubt go through Rosanvallon’s approach to neoliberalism, informed by a reading of Foucault on ‘governmentality’. The concept that emerges at the end, of an “individualisme de singularité” casts some light on a key aspect of modern politics, the decline of mass class based parties and trade unionism. The weakening of collective negotiation goes in hand with patterns of work, making inequalities both more resented (directly experienced), and less easy to see in terms of people as groups. He writes, “le peuple”, the people, is henceforth the plural of a vast collection of different “minorities”. (Page 410)

Anderson, we have already noted, dismissed Rosanvallon. Apart from his pretensions, so distant from those of the one-time Editor of New Left Review, to international stature, he writes, apparently, is “somewhat priestly”. This is not a trait this reviewer has noticed, and he has at least seven of the author’s books. They are fluent, thought-provoking, aware of debates rarely taken up in France (such as British post-war discussion on equality and socialism) and a mine of information. One would like to follow his lectures he now gives as a member of the Collège de France. Anderson is not alone in scorning all reference to ‘liberalism’. Claude Michéa, accused of reneging on his SouB roots, now the manufacturer of grumpy populist books on common decency and the left-behind, calls the alliance between liberalism, internationalism, and socialism, one of the founding faults of French socialism. Others, who have learnt much from Rosanvallon’s writings on democracy,  for all their, at time, sweeping history, would disagree. The present work, studded with a marked degree of intellectual honesty,  indicates many reasons why. (2)

Facing up to National Populism.

How these insights enable us to face up to national populism is far from clear. Solidarity and national protectionism may look appealing to fragmented minorities. Rosanvallon only announces a possible “conceptualism” of populism, not a new emancipatory project. By contrast though, the “democratic revolution” outlined by Claude Lefort and developed in different ways by writers such as Étienne Balibar as “unlimited democracy” may offer the basis of an alternative. Not shutting down, not borders, not the sovereignty of referendums and chiefs – or PMs – but the popular ‘counter-democracy’ movements like Another Europe is Possible try to embody, indicate that nationalism can be fought. How successfully, we have yet to see. Democracy, as Lefort said, is “indeterminate”. On the horizon we see that Thomas Piketty has just published a new tome, Capital et Idéologiewhich includes proposals for reform and transform the European Union. The fight continues…..


(1) Pages 208-9. The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso. 2009.

(2) La Gauche et le Peuple : lettres croisées. Flammarion 


See:  Une aventure intellectuelle par Jean-Yves Potel

and, amongst many other  reviews,  Pierre Rosanvallon : bilan d’étapes Jean BASTIEN